LATROBE, PA – A new book co-authored by Dr. Kayla Jachimowski, assistant professor of criminology, law and society, examines police responses to mental health calls for service and the importance of police receiving proper training about mental health disorders.
“Police Response to Mental Health Calls for Service: Gatekeepers and Street Corner Psychiatrists,” written by Jachimowski and Dr. Jonathon A. Cooper, was published by Rowman & Littlefield and released in November.
Jachimowski first became fascinated in the topic of mental health and police response while she conducted research for her dissertation at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I was originally interested in juvenile justice and delinquency,” she said, “so I did a lot of my school research at the doctoral level on that topic. However, at some point before I concluded my coursework, I heard a really fascinating story about a person with a mental health disorder at a veterinary clinic and an allegedly dead cat. I quickly realized that there’s a huge stigma around individuals with mental health disorders and being violent, which generally is not true. I then shifted my focus to the intersection between the criminal justice and mental health systems.”
The new book serves as somewhat of an extension of her dissertation, also entitled “Police Response to Mental Health Calls for Service.”
“In my dissertation,” she explained, “I looked at three variables of how police respond to these types of calls for service - crisis intervention teams (CIT) and mental health training-based interventions, the availability of resources and the social/personal factor. The book focuses more on CIT and mental health training, though the others are mentioned. Essentially, the book is a third of my dissertation, expanded. Then, I wrote an article about the influence of available mental health resources on the officers’ response.”
In their exploration of the relationships between police, the community and mental health service providers, the authors contend that proper training is imperative while the mental health system needs to devote more resources to adequately help.
“Functionally,” she said, “systems in society are all connected. As one breaks down, so do the others. Officers need help when they respond to calls for service, be that guidance, intervention or training. And, a lot of officers want that help, and in most cases, they are doing what they can with what they have. It is unfortunate that our systems are strained to a point where we can’t get adequate resources to those who need it.”
Jachimowski was eager to collaborate with Cooper, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the chair of her dissertation.
“I was really fortunate to work with him in the Criminology Advising Center at IUP,” she said. “He was immensely helpful with a project I worked on for a class, which was eventually published with his guidance, and he is arguably the reason I fell in love with statistics and research in the first place. It was an easy choice to ask him about the dissertation since he is a policing scholar. We had already worked together in multiple situations and he is a great person.
“Now,” she joked, “it just seems like I can’t get rid of him. In his words, he is the ‘big brother I wish I never had.’”
The writers aimed to make the new book approachable for a multitude of audiences, eschewing technical jargon and heavy statistical analysis in order to appeal to practitioners, scholars and students alike.
“A lot of books can weigh heavy in jargon, complicated statistics or abstract concepts,” she said. “I’m not saying this book doesn’t have those things – it does – but we wanted anyone who picked it up to be able to gain something from it.”
Though she doesn’t intend on requiring the book in any of the undergraduate or graduate courses she teaches at Saint Vincent, Jachimowski said that a number of the topics broached in the book are covered in her coursework.
“The research behind the book, the concepts discussed and the goals of the future of mental health and criminology are all informed by the topics in the undergraduate class Mental Illness and the Criminal Process and in the graduate course Special Topics – Crisis Intervention Teams,” she said. “But, like a lot of topics, bits and pieces are introduced in other classes because there are a number of special populations in criminology.”
Excluding her dissertation process, Jachimowski estimated that it took a little more than eight months to complete the book and she is beyond thrilled to see this labor of love finally completed.
“It is really exciting that it has finally been published. I just hope people find it helpful and relevant to their research or careers.”
“Police Response to Mental Health Calls for Service: Gatekeepers and Street Corner Psychiatrists” is available for purchase through Rowman & Littlefield, as well as most major booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Walmart.
PHOTO 1: Dr. Kayla Jachimowski
PHOTO 2: Cover of “Police Response to Mental Health Calls for Service: Gatekeepers and Street Corner Psychiatrists.”