Sometimes, I listen to protracted debates at work around divisions of responsibilities. Is a particular type of burglary or robbery a local CID job or a force CID job? Is a neighbour dispute neighbourhood policing or 24/7 response job? How do we determine whether a fraud is for Economic Crime – value or complexity? – and who investigates it if it is not serious enough? Does any of this matter?! Well, only up to a point – I don’t like to play the ‘remit game’, as it often misses the victim.
So I was interested a few weeks ago in a squaring-off between two sergeants over some routine business which, when I was a sergeant, I’d have been humilitated to think reached my inspector. I wouldn’t have wanted him to know I couldn’t sort it out, being so utterly straight-forward. But notwithstanding how simplistic it was to us, it was extremely important to the victim.
I made it known that these ‘stripes’ should talk to each other and reach some professional compromise because “if two people paid £40,000 a year each want to bore me again with the fact that they are unable to sort out a shoplifting, they’ll both get a decision they don’t like.” Both sergeants had good reason to say ‘no’ but that wasn’t getting the victim a police service. I didn’t actually care who took it on because the victim was more important than either them. I didn’t hear anything further and the victim got what he needed.
This brings to me to mental health: there is always scope to argue that the police or mental health professionals should do this or that and I work in an urban area where resources are (comparatively) plentiful. But I’ve been reminded by colleagues who work in very rural areas, that agencies often do favours ‘above and beyond the textbook’ because they have to, to get things done. Police officers cover school crossing patrol for the council – unheard of in cities – and GPs let their surgeries get used as a ‘place of safety’ when a PC is struggling to get someone removed 45 miles to a psychiatric unit. (I mentioned this in my area once and was patronised out of the building.)
In many examples we could debate, laws and guidance don’t actually prescribe work to be the responsibility of one agency or another. Managers are required to acknowledge that they have no stick with which to beat the other party; they must, for practical purposes work out how to support each other and compromise. So whilst I have a rough rule of thumb as to the basis upon which police support for MHA processes should be agreed – Resistance, Aggression, Violence or Escape (RAVE) – I’m not at all sure how this holds up in West Cornwall on a wet Tuesday evening. It may well be the case that the Penzance inspector is happy to assist whenever he can because he knows he’ll need a CMHT or AMHP colleague next week to act as an appropriate adult for an arrested offender when they have no legal obligation to do so. (It is a ‘he’ – I checked! What a job to have?!)
Working together, improvising together and compromising together is vital wherever you work: because the centre of it are real people who need assessment, help or support. That is more important than anything else, if we’re honest – as long as no-one is doing anything illegal.