Child with mental health crisis lived in police station for two days, chief reveals

A child with a mental health crisis had to live in a police station for two days due to a lack of psychiatric beds, a police chief has revealed, who has condemned austerity for hitting the hardest areas the hardest. poor.

Sir David Thompson, who heads West Midlands Police, said his force – still short of officers and funding after cuts – was being urged to do too much and warned of rising crime as that despair increases in the poorest areas.

Thompson has played a central role in key chapters of modern British policing, such as attempts to mitigate the damage caused by Conservative government cuts after 2010, tackling violent crime and efforts to close the gap between the police and black communities.

In a Guardian interview to mark his retirement after 32 years in the force, Thompson also:

The teenager, who ended up living in a police station for more than two days last September, was housed in a police interrogation room. She needed a specialist mental health bed, but none could be found nationally after being held under the Mental Health Act following her arrest. Police believe her stay at a police station was so inappropriate, given that she was going through a mental health crisis, that part of her stay was illegal.

Thompson said, “We’re the most accessible public agency, so we’re kind of there all the time. We have become the agency of first contact, not the agency of last resort.

He added: “It’s like my child is living in an interview room. Well, you know, it’s not really my job, but I’m not going to throw them out on the street, am I? »

Thompson is one of the most senior police chiefs and is vice-chairman of the National Council of Chiefs of Police.

After the Tories slashed police budgets as part of austerity, Thompson led police chiefs on funding public services.

Thompson said it hampered crime-fighting. “Let’s be really honest, we took more money out of the big cities where most of these gangs come from during austerity.”

His argument is based on his experience and last month’s report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. “It paints a very clear picture, that the last 10 years has seen us defund large urban areas, which we know is where the reality of gangs and drug supply comes out,” he said. declared.

He added: “I think it was a huge mistake to do it that way. I don’t see why if you’re trying to tackle a problem you would take resources away from the areas where it’s most acute.

Thompson’s concern is that poorer regions will once again be hardest hit by inflation and the cost of living crisis.

“I think there is a huge risk that our poor communities will become poorer,” he said. “I think it’s a real risk that those communities are less healthy, have more crime.”

After 2019, the government backtracked and pledged to replace 20,000 officers it cut. Thompson praised them for the move, but said the extra money being spent on new officers meant budgets for other key items were under huge pressure. “Inflationary pressures on the forces are now dramatic,” he said.

The way the 43 local forces are funded is unfair, he added, meaning largely rural Cumbria has more officers per capita than the West Midlands.

Requests for inspections and reports are endless, he said: ‘I can’t triple my fraud department, spend more money on verification, go to every burglary, treat misogyny as a crime of terrorism. This is exactly what the inspection asked us to do in one year. You can’t keep adding more stuff and more complexity when money is static or falling.

Thompson has led efforts to build black trust in the police, but admits progress has been slow and says he “absolutely” believes “bias plays a part” in why black people use the police more. force on the part of officers. “Size and feature build are more significant in black males as criteria for use of force than in other groups,” he said.

Thompson said lawful use of force was not enough, saying it had to be professional, with attempts at de-escalation. “A lot of force can be legal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate,” he said. “We are not only aiming for legality, but we are aiming for extremely high professionalism in the way we use force and search.”

Thompson said he was proud to be a police officer and the good the majority of them do. He hit back at claims the police were wasting their time on a “wake-up call”, voiced by the Home Secretary in an address to police chiefs earlier this month.

He said: “This constant feeling that we’re kind of busy spending all of our time doing these things. And the simple reality is, the things that are highlighted, a Macarena or Pride event in Lincolnshire, are minutes of time.

“I don’t like that we get dragged into culture wars.”

Thompson added: “How long does it take? That’s 80 microseconds of time in the range of what police departments do.

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