Yesterday in England and Wales, forty-one people were elected to the role of Police and Crime Commissioner for their area. This is a new role to “oversee and hold to account” police services and their Chief Constables. These new PCCs will have a range of statutory functions and in the ‘debate’ which occurred in the run up to the election, I have heard various things about the “Police” bit of the role, but comparatively little about the “and Crime” bit.
I would be bold enough to suggest that new PCCs should read this blog and understand the complexity and extent of the relationship between policing and mental health, which is rarely understood properly.
Bringing this blog post around to the issue of mental health and criminal justice, I looked at various websites and twitter feeds for prospective candidates to see what, if anything, was being said on mental health. We know that high profile incidents have given rise to public concerns about crime, safety and police responses connected to mental ill health so it is legitimate business on which to seek information.
One unsuccessful candidate in Devon and Cornwall was tweeting various facts about the number of offenders who have mental health problems, attempting to link the offences and their status as offenders to their conditions. Maybe this is sometimes true, but we know that this is not always the case. He even suggested he would employ mental health staff! Another candidate, who went on to win in Derbyshire, tweeted about ensuring that people with mental health problems do not inappropriately enter the justice system. Again, none of us would disagree with that. I looked for the definition of ‘inappropriately’ but couldn’t find one. Noble idea, though. The problem always is that by the time the police and CPS are contemplating putting someone with mental health problems into the justice system, the time for things that may have prevented the need has sometimes passed. So I guess I’m saying, that this means we need to think of the Commissioner’s potential to influence ‘upstream’. Early intervention, liaison and diversion, for example.
The role of PCC is envisaged to be one that involves the Commissioner networking, building partnerships and alliances with a range of other agencies and their area’s senior professionals – including in local authorities and very probably in health and social care agencies. I worry just a bit, that when PCC candidates were giving media interviews and talking about their intention to build inter-agency partnerships, they often lapsed into a list of such agencies and usually did not mention health or mental health. Local authorities, schools and other criminal justice agencies are far more obvious candidates with direct links to crime issues.
This post, if anything, is a plea to successful PCCs that they consider in detail the nature of demand which arises from health and from mental health issues – and I don’t just mean demand that arises from the NHS and demand in relation to crime. We often see very easily how such incidents could have been prevented, or better managed with closer, integrated partnerships and as I understand it, this is precisely what the “and Crime” bit of the PCCs role is intended to do.
So as your elected representative, they can be written to regarding issues like this. You can find out more about your area and your PCC via the BBC News PCC Election webpages.
NB – all forces have a PCC except for the Metropolitan Police whose PCC functions are absorbed within the role of the Mayor of London. The Mayor has a “deputy mayor for policing” whose sole focus is on a par with that of a PCC.
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.