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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Identifying mentally ill 'frequent fliers' first step to reducing police contact

Press Release
Oregon State University
Originally published February 11, 2015

Identifying the population of people with mental illness who have frequent contact with police could help law enforcement officials and community agencies allocate limited resources to those with the highest needs, new research from Oregon State University indicates.

These individuals, often referred to as “frequent fliers” because of their repeated interaction with law enforcement, can consume a large amount of police time and resources, according to researchers in the School of Public Policy in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

Identifying and understanding the population can aid policymakers as they work to reduce the frequent and time-consuming interactions, sociologists Scott Akins and Brett Burkhardt said.

“This contact is rarely criminal in nature at the outset,” said Burkhardt, an assistant professor of sociology. “It’s usually a peace officer custody arrest, which is a type of arrest that occurs because a person is believed to be a danger to themselves or others due to a suspected mental illness. But there’s a limited amount of resources, so if we identify people with the highest needs, we can focus resources on those folks.”

Once a local region has identified its population of frequent fliers, community agencies and policy-makers can use the information to change or implement policies to assist those with the highest needs, the researchers said.

“It’s a strategic way to create a more cost-effective and humane way to assist the mentally ill,” said Akins, an associate professor of sociology.

The entire press release is here.