The role of time and space on the interaction between persons with serious mental illness and the police: A mixed methods study

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
A sizable amount of research and governmental reports have been produced over the past several decades on police calls-for-service involving persons with severe mental illness (PwSMI). However, the narrative of these papers often has a narrow focus (e.g., small subgroups of high-risk offenders), which can result in difficulties for researchers and administrators to generalize their findings to other settings. Extending the existing knowledge-base to the population-level is likely to produce a more accurate understanding of the true nature of the intersection between police services and PwSMI. Through a mixed methods research design, the overall aim of this dissertation is to identify the pertinent static and dynamic factors that are associated with a variety of police contacts with the population of PwSMI. The first research study uses qualitative interviews and focus groups with a purposive sample of police officers from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia to explore factors associated with police interactions with PwSMI, along with decision-making practices. Results from this foundational study suggest that there may be underlying spatial and temporal factors that are related to calls-for-service with PwSMI. As a result, the second study explores the relationship between the environment and police calls-for-service with emotionally disturbed persons (EDP), a proxy for PwSMI. Results suggest that the majority of EDP-events fall under the British Columbia Mental Health Act (MHA), and that there are significant differences between where men and women have contact with police at the aggregate and micro spatial level. The third study explores the temporal patterning of events associated with the MHA. Study 3 considers varying degrees of temporal specificity to highlight when MHA calls-for-service are likely to occur. Results indicate that MHA calls appear to cluster in times that are different from crime events. The collective results from this work emphasize the importance of studying the intersection between PwSMI and the police at multiple levels of specificity in order to more accurately identify where and when police resources are likely to be required. This knowledge may be of great use for administrators and policy makers who want to reduce police contacts with PwSMI or otherwise improve overall service delivery.
Copyright statement
Copyright is held by the author.
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Verdun-Jones, Simon
Member of collection
Attachment Size
etd10273_AVaughan.pdf 1.84 MB