Madison Police To Monitor How Officers Handle People With Mental Health Issues

Department Will Collaborate With Local Mental Health Center To Develop New Strategies Of Interaction

Photo: Cliff (CC-BY).

The city of Madison Police Department hopes a new data management system will help improve the way officers deal with people who are in the middle of a mental health crisis.

The MPD has launched the 18-month project with help from Council of State Governments Justice Center. Madison Police Captain Kristen Roman said the goal is gather and analyze all the mental health-related service calls the department gets and figure out which approaches to managing them work best.

“What are the results of our interactions (with) people with mental illness? How do we get at that data? How are we capturing it? What systems are in place, and more importantly, how are able to share that information and collaborate with our partners in the community to work towards the best outcomes?” said Roman.

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The department will be working closely with the Journey Mental Health Center to find ways their staff can intervene and offer a treatment alternative that will protect public safety. Gerard Murphy of the Council of State Governments Justice Center said one goal of the project is to create a template that other communities might use: “A guide that would be relevant to other police departments around the country — that they could learn from the experiences of Madison to come back and make adjustments to their system.”

Both Murphy and Roman said that sometimes people with mental illnesses behave in a way that requires police to jail them as a matter of public safety. They also said that too many of them end up in jail when a treatment approach would be the better option.