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Community-based participatory research with police: Development of a tech-enhanced structured suicide risk assessment and communication smartphone application.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-10-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000470
Christopher M Weaver,Joyce P Chu,Alexandra Lugo,Naomi Uyeda,Yumi Cha,Taylor Zadonowicz,Brenna Giordano

OBJECTIVE Police officers initiate psychiatric holds following determination of suicide risk. Such referrals constitute direct decriminalization of mental illness at the single most efficient criminal justice system diversion point. However, system-level problems with this process highlight a need to further understand and improve this service connection juncture. The goal of the present study was to inform the development of a smartphone application designed to enhance police referrals of individuals experiencing suicide crises into treatment via culturally responsive structured professional judgment. HYPOTHESES Given the developmental and qualitative nature of this study, there were no formal hypotheses tested. Research questions included the following: Would police officers broadly endorse concerns about the care referral process? Would officers support the use of technology to assist with those concerns? And would officers raise concerns about the demands on time and expertise that would be placed on them to conduct thorough risk assessments? METHOD Researchers used community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods to obtain police stakeholder-driven data through four focus groups with 47 police officers (76.6% male, 59.6% White, with a mean of 10.7 years of police employment) sampled from patrol and hostage negotiation units. Participants shared information about specific problems arising in the process through which police refer people to medical care, and they gave feedback on the beta version of a culturally responsive mobile app designed to streamline officers' evidence-based and culturally informed determinations of suicide risk. RESULTS Results, qualitatively coded using grounded theory methodology, yielded key considerations for police use of culturally responsive apps to divert individuals in suicidal crisis into treatment, including the need to maintain a balance between risk assessment and communication, allow for variance in time constraints, allow for flexibility in response and report options, account for inaccurate reports of suicide risk factors, maximize utility of the app's risk report output, incorporate sensitivity around cultural questions, and consider officers' safety in their use of the app in the field. CONCLUSIONS The results illustrate a theoretically based (CBPR) approach to cross-disciplinary technology development to facilitate evidence-based assessments by law enforcement. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).