Training and Education About Mental Health for Police Organizations (TEMPO)
TEMPO is a learning model that aims to prepare police personnel for interactions with those living with mental illness (Coleman & Cotton, 2014, 2016). It consists of a number of modules; some are designed for front-line officers, whereas others cater to support staff (e.g., dispatchers, victim service workers, prison care officers; Coleman & Cotton, 2014). The modules deliver training that covers: (1) the role of the police and others in relation to those with mental illness, (2) the symptomology of major mental illnesses, the way in which certain symptoms manifest behaviourally, and the individualistic nature of mental illness, (3) the legislation, protocols, and policies related to mental health, as well as the options available for those with mental illness, (4) how to more effectively communicate, disarm, and de-escalate individuals with mental illness, (5) the relationship between mental illness, dangerousness, and suicide risk, and (6) appropriate and ethical decision-making (e.g., regarding when to apprehend, arrest, and divert those with mental illness). Upper-tier modules deliver more intensive training for those working in specialized roles (e.g., crisis negotiators, ERT/SWAT commanders), and those involved in joint police/mental health response teams.
Is the program based on research?
Yes, the model was developed based on a comprehensive review of the peer-reviewed academic literature (e.g., Borum, 2000; Borum, Williams, Deans, Steadman, & Morrisey, 1998; Cotton, 2004), grey literature (e.g., Adelman, 2003; Brink, et al., 2011; Butler, 2014), an environmental scan surveying Canadian police agencies about their mental health-related training (Coleman & Cotton, 2014), as well as formal (e.g., interviews, review of training content) and informal contact (e.g., discussions with the use of force trainers) with police personnel. TEMPO integrates components from various other national and international training initiatives (both police-specific and non-police specific; e.g., Project PRIMeD in Australia, the IACP Initiative in the United States, CID, and ASIST; Coleman & Cotton, 2014). It has been revised and adapted following several surveys with Canadian police agencies (in 2010 and 2014).
Has the program been independently evaluated?
The only evaluation we located was conducted by Coleman and Cotton (2014) for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The evaluation supported the model.
Was the program rigorously tested?
Canadian police agencies were surveyed about their mental health-related training prior to the development and roll-out of TEMPO, and then again after TEMPO had been endorsed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (Coleman & Cotton, 2014). TEMPO remained “…relatively unknown amongst respondents [in] the 2014 survey” (2014, p. 70). However, components of the content that are included in TEMPO have been evaluated independently and appear to improve outcomes between police and individuals with mental illness.
Has the program evaluation been replicated?
We could find no other published, peer-reviewed studies.
Was the program tested in Canada?
To our knowledge, the model has not yet been rigorously tested by a police agency in Canada or abroad.
Due to the nature of the population under consideration, rigorous evaluation of TEMPO’s efficacy is challenging. Moreover, as noted by Coleman and Cotton (2014), “TEMPO is not a training tool per se but an umbrella approach that police organizations can use as a framework to assess their own progress in training, to identify gaps in their existing learning programs, and to use as an aspirational document to create appropriate new learning programs” (p. 10). Therefore, its design is flexible and takes into consideration other training that an agency may be conducting (e.g., Crisis Intervention and De-escalation Training). However, future research utilizing pre-post methodology and aimed at determining which learning modules in particular yield meaningful change may increase confidence in the model’s efficacy.
Assessor: Brittany Blaskovits, Carleton University
Brittany Blaskovits is a Doctorate candidate in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Lethbridge, and her Master of Arts in Psychology from Carleton University. As a member of the Police Research Laboratory, her research interests focus on evidence-based policing, namely that which relates to police use-of-force and investigative techniques.
Reviewer: Dr. Ian Hesketh, Lancaster University
Dr. Ian Hesketh is a serving Police Officer currently seconded to the Organisational Development and International Faculty at the U.K. College of Policing. During his policing career, he has carried out a number of specialist operational roles including Armed Response, Police Partnerships and the Mounted Branch. Ian is an Honorary Researcher at Lancaster University Management School and a Visiting Fellow at the Open University Business School. His academic research focuses on police well-being, trauma and the development of resiliency.
Adelman, J. (2003). Study in blue and grey: Police interventions with people with mental illness: A review of challenges and responses. Canadian Mental Health Association, British Columbia Division.Borum, R. (2000). Improving high risk encounters between people with a mental illness and the police. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 28, 332-337.
Borum, R., Williams, M., Deans, M. W., Steadman, A. J. & Morrisey, J. (1998). Police perspectives on responding to mentally ill people in crisis: Perceptions of program effectiveness. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 16(4), 393-405.
Brink, J., Livingston, J. D., Desmarais, S. L., Greaves, C., Maxwell, V., Parent, R., & Weaver, C. (2011). A study of how people with mental illness perceive and interact with the police. Mental Health Commission of Canada. Retrieved from http://
Butler, A. L. (2014). A qualitative study of police interactions as perceived by people living with mental disorder (Unpublished master’s thesis). Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.
Coleman, T., & Cotton, D. (2014). TEMPO: Police interactions. A report towards improving interactions between police and people living with mental health problems. Mental Health Commission of Canada. Retrieved from
Coleman, T., & Cotton, D. (2014). TEMPO: A contemporary model for police education and training about mental illness. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 37(4), 325-333.Coleman, T. G., & Cotton, D. (2016). A strategic approach to police interactions with people with a mental illness. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 1(2), 7-11.
Cotton, D. (2004). The attitudes of Canadian police officers toward the mentally ill. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 27(2), 135-146.