24 March 2022
Police Officers are not mental health professionals and shouldn’t be spending so much time on non-crime calls, Wiltshire Police Federation has said.
Andy Cooke, the new head of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, told MPs this week that up to 40% of officers’ time is taken up on mental health calls.
Mr Cooke told the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday: “An awful lot of Police Officers' time is taken up looking for children missing from home and absent from care.
“If that's what the public and Parliament want Policing to do, that's fine. But you must bear in mind while they're doing that, they're not doing other things that they should be doing, like detecting crime.
“With the wide scope that Policing has, in my view there needs to be a decision made in relation to what we want from our police service moving forward, and whether other agencies need to step into some parts of that sphere.”
Phil Matthews, Wiltshire Police Federation Chair, said: “This is a worry. Our police officers are trained as best as they can be in dealing with mental health, however they are not professionals in this field. Are the questions being asked of the mental health professionals as to whether the service given to people in crisis is enough? I am confident that it simply isn’t.”
Phil added that time spent looking for missing children is an “enormous drain” on Policing. He added: “Where there is a risk of a child being at harm for whatever reason then it is right that Police use all available resourcing to locate and safeguard that child.
“Where a child hasn’t met curfew and it is the policy of the care home to report as a missing person is not a good enough reason to use Police resourcing, particularly if efforts to locate that person have not been made prior to Police deployment.”
“I struggle to accept that parliament and the public want our Police officers spending time on matters other agencies are trained to do. Our officer are trained in an enhances level of first aid, we are not paramedics and do not carry the necessary kit.
“I believe our public want to see their Officers on the beat, tackling organised crime, localised crime and anti-social behaviour. Not to see four officers spending five hours in the back of an ambulance with someone suffering mental distress waiting for space in a ward for sectioning be become available - an incident I was told about recently. Police officers should be for Policing.”