An independent report, published today, has found that the Metropolitan Police Force (MPS) in London must improve its response to people with mental health problems to reduce deaths and serious injuries.
The Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing was tasked by the MPS Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe to look into how the MPS deals with incidents involving people with mental health problems. The Commission looked at 55 cases where people had died or sustained a serious injury during or following contact with the police. It also called for evidence from people with relevant experience.
Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer was appointed as one of the commissioners and members of Mind were invited to come forward and share any experiences they had with the MPS.
The report found the problems to be:
- Failure of the Central Communications Command to deal effectively with calls in relation to mental health
- The lack of mental health awareness amongst staff and officers
- Frontline police lack of training and policy guidance in suicide prevention
- Failure of procedures to provide adequate care to vulnerable people in custody
- Problems of interagency working
- The disproportionate use of force and restraint
- Discriminatory attitudes and behaviour
- Failures in operational learning
- A disconnect between policy and practice
- The internal MPS culture
- Poor record keeping
- Failure to communicate with families
Paul Farmer said:
"As one of the commissioners, I fully support the findings of this report. The Metropolitan Police Service has a vital part to play in supporting people with mental health problems, whether as a victim, witness or the perpetrator of a crime.
Police officers are also often the first to come into contact with people in a mental health crisis and, as such, need to be equipped and supported to know exactly what to do to provide the best possible service.
We have made robust and practical recommendations in our report that, if implemented, will help the Metropolitan Police Service improve their interactions with people with mental health problems.
In doing so, it will reduce the risk of unnecessary harm to those with and without mental health problems in their communities. It was a brave decision by Sir Bernard Hogan Howe to entrust us with the task of carrying out this important piece of work and he deserves credit for this.
The challenge now is to take the necessary action, to ensure that these recommendations are not just left as words on a page.
I would also call on Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners of other forces to take on board the findings and recommendations in this report - they are likely to find many of the same challenges in their own force and will need to make changes to better serve your own communities, working with the NHS, support those with mental health problems and to carry out their duty to preserve life."
Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, who led the Commission, said:
"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the families of those who have died for their contribution to this report. Whilst a report like this cannot take away their suffering, I hope that those who receive this report ensure that the recommendations are implemented in the name of the families as citizens who have lost loved ones in terrible circumstances.
They deserve the reassurance that other families will not suffer the same loss. The Commission has sought to provide actionable recommendations, so that there is a real opportunity for the MPS to change their approach significantly to those with mental health issues in their everyday policing.
The report acknowledges that the MPS cannot do all of this on its own. The inter-relationships between health and social care mean that many agencies must work together to provide a clear and effective system.
This report is grounded in evidence through: an expert panel of Commissioners; interviews and surveys with people who have mental health issues, the wider public and serving police officers; and through numerous meetings within the NHS and social services.
It includes the judgement of coroners, IPCC reports and the views of families. I have been out on shifts with the police and the London Ambulance Service, so have seen at first hand that things can change and can change for the better."