Balancing Persuasion and Force In Dealing With Disturbed/Suicidal Persons and Returning Veterans

In addition to responding to reports of crimes and patrolling or investigating to try to detect and prevent crimes in progress, police officers frequently are called upon to respond to situations involving suicidal or otherwise disturbed persons. Being suicidal is a mental health problem and social issue, and not itself a crime. At the same time, suicidal or otherwise disturbed persons frequently do engage in conduct which constitutes a crime.

Police confronting a disturbed or suicidal person face a number of dilemmas. Under what circumstances can they use force to subdue or restrain the individual? How much force, if any, is justified? At what point should the use of force end? What tactics are best to accomplish the goals of protecting the public, protecting the disturbed or suicidal person, and protecting the officers involved? Can officers be held liable for failure to prevent a “successful” suicide?

This topic also brings to mind this recent article Police get help with vets who are ticking bombs that was brought to my attention on our returning veterans and some recent violent confrontations between cops and returning combat veterans who are struggling when returning home.

"We just can't use the blazing-guns approach anymore when dealing with disturbed individuals who are highly trained in all kinds of tactical operations, including guerrilla warfare," said Dennis Cusick, executive director of the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute. "That goes beyond the experience of SWAT teams."

Cusick, who is developing the program along with institute training director William Micklus, said local authorities have a better chance of defusing violent confrontations by immediately engaging suspects in discussions about their military experience — not with force.

The aim, Micklus said, is to try to reconnect them with "a sense of integrity" lost in the fog of emotional distress.

"You can't win by trying to out-combat them,'' Cusick said. "You emphasize what it means to be a Marine, a soldier to people who now feel out of control."

Continue reading Disturbed/Suicidal Persons -- Part One by The Americans for Effective Law Enforcement

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