This research project was a lens into the real world of research and data collecting. In our American history, a lot of global issues have progressed simply from the misinterpretation of data. The United States involvement with Iraq is a prime example of such where one data collector finds that a Middle Eastern country found a source of uranium and then begins the domino effect of war. This is a real world instance where data has made a huge effect on international diplomacy. Granted, my data collecting did not have that exact impact, it still gave me insight into the present issues in our policing system.
My research was about encounters between the mentally ill and the police when deadly force is used. When I began researching I found a wealthy amount of literature on the topic. There were also hundreds of webpages with statistics about how many encounters were “deadly” and the circumstances behind each situation. I also had to inform myself more on the specifics of mental illnesses in order to fully comprehend the situations and policies that were within the research. I also needed to refresh myself on police procedure so when reading I could identify mistakes made when handling cases with mentally ill people.
It was within this research that I found that people with an existing mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by the police. The Treatment Advocacy Center really stands up for those who suffer with mental illness. They often fight for better/ more available treatment centers and for specialized police task forces for cases with mentally ill in order to save their lives.
The paper writing was the hardest part for me personally. I had never written a literature review before and actually struggled really hard with doing so. In addition to my heavy course load this semester I definitely could have been a better research assistant for Professor Arslan. I tried my best to devote as much time to writing the paper as possible but many obstacles from my classes and other curricular came my way. The research was more of a time commitment than I had originally anticipated, however, when Professor Arslan depended on me to complete a data sheet I worked day in and day out to do it.
A data sheet is an excel spreadsheet that has many different cells consisting of details about the incident of deadly or excessive force being used on a person. There is a cell for the persons name, gender, race, location of the incident, and especially whether or not the person is mentally ill (including much more). This excel spreadsheet makes up the S.H.O.T. Database for Police use of Deadly Force. This database looks at the issue of police use of deadly force in its entirety. My job as the researcher was to focus in on the mentally ill column of the spreadsheet and then fill out any other information as it came my way. I had experience working on a similar project from my Terrorism and Society class (which is amazing, highly recommend it) with Professor Arslan. It was exciting to contribute to the database and leave my mark on it as it progresses to be something even more amazing.
There were trials and tribulations within this research work. There were times where it overwhelmed me and I shut it out, but there were also times where I buckled down and enjoyed the work I was doing. I am soon having my final meeting with Professor Arslan to discuss the charts and poster board for our Show Case. This research topic will go far and I can’t wait to see what it develops into moving forward.
The two tasks that have been developing are the literature review and data collecting information on Police Shootings with the mentally ill. Paper writing is not my forte. After struggling to write a literature review, something I’ve never done before, I was able to complete it. There still need to be edits and additions but I think I did a good job considering the circumstances.
After that was submitted, I worked on some of the information for the database and researched missing parts of information on a data sheet. Through an excel spread sheet I enter different aspects about many officer involved shootings. The hardest cell to fill was the one that determined mental illness. Many articles made no mention of mental illness or had conflicting views. Some would say mentally ill, and others would say intoxicated or sometimes both. I completed as much of the data sheet as I could in the short amount of time and enjoyed that more than writing the literature review. I want to continue working on it and look more extensively without the time crunch.
Through collecting data I was able to see obvious patterns within geographical areas that struggle the most with police involved shootings. Although I recognized that I was not working on the complete data, just 100 cells, many of the incidents occurred in California. This could be simply because the state is so large, but it could also speak to their policing abilities. The victims were also almost entirely male. Determining the race of a victim was not always easy but there was a high volume of minority victims on my sheet, but again I am aware that it is such a small section of the present data so not to make and final judgments based on that alone.
The progress of this research has been slow and steady. I am currently adding more sources to the literature review. My schedule this semester has been harder than I anticipated, but I will still work on the things Professor Arslan has given me to contribute to the research. The experience of data collecting was so far the best part of this research for me. I hope I do more of it.
The focus of the rest of this semester has been on the Literature Review of the journal being written about the use of deadly force on the mentally ill. I have found many great sources and have mapped out the directions I want the Literature Review to go. I am still getting used to how it is structured and the type of language/ writing of this section of the journal. I am confident in the knowledge I have collected and am eager to move forward.
The S.H.O.T Database Statistics on the pace.edu
website have been an essential starting point to collecting data for my research. It has showed me examples of these instances, along with their locations. This has actively led me to finding solid sources about how law enforcement are making changes to improve mentally ill and police interactions.
I’ve also found the adversities law enforcement have encountered when it coming to a situation with a mentally ill person. For instance, a lack of funding due to a small mentally ill presence in the community. The well being of the mental ill is seldom a priority of law enforcement who do not actively have predicaments with them involved. The approach of unspecialized law enforcement is very “cookie cutter” or one size fits all. A solution begins with more specialized training in the academy as opposed to a brief general overview. Many mental disorders are very different and being able to handle different common ones is important, even if there is not room in a community budget for a Task Force.
I have sent my beginning of the Literature Review to Professor Arslan and we both agree I need to make improvements. with everything going on this semester it has been difficult to give 100% of my attention to this literature. However, I look forward to having time over winter break to dedicate to perfecting the literature to ensure the journal’s foundation is strong.
Once the Lit Review is completed. I will start collecting data on mentally ill being shot during police encounters. This will start by Spring Semester.
Police Brutality and use of deadly force has been frequent media headlines over the past couple years. However, the issues between police and the mentally ill have been a prominent issue for a long time. Police in most areas of the United States are ill-equipped to handle special cases involving the mentally ill. The mentally ill or emotionally disturbed persons (EDP) need more specialized attention and care than the ordinary traffic stop.
My job is to assist Professor Arslan and to research how the police handle EDPs and if it is a commonality to have task forces that handle the mentally ill. This is to ensure deadly force is not used when there are professionals who have an alternative solution. Deadly force should always be a last resort tactic but some officers jump the gun (no pun intended). Although Crisis Intervention Teams are active in Westchester County, they are not implemented in the majority of police departments in the United States. For example, in Maine, police have shot over 100 people who ended up to be mentally ill since 1990. Since then they have begun the implementation of CIT (similar to White Plain’s program) to lower risk to mental health persons.
This is not only an important piece of Police use of deadly force. Research about the methods in which law enforcement handle the mentally ill could be revolutionary in decreasing the amount of people wounded at the hands of police. This is not only beneficial to the mentally ill, but it helps police officers during their daily duties, the family members of EDPs, and especially the state/ local governments. The data for this research will be retrieved from the Statistics Help Officer Training (SHOT) database, which is located at Pace University.