Category Archives: Mental Health

The time is NOW

I have spent nearly 25yrs in the police. Nearer to 28 if you include my time as a special. Over that time the primary objective of the police has been;

  1. The preservation of life and the protection of property
  2. The prevention and detection of crime
  3. The maintenance of public order

This hasn’t changed. It’s the bedrock of the service the police provide. It’s the parameters within which we operate and the basis of the expectation the public have of us.

Working in the control room I see nearly every job that comes in for the area I cover. Burglary, robbery, missing persons, drugs, domestic violence, hate crime, anti social behaviour, neighbour disputes, parking problems, mental health incidents, concerns for welfare, death messages, road traffic accidents and more. The work we have done over my 25yrs experience hasn’t really reduced. With the exception of basic parking offences and noisy parties, there isn’t much I can point toward and say “we don’t do that anymore”.

Nearly every week there is another new piece of legislation that either adds new powers or creates new offences that the police are just expected to pick up.

The only thing I’ve seen reduce is our physical numbers. Boots on the ground.

Earlier this week I had 64 incidents on my screen. 11 of them were deployed to. Emergencies are deployed to immediately but those that can have a slower response can start to back up quite quickly. As far as resources were concerned my cupboard was bare. An Inspector approached me, concerned by the number of unresourced jobs and asked me to “get rid of what I could”. I had already worked through them but did so again. There was nothing I could pass to another agency or resolve by phone or other means. They all needed a police officer to attend and deal. We got through the day but the list didn’t really get any smaller.

Yet this isn’t new. In the mid 90’s I was a reserve in the divisional control room. If they were short staffed I would be called in to cover. Even then I can remember looking at the list of jobs balanced against resources in the same way.

We know that the number of police officers since the 90’s has increased (until recently) but the demand never seemed to change. When I was a young cop we were busy and struggled to meet demand. As an older cop, I see our current response officers in exactly the same place.

Did demand increase in such a way that increases in resources had little to no effect? Did increased resources allow us to put more staff into specialist roles (child abuse, sexual offences, high tech crime) leaving response policing with the same demands? Probably both to be fair.

As numbers of officers nationally reduce we find ourselves in a difficult place. We can make efficiencies, work smarter and think differently but eventually, notwithstanding our best efforts, we will not be able to meet demand. Many Chief Constables are now speaking out about the cuts and how detrimental it will be to service delivery.

The Home Secretary has been relentless in her pursuit of reform and we appear to be able to do nothing to convince her otherwise. So the only thing left for us to do is to reduce demand.

Yet here lies the rub. We provide a service. A service the public have come to expect. A service we have grown accustomed to giving over decades. We have also picked up work from other agencies, who when facing difficulties, have left shouldered work in our direction. Work they now come to expect. In some cases, we are now passing this work back to them but it is causing friction and great consternation by those we are refusing. The 4.55pm call on a Friday from social services or a care team. Children’s homes that report a child missing but when found at 1am 30 miles away by another force say they cannot collect as they are on their own or policy says they cannot do it. So who does it? We regularly pick up responsibility for matters because it falls within those three points above and comes with a “What might happen if we don’t” caveat.

As we struggle to service demand, saying “No” is going to become more common. I hate saying no. It goes completely against the grain. 25 years of helping and saying.. “Yes. I don’t know how but we will sort something” makes it very difficult to take a firm line but we are going to have to get used to it. The hard ground lies between public expectation and our tradition of response.

Two very simple examples. A cow in the road on a country lane near a bend. As it stands now we go and we go on an emergency response. Why? Well a cow makes a bit of a mess of a car if you hit one and there is a risk of injury to the driver/passengers. Yet swap the cow for a tractor pulling out of a field and we get no call. Even if we did we wouldn’t go. Ultimately the driver has the responsibility to avoid any road hazards whether vehicular or bovine but we have become accustomed to servicing such jobs. I can see why the cow is not a job for us but I can also see what out attendance may prevent. Do we sort the cow or deal with the accident later? Many in the service will say we have to go because of the risk to life using a “what if” scenario. There are also those in the job who say we should attend because if we have been told about something, do nothing and something awful happens then we will be hauled over the coals by command and the media. There is an increasing voice saying this is not a police matter.

A person has collapsed in the street. Someone is with them. They are breathing but not responding. No reason for the collapse is known. An ambulance job or the police? Well without any evidence to the contrary it appears to be a medical episode and one for ambulance. Yet we go? Why? We go because we always have and we use theories such as “We don’t know what happened. They may have been assaulted”. We also apply the protection of life principle. Despite those who believe we should attend there is an increasing voice saying this is not a police matter.

Police incident managers find themselves, everyday, making decisions about attendance or not. Should we go because we always have and divert precious resources (safe) or do we refuse and face the wrath if the situation goes wrong (risky)? 

There are too many variables, in relation to the incidents we may not attend to list them all. However, the safe option means we maintain the service we provide but run the risk of resource depletion. This may create an inability to resource an emergency incidents as it presents. The risk option means we alienate partners, the public and sometimes ourselves. We also run the risk of criticism from within and also the media. Many times I have heard, and said myself, “Imagine this on the front page of the Daily Mail”.

The incidents we attend, or don’t, when things go wrong are investigated quite often by the IPCC. Their funding has increased considerably during the same period that police forces have faced huge cuts. Increased resources means more capacity to investigate cops. Whilst wrong doing and poor service needs to be investigated I am concerned that we could fall into a trap of reducing demand whilst being judged by those who expect us to deliver the service we always did. Those two will never meet and that could leave officers open to dismissal, court appearances and potentially…prison.

If we are seriously going to reduce demand and adandon the work we should not be doing then there needs to be a proper grownup conversation about it. What the public want and what we the police can realistically deliver. A realignment of what the police service is here to do. The Home Seceratary says we are crime fighters. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a simplistic and dangerous view that fails to appreciate the role we are currently mandated to provide.

If our role is not formalised officially to meet 21st century policing needs then the changes we make in order to cope could leave officers and forces wide open.

The PFEW have been asking for years. Now is the time for the government to listen and do it. Let’s face it, if reforms are working then a Royal Commision into policing will endorse all their policies and reforms. What are they are afraid of?

The time for a Royal Commision on policing is now.

 

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Detention Not Authorised

I was a traffic officer for 7 years. You may be able to tell by the amount of tweets I put out about drink drive, speed, phones, seat belts and others. I had dealt with every type of accident you can imagine. A fantastic job and one I miss very much but I made a decision. That decision was based around finances and my family and meant that I transferred to another force.

In a naive kind of way I expected my new force to assess my skills and put them to their most effective use. How wrong could I have been. They binned the lot of them and put me on a custody investigation team dealing with run of the mill arrests for the response teams.

After 4 months and a few weeks a brand new custody facility opened. I went from a small police station based custody suite, that was pretty awful if I’m honest, to a smart up to date unit with over 3 times as many cells. I continued to work in this role as a PC for another 8 months. During this time I passed my Pt2 Sgt exam and passed a board interview.

Nobody wanted to work in custody so I made it known that I would gladly work in custody should the opportunity arise. It did. Far quicker than I expected. In October 2006 I was promoted to Sgt and moved from the upstairs investigation office to the charge desk downstairs. I’ve been there ever since… until today.

I walked out of custody today for the last time as a full time member of the custody staff. I may well get called back in to cover on occasion. I may well get asked to do overtime. But as of today I am no longer part of that team.

What an experience it has been. I have authorised the detention of 1000’s of suspects for every offence you can possibly imagine… well maybe not all of them..  Men, women, boys and girls. There have even been a few dogs.. albeit not proper prisoners but just lodged with us in the kennels for a while. Assaults, drugs, drink drive, drunk and disorderly, public order, rape, sexual touching, indecent images, murder, conspiracy, pervert the course of justice, prison recalls, warrants, international extradition warrants, death by dangerous driving, child neglect, firearms, immigration, fraud, proceeds of crime, mental health and more. I’m really only scratching the surface. I even touched on a terrorism matter but only briefly. (fortunately.. this is a very complex area of custody business!) I’ve booked in the local drunk, the respected business person, the teacher, the social worker, the celebrity and the frequent flyers. They all come.. they all go. In one way or another.

In my previous force the solicitors were treated like the enemy. It was a culture I was born into. I knew nothing different and it was often adversarial in custody. When I came to this force it was different. I have built up a rapport with many of the local firms. There are some I don’t particularly like and wouldn’t have represent me but there are also some who I would recommend my best friend to. I have a great relationship with many of them and this is wholly conducive to a better working relationship and works in the favour of the detainee.. everyone, working together to get to the right result.

I’ve had arguments with difficult solicitors but I’ve had far more arguments with stupid drunks, intolerant people and those who simply refuse to listen. I’ve met people whom I have had compassion for and those I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. I’ve sat on cell floors chatting with people who need help and someone to talk to and I’ve slammed the door on those who want to spit in my face, kick me in the groin and tell me they will hunt down where I live and rape my wife.

I’ve conducted strip searches, fought with drunks, had my hand down people’s throats, rolled around on the floor in pools of urine, cut clothing from around people’s necks, talked people out of self harming and wrestled with a naked woman with mental health problems. I’ve laughed and joked with prisoners and at times I’ve been scared to death. I’ve made some great decisions and I’ve dropped a few clangers but fortunately, I’ve not lost anyone in all my time in custody. I thank God for that!

I’ve had occasions where I’ve felt that no matter how hard I’ve tried it was, in the eyes of some, never enough. I also have some pride in the occasions where I know I have made a difference… particularly with youngsters. That is something that is massively satisfying.

I’ve made decisions that some have loved and I’ve made decisions that some have hated. I stand my ground, make bold decisions and don’t simply fall back to the default position of sending matters to CPS and letting them take the flack for a decision. This invariably means that I come into conflict with others opinions. Some have been right decisions.. some wrong. One that was deemed to be wrong I still believe was right.

I got tweeting and was then discovered and identified by my Ch Insp and Insp. I took the wrap but they were good to me. My tweets from the desk were curtailed and then stopped but it led to some positive leadership and a huge deal of support from the ACPO command that has, in my eyes, paid dividends. I am very grateful to my force for the trust I have been given.

Custody can be an awful place. Every single drunken, fighting, spitting, swearing person arrested ends up in front of me. It takes a lot of personal control to remain professional in the face of such adversity. If you don’t have a strong constitution it will soon get the better of you. The key to my length of service in custody though was the team I worked with. A great set of DO’s, a brilliant team of Sgt’s and excellent medical support. The team are the people that keep you going. The team are the people who pick you up when you’re down and make you laugh. The team are the people who make it work, keep everyone safe and get the job done. This is as true now with my custody team as it was the first day I joined my section colleagues back in the early 90’s.

As of Monday I start my new job in the control room. I’m looking forward to the challenge but it’s going to be tough. I can handle the technology with ease but getting to grips with many of the practices I’ve not had any dealings with for 7 years or even longer will take a bit of getting used to. I’m going to have to fly by the seat of my pants for a while and no doubt there will be a few mistakes along the way.

In the words of my late tutor con.. “Error is the discipline through which we all advance”... I will remember this as I get going in my new role as I have throughout my service.

My time is up. There have been good days, bad days, brilliant days and some that I try very much to forget. Overall though it has been fun and barring a torn ligament in my wrist I have come out of 7 years in custody with no other injuries or problems… if you don’t count being of a rather pale complexion and an adverse reaction to daylight.

I have decided that my twitter name will stay the same. The blog will also stay the same for now. I thought about changing to @thecommsgt and ‘The Incident Log’ but if my role changes again then the same situation arises. I will start to look for a generic name and blog title that will travel with me no matter what I do. Until then I will remain exactly the same. The service will continue, I will no doubt comment on custody matters as and when they come to my attention but will also start to look at how we manage resources against demand and control room issues. It should be fun.

I’m replacing the cell keys with a headset.

My detention in custody is no longer authorised.

IMG_2959 - Version 2

Nora

This is a true story. It details my first ever encounter with Mental Health as a police officer in 1992. Names have been changed

I sat in the parade room quickly scanning through my outstanding paperwork. I had a big smile on my face. It was 9.15pm, parade was over, the night shift loomed large ahead of me and I had been doubled up on one of the vans all night. No walking for me. Racing around with blue lights to pub fights, domestics and chasing burglars over back fences. A HUGE grin.

Nigel was my partner. A bobby with about 5 years service. Confident, capable and a good chap who would use his experience to develop mine. He stuck his head around the door, smiled and asked “You coming then?”

I leapt out of my seat, grabbed my coat, hat and gloves and followed him out into the car park. Our vehicle was a short wheel base Ford Transit van. Primary purpose; prisoner transportation. It had no cages in the back, just a wooden bulkhead that separated the driver and passenger from the rear. A wooden bench seat down each side and a spare tyre and a jack were loose on the floor. Yes, I kid you not, these items were just left in the back of the van and not once do I ever recall a prisoner using one to assault an officer.

We set off on patrol. We drove down toward the first town area and had a quick scan of the pubs to see how busy they were. A good indicator for potential problems later. We then turned toward our beat area. We chatted and Nigel asked if there was anything I needed to do. Any jobs I had’nt dealt with that we could try and get to as a learning exercise.

As we approached the next town area we came up to a roundabout. Just before the roundabout was a bus stop and sat on the bench was a woman. I came to know her as Nora but for now she was simply sat on the bench. She was leaning forward and waving her arms toward us in quite a distressed manner. Nigel pulled over and I got out.

Nora wasn’t making any sense at all. She couldn’t sit still, kept rocking backwards and forwards and continually waved her arms about. Emanating from her mouth were moans, groans and attempts to speak that we’re unintelligible. The next problem was she was drunk. A bottle of White Lightning or similar was propped up by the feet of the bench. She was in her late 20’s to early 30’s, completely bedraggled and unkempt.

Nigel joined me. “Your job. What are you going to do?”

I tried to talk to Nora but got nowhere. I tried to find ID but couldn’t. I pondered. People were walking past, she was making a bit of a scene and I couldn’t leave her there. I chose to arrest for Drunk and Incapable. Nigel nodded approval so we lodged her in the van and headed off for custody.

As a custody sgt for nearly 7 years that last sentence makes me smile. The response I got from the custody sgt that night was the response I would give now. He refused detention completely.

“I’m not having her in here. Take her to hospital.”

Tail firmly between my legs I escorted (almost carried) Nora back to the van, poured her into the back before heading off to A&E. Nigel discussed what had happened in custody with me. After a little while I realised the Sgt was right. This lady showed all sorts of signs of mental health issues and that was the key word for me.. Health. Hospitals care for people with health problems and that was where I was taking her. Sorted. Drop her off at A&E and we could get back on patrol. It all made sense.

We arrived and grabbing an errant wheelchair I slid Nora from the van into the chair and pushed her into hospital. The calm and respectful silence of the waiting area was destroyed immediately by Nora. I pushed Nora alongside the seating and left her to her caterwauling whilst I put my best smile on and approached the charge nurse.

The look on his face did nothing to reassure me that this was the solution to Nora’s problems or mine. The details of the conversation I cannot recall other than my pleading for help and his reluctance to get involved. He finally acquiesced a little. I was instructed to sit and wait with Nora and to keep her quiet. Nora was having none of it. She continued bawling non-word sounds that did nothing to settle the minds of those waiting for treatment or kick start the nursing team into action. Nigel got called away to a job and deeming I was capable of looking after Nora by myself cleared off.

The joy of triage. Nora and I waited for around 3 hours to be seen. I watched many people arrive by ambulance who were clearly in need of medical care and knew this was pushing Nora further down the queue. Occasionally a nurse would wander past, glance over with a mixture of sympathy and disdain and then continue with their duties. We were finally seen by a very nice nurse. She tried, unsuccessfully, to communicate with Nora and after chatting with me about how and where I had found her came up with a solution.

I was thrilled. Light was at the end of the tunnel. We had been referred to the on duty Psychiatrist from the mental health unit and he would come and assess Nora.

Two hours later he arrived. He looked like he had just got out of bed and his face said it all. This was not going to go well. He asked questions. Nora groaned, moaned and waved her arms about. Within the space of two minutes he concluded she was showing no signs of mental illness and was just drunk.

I can do nothing for you. You will have to take her to custody or do something with her.

I knew custody would not have her back so was stuck. I called up Nigel and asked him to come back with the van. Nora had no ID. I didn’t know where she lived and she wasn’t showing up on our systems. Just before I left a staff nurse took me to one side and passed me a sheet of paper. On it was a local address. “I think it’s her address. If not, at least a family member”.

I thanked her, helped Nora back into the van and told Nigel what I had. He concluded that with nothing else the address was where we were going. At about 2.45 in the morning I began knocking on the door of the address. No reply. I kept knocking. Nigel finally told me he had seen an upstairs curtain twitch. I knocked some more, harder, and eventually a lady spoke to me from behind the closed door. I identified myself and she was happy we were the police but she wouldn’t open the door. Meanwhile Nora was bawling her unintelligible noises out of the vent at the back of the van for all the neighbours in this quiet residential street to hear. Curtains were twitching at more addresses than just where I had been knocking.

The lady admitted that Nora was her daughter. She didn’t live there and she didn’t know where Nora had been living. She confirmed that Nora had been seeing her GP and mental health people about a number of problems. She also adamantly refused to have her for the night. “She causes me too many problems and I’m too old and unwell to cope with her”. Despite my best attempts Nora stayed in the van and the front door remained firmly shut.

One little nugget Nora’s mum offered was a street name and a red front door. “About half way down on the left hand side” she said. She didn’t know if Nora lived there or not but she had been known to stay there. The street was a huge row of terraced houses that were mostly student digs and shared houses. Desperate for any solution I pulled every last bit of Nora’s bag out and searched. Nothing to ID her, an address or anything but I did find one solitary Yale key.

We drove to the street and I sat looking at about 50 houses. Which had a red door? It’s not the done thing really as a cop to wake up a home owner/occupant by rattling a key in their lock trying to find the home of a drunk with mental health problems. I could have cried. I had had enough.

We drove up and down and based on Nora’s mothers comments I took the plunge and tried the key in the door of the nastiest, dirtiest looking house in the middle if the block with a red door. It unlocked the door. We checked the house. Nobody was home but it was clearly a doss house for drunks and down and outs. The downstairs front room had a bed in it that was astonishingly made up and clean’ish looking.

Faced with no solution we took Nora from the van and into the house. She still wasn’t making any sense but she was suddenly smiling in between her now quieter vocals and in a shambling, shuffling kind of way, steered us into the front room. We led her to the bed and she lay out on it and the noises stopped instantly. She simply smiled a rotten toothed and gappy grin at us, rolled over and promptly fell asleep.

With no other option open to us we put her bag and key next to her bed, pulled the door to and left her.

We returned to the station and finished just on time. A whole 10hr shift… gone.

***********************

Please remember this was 1992. Policing was very different and what was deemed to be acceptable then would never happen today.

This story outlines the problems that I faced as a police officer dealing with my first mental health case. You’d like to think that in over 20 years this situation has changed? Ask a response cop today. They still get passed from pillar to post even now. There are improvements and some forces have made great progress but on a national scale mental health still causes a huge drain on police resources. Whilst Nora never made it to a cell, many do, either as s136 cases or as those arrested for offences but found to have mental health issues. Either way its still far too many and the infrastructure that allows mentally ill people to get help and in many cases it is found wanting.

I am delighted, as a custody sgt, to know that we have strong advocates in the the police who are pushing, debating and helping to shape how improvements can be made in @mentalhealthcop and @nathanconstable who organised the #mhpolchat after the recent Panorama programme.

Only by talking and working together can we make progress. Any change needs time and care in planning before implementation. Officers desperate to get on with policing need to know that a quick drop and run at Mental health units is a long way off. Time sat with people at hospitals will still, for the time being, be necessary. Hopefully as time progresses though a team ethic will be built between us where the best interests of the patient are at the heart of everything we do.

************************************

I didn’t sleep after that shift. I was worried about Nora. No phone calls at home though and when I paraded on the next night I wasn’t dragged off to the office because something awful had happened.

I didn’t deal directly with Nora again. I was aware of other officers dealing with similar situations though and going through the same process of rejection at every turn. Eventually I moved to traffic and didn’t see or hear of her again…..

until….

One day whilst out on enquiries I was passing a Benefits office when a job came in. A female causing a disturbance. I pulled up outside and was met immediately by a member of staff.

“There’s a lady in one of the interview rooms. She’s kicking off and we can’t get any sense out of her”. I asked for her name as I was led to the room. “Nora” she said. Time stood still. Not again… It was probably 6 or 7 years since I had seen her. I was trapped. No escape. I had to deal with it.

The door was opened and I stepped into the room almost wincing at what was to come. Nora turned toward me. She was clean and tidy. Her teeth were still a mess but her long hair was brushed through and she looked healthy. I was speechless. This wasn’t the Nora I knew.

“Oh my goodness” she said. “I haven’t seen you in years. You’re that really lovely man who looked after me all night and then took me home and put me in bed. You really took care of me and I will never forget that. I was in a bad place in those days.”

I was glued to the spot.. I just smiled a confused sort of smile and said “Hello Nora”. I had never, ever heard her speak.

Nora turned to the lady from the benefits office. “I’ll come back and sort this tomorrow. I’ve spoilt this cops day once before. I’m not doing it again”. With that she put her arm through mine and walked out onto the street. She wished me well, said I looked like I had a better job now with a fancy car and said thank you again before walking away.

I never saw her again. Wherever you are Nora, I hope you are well and happy.

The Crime Car

Once upon a time a long time ago on a division in a force I used to work for a team of senior officers came up with an idea.

In order to start investigating crime better right from the outset there was going to be a dedicated “Crime Car”. This car would operate on two shifts (7-3 and 3-11) from Monday to Friday. First of all this conveniently forgot that crime happens at night too!

A detective from the CID would be allocated to the car and would bring their considerable expertise and investigation skills to the project. The second officer would be a uniformed constable provided by the section relief on duty. In most cases this officer was a probationer who couldn’t drive. This was a tactical decision by section Inspectors to keep their drivers to cover the cars and van.

This team would be assigned a plain vehicle and would respond to important crimes on the sub-division. Officers from section would still attend if an emergency but when the dust had settled the crime car would pick up the lead.

The crime car was promoted as the panacea to all that was wrong with initial crime investigation. On paper it looked and sounded awesome. In reality it was flawed.

The crime car would attend burglaries. There were always several of those to deal with. The crime car would attend robberies or theft from the persons. They would investigate, take statements, organise SOCO (CSI as we are want to call it at present) and ultimately the detective would carry the crime.

Sadly, demand was high. The Crime Car never fulfilled its title because if tied up taking statements at a burglary they couldn’t attend the robbery in progress at the post office. If tied up at the robbery they couldn’t attend the three outstanding burglaries. The jobs backed up and the public got a poor service waiting even longer for officers to attend.

Then a situation began to develop whereby the crime car was asked to attend domestic assaults or shoplifters. The argument on the radio was “well it is crime and you’re the Crime Car” so get on with it. The Crime Car became utterly and completely swamped. It wasn’t thought out properly, it’s role was too broad and consequently it fell over…. every day.

The hot topic in policing at the moment is mental health. The topics and issues around mental health and the Adebowale Report have been widely discussed and blogged upon by my erudite colleagues @mentalhealthcop and @nathanconstable

The topic within the topic today is the Triage Car. 20130821-155155.jpgThis has been trialled in Leicestershire and Cleveland. The Leicestershire NHS Trust made a press release today praising its success. Meanwhile it has been announced that the scheme will be rolled out to five further forces.

On the face of it this all looks rosey and is redolent of that heady optimism when the Crime Car was launched. Yet I find myself wondering how effective it will be.

Mental health cases are not limited to Mon-Fri 9-5. They, like policing, are a 24/7 demand. In order to cover this fully you need two 20130821-154927.jpg12hr shifts per day or the three 8hr shifts. The latter is the more likely. For the sake of the argument then we will say that 5 nurses will be needed to cover a full 24/7 shift pattern 7 days a week. Can the NHS fund such staffing? Will they have this role and their normal duties and paperwork that creates a competing demand scenario? The NHS will not want to pay a nurse to sit in a car doing nothing waiting for a job any more than the local commander his/her constable. It’s wasteful and as such they will both look to ways to obtain value from that resource. Inevitably this will lead to the nurse sitting at a desk completing paperwork and the Triage Car attending non mental health incidents as they are a resource and can lend a hand.

The area of responsibility then needs to be determined. Will they work on a BCU level, borough level (Met) or force wide? This clearly has to be established by population and demand. Inner city areas may be smaller in size but may have a population equivalent to a whole BCU of a shire force. Consequently a Triage Car could be covering a relatively small geographical area to one that is hundreds of square miles. If the Triage Car has no work and agrees to assist at an accident scene then it cannot respond immediately to its core function. If a crime occurs under their nose then the officer on the Triage Car has to act. Even if the arrest is handed over the officer will still need to complete statements. As many police officers will tell you; there is often nobody free to take that responsibility from you.

If the Triage Car is 2 miles away from the incident then it’s great. What happens when it’s 30 miles away? Officers at the scene cannot simply press the pause button and wait.

I am not convinced that Triage Cars are the golden solution they are being lauded as thus far. The demand is unpredictable. You can go days without a mental health case then get three at the same time. The demand can be spread far and wide and responding to that can be time consuming. When down time occurs, do they sit twiddling thumbs waiting to leap into action or will they be detailed to other tasks? Either way it is wasteful or creates a situation where they cannot respond because they are tied up elsewhere. Sound like the Crime Car?

There are two points in the press release that give me some concerns.

Since the pilot started, the Triage Car has seen a reduction in the number of people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act by around 40 per cent, and is saving the partner organisations £9,700 a month.

This figure, considering the time the trial has been running, has to be questionable. Has it been running long enough to make such a bold claim? I think @simonjguilfoyle may have a view on that.

The second is this;

Staff either go to incidents in the Triage Car, or advice is provided to other officers over the phone.

We have a vision of a Triage Car zooming around force areas responding to and getting great outcomes at mental health cases. A real hands on approach. How long before it becomes little more than those last few words? A telephone advice service?

Police officers are not mental health specialists. However, having explored all options open to them and deciding that s136 fits and is their best outcome, they know what to do and what their powers are. What they need post arrest is a support network that positively accepts its area of responsibility, cares for those in need and doesn’t try to delegate its role to the police because they don’t have staff, a bed or the correct facilities.

The NHS need 20130821-154744.jpgthe infrastructure to care for acute demand as and when it arises so they can fulfil their obligations, ensure the best possible care for people who are ill and keep mental health cases out of police custody.

That won’t be solved by putting a nurse in a car.