The simple reason it has not been official until now was that having spent three years of my career as a policy lead on mental health, I have since moved to become a frontline 24/7 inspector. I am now responsible for volume crime investigation and criminal justice partnerships in a local area so this was no longer my official responsibility in the force. The blog and twitter were my own way, in my own time, of maintaining my involvement in this area of policing. The hope was to continue to raise awareness within the service and amongst partner organisations and the public.
But I have continued to undertake occasional work for ‘headquarters’ on mental health and I usually receive ten or twelve professional advice queries a week by phone call and email from my colleagues who know I can help with this sort of work. This week it was a Senior Investigating Officer for a murder inquiry, a s136 protocol query, a Contact Centre supervisor who wants to understand better whether or how to deploy officers to calls involving mental health; and Greater Manchester Police. So as I remain involved, a blog seemed a good way to raise awareness whilst ensuring an available resource towards which I could point people.
After mentioning on Twitter that official recognition beckoned, I’ve had a couple of queries about this and they included the question, “Won’t that erode your free speech?” I admit to thinking this a curious question, so I thought I’d quickly explain why it won’t:
Absolutely ALL police officers are subject all of the time to the Police Standards of Professional Behaviour – a professional code of conduct. They are subject to this 24/7 – on duty and off. I’ve been subject to requirements contained within that document since the beginning of my career, nevermind the beginning of the blog, and whether or not it was ‘force-recognised’ is beside the point. It is for that reason, that I have always carefully considered the material I put on here ahead of doing so. One blog post went unpublished for several days after writing it, because I just wanted to think things through again. Others have been deleted or not started at all.
As perhaps you may expect for a police inspector – there is much information, many data and incidents in which I’ve been involved or to which I’ve been made privvy which are never going to be mentioned on here because it relates to confidential, restricted information not available in the public domain. If you wanted to check or if you pressed me on it, you’ll find everything on this blog is publicy available information. Yes, it has been collated and presented by me in a particular fashion, I’ve expressed views on its application from an operational police officer’s point of view, but it is ALL publicy available law, guidance and data.
I am conscious that some of the blogs have generated debate. For example, blogs on s135(1) warrants for assessments on private premises and the blog about the concept of Excited Delirium. I’m further conscious that presenting information to police officers about how to handle situations where their local MHA protocols are either non-existent or inadequate for the situatino in hand, it could be perceived that I’ve just asked officers to declare UDI – Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Once might wonder how this stacks up with my professional standards obligations?
So let me address that point head on:
A police officer’s first responsibility, based upon an oath of office sworn in from of a Justice of the Peace, is to the law. We know that if you spend ten minutes on Google you’ll find published protocols in some areas of England and Wales that are inadequate for the purpsoe and others that are pretty decent. So where it is that a legal duty may conflict with the requirements of a local MHA protocol the officer’s duty is to uphold or comply with the law. Protocols between agencies which are required by the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act should be important and are very usually to be followed but because they have the legal status of ‘guidelines’ they can and should be set aside if they do not cater for the situation in hand.
So it can not be a form of ‘UDI’ if it’s what Parliament laid down or what our national regulators and policy organisations are outlining is in the best interests of vulnerable people in contact with the police.