Suspects with mentally confused behaviour in an Amsterdam police cell; better cooperation between psychiatrist and public prosecutor
Background Over the past decade, shocking incidents have driven a debate about how to handle persons exhibiting mentally confused behaviour who commit crimes. In response, Amsterdam launched a pilot project in 2017 to improve collaboration between the judicial system and mental health services at police stations to achieve a more appropriate rapport between criminal justice and care.
Aim To describe the pilot project and it’s initial results.
Method We describe the establishment of the pilot project, as well as the results of an initial evaluation of the characteristics of the incoming persons and the handling of the arrests. In a separate experiment we evaluated how information about the results of a psychiatric consultation affected decisions about the handling of cases by the public prosecutor’s department.
Results While respecting legal constraints, it proved possible to exchange information between the public prosecutor’s department and the mental health care system. In one-third of the cases, the public prosecutor adapted the decision about the handling of the case after being informed about the psychiatrist’s assessment. Four-fifths of the incoming persons were male and only one-third lived in Amsterdam. One-third had a psychotic disorder and more than one-third a substance-related disorder. Compulsory admissions were ordered for 15% of the suspects who were assessed. After assessment, both treatment and penalties were ordered for one-third.
Conclusion The professionals involved thought the new approach was positive. However, it is still too early to draw any conclusions about the effects. The unusual profile of the cohort makes it clear that the police, the judicial system, the mental health care system and municipal organisations are faced with a complex challenge in their efforts to reduce the number of incidents with confused suspects on the long term. Further research is required in order to determine the social and psychiatric characteristics that predict recurring contacts with the police.