A child facing a mental health crisis had to stay at a police station for two days because of a lack of psychiatric places, a chief constable revealed, as he denounced austerity measures to hit the poorest areas hardest.
Sir David Thompson, who leads West Midlands Police, said his force – which is still reeling from missing officers and funding after cuts – was being asked to do too much, and warned of rising crime Because desperation runs rampant in the poorest areas.
Thompson has been at the center of major chapters on modern British policing, such as the Conservative government’s post-2010 effort to reduce losses from cuts, fight against violent crimeAnd Efforts to bridge the gap between police and black communities,
In a Guardian interview to mark his retirement after 32 years in policing, Thompson also:
The teenage girl, who had been at a police station for more than two days this September, was held in a police interview room. She needed a specialist mental health bed, but could not find one nationally after she was detained under the Mental Health Act following her arrest. police believe that her stay at a police station was so inappropriate, given that she was experiencing a mental health crisis, that part of her stay was illegal.
Thompson said: “We’re the most accessible public agency, so we’re kind all the time. We’ve become the agency of first contact, not the agency of last resort.”
He said: “It’s like my baby 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, right?
Thompson is one of the most senior Chief Constables, and is Deputy Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
After the Conservatives cut the police budget as part of austerity, Thompson led police chiefs to push for public services funding.
Thompson said this has hindered the fight against crime. “Let’s be really honest, we took more money from the big cities where most of these gangs come from during austerity.”
His reasoning is based on his experience and reports from last month institute of financial studies, “It paints a very clear picture, that the last 10 years have seen us denigrate large urban areas that we know are where the reality of gangs and drug supply emerges,” he said.
He said: “I think it was a big mistake to do that. I don’t understand why if you’re trying to tackle a problem, you’re going to divert resources from the areas where it’s most serious.”
Thompson’s worry is that the poorest areas will again be hit hard by inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
“I think there is a great risk that our poor communities could become poorer,” he said. “I think there is a real risk of those communities being less healthy, having more crime.”
After 2019, the government reversed course and vowed to replace the 20,000 officers it had cut. Thompson praised him for the decision but said that the extra money spent on new officers meant that budgets for other major items were under severe pressure. “The pressure of inflation on the forces has now become dramatic,” he said.
The way the 43 local forces are funded is unfair, he said, meaning largely rural Cumbria has more officers per capita than the West Midlands.
The demands for oversight and reports are never-ending, he said: “I can’t triple my fraud department, throw more money at vetting, go after every theft, treat misconduct as a crime of terrorism.” I can. The Inspectorate asked us to do just that in a year. When money is stagnant or going down, you can’t keep adding more things, more complexity.”
Thompson has led efforts to boost black people’s confidence in policing, but acknowledges that progress has been slow, and says he “absolutely” believes that “bias plays a role” in why black people are fired by officers. experience greater use of force. “Size and build characteristics are more important in black men as criteria for the use of force than in other groups,” he said.
Thompson said that the lawful use of force was not enough, adding that it needed to be professional, with efforts made at de-escalation. “Too much force may be lawful, but that doesn’t mean it is lawful,” he said. “We are not just aiming for legality, but we are aiming for extremely high professionalism in the way we use force and search.”
Thompson said he is proud to be a police officer and the good work most of them do. He hit back at claims that police were wasting their time on “awakening” by Home Secretary In a speech to police chiefs earlier this month.
He added: “There’s this constant sense that somehow we’re spending all our time doing these things. And the plain truth is, the things that are highlighted, A Macarena or Pride Event in LincolnshireThose are minutes of time.
“I resent having to drag us into the culture wars.”
Thompson said: “How long is it taking? It’s 80 micro-seconds in the breadth of what policing does.