The Los Angeles Police Department to Serve as National Learning Site on Responding to People with Mental Illnesses

January 19, 2011

Los Angeles:  The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, with assistance from a team of expert advisory board members and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, selected the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to act as a peer-to-peer learning site that will assist other law enforcement agencies across the country improve their responses to people with mental illnesses.

The LAPD is one of six sites selected through a national, competitive process to participate in this BJA-supported Law Enforcement/Mental Health Learning Sites Initiative project; the other five are Houston (TX) Police Department, Madison (WI) Police Department, Portland (ME) Police Department, Salt Lake City (UT) Police Department, and the University of Florida (FL) Police Department.  

These six agencies will provide resources for state and local agencies that are developing  or enhancing a Specialized Policing Response (SPR) to people with mental illnesses (such as a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), mental health/law enforcement co-response team, or case management approach) to make encounters with officers safer and more successful. Each learning site will host site visits, answer questions from the field, and work with CSG Justice Center staff to develop materials for practitioners and community partners.

“The LAPD, Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU) has proven to be a global leader in innovative law enforcement responses to people with mental illnesses,” said Justice Center Director Michael Thompson. “We are confident that the MEU will provide valuable support and assistance to other agencies and lawmakers interested in improving or enhancing their own SPR.”

Law enforcement contacts involving individuals with mental illness are some of the most complex and time-consuming responses—and can sometimes end tragically or with no positive long-term outcomes for the individual, the officer, or the criminal justice and mental health systems.  Throughout the United States, a large number of people with serious mental illnesses are cycling through the criminal justice system. A 2009 study revealed that 14.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women entering local jails had serious mental illnesses. These rates are in excess of three to six times those found in the general population. The BJA learning site project is meant to help interrupt the cycle of criminal justice involvement—providing better outcomes for all involved and making the best use of law enforcement and other criminal justice resources.

In Los Angeles, it is estimated that several hundred people with mental illness come into contact with police each year. “Providing my officers with the skills and tools they need to link people to services when appropriate, ensure public and officer safety, and make the best use of taxpayer dollars is of critical importance,” said Chief Charlie Beck. “I appreciate the work of our MEU sworn employees and Department of Mental Health partners and respect the opportunity to serve as a learning site for our colleagues in other agencies so that they can build on our successes and to learn from the obstacles we have overcome.”

Additional information about the learning sites project, including information about how agencies can request technical assistance from the LAPD, MEU is available on the project’s website at; or by contacting Lieutenant Lionel M. Garcia, LAPD, Mental Illness Project Coordinator at 213-996-1300.  Additional research and resource materials can be found at

The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies, informed by available evidence, to increase public safety and strengthen communities.