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Law Enforcement and Mental Health Encounters in One Vermont Jurisdiction


Criminal justice stakeholders and policymakers are interested in the way people with mental health concerns and/or substance use disorders engage with law enforcement agencies. This examination explores a sample of these interactions to describe individuals’ contact with the criminal justice system. A better understanding of these interactions can evaluate the utility of administrative data to inform policies regarding police responses in crisis incidents.


With data provided by a municipal police department, researchers identified 18 people who had the most arrests from 2018-2022 and at least one incident with a mental health flag in the Valcour system. Criminal histories were obtained and used in conjunction with data from the Vermont judiciary and Department of Corrections to construct a robust description of how these individuals interact with the criminal justice system.

This study is a preliminary exploration of the utility of administrative data in describing how and why people with behavioral health concerns utilize police services in one municipal police department. As such, the results may not be applicable to other agencies and populations in Vermont. The cohort was too small to find patterns in the criminal histories that suggest how a person goes from limited contact in the first two years to a high utilization of services. Missing also is how much contact the cohort had with law enforcement during their lifetime. Additionally, the interaction that individuals with behavioral health concerns have with other law enforcement agencies, social service providers, and hospitals was outside the scope of study.


On average, individuals in the cohort had 1.39 contacts per day with law enforcement. Most of the calls were related to non-violent matters. The most common type of call involved intoxication followed by trespass.

Daily Incidents

The cohort's interaction with the police during the study period overwhelmingly did not lead to arrest or further criminal justice contact. Only 177 (7%) incidents recorded an arrest during the study period. 

Arrest Type

Trespass was the most common charge for arrested individuals. Arrests for violent crimes were uncommon. Officers used force in just 6% (18) of the incidents.

Charge Type

CRG used the first 2 years of an individual's Vermont criminal history to illustrate how much criminal justice involvement a person had each month. CRG calculated whether the person had an open criminal case, was incarcerated, was on probation, or any combination of those statuses. A person was free (green) if during that month they had no formal contact with the system. By the end of the second year, all but two cohort members were free of criminal justice oversight.

Cohort Members' First 24 Months


The study found that the cohort has high contact with and use of police services. Enhancing coordination with social support organizations could alleviate the strain on police resources. Initiatives that embed social workers or coordinate community responses with law enforcement agencies, such as Project Vision in Rutland, Project Alliance in Bennington, and others around the state are an appropriate response to the patterns found in this study.