Tod Burke is an Associate Dean at Radford University and a professor of criminal justice. He is also a former Maryland police officer.

"I remember when I was a police officer," Burke told WDBJ7.  "We weren't even addressing these issues. We handled it as we would any other call."

Burke and two colleagues at Radford University, graduate student Christian Mason, and Department of Criminal Justice Chair Stephen Owen have taken a closer look at the interaction between law enforcement officers and individuals with mental illness. The FBI recently published the article they co-authored.

They argue that law enforcement officers could benefit from a simple checklist. As a supplement to their training, it could help officers identify mental health issues, anticipate problems and make the appropriate response.

"The officer is not going to be sitting there staring at an app, when you have a person with a knife, so we've got to put this in perspective," Burke said, "but given the time, given the information that the officer has at the scene, this could really benefit the public."

Burke says it's hard  to say if cases involving mental illness are on the rise, but public recognition of the problem is definitely increasing.  And he says having more information at hand will help law enforcement officers and the people they encounter who are suffering from mental illness.