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Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing Report

The Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing was set up in September 2012 at the request of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Terms of reference and membership are attached at Appendix 1 on page 68.

The Commission’s brief was to review the work of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) with regard to people who have died or been seriously injured following police contact or in police custody and to make recommendations to inform MPS conduct, response and actions where mental health is, or is perceived to be, a key issue. While reports like this cannot take away the anguish families have suffered, it is the hope of the Commission, and the duty of those who receive this report, to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in the name of the families as citizens who have lost loved ones in terrible circumstances. By doing so, a level of reassurance can be given to the families that others may not suffer the same loss.

Although the Commission was focused on the MPS, the issues identified are national and the recommendations are likely to be applicable to all forces across the country. The Commission independently examined 55 MPS cases covering a five-year period (September 2007 — September 2012). As some cases are still to receive judicial findings in those reviewed, we have been careful to avoid making any comments that would prejudice future findings. All cases, therefore, have been made anonymous

We focused on the roles and responsibilities of the MPS in dealing with issues of mental health in custody, at street encounter and in response to calls made to police, including call handling processes when dealing with members of the public where there is an indication of mental health.

Everything which follows in this report must be seen through the lens that mental health is part of the core business of policing. The role of the police is not a clinical
one but mental health issues are common in the population and will often be found in suspects, victims and witnesses. A person may commit an offence or cause a public disturbance because of their mental health issues. In addition, the police may be first on the scene of a person in mental health crisis or a potential suicide.
It therefore cannot be a periphery issue, but must instead inform every day practice. As existing guidance3 states: ‘Given that police officers and staff are often the gateway to appropriate care — whether of a criminal justice or healthcare nature — it is essential that people with mental ill health or learning disabilities are recognised and assisted by officers from the very first point of contact. The police, however, cannot and indeed are not expected to deal with vulnerable groups on their own.’