How do we tackle the dilemma of mental health demand on policing?

Leading a discussion of many PCC colleagues on mental health demand.

This morning I’ve been in London leading a session for many of my Police and Crime Commissioner colleagues on policing and mental health.

I led on this work for PCCs for five years until last year, and represented us on the independent review of the Mental Health Act that took place some years ago, and the national steering group with the Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care.

The Police have a role to play in mental health – they always have and will. However, at what point does the demand being placed on them become too much, and the agency responsible is held to account?

At the heart of this is an individual in need of assistance, and at that time, whilst it is the case that they get the right support from the right agency, when should it be the police?

The demand comes from many different strands, including crisis, victimisation, vulnerability and cases of missing persons. But in many cases, the Police are still being used as the service of first and last resort.

We will be producing a new paper for government with the different actions that we believe need to be taken to address this, with the vulnerable person at its heart.

We did also discuss the issue of police officers and staff and their own mental health, and what we can do to support them.

FURTHER READING

HMICFRS (2018), Picking up the pieces: Policing and Mental Health

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/policing-and-mental-health-picking-up-the-pieces.pdf

Independent Review of the Mental Health Act (2018), Modernising the Mental Health Act: increasing choice, reducing compulsion

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modernising-the-mental-health-act-final-report-from-the-independent-review

NPCC (2020), National Strategy on Policing and Mental Health

APCC (2021), Mental Health and COVID 19

https://www.apccs.police.uk/latest-news/mental-health-inquiry-calls-for-sustainable-funding-and-a-focus-on-prevention/

Kane, Cattell, Wire (2021), Mental health-related police incidents: Results of a national census exercise in England and Wales

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cbm.2206

Department of Health and Social Care (2021), Reforming the Mental Health Act

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-the-mental-health-act/outcome/reforming-the-mental-health-act-government-response

When I got on my bike to see roads from another perspective

What better way to see road user vulnerabilities?

Really enjoyed going for a ride around #Maidstone with the members of San Ferry Ann Cycling Club and Maidstone Cycling Campaign Forum today. Must admit I was very out of practice on the bike but managed a decent route!

It was definitely interesting to see the town’s road and cycle network from a different perspective, especially as I’ve not been a regular on my bike for many years.

Observations? It was quiet out for Maidstone and we took a very varied route in terms in terms of cycle space. But there were good levels of courtesy; people respected one another.

I will say of course a big I KNOW THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. A few impatient souls who thought their journey was more important than ours.

Signage and markings could be clearer and refreshed. There’s some videos to come soon but it was definitely a worthwhile and enjoyable afternoon.

Preventing road danger and supporting the Vision Zero strategy has been made a priority for Kent Police in my new Plan so I will be keenly holding all agencies to account on this.

The growing problem of e-scooter fires

The number of fires attended has more than doubled, and concerns are increasing about their batteries.

Fire erupts through the window and the smoke blows into the East London air, in a video shared on Twitter and Facebook that has had thousands and thousands of views. The cause? A fire caused by an e-scooter’s lithium battery.

There are growing concerns about fires involving lithium ion batteries, so much so that it was raised at the Kent Fire and Rescue Authority meeting this week.

Further evidence of the need to stop the sale of e-scooters has emerged after data I have gathered shows that we have a growing problem of fires caused by electric scooters. I asked all Fire and Rescue Services:

how many incidents your fire and rescue service attended in the calendar years 2020 and 2021 where the cause of the fire was an electronic scooter (e-scooter).

The response from the 33 Services that replied was very good in terms of their speed, effort and accuracy. They showed that:

  • There were a total of 128 fires where the e-scooter was found to be the cause.
  • When it was possible to be broken down by year, there were 33 in 2020 and 75 in 2021, with the rest provided for the two year period.

London has seen some of the most high profile incidents, with one catching fire on a train, leading to Transport for London banning them from their services. Their review found:

the incidents that occurred were caused by defective lithium-ion batteries which ruptured without warning. This led to fires that caused toxic smoke to be released.

Transport for London, December 2021

The London Fire Brigade had already put out specific guidance on the matter, pointing to issues with batteries bought from the internet.

These concerns are in addition to the increasing efforts of policing to seize illegally ridden e-scooters from our streets. Across the country, thousands of devices have now been taken away from riders.

This is just one example of the regular tweets being put out by Kent Police, who have been active in dealing with the problem. It’s fast becoming one of the top issues in my post bag and for others too.

For the safety of property, of road users and the riders themselves, we need the sale of these devices to be stopped. With increased numbers of fires and more people being killed and seriously injured this needs to end now – ban the sale of e-scooters.

Video blog:

Shocking rise in e-scooter fires
https://youtu.be/X9k8ErpFUpM

More male victims of stalking need to come forward

I’m using this International Men’s Day (Friday 19th November) to call for targeted efforts to give more male victims of stalking the confidence to come forward. It comes as my research shows that the proportion of men reporting stalking offences to the police remains much lower than the number estimated to be impacted by stalking, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

In 2020/21, the proportion of male victims reporting to the police was 20.5%, but the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that 35% of victims were male in 2019/20.   In Kent, 21.5% of victims were male.   Data from 28 Police Forces shows that more people generally are coming forward, but overall numbers remain significantly lower than Crime Survey estimates.

Stalking is a particularly heinous crime, which has wide ranging impacts on the physical and mental wellbeing of its victims. We know that the true number of victims is significantly higher than those who do report, so we need to continue to increase awareness of the signs of stalking, and in particular, focus on the fact that like many offences, the proportion of men coming forward is not as high as it should be. There needs to be efforts to understand why men aren’t coming forward in the same numbers and promote the services available to all victims of stalking.

Jan Berry, Co-CEO of Protection Against Stalking (PAS) has said, “Stalking is an insidious crime which leaves over 90% of its victims with symptoms of PTSD. It affects men as well as women; over the last 12 months PAS have supported 161 male victims of stalking in Kent. We know from experience early identification of stalking helps to save lives.”

Mark Brooks, Chair of the Mankind Initiative charity, has said “It is vital to recognise that large numbers of men are victims of stalking and alongside this the need to do more to encourage them to seek help. This should be through targeted campaigns specifically aimed at men that highlights stalker behaviour and the support available to victims. Stalking is a particularly impactful crime that needs a higher focus, as these numbers show.”

Where to get help:

In an emergency, call Kent Police on 999. Kent Police can also be contacted via 101 or online at www.kent.police.uk. Victims of stalking in Kent can contact the PCC’s Stalking Advocate Service via 0808 168 9276 or Protection Against Stalking via support@protectionagainststalking.org.

Know the FOUR signs of stalking.

If the behaviour you’re experiencing is:

Fixated
Obsessive
Unwanted
Repeated

It’s Stalking.

Observations from the research:

There was a marked increase in stalking offences recorded by police forces in the period requested by an FIO: Whilst there was an increase in reports linked to the pandemic and continued efforts to raise awareness, a change in the Home Office counting rules included extra categories of stalking offences – where a course of conduct is reported between a victim and their former partner it must be recorded as stalking unless the police are satisfied that the matter amounts to harassment in law only. This was expected to cause an increase in offences recorded against ‘stalking’.

Stalking is still a vastly under-reported crime: The crime survey for England and Wales estimated that in the year ending March 2020, there were over 1.5m offences of stalking; 526,000 men (35%) and 977,000 women. This data analysis covers fewer than 62,000 offences from 28 Forces.

Crime data accuracy will mask the true picture too: As there a vast discrepancy in how well police forces record crime (crime data integrity, as inspected by HMICFRS), with Kent Police the highest at 97% accuracy, there will be many who did report but the crime was not recorded separately.

Women are still much more likely than men to report a stalking offence: The data returned shows that stalking offences were committed against 12,632 men (20.5%) and 46,894 women (79.5%). This compares with 35% of victims being men and 65% women according to the crime survey.

The proportion of men coming forward is growing year on year, nationally: There was a rise in the proportion of men reporting that they are a victim of stalking, from 16% to 20.5%.

Some Forces did not record gender in some cases: In a number of cases, a gender was not recorded or known. This applied to over 2500 cases over the two years.

My Recommendations:

Greater awareness of stalking: The work to promote the signs of stalking and where people can report needs to continue across the whole country. The FOUR campaigning and the efforts of charities are to be commended. Whilst numbers are increasing, they are still no-where near the estimated number of male and female victims of stalking.

Focussed campaigns targeted at male victims to encourage them to come forward: If the proportion of male and female victims were consistent between the crime survey for England and Wales and police recorded, thousands more men would have come forward in these 28 police force areas, let alone those areas that did not reply to the data request before the deadline. There needs to be nationally-led campaigning to support male and female victims of stalking.

Ensure accuracy of recording with regards to gender: Some forces returned “unknown” responses with regards to gender, with few explaining what this meant in practice. In order to ensure people get the right support, Forces that have identified “unknown” or unspecified responses should make sure that they are doing so whenever they can.

Data sources:

28 Police Forces have responded to a data request made on 15 October to detail the number of victims of stalking by gender in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Crime Survey for England and Wales, April 2017-March 2020: Stalking: findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) 

Violence against women and girls inquiry launched

Violence against women and girls remains one of the most important challenges of our time.

Violence against women and girls remains one of the most important challenges of our time.

With high profile tragedies, powerful testimony from survivors and challenges in our justice system, we all have to come together to make changes.


That’s why today, I’m launching a system-wise review on the subject of violence against women and girls, which will look at prevention, education, the victim journey and how we deal with perpetrators.


Consultation and workshops will follow as well as high level meetings with the Chief Constable, Criminal Justice agencies, service providers and survivors. This will include men and boys too.


This is our opportunity to build the best possible picture and make meaningful changes for the future. I hope you will join me on this mission.


To keep up to date on the latest developments, visit www.kent-pcc.gov.uk.

Spending your money better

Today, I have been re-elected as the Chair of the BlueLight Commercial company – an important initiative established last year.

Today, I have been re-elected as the Chair of the BlueLight Commercial company – an important initiative established last year.

When I became Chair of the National Commercial Board in November 2019, the case for change in procurement and commercial activity was strong. Policing was presenting a fragmented voice to the market. Best practice was not always being shared. Data wasn’t being used in its most effective way and it was clear that more could be done to boost our use of resources.

There is no such thing as “government money”, and so at the heart of all of this is ensuring that we use taxpayers’ money in the most efficient and effective way – to aid the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour, support Officers and Staff in giving them the tools they need and getting the most value out of every pound, in what remains a tough financial settlement.

The work that was being done prior to the establishment of BlueLight Commercial was showing the benefits of co-ordinated efforts on savings and commercial activity, but it was clear that the company was needed to drive this further.

And so with every Police and Crime Commissioner joining the company as members, the support of Chief Constables and strong backing from the Home Office with over £13m of funding over three years, BlueLight Commercial has a strong mandate for change to deliver commercial excellence within policing.

There have already been some early signs of success. The work in three keys areas is going to bear fruit very soon, with deals struck on fleet, in car CCTV and contingent labour. The social value tool which has been delivered is seen as market leading. Police Forces are approaching BlueLight Commercial to ask for support on local issues. Collaboration has been secured with fire and rescue services, non-Home Office forces and policing abroad.

And as word of our successes grow and people see what BlueLight Commercial can deliver, the company is being asked to lead other pieces of work including at governmental level.

We can all be tremendously proud of what the team has achieved in its first year and the year ahead will I’m sure lead to further savings and improvements in policing’s commercial capabilities. I thank Lianne and the team again for all their efforts and wish them continued success.