I know I shouldn’t go to the Daily Mail website. It is a form of morbid curiosity but I saw this article headlined and couldn’t resist
Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police says that he needs ‘more mental health nurses as much as officers’ because, and I quote
‘there were so many disturbed patients being let out onto the streets by the NHS that officers were having to ‘pick up the slack’.
‘Let out by the NHS’ – I wonder if that’s the new term for a hospital discharge. .
I don’t even know where to start with this. Of course, I don’t have the figures to hand and don’t know what the time spent on s135 and s136 is on Greater Manchester’s police force but it’s a valid use of police time.
s135 is the part of the Mental Health Act that allows an AMHP (who would have a warrant) with a police officer to enter a property to remove someone who is mentally unwell to a place of safety for an assessment to take place.
s136 allows the police to remove someone who they believe to have a mental disorder to a place of safety for an assessment to take place.
And the use of s135 and s136 powers is not about ‘apprehending criminals or ensuring no crimes are committed’ but rather an act taken for the safety of the patients and the general public to ensure that an assessment can take place.
Public safety, I thought that was what we were to expect from the police as much as ‘apprehending common criminals’.
I ponder at his comment that
‘We have to train our staff to a professional level of someone like a mental health nurse to enable them to deal with these cases.’
Seriously? He thinks he is training his staff to the level of a mental health nurse? I have to say I am fortunate to work in an area with some really wonderful police officers but it’s a bit like MPs saying they are social workers because they deal with a bit of paperwork every now and then. It denigrates the work that is done by professionals and that it should be acceptable to make an issue of it is a surprise. If it is acceptable.
The article goes on
He said: ‘Officers are very good at being able to detect the burglars, the car thieves, the hoodies, basically your common criminal.
‘But what we are talking about is a particular type of disturbed individual whose irrational behaviour is outside of the norm.’
He told the conference: ‘I really feel for my own staff who are sent to domestic violence or mental health cases, dealing with vulnerable people when that officer is trying to do his best and then a tragedy occurs.
‘Even if they have done their best, the Independent Police Complaints Commission will treat the officer as if they are responsible.’
Mr Fahy also called on magistrates to lock up suspects until proper risk assessments could be carried out.
So much to pull apart in those sentences. Firstly, I think he is underplaying the skill of his own officers. He distinguishes between ‘common criminals’ and somehow manages to put mental disorder as ‘outside of the norm’. I’d love to know what his idea of normal is. .. oh wait, I think it is very clear. The fact that he refers to ‘hoodies’ says it all really.
I wonder how much he is just riding on the crest of Daily Mail readership but there’s some serious problems with what he says. The assumptions that he draws that mental illness = danger. That domestic violence is ‘just a drag’.
The police should be dealing with ‘common criminals’ rather than ‘domestic violence or mental health cases’. Interesting interpretation when he wants to pick and choose what help to give.
I would feel very sorry for any mental health nurses he did want to employ but I think it was just a matter of rabble rousing.
In the meantime it does nothing for the cause of working together and combatting assumptions and stigma against those who suffer from mental illnesses and need the support of services, including the police force, at some of the most difficult moments.