The frequency and nature of resolution of potential police provoked shooting encounters
Louise C. McLeod, Stuart D.M. Thomas, Dragana Kesic
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Volume 37, Issue 4, July–August 2014
Helping people in acute psychiatric crisis has become an increasingly common part of modern community policing. In certain extreme cases, police may be faced with a suicidal individual who intends to intentionally provoke police to shoot them. While fatalities are fortunately rare, anecdotal reports from frontline police suggest that these kinds of encounters are occurring on a regular basis. This paper explores 2350 psychiatric crisis incidents over an eight-month period in Victoria, Australia, and assesses the frequency and nature of potential police-provoked shootings resolved through non-fatal means. Contextual factors relating to the person's behaviour and police responses, and the person's psychiatric and criminal histories were considered to elucidate characteristics common to these incidents. Results suggest that police are potentially encountering a person who is suicidal and trying to provoke police to shoot them more than twice a week. These individuals share a number of common characteristics with those who have been fatally shot in similar circumstances and are quite different from those who attempt self-inflicted suicide. Results are discussed in relation to the impact of previous criminal contact from both the suspect and police perspectives.