Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Vida L. Tyc

Second Advisor

Julie S. Costopoulos

Third Advisor

Jignya M. Patel

Fourth Advisor

Lisa A. Steelman


Police officers are often the first responders to emergency mental health and crisis situations, with almost one-third of all mental health referrals stemming from law enforcement interaction. As a result of deinstitutionalization, a large number of mentally ill individuals have become involved in the criminal justice system and brought to police attention, resulting in unnecessary arrests and an overrepresentation of individuals with mental illness in jail populations. Recent decarceration trends have now placed the focus on diverting individuals with mental illness into treatment. However, officers often lack the proper skills, training, and knowledge of how to interact with individuals with mental illness. Due to this discrepancy in training and roles, the Memphis Police Department developed Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. This current study comprised of law enforcement officers from six law enforcement agencies in central and northern Florida (N=64) examined the impact CIT training and availability of local mental health resources have on law enforcement officer perceptions of effectiveness in responding to the mentally ill. The study’s goals included (a) examining group differences between CIT and non-CIT trained officers with respect to level of comfort in responding to mental health calls, level of preparedness, and attitudes toward treatment of mental illness; (b)

exploring the impact of perceived agency importance of CIT and mental health training on officer perceptions of the benefits of mental health training; and (c) exploring the role of a local emergency evaluation facility and local community resource availability on officer perceptions regarding the benefits of mental health treatment. Descriptive statistics, preliminary analyses between covariates and primary outcomes, group differences between CIT trained officers and non-CIT trained officers on primary study outcomes using Mann-Whitney analyses, and multiple linear regressions examining potential predictor variables for officer comfort and officer preparedness were utilized. Overall, this study found officers who were CIT trained were better prepared to respond to the mentally ill. However, no significant differences were found between CIT trained officers and non-CIT trained offiers on level of comfort or attitudes toward mental health treatment. In addition, officers with positive perceptions of community resources had significantly more positive perceptions regarding the benefits of mental health treatment than those with negative perceptions of community resources. Exploratory analyses utilizing linear multiple regression also found that officer preparedness significantly predicted officer comfort in responding to mental health calls for service. Contributions and limitations of these findings, as well as future research directions, are discussed.


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