Emotionally Disturbed Persons, or EDPs, are common encounters for the street level police officer.
EDPs fall into three general categories: chemical abusers, short term, and long term. Recognizing what category the EDP falls into may help you in how you deal with the subject.
The first category is the chemical abuser. The folks in this category include your crack-heads, meth-freaks, and drunks. Name any chemical, and I’m sure I can find someone abusing it. Police officers often deal with these people, especially drunks, and may become complacent because of this. Complacency can get you and your partner hurt. Anyone who is in a chemically-induced altered mental state has lowered inhibitions (they are more likely to attack you), and will most likely have a much higher tolerance to pain. Not really a good combination.
The short term EDP is generally out-of-control because of something going on in their life right now. For example, the loss of a loved one may push someone into a frenzy. Many times these folks aren’t dangerous, but they need some level of intervention to stabilize. A short-term EDP may be dangerous in some situations, though. Say, for example, a father has found out his daughter has been raped by a neighbor. That father may lose rational thought and be walking down the street with his hunting rifle to find him when you roll up.
The long term EDP is someone who has on-going mental health issues. Someone who is bi-polar or schizophrenic, for example, is a frequent example of an EDP police officers often encounter. A lot of times officers know in advance of the mental health issues because of prior calls to the residence. Sometimes, though, you may roll up on a trespassing or suspicious person call, completely unaware of the skewed reality of the person with whom you are about to deal.
Pay attention to the person’s behavior. Are they withdrawn? Are they acting as if they are being persecuted by people? Is their behavior erratic, or does their mood shift sharply? Do they have repetitive behaviors, such as snapping their finger every minute, or doing things in multiples? If you are seeing any of these behaviors, recognize them as clues that the person may be an EDP.
Many human services agencies offer free training in how to better recognize EDP’s, and how to deal with them. If you can, take some of this training, and learn to integrate it with your officer safety training.