One of the hardest things a family may have to do is call the police when their loved one is behaving in an unsafe manner. These guidelines may help you in this moment of crisis.
If you have a loved one with a serious mental health condition, there may be times when their behavior creates a danger to themselves or others. For the safety of both your loved one and your family, police intervention may be required. You may expect that your loved one will feel scared or even betrayed by your decision, even though you are ultimately acting for their best good. The police officers, EMT's and County Mental Health workers understand this bigger picture and are there to support you in making the hard choice.
The primary function of the Peace Officer is to serve and protect the community at large. When called upon to intervene with your family, they will make an assessment of the level of danger present and use the minimum amount of force necessary to contain that threat and restore safety. The more information they have prior to engaging your family member, the better equipped they will be to negotiate a favorable outcome.
If you speak to the Dispatcher in a stressed or frantic way, the police will come into the situation escalated, anticipating the need for a possible rescue. This may result in a more forceful intervention. If you desire a softer approach from law enforcement, then speak calmly and clearly to the Dispatcher, communicating relevant background and situation information.
You do not want to agitate them or make them feel threatened. If possible, excuse yourself from the room to make the call. Ask the police to come without lights or sirens. They will then determine if this is possible.
Section 5150 is a section of California's Welfare and Institutions Code which allows a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person deemed to have a mental disorder that makes them a danger to his or her self, and/or others and/or gravely disabled. Give the police all the information needed to evaluate for a 5150. Describe the specific behaviors that are causing you concern.
Are you the primary caregiver for your loved one or do they live independently? How frequent is your contact with your loved one? Is this the first crisis intervention or have there been others? Are there casemanagers/doctors involved?
The family member is decompensating and the behavior is not typical for them. Decompensation means the inability to maintain defense mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or psychological imbalance. Give examples to dispatch: not eating, not bathing, suicidal, aggressive, etc.
If the individual is putting you or themselves in danger, police need to step in and help. You have the right to ask for help.
Ask for their badge number, names of officers and their supervisors. Give feedback to the officers about what worked for your family and what did not.
You will be the one speaking to police when they arrive. Your safety is as important as your loved one's.
While on the phone with the dispatcher, EMERGENCY help is being dispatched. Staying on the line, if asked to do so, will NOT delay help from responding.
These scripts can help guide your call to 911.
Please note: It is best if you call 911 from home whenever possible. If you are on cell phone then you can call any of the call the numbers on the Sonoma County Emergency list. The best two numbers to call on list are 528-5222 and 565-2121.
Police: (707) 528-5222
Fire: (707) 528-5151
Ambulance: (707) 528-5151
Police: (707) 565-2121
Fire: (707) 576-1365
Ambulance: (707) 576-1365
Psychiatric Emergency Services
Adult Protective Services
Child Protective Services Hotline
Santa Rosa Memorial ER
Petaluma Valley ER
Please note: It is best to call 911 from home whenever possible. If you are on cell phone, please call 528-5222 (Santa Rosa) or 565-2121 (Sonoma County).