Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

David Festinger, PhD

Second Advisor

Susan Panichelli-Mindel, PhD

Third Advisor

Torrey Creed, PhD


Police often come into contact with suspects who are mentally ill and who may resist arrest. Research has indicated that individuals with mental illness may have greater difficulty understanding and responding to commands than those who are not mentally ill. This two-group repeated-measures vignette study sought to determine whether law enforcement officers use different degrees of force with suspects who display overt signs of mental illness. One hundred and forty police officers were randomly assigned in equal proportions to read either two vignettes involving a criminal act in which the perpetrators displayed signs of mental illness (experimental condition) or two vignettes in which the perpetrators displayed no signs of mental illness (control condition). It was hypothesized that officers assigned to the experimental condition would use more force than officers assigned to the control condition. It was further hypothesized that officers in the experimental condition would experience a greater degree of negative affect than those in the control condition. Results did not support either hypothesis, suggesting that officers may not react differently to suspects with mental illness. The hope is that this research will offer insights for police departments with and without use-of-force training programs.

Included in

Psychology Commons