As specialists in preventing and managing challenging behaviour, and long-time advocates of person centred and safe physical interventions the latest Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report ‘Police use of force: evidence from complaints, investigations and public perception’ reveals that individuals experiencing  acute mental health difficulties  are still vulnerable to the use of force.

“Force” covers the physical holding / pinning / restraining of a person by police personnel (as well as any form of physical contact – for example, pushing, pulling, and striking). Of particular interest are the findings that relate to the use of force on people living with a mental illness:

  • 20% of all use of force incidents involve someone known or suspected to have a mental disorder
  • Individuals with mental health diagnoses are four times more likely to die after a police use of force compared than those who don’t
  • In 50% of incidents where the police use force in connection with someone who is mentally unwell, that individual was in possession of a weapon.
  • Those with mental health problems were more likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and to represent a risk to themselves as well as others

Amongst the recommendations the report makes are the following:

  • R3 – Risk assessment processes should prompt special considerations around vulnerability where mental health is known to be involved.
  • R4 – Training in communication and de-escalation to resolve incidents without using force.
  • R15 – Forces should review their policies for attendances at hospitals, mental health units and other medical settings to minimise police involvement.

Lee Hollins, SecuriCare’s risk manager says “What this report reveals is that institutions and individuals within them are still facing up to the challenge of handling ‘difference’, in this instance that presented by individuals with a mental health difficulty…”

“The Police attend an incident and endeavour to bring it under control. The difference here is that the person is mentally unwell. Any behaviour that transgresses social norms or legal boundaries is unlikely to be driven by ego or criminality. In these instances it’s the by-product of disordered thinking or a detachment from reality. In extremis, behavioural disturbances can be the result of the dysfunctional firing of neurotransmitters and enter the realms of what is commonly referred to as ‘excited delirium’..”

“What the Police (and other staff responding to episodes of ‘behavioural distress’) need is the ability to differentiate such situations from other more routine or traditional incidents and have a different set of tools and resources they can utilise to deal with the behaviour, as well as ensuring the safety of the individual. This isn’t a physical battle that someone needs to win; it’s a crisis that needs to be managed.…”

“Over the years the failure of staff, within various professions, to effectively respond to behavioural distress displayed by people with mental disorders has led to tragedy. The deaths of Orville Blackwood, Michael Martin, Joseph Watts, David ‘Rocky’ Bennett, Roger Sylvester, Sean Rigg, Andrew Jordan and  Olaseni Lewis are testament to this. ..”

“This report shows the IPCC have done great work in revealing the reality of the Police’s experience in responding to the behaviour presented by mentally ill individuals, and this is moving us towards helping make sure officers, and representatives of other institutions are effective in managing that critical ‘difference’…”

“To help support that work the IPCC have developed a prompt sheet that community and voluntary sector groups, as well as other organisations, can use when participating in meetings with Police and Crime Commissioners, Chief Constables, force leads or other senior officers. The questions include:

  • How many times officers used force in the last year?
  • How many children and young people had force used on them?
  • How many times force was used in a health setting, and why it was used?
  • In what context did officers use most force in?

They also prompt interested parties to ask what advice they give their officers about using force on:

  • Children and young people?
  • People with learning disabilities?
  • People with mental health conditions?
  • People under the influence of drugs or alcohol?”

Lee concludes, “This IS progress, but there is still a way to go..”

SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to enable support workers, carers and foster families to best respond to any ‘Challenging Behaviour’ that may occur. All programmes are finalised after full training needs analysis and delivered by experienced frontline practitioners. Click to see our ‘Preventing & Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Course which includes ‘Positive Behaviour Management’ techniques designed to minimise the need for any kind of restrictive intervention. You can also take a look at our person centred Behaviour Planning Service.

Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: or T: 01904 492442