The PCC has called on West Mercia Police to step up its organisational response to those in mental health crisis across the three counties.
In a holding to account session with West Mercia Police’s Chief Constable, Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion requested an update on the force’s progress in terms of delivering appropriate training for officers, reducing officer demand as a result of attending mental health crises, and ensuring those that need help are being directed to support that can help them cope and recover.
The PCC expressed his concern with the force’s progress on delivering the organisational improvements they themselves have identified. He urged greater strategic oversight of the work to ensure all the policing areas are working in a more cohesive way and delivering consistent response to communities across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire.
PCC John Campion said: “The impact of mental health crisis can greatly affect individuals as well as the wider community. Despite there being a number of meetings and partnership working in place, all too often we are finding that the system, as a whole, is letting people down when they need help. I know that frontline West Mercia Police officers and staff are doing a heroic job to keep our communities and those in crisis safe; but this is about ensuring that the force as a whole and its partners are effectively supporting that hard work.
“Protecting the most vulnerable is integral to my mission as Commissioner, and I want to make sure those that need support receive it. By ensuring there is consistency across the force area, and there is clear direction around the role the officers are playing, we can make sure that doesn’t happen.”
West Mercia Police has seen some considerable progress, but there is much more to do. For example, Section 136 detentions can have a significant impact on policing and demand. When someone is detained, two officers are often required to accompany and stay with them. On average, officers can be with that person for eight hours. Across West Mercia, during 2018/19, 502 people were detained (not held in police custody).
PCC John Campion added: “The world of mental health is incredibly complex, and West Mercia Police need to be ‘match fit’ in playing its part in supporting our community. I believe that the level to which police officers get involved is far more than it perhaps should be, which can have a significant impact on policing. We have seen the time this can take up, so I would like to see more partnership working to ensure this is a joined up approach which would allow for gaps in services and support to be identified.
“As we as a community continue to invest in our local police, my commitment will always be to ensure that those resources are effectively used to keep people safe.”
Assistant Chief Constable for Crime & Vulnerability, Geoff Wessell, said: “We welcome the focus the Police & Crime Commissioner has shone onto the complex issue of dealing with mental health concerns within a policing context.
“As the Chief Officer with lead responsibility for our mental health response across West Mercia, I recognise and acknowledge the issues raised, and I am determined to make the required improvements, both for those who call us for our assistance when in crisis and for our officers, ensuring they are equipped and have the required skills to provide that assistance.
“As an organisation, we have made improvements and have taken strides forward but we know there is still much to be done.
“We look forward to working with both the Commissioner and our partners across health services, local authorities and third sector to jointly improve our response, accelerate important steps and embed these changes.”
Issued on: Wednesday 6th October 2020