Sheriff Bouchard, Oakland County, talks in this article about the impact of the lack of mental health care on the jail. While he talks about the number of people in jail he doesn’t mention the impacts on the police who are increasing dealing with the mentally ill. We have few if any resources when there is a person having a mental breakdown in public who has not committed a crime. One of our sergeants told me a story about a naked man in one of our parks this summer. The man was clearly very out of touch and was laying in the grass in a park, naked. It was not someone we knew or had contact with in the past. He was not threatening and while I agree that it is a crime to be in public naked, would arresting him and putting him in jail really be the right solution when he was so clearly mentally ill? Some officers advocated engaging him physically to get him covered up so park goers wouldn’t have to see a naked man. The sergeant opted to take the longer but ultimately more successful route of spending some time talking him into getting into a police car while they tried to find his family or caregiver. It took a lot of time and as police staffing falls, we have less and less time to devote to missions that take that much time.
It is a difficult problem.