Cambridgeshire Police Federation has welcomed calls for a review of the ‘growing mental health crisis’ which has seen police officers deal with 28 per cent more cases in the past four years.
The national Federation has called for the review after an Institute for Government Performance Tracker 2019 survey found the number of mental health incidents involving police officers rose from 385,206 to 494,159 between 2014 and 2018.
The survey also revealed a 13 per cent increase in the number of people taken to a place of safety by officers under the Mental Health Act while national Federation chair John Apter has said about 80 per cent of officer time is now spent dealing with incidents involving mental health situations.
Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom said: “There clearly needs to be more investment in the mental health support system so we have sufficient qualified health professionals to give proper assistance to those who need it.
“Police officers want to help and will never turn their back on someone in need. But they are not best placed to deal with people who are in a mental health crisis. They do not have the training or expertise required and, while they will always try to help, other services should be offering this specialist assistance and support.
“People with mental health issues need the proper care and attention that welfare and medical services should be providing. They are patients, not prisoners.”
The national Federation chair believes the country is in the grip of a growing mental health crisis with officers at ‘the very forefront’ of trying to protect and support vulnerable people.
John explained: “These figures show we have reached beyond tipping point and we would welcome a wider public investigation into these important issues. Most people think a police officer’s time is used in dealing solely with crime. However, about 80 per cent is spent dealing with non-crime related incidents involving mental health situations.
“These situations are extremely complex and often involve individuals in such a state of despair they may wish to end their own lives or hurt other people. I personally know from 27 years of service as a police officer just how emotionally distressing these situations are for my colleagues.
“We urgently need a fresh investigation into this growing issue, where the emphasis must be on providing the best medical option for those in desperate need.”