Review into how police deal with people in mental health crisis

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman of East Area Command. Picture: PA

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman of East Area Command. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Met Police are reviewing how they deal with people going through a mental health crisis amid a surge in callouts.

The force are now in the early stages of planning new ways to limit the increasing number of people with mental health needs ending up in custody.

Reforms could include health workers and nurses accompanying police on certain patrols, advisers have said.

Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman - in charge of the East Area Command Unit which covers Havering, Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge - said officers are rightly called out to some mental health related incidents because a crime could be being committed or someone may be a danger to themselves or others, but often people with complex needs end up being placed in custody.

He said: "Ideas are already being looked at in the Met. There is some work going on around joint mental health teams. It has provisionally been done before with joint police officers, paramedics, mental health workers [but] it wasn't a perfect model. Ideas are being scoped.

"We constantly come in contact with mental health cases. There are a lot of people who come into custody because of mental health and they shouldn't be there. We know that and we are trying to divert that."

Forces across the UK recorded almost half a million mental health related callouts last year, a 20 per cent rise since 2016. The Met attended 39,584 calls - the highest number of any UK force, figures by think-tank Parliament Street show.

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Crime adviser Professor Simon Harding, who works in the Research Centre for Cybercrime and Security, said there should be "radical" reforms. He has spent the past two years researching drug gangs and accompanying police on stop and search patrols.

He said: "When I was doing ride alongs with the police we would do stop and searches and I was taken aback by the number of engagements where mental health was obviously an issue.

"We need to think radically about this. Something like having a minibus with a mental health worker, housing officer, district nurse, which goes around with police. We can't be expecting people with mental health issues to travel miles, sometimes across boroughs, to access services. We need to bring the help to them."

A 2018 report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found there were "significant concerns about whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems to the degree that they are".

"In too many respects, police forces have an inadequate picture of the extent and nature of the demand they face from people with mental health problems," the report states. "It is vital that the police service builds a clearer picture of what officers and staff are doing to deal with people with mental health problems. We believe there needs to be a rapid investigation into this situation and, if necessary, proposals for fundamental change."

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said ideas about joining mental health services with officers are "still in very early planning" stages.

Det Supt Clayman added: "We are training police officers to identify trauma. In [East area] we have an officer who does a lot of work around adverse child experiences and understanding what trauma looks like. The more informed we are, the better we react. There is joint work to be done."