Book Review: Police Response to Mental Health in Canada

By | 26th September 2019

Police Response to Mental Health in Canada
Edited by Uzma Williams, Daniel J. Jones, and John R. Reddon. Canadian Scholars’ Press, August 2019
342 pages, Print $69.95, eBook $64.95
ISBN: 978-1-773-38145-9

Review by Jenan Halabi, Department of Applied Psychology, Concordia University of Edmonton


Police Response to Mental Health in Canada is an editorial style textbook by Uzma Williams, a sessional instructor at MacEwan University; Daniel J. Jones, a police officer for 21 years; John R. Reddon, a Forensic Researcher at the Alberta Hospital Edmonton. The editors provide a concise description of mental health disorders and its importance for policing professions. This book is geared towards students in college and university police studies programs, police professionals, various members of Canadian law enforcement, and individuals who struggle with mental health issues who might interact with the law. One challenge addressed by the authors in the text is the response to mental health symptoms when responding to a mental health crisis. Thus, the objective of this book is to not only discuss the intersection of law enforcement and mental health from a theoretical perspective but to also train police officers in understanding mental health to allow them to effectively respond and manage individuals with a mental health issue.

The book is organized into three sections with sixteen chapters in total. It commences with an in-depth analysis of various mental health disorders that are commonly encountered in policing such as mood, psychosis, substance use, personality, childhood, sexual, and post-traumatic stress disorders. The midsection of the book addresses police legitimacy, police behavioural response to emergency situations, and responding to crisis involving suicide risk. This section provides guidelines to law enforcement regarding the amount of force that is adequate and appropriate in various situations. Additionally, it encompasses the importance of increasing education on mental health services for police to efficiently de-escalate crisis situations that involves mental health. The third section of the text focuses on understanding the nature of crime through post-arrest processes, treatment management, and historical perspectives such as history with Indigenous persons.

This book provides skills and knowledge for enhancing interprofessional education and practice. It highlights the paramount importance of communication strategies with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis which would not only assist law enforcement with individuals in the community, but will also help them with their colleagues within their respective police agencies. It provides law enforcement with diverse methods for appropriately responding to mental health disorders encountered in policing that might not be stressed in training. These methods allow collaborative relationships between law enforcement and health providers to continuously ensure that the needs of individuals and their communities are met.

Additionally, the authors have masterfully integrated a compilation of letters from individuals with mental health struggles who have had interactions with the law and how these conditions affected their interactions with law enforcement. These letters provide support for individuals who are impacted by mental health, and serve to demonstrate the importance of communication, negotiation, and de-escalation skills in police officers when responding to a mental health issue. Encompassing the reality of these individuals provides the readers with an authentic view of mental health issues, which ultimately strengthens the importance of this book. As the reader progresses through the chapters, one will come to respect the vital contribution made by each author in their respective fields to promote techniques and strategies that will ultimately benefit individuals and their communities.

Overall, this book is an excellent resource for law enforcement and individuals experiencing mental health issues. The authors successfully stressed the importance of education and training surrounding mental health for police officers in Canada through an informative and enlightening perspective on the issues of police responding. This book is an essential tool to guide future research, as well as relevant practical implementations for attempts to bridge the divide between law enforcement and persons experiencing mental health symptoms.