Headlines: October 28th, 2014

The Home Office has launched an initiative to change the culture of police when dealing with people experiencing mental health problems. This will involve replacing handcuffs and cells with medical experts, a bed and proper healthcare.

The first phase of the initiative to improve the police response to people with mental health problems will involve a pilot to provide an alternative place of safety to a police cell and collection of data to find out more accurately what actually happens currently when police are involved in incidents.

A three-month pilot with Sussex Police, health partners and a local care home to trial an alternative place of safety to police custody. This will provide additional capacity, meaning a better experience for people who are detained pending a mental health assessment, and making the best use of police time and resources.

New data collection arrangements will require the age, ethnicity and circumstances of detention to be recorded when people are detained under the Mental Health Act.

Taser data will be published and options will be explored for publishing further details on how officers are deploying these sensitive powers, who they are being used on and what the outcome was.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: β€œThe police are not best placed to be dealing with vulnerable people suffering a mental health crisis. This is not just wasting police time, but it is often totally the wrong response for people who need care and support.
So let me be clear – when we say police cells should only be used as a last resort, we must never accept a situation when their use is anything other than just that.

Police vans and cars should only be used to transport vulnerable people – who have committed no crime – where there really is no alternative, and no excuse for there being no alternative.

We must recognise that alcohol or drug abuse may be a sign of vulnerability or mask a mental health problem or learning disability. It should never be a barrier to treatment.
And we should never accept a situation in which scared, confused children with mental health problems are routinely locked up in a police cell.

Research shows people from black African and Caribbean communities are more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police and criminal justice system, with admission rates two to four times the national average.

African Caribbean people are also more likely to be treated under a section of the Mental Health Act, receive medication and be in high and medium-secure units and prisons.

Evidence from the London Assembly suggests that not only are up to 30% of people Tasered by the Metropolitan Police emotionally or mentally distressed, but that 50% of those Tasered are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds.”