Commission on policing and mental health slammed
The Metropolitan Police’s Commission on Policing and Mental Health has been slammed by a leading BME campaign group as nothing more than a cosmetic exercise.
Black Mental Health UK, the only organisation in the mental health sector that has been working in the area of deaths in custody, mental health and the impact on ethnic minorities believes that the exclusion of any agency which has worked on deaths in custody and mental health, particularly from the UK’s African Caribbean communities where the deaths rates are highest, will mean that the Mets new Commission on Policing and Mental Health is nothing more than a cosmetic exercise and will not result in any positive change.
The comments come as the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has announced it has commissioned an independent review into how it responds to people with mental health conditions.
Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe made the commitment to launch an independent commission in the wake of the findings of the high profile inquest into the death of Sean Rigg. In 2008, the musician and songwriter lost his life less than an hour after he was arrested by the police. Although physically fit and healthy, Rigg was in urgent need of mental health care, when he was restrained by a team of four police officers and taken to Brixton police station where he died.
The inquest verdict concluded that the police as well as South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM) who were responsible for his care at the time, ‘more than minimally contributed to his death’.
This inquest put the spotlight on how mental health service users from the community are often treated when they come into contact with the police.
People from the UK’s African Caribbean communities are 50% more likely to be referred to the mental health services via the police, when in urgent need of mental health care than their white counterparts. Moreover, data from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) shows that mental health service users account for 50% of those who lose their lives in police custody and that black men in particular are over represented among this figure.
This has caused widespread concern at the exclusion of those have been working on these issues for a number of years from the Met’s new commission.
Matilda MacAttram Director of Black Mental Health UK said:
It is deeply concerning to see the exclusion of the key agencies who have a track record of working in this area, and with the families affected by this issue excluded from this Commission on Policing and Mental Health.
To choose to exclude experts from BMH UK and INQUEST who have the critical insight needed in this area, which would ensure the transformation in police treatment of this vulnerable group, leaves some with the impression that this is nothing more than a cosmetic exercise, which will not result in any positive change.