Police officers' views of their encounters with people with personality disorder

Patricia Margaret Martin, Stuart David Michael Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports police officers views of their encounters with people diagnosed with personality disorder and their frustration when referring the person to mental health services. People diagnosed with personality disorder were described by police as behaving badly (suggesting a police response) and not being rational (suggesting a mental health response); however, the person generally fell into the crack between the services. People with personality disorder were reported to take up considerable police time and other resources and cause the police considerable concern. Mental health policy, legislation and service development need much improvement before effective collaboration with the police can take place to meet the needs of people diagnosed with personality disorder. In Australia, people experiencing personality disorder have featured little in policing studies and policy or mental health policy and legislation, and in the absence of specific guidance their behaviours represent an ongoing challenge for police. This paper presents police officers accounts from a qualitative research project that explored police encounters with people experiencing mental illness. The officers singled out people with personality disorder and expressed frustration, anger, powerlessness and resignation with their referrals of this group to health services. Officers reported that emergency departments were reluctant to assess people with personality disorder and when they did assess them stated that the person did not meet criteria for admission to mental health services, or if admitted, they were quickly discharged. People with personality disorder were reported to take up considerable police resources. When police were told by mental health professionals that there was nothing they could do about people experiencing personality disorder, then the question from police was what was to be done with them. While pockets of collaborative practice exist between police and mental he
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125 - 132
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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