Sputnik: Britain's emergency services watchdog has found that overstretched police forces are having to "pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system" on top of tackling crime… How significant is this and what effect does it have already stretched police services?
Michael Brown: The police do have a role to play in our society around mental health. Not everything is predictable and preventable, and sometimes mental health can manifest itself in a way that realistically only the police service have got the powers, opportunities and resources to deal; or where mental health services if they are dealing are simply going to require support.
The first thing to say is that we do have a role to play, this is not about arguing that the police shouldn't be touching mental health demands of any kind. It is fair to say what this report is also arguing is that we are probably now over exposed to this in certain critical ways, sometimes officers are in situations where they do not necessarily have legal powers but they get nevertheless on their own dealing with an incident and there are other examples where officers are perhaps not as appropriately skilled professionally qualified clinically to handle some of the risk assessments and clinical decisions that are heading towards them.
Sputnik: This crisis has a knock-on effect with other emergency response services such as ambulance services. If this isn't addressed what sort of problems are we going to walk into?
Michael Brown: Over policing mental health has certain obvious consequences, many examples on social media will show that officers are now sitting in healthcare settings via emergency departments or psychiatric units whilst we're waiting for the mental health system to identify an inpatient mental health bed for which somebody can be emitted as an inpatient. By definition, if you have some officers who shift after shift for two or three days sitting someone in emergency rooms for example, then by definition those resources are not out responding to pub fights, domestic abuse or burglaries and by definition, the public on that agenda are getting a lesser service then they otherwise would.
Sputnik: It safe to say that Britain is a long from being adequately equipped to deal with the large number of these cases… what do we need to see from the government to ensure these cases are properly dealt with?
Michael Brown: The first thing to say is that Britain is not unique in this, there are an awful lot of countries where there have been major reports written. Canada, Australia, the US… there's loads of questions who are wrestling with exactly the same issues about lack of access to mental health services for their populations, how the police service and the justice system generally step into that gap, we're far from unique and we're better off than many in the sense that we do have publicly available mental health system which is there to be worked with and there to be worked in partnership with.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.