We Need To Talk About Guns

A few months ago the media in Scotland was full of glaring headlines making an issue about armed police officers being seen, carrying sidearms, in places such as shops or walking from one place to another. Usually focussing on the officers having the audacity to go and buy something to eat or similar.

The outrage seemed to be limited to a few politicians and newspapers as the vast majority of people actually spoken to took a far more pragmatic view.  Read More…

Never Say Never 

Here are some words I really didn’t think I would ever say “I am going to attempt to get a degree.”

Yes – I know. Read More…

The Man in the Hole – a personal blog on Depression

Depression is a hideous illness. If I had a virus or a fever I could take medication, allow it to do its thing, and expect to get better in a few days time.

I would see the symptoms. I might be hot, cold, shivering – my body would be showing me it was not right. To the rest of the world it would also be pretty obvious that I was poorly. No doubt this would lead to sympathy from those closest to me – even platitudes from acquaintances but either way – someone would feel the need to express their concern for my well-being and hope I “get well soon.” Read More…

Taser In Psychiatric Wards

The Policing and Crime Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and, as is usual, MP’s are suggesting additions and amendments as it winds its merry way.

Norman Lamb was a junior minister in the Department of Health under the Coalition Government and is the current Health Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. It is he who has suggested the following amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill 


This was defeated in the House of Commons but has now been reintroduced by Baroness Walmsley as a suggested amendment from the House of Lords.

If at first you don’t succeed….

Just think about this for a moment.

Nobody WANTS to use a taser in a clinical environment and, in my experience, I have only ever seen them considered in extreme circumstances. 

With certain exceptions as specified in legislation, the police can only use force of any kind for the purposes of prevention or detection of crime or in order to carry out their powers as specified in the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Even then that force must be justified and reasonable in the circumstances. 

In cases where someone is being “difficult” or dangerous on a psychiatric ward and where the medical staff wish to sedate them then the police have no powers at all to apply force to assist them. 

Police are, however, requested many times to deal with exactly this situation. It is something to which the police need to be very aware and very willing to say “no.”

In these circumstances, any use of police force irrespective of whether it is restraint or taser would be inappropriate. If there is no crime to prevent or detect then there should be no application of police force. 

However, a blanket ban, such as the one being suggested, fails to recognise or accept that there are times when very sick people, with or without capacity, will commit or attempt to commit crime. They will do so inside or outside of psychiatric wards. 

There are times when someone becomes so dangerous that staff within the ward simply cannot control them. They may improvise or fashion weapons. They may cause tens of thousands of pounds of damage and they may become so violent that staff have to barricade themselves into an office. 

Don’t believe me? It happened – and I was asked to consider the response to it when the medical staff called police desperate for assistance. 

I am not going to go into further detail of what transpired or how it panned out but suffice to say that I was grateful that I had all options available and was not hamstrung by a piece of legislation that just assumed I was in the habit of electrifying the sick for the sake of it. 

If you think about it very simply it is not ideal for ill people to be subject to police force at all – of any kind.

But this view singularly fails to accept that there are times when sick people can commit crime and that there are times – many many times – when simply talking nicely to people or letting them blow themselves out of steam are not safe, appropriate or effective. 

A correspondent to the Independent recently (and seriously) suggested that the police have completely lost touch and simply need to resort to a good old fashioned come along now, old chap approach because this used to apparently work miracles with an old licensee friend of his. 

I venture that the author has never been faced by someone weilding a sharp table leg in the midst of a drug induced psychosis. 

If the police are ever called to a psych ward you would hope that all other options had been considered. Too frequently this is not the case but there are occasions where the situation is well beyond the training and capacity of medical staff. 

In those situations police need all options available. 

In saying that taser should be banned are we saying that batons, CS, PAVA, handcuffs, shields, physical force, restraint, baton rounds and firearms are acceptable?

They have not been specifically banned in this proposal. Why are they more acceptable than taser?

If we are saying that police should not be using taser on a psych ward then why are we not mentioning other clinical premises or care homes?

If we are saying that police cannot use taser then what actually is the reason to call the police? Clinical staff are not allowed to use mechanical restraint or face down restraint – the police are.

The fact that police are called so frequently suggests that the bans on clinical staff actually restrict their ability to manage the most dangerous situations so they have to call the police to do what they cannot.

It’s apparently not ok for a clinician to use cuffs or prone restraint in a psych ward but it’s ok for the police to do so in the same location. 

What we are actually saying is that clinicians cannot use certain tactics and equipment but that the police can – in the same location. And whilst we’re at it we are thinking of limiting the options available to the attending officers irrespective of the situation.

Sick person weilding knife with a hostage on a psych ward – no taser.

Sick person weilding knife with a hostage at home address – taser ok. 

The only thing different here is location plus – in the first scenario the person has been diagnosed and in the second they haven’t. But the circumstances ARE identifical. Same risk, same threat, same weapon. 

We have recently seen two incidents in London where mental illness appears to have been a significant factor but where the assailant has been armed with a large knife and killed or attempted to kill people in the street or tube. There was another in Brussels today. 

In the first two UK scenarios the assailant was stopped with a taser. In Belgium she was shot. 

Had these situations taken place in psych wards – and this could very easily happen – then, under this amendment, the taser option would no longer be an option. 

Mental health a factor. Knives a factor. Serious injury happened or happening. Risk of death high. The only difference being that these situations occurred in one place rather than another. 

Had they taken place in a psych ward there is no magic wand which makes it resolve itself all of a sudden. 

The whole situation makes no sense at all.

Are we actually saying that some people cannot be as dangerous as others simply because of where they are? 

Banning taser is simplistic and doesn’t actually deal with the real issues at stake here. 

Why do some people become so incredibly violent in a psychiatric ward and if this happens how should they be dealt with and by whom?

Rather than restrict what can SOMETIMES be a valid tactical option why don’t we look more deeply at the problem first? 
@mentalhealthcop has now written a blog on this subject which covers some of the other issues in more detail. Such is “what is a psychiatric ward” 

Apply Brakes. Check Mirror. 

I am extremely grateful for the invitation from Inspector Michael Brown (pictured above) which allowed me to attend the College of Policing Mental Health and Policing National Conference.

It was very well attended and I think every police force was represented along with about 40 other agencies involved in this aspect of work.  Read More…

“A Low Flying Panic Attack”

There is no-one in the world of music who writes music like Radiohead. Whilst they have a penchant for the melancholic and outright depressing their work resonates with a great many people. In the early days their largely guitar based offerings produced many of their “Greatest Hits” and established them as stadium fillers and anthem writers.

There is also no-one in the world who makes music like Radiohead. There are a couple of other bands, Coldplay being one, who always manage to get the arrangements on their tracks just so but Radiohead take this to another level. There is not a single noise (and there are many noises on Radiohead tracks) which has not been considered, reconsidered, tested, replaced, considered again and then edited and altered until it fits perfectly. It is musical science.  A shining example of this is the single glissando during the final chorus of Codex which appears just once in the song and adds that perfect moment you didn’t realise was missing until it appeared. Read More…

Gemma Pettman PR

PR gems for charities and businesses

Constable Chaos - UK Police Blog

Still blogging time on the thin blue line

Mental Health Cop

A venn diagram of policing, mental health and criminal justice

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