Mark Bolt's Story

Author: Mark Bolt
Mark Bolt's Story

Mark is an operational police officer who has studied the interface between criminal justice and mental health. He went to the USA in 2013 to study the way in which their criminal justice system deals with suspects with mental health illnesses.

The Fellowship

Mark noted that in the UK, 40% of repeat callers to the Police and 25% of persons arrested for an offence have a known mental illness. The police deal with the outward behaviour of individuals and have little or no training or cognisance of the fact that someone’s behaviour may be attributable to the state of their underlying mental health. Consequently Individuals with mental health problems end up within the criminal justice system inappropriately and individuals use mental illness to excuse their criminal behaviour.

So he travelled to the USA for six weeks to experience first-hand the two models that US Law enforcement agencies have adopted when dealing with those in mental health crises and how the police and courts alter the criminal justice pathways of offenders, depending on their mental health needs. 

In Chicago he learned about the Crisis Intervention Team model whereby 40% of frontline staff undergo enhanced training to enable them to de-escalate situations and deal effectively with the individual - minimising harm to them and the officers.  He spent time in the classroom and out on patrol as well as visiting the courts and jails interviewing service users to get their perspective of how the officers’ behaviour reflected on theirs. At Cook County Jail he experienced the "booking in process” and was able to witness their well-developed diversionary court process.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, he experienced the Mobile Crisis Team model, or “cop in a car with a clinician”, in the classroom with the trainees and then out on patrol attending various incidents involving individuals in mental health crises. He was also able to study the support offered in jail.

During an excursion to Arlington, Virginia, he saw a well-developed multi-agency approach meshing together the additional training for frontline officers, clinical support and diversionary processes for offenders.

The Results

Mark has been instrumental on his return in developing and delivering a ‘mental health for frontline officers’ training package.  The first of a series of days has now been delivered to all frontline officers in Devon and Cornwall, his own force. It is hoped that this will be the first of a programme of training days, each linking into the one before, giving officers a greater awareness of mental health issues and tools for dealing with people in crisis.

He is also the lead for the Liaison and Diversion project whereby mental health clinicians have been integrated into the criminal justice process at the earliest stage.  They offer support to both the suspect and the investigator to ensure that the most appropriate pathway is followed, either out of the criminal justice process altogether or into the court system with the individual getting the treatment they need.