In At The Deep End

I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been given the chance to undertake a secondment to the College of Policing to coordinate their work on mental health. I’m still a West Midlands Police officer, but they’ve loaned me out to help with work that the College needs to do nationally. This is a total change for me, moving from a very frontline, operational police roll overseeing a 999 response team and back to an intense spell of being a Monday to Friday, office boy doing things around policy and procedure, training and guidelines.

I’ve worked on mental health issues twice before, so this being my third posting to this developing and important area of policing and my being hot off the back of such an intense operational posting, I’m keen to help make a difference to how my old team and others like them, can do the best possible for our public. The post at the College now exists at all because of the increased focus that this issue has achieved, in which we see individual forces investing more time and effort as well as the Home Secretary giving this prominence and attention. We are where we are on this stuff, vulnerable people are not being given the best and that means there is LOADS to do!

I started last Monday and in amidst all the boring stuff about finding out where you’re going and how some stuff works in a new organisation, I was straight into the deep end on day two, in London – some months ago I chose to put forward a written submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into policing and mental health. A few weeks ago they asked if I would go to London and give oral evidence to the Committee. What an absolutely terrifying honour that was!


Many people have asked whether I’ll still be blogging and tweeting?! Yes – without a doubt. It was something that was discussed in the first meeting I had with my new boss and the College recognises the impact that social media can have and I’ve been encouraged to continue. I will be thinking about how to approach it slightly differently – and for the record no-one has asked me to approach anything ANY differently. For the last three years I’ve been blogging in my own time, in addition to my day-job and in order to chip in and drive an agenda which, frankly, I wasn’t directly involved in. I’m now formally involved in it again, full-time as I was before I started using social media, so I may be doing more ‘newsletter’ type updates.

I’ve got to be honest about this job coming about at exactly the right time – because I’ve been running out of things to write about!! I’ve been posting less for the last three months and blog hits have fallen off a bit. I’m still on course to reach 1,000,000 hits by end of next year, but it’s fair to say that the approach probably doesn’t need to change if this is no longer me chipping with ideas or advice that I have to accept people can take or leave as they see fit.

In many ways, this merely reflects reality, doesn’t it?! – there is only so much talking we can actually do! Eventually, we’re going to have to decide what, if anything, we’re actually going to do and then commit to it 100% and crack on with it. A few retired officers who heard my HASC contribution this week contacted me afterwards to say they’d been working on s136 or other issues when they were serving over thirty years ago. We can’t let this happen again.

We CANNOT go on, as we are. And yet as I type this, there are at least three mental health providers in the process of shutting s136 Place of Safety services or have already done so. We need to grab this situation by the scruff of the neck and look at ourselves because there is no reason why the United Kingdom needs to be in the position it’s in – we’re a quite capable with what many people would argue are the best health and policing systems in the world of sorting this out. Right here, right now.

I wrote a few thoughts in a previous BLOG about what I thought the College needed to do for the service. This is now the broadest of outlines about how I’ll be spending my time over the next few months to understand how we can turn that into reality and how the College of Policing can help drive the police service as a whole to a better place.

I’ve asked already on Twitter for anyone, no matter what you’re background angle, to give any thoughts and ideas about what this will be in detail. If you want to, you should feel free to leave a comment on this BLOG post or email me, using the link on the toolbar, above.

IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.


10 thoughts on “In At The Deep End

  1. One of those all too rare opportunities where, the ‘system’ that makes the policy is prepared to act upon the advice and experience of the front line practitioner. Good luck with your continued endeavours Mike, perhaps now we will see tangible movement in the right direction.

  2. Fabulous work you are doing. The Police may be the first to encounter the consequences of mental illness. However, the families, friends and loved ones are still denied the knowledge that you and your colleagues have access too. The families can quite often see the triggers but unknowing of the possible outcome due to the sufferers refusal to let others know what they are suffering from. My own knowledge has been increased on the grounds of the use of self-medication. Quite often some people will see an opening to use or abuse the sufferer based on their glorification. I am glad to see that a person like yourself, in your profession, has taken the compassionate route by enlightening your fellow workers. Thank you for the work you are doing on this subject.

  3. You really are the right person for the job. This is a great opportunity for making real changes for the better. Wishing you all the best.

  4. Good luck in this important new role. I believe you have already made a difference and your change of role will accelerate positive change.

    I felt you did an excellent job with your evidence to the Home Affairs Committee and I echo what was said to you at the end– keep on keeping on.

    You give us hope that things will continue to change for the better as you understand the issues, are passionate about the subject, and above all offer practical ways forward, from a police perspective,

    In my experience, all families who have lost loved ones in police custody want, like us, to see preventable deaths in police custody become a thing of the past. Your work is at the vanguard of this objective and you give us all hope. Thank you.

  5. An appeal for balance-My local MH service received a s136 over the weekend whereby the nurse immediately asked the officers to take to local A&E as she feared medical issues. Officers refused – “you have to take all 136s”,”we have been told not to accept any reason for refusal”etc. Thankfully a very brave nurse persisted/spoke to senior officer and in the face of some hostility the transfer happened. That person was later diagnosed with encephalitis. My fear is a very complex area may be being steamrolled and simplified by some well meaning loud folk. Ppl who work in MH services are not more cruel or heartless than others and often make difficult decisions on basis of experience and intuition. Perhaps some decisions on whether to intervene and treat may seem odd to lay people ( I include police) but usually they are made with that background(just as police will use their judgement on CJ issues).

    1. I’d like to think I’ve been as balanced as any, if not more so, in calling for improvements in the medical triage of people detained under s136 and in seeking to highlight that officers need greater guidance about how to use section 136 in the first place (as opposed to other legal powers). I’m assuming that in the particular circumstances no-one called an ambulance to the situation – maybe that was the officers’ fault or maybe they work in a place where the ambulance service don’t see the need for such things? It’s also fair to wonder about the extent to which the particular officers are fed up of being bounced around parts of a health service that don’t talk to each other – because they may have the experience I have, of standing on the doorstep of an A&E department being turned away “because we’re not a place of safety” and being subsequently vindicated in thinking that the person also head a physical healthcare problem.

      If you think I’m not being balanced, I’d be interested to know how given the multiple posts I’ve done arguing that the police need to sort out their position!

      1. Thanks for your reply. I have no particular issue with your own excellent work rather the risk of the weight of police and well meaning ppl ,often driven by social media, who seem to be pushing the idea that MH professionals are uncaring and unresponsive to “ill” people which implies that if only you push hard (be hostile if necessary) then a proper service can be secured. My point is that this area is very complex (as you know) and decisions are usually made by frontline ppl who normally understand the vagaries and limitations of mental health care, risks of medicalising socially unacceptable behaviours
        and thresholds for accessing services. For instance while it may be preferable for MH services to be able to provide a comprehensive 24 hour response it can look to frontline MH workers that this service , while quite sexy and headline grabbing, is not justifiable when the hidden ppl with severe mental illness (as those with schizophrenia and bipolar usually are )have less and less intervention as budgets are cut and the limited resource diverted to others.(I sit in meetings weekly where increasing caseloads and reduction in contacts with severely ill ppl is discussed). Those who shout loudest and concern others with their behaviours and distress are usually experiencing life stress,personality challenges, often using substances and are not mentally ill and crucially have very limited treatment options.This is not to say that better access to MH services is undesirable rather that limitations and context can only really be provided by Professionals who work in the field (acute frontline) who are invariably quiet on the social media front as their message is nuanced and may well be unpalatable to others.

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