Police encounters with people with intellectual disability: prevalence, characteristics and challenges
Background This study investigated the experiences and perceptions of operational members of Victoria Police in relation to their contacts with people with intellectual disability (ID). Key interests for exploration included how frequently and in what context police reported coming into contact with people with ID, how they made this identification, and the challenges they experienced at this interface. Methods Participants comprised 229 operational police members who attended mandatory firearms training sessions over a 2-week period in Melbourne, Australia. Results Police reported coming into contact with people they believed to have an ID on a regular basis and for a wide variety of reasons. They were most likely to base their knowledge on job-related experiences and were most likely to identify individuals on the basis of physical and behavioural cues. The most common challenges were communication, and gaining access to assistance and co-operation from other service providers. While many considered themselves capable in their interactions with those with ID, those who identified that they were most in need of training reported lower confidence in how to respond in these encounters. Conclusions Future training needs to focus on differentiating between mental illness and ID, techniques for enhancing identification and communication, and the inclusion of hands-on scenario-based sessions involving an interdisciplinary approach.