Policing mental health issues has got the ability to get complex, for reasons outlined in other blogs. However, what a police area needs to have in place to tackle it effectively is remarkably simple. Sometimes, it is ongoing debates about ‘where mental health sits‘ that prevent the recognition of this simplicity.
I once wrote ‘one side of A4’ for chief inspectors on local areas, to summarise what they need to have in place to be successful. This version includes one or two extra explanations as I’m not backing it up with a verbal briefing:
- A senior officer – as the ‘strategic lead’ for MH and partnerships – possibly the local superintendent or chief inspector. Someone with authority around resources, budgets and training who can authorise solutions to problem trends and agree a police area’s commitment to protocols / partnership.
- A lead inspector – as the ‘tactical lead’ who is the point of contact for other agencies in day to day problem solving and leads for ensuring that police responsibilities are delivered.
- Local neighbourhood policing team – an officer to act as a liaison point for any inpatient psychiatric unit. This need not be the creation of a full-time role, but someone who is a regular point of contact. It could well be just 5% of someone’s role but would save the whole BCU massive amounts of time and effort.
- Place of Safety protocol – following the arrest / removal of anyone under section 135 or section 136 of the Mental Health Act (or equivalent Scottish / Northern Irish legislation).
- Assessment of Private Premises protocol – for the planning and conduct of assessments with or without the police, with or without a warrant under s135 (or equivalent law).
- AWOL protocol – for the reporting and searching; the recovery and conveyance of patients who are absent without permission, inc those who fail to return from leave or to recall.
- Conveyance protocol – for the movement of patients in various circumstances, but including urgent transfers between mental health facilities.
- Mental Capacity Act protocol – to control the use of the MCA and ensure it is not inappropriately used.
- Mentally Disordered Offenders protocol – to ensure appropriate diversion and prosecution of offenders and timely assessment of needs in police custody.
- A strategic meeting twice or thrice a year – involving senior staff: to review protocols and their effectiveness, to agree plans around joint training and awareness raising for both police AND mental health professionals. (Yes, the police need MH awareness training – but MH professionals also need legal or ‘police awareness’ training.)
- A tactical problem solving meeting – involving the lead inspector, to review cases which have been problematic and to lead on reinforcing agreements by understanding feedback from the other organisations; to give feedback and direction to staff where required.
- Delivery joint training – sufficient to ensure the above protocols are understood and that frontline professionals network and talk about problems by sharing their experiences from opposite sides. <;<;<; This has been extremely positive and successful where forces and MH trusts have tried it. But it takes some organising!
- Service user involvement – in delivery of training it can be extremely powerful, not only for police officers, but having seen service-users explain to MH professionals what it feels like to be locked in a police cell for over a day when detained under s136 was powerful.
The above doesn’t necessarily take long, as many good protocols exist from which areas can cut / paste or ‘borrow with pride’ and of course there is a blog with many resources and answers(!) but much is formally outlined within national guidelines which are badged by the Department of Health.
To end on a positive, hopefully humourous point: the BEST awareness training for police officers I have ever seen was done by two learning disabilities’ service users and a support worker delivering LD awareness training:
Two young men in their twenties who spoke about their lives and loves – they had those police officers eating out of the palm of their hands and listening attentively by the simple expedient of basing their simple message about equality and respect around anecdotes involving football and pubs, girls and sex. It was perfectly pitched to be funny without being inappropriate and it broke down barriers and superbly challenged assumptions and probably prejudice.
The police officers stood up at the end and applauded those two men. It was wonderful to see!
The Mental Health Cop blog won
– the Mind 2012 Digital Media Award, in memory and in honour of Mark Hanson.
The Awards celebrate the “best portrayals of and reporting on mental health in the media.”
– a World of Mentalists 2012 #TWIMAward for the best in mental health blogs.
It was described as “a unique mix of professional resource, help for people using services and polemic.”