Having just finished ‘The Secret Barrister’, Stories of the Law and How it is Broken’ there is similarly interesting, and frightening, paper on the Mental Health of the Police entitled, on matching lines to the Secret Barrister, ‘Where’s the humanity?’
I quote some considerable and cogent prose below:
So why is mental health within police such an issue?
To begin to start that conversation, we first need to look at the institution as a whole and the position and value it holds within our societal framework.
As an institution we are broken and crying out to our Government to give us the resources, funding and support we need to carry out our duties in much the same way as both the wider Criminal Justice System (CJS) and National Health Service (NHS) are and because none of us are receiving it,
we concurrently find ourselves as victims of institutional crossfires of blame as our population bends and breaks under the sheer weight and complexity of the problems we face across all sectors and divisions.
We have a Government and Fourth Estate ostensibly fuelling an anti-police rhetoric that not only uses the police as political pawns in party leadership elections but encourages public shaming of the institution and those within it when completing their daily duties, often undermining our frontline to carry out their jobs at even a minimal level. If they take part in a Pride festival, they’re ‘engaging in the community’ but if they skateboard during protests they face disciplinary action. If trained TPAC officers ram thieves off their mopeds they’re ‘doing their job’ but if they cause a vehicular accident and injury in that pursuit they’re personally prosecuted (with outdated legislation that doesn’t officially recognise an officers’ advanced driving training). If they restrain and arrest a violent offender they are commended but if the force is considered ‘excessive’ by an untrained third-party video they are vilified with ‘trial by media’. And all this does is allow our officers to become risk averse living and working under chronic fear of Police Standards Department (PSD) and Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) complaints and prosecutions, not just under the guise of public transparency but more detrimentally, public perception. Hindsight is a cruel mistress; whilst it can bring greater clarity, it can bring greater feelings of failure also. We have 7 year IOPC investigations for officer conduct and inquests on the Westminster Bridge attack conducted by those sat in the comfort of their £400 ergonomic civilian chairs casting aspersions on the trauma response of our frontlines’ split second decision-making
process. Our Government (them included) has got to stop giving ‘armchair police’ the power to pick apart decisions under the facade of ‘accountability’ but the more apparent condemnation in the name of integrity. It is important to analyse history but if we only ever acknowledge our mistakes, the pride in our achievements quickly erodes, along with our personal and institutional resilience, and it isn’t an issue purely reserved for policing; we only have to look at what the fire service is being put through in the aftermath of Grenfell Tower to appreciate that retrospective decisionmaking is a legal, moral and trauma-inducing mine field for all concerned.
Neither do our police need ‘additional powers’ as the politician-of-the-day pledges; they need additional funding that leads to additional officers to enforce powers already in place and all these sycophantic media-grabbing headlines do is further prove to our organisation and all those within it that their evidence-based concerns and frustrations are not being acknowledged or met by those in the positions of power required to give our institution the financial and legislative changes necessary to grant delivery of their judicial function in the most basic of ways. We don’t just need 20,000 officers to replace those we’ve lost, we need 40,000 not only because many will quickly leave once they realise what they’re up against but because crimes are becoming more complex requiring more labour-intensive investigations meaning it isn’t simply a ‘numbers game’ when it comes to recruitment but hiring the right numbers for the right specialisms…
The Police are yet another institution that has been destroyed – or at the very least greatly diminuished- by our collective failure to understand money.
There is no problem in training sufficient numbers and in due course paying them properly – it just takes time. But a failure so to do eats away at the foundations of society.
And of course it is not just the Police who themselves deal to a large extent with the mentally distressed, it is also the Health Service and the Probation Service who all need government monetary support as well.
Indeed the mentally distressed need support from everyone, but particularly by the poltical system of our government itself. The fact that it is hardly forthcoming is an indictment of our ‘democratic’ system.
The inherent idea in for the ‘many rather than the few’ may in fact be for the mental stability of everyone who actually has any empathy. Which is most of us.
And that amounts pretty much to the Police maxim of protecting the vulnerable.
No wonder it drives them nuts.