Lambeth has one of the highest incidences of psychosis in London, and indeed globally. About 40% of people admitted for treatment have a history of substance misuse and 30% have a criminal history. There are also controversial issues relating to the disproportionate admission of people from BME communities into the mental health system and their subsequent treatment.
There are many ways in which the police interact with people with mental illnesses, from attending incidents of disorder, to processing people in respect of drug offences who also have mental health problems and to assisting social workers in removing mentally ill people to a place of safety.
These interactions place demands on the police, in terms of time, resources and training needs, but can also condition the relationship between the police and a vulnerable part of the community.
In 2004, the MPA instigated a joint scrutiny (with the NHS) into Policing and Mental Health. CPCG formed a Mental Health Sub-Group, whose initial task was to articulate community concerns in Lambeth, to the scrutiny.
The Sub-Group drew on a wide basis of knowledge and direct experience in the borough, including that of the police, and made their submission in June 2005. The submission focussed on the sharp end of interactions between people with mental health problems and the police and key points were:
- That police cells should not constitute a ‘place of safety’ and that systems should be adapted to ensure that the police know when they are interviewing a person with mental health or behavioural problems, which should always be carried out with a properly trained and supported ‘Appropriate Adult’ or Social Worker present;
- That inadequacies in Social Worker cover within the borough, especially out of hours, be addressed;
- That the MPS, London Ambulance Service (LAS), NHS and London Boroughs develop and pilot a specialist, multi-agency crisis team to provide a humane, ethical and effective response to individuals who may require Section 136 or 135 of the Mental Health Act, and that the LAS make proper and appropriate provision for transporting people with mental health or behavioural problems;
- That proper support be given, from within the MPS, to police officers dealing with people with mental health problems.
A copy of the submission can be downloaded here.