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Major Lesson Plan/Dealing with the Mentally Ill

Jack Ryan

Hypothetical #1

Officers stop a vehicle for a motor vehicle violation. Upon approaching the vehicle they notice that the single occupant appears to be acting irrationally. The man accuses the officers of being aliens from out of space.

Question: What steps should officers take to insure their safety as well as the safety of the subject?


Inform the subject that they are friendly aliens from out of space and are assigned to help him.

Immediately rush the subject in a threatening manner to take him off guard.

Take steps to calm the situation, move slowly and call for backup officers.

Answer: “C”

Hypothetical #2

An Officer is called to assist mental health workers in taking a disturbed subject into custody for an involuntary commitment.

Question: Knowing the subject is mentally disturbed, what steps should the officer take to minimize the dangers to all persons involved:

Call for backup, the preferred number of officers is 4 where possible

Gather information about the subject from family members and/or friends

Communicate with the individual in an attempt to find out what is bothering the individual

All of the above

Answer: “D” all of the above would be appropriate steps that an officer should take.

For discussion: Does the use of force continuum change when officers are dealing with an emotionally disturbed or mentally Ill person?


The use of force continuum does not change where the officer( s) or others are endangered by the subject. In such cases officers should utilize their law enforcement control tactics to bring the situation under control. Once the situation is controlled the officers should take the person’s mental status into account when determining restraint tactics and detention options. Additionally, in cases where force has been used to bring the situation under control, officers should maintain observation of the subject for any manifestation of injury or illness and provide appropriate medical attention

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