How can I possibly link a post on a policing / mental health blog to me getting to police at the Olympic Games?! … is it just a gratuitous opportunity to tell you about my time policing our capital?!! Maybe! But it was such a unique event that I would like to tell you about it; and in event, these things are very easily linked back to the blog:
1. My police public order unit were accommodated at the University of Greenwich, where the university’s Family Care and Mental Health department is based. As a result, this blog is now known to the department staff who will be suggesting it is background reading to next year’s students on various mental health courses and this is now at least six mental health nursing courses who are doing this around the country.
2. We actually did have three explicit mental health related jobs come to our attention whilst we were busy policing the ExCeL Arena in Docklands and the O2 Arena in Greenwich.
We had it rather well on our deployment, compared to some. Other officers, not least my friend Sgt Andy Wilson from Tayside, have blogged about their experiences, where they were deployed on London Boroughs: doing a range of different tasks in local policing operations from patrols, to executing arrest warrants and targeted operations. Some non-Met officers were deployed in the search operation in Croydon following the disappearance of Tia Sharp. This is all important stuff but I know some have reflected that they did not feel they had policed the Olympics, but that they had supported the Metropolitan Police in day-to-day policing activities.
I got to take my officers to Olympic locations where we patrolled outside sporting venues and were very much a part of what has been reported of policing. We’ve all come back with our stories of the kids and tourists we ‘arrested’ at their request for various pictures for the family album and I think I’ll remember for some while the 4 year old boy who boldly came up and said, “Hello policeman!” to me. He was handcuffed and wearing my hat within about 90 seconds – no police brutality involved, he asked me! – and it was all to the delight of his parents and off they went to enjoy the basketball. We had a great time.
We also arrested suspects for offences – The Olympics Act 2006 introduced specific ‘Olympic’ offences connected to ticket touting and we arrested a few of those recovering thousands of pounds from one man along with a stash of 50 or so tickets, presumably fake. We also arrested a man for assault following a drunken row in a queue for the boxing. That arrest was the only unpleasantness we saw all week.
It was interesting to see another force’s command structures at play. Command of policing ‘public order’ events – sporting or otherwise – is done on a “bronze, silver, gold” basis. The police units of the type I was leading, are groups of 25 officers made up of one inspector, three sergeants and twenty-one constables and are known as a PSU (police support unit). Each PSU is assigned to a ‘bronze’ commander who might have a geographical responsibility (like the O2 Arena) or a ‘functional’ responsibility (like the Olympic Torch Convoy). They may have one or very many PSUs at their disposal to get their jobs done. The Metropolitan Police and West Midlands Police operate very differently and it was interesting to compare and contrast, not least because I’m a West Midlands Bronze public order commander too.
The mental health issues – there were three of them, all connected to missing persons: two people who had absconded from psychiatric units local to Greenwich – one detained patient and one informal patient – and the other had failed to return from authorised leave and was believed to have headed towards the location where we were. I admit to standing looking at great views of the London skyline and having a little smile: here I was in another city, policing a unique event where the ‘policing’ couldn’t be more removed from my normal duties and I found myself listening to these radio messages just thinking about whether the detail of the message afforded a power of re-detention under the MHA or not. Mental health issues are everyday policing issues and mental health issues contribute or are coincidental to more than 15% of policing incidents.
Finally – my light reading whilst I was down there was a book I have wanted to re-read for some while and which I might just declare the most important book I have ever read on mental health and its relationship, if any, to crime: Mental Health and Crime by Professor Jill Peay from the London School of Economics.
Exceptional analysis by an internationally regarded academic who brings psychology, criminology and law together in the detailed coverage. The only thing I would have liked to see more on, is policing and how it affects the broader debate covered in the book.
The Mental Health Cop blog
– won the ConnectedCOPS ‘Top Cop’ Award for leveraging social media in policing.
– won the Digital Media Award from the UK’s leading mental health charity, Mind
– won a World of Mentalists #TWIMAward for the best in mental health blogs
– was highlighted by the Independent Commission on Policing & Mental Health
– was referenced in the UK Parliamentary debate on Policing & Mental Health
– was commended by the Home Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament.