HAMPSHIRE Police Federation says a new report suggesting the public have become more vulnerable and are having to rely on the police more has come as ‘no surprise’.
The latest State of Policing 2020 assessment from HMICFRS revealed the pandemic had left the public more at risk from online crime and domestic abuse as offences shifted away from the streets.
Report author Sir Tom Winsor criticised what he called the Government’s underfunding of social services, which has meant police officers have often had to pick up the pieces on mental health cases where other agencies cannot.
He also said the backlog in the criminal justice system is causing a downturn in the public’s confidence in policing as cases are not being dealt with promptly.
For Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield, it all means officers are still being left to fill the gap left by the lack of social care resource.
“The report is no great surprise to us,” she said.
“Officers having to pick up the pieces hasn’t changed, and we spend a considerable amount of time on social care and mental health cases.
“Other agencies are not 24/7, so we get called to help. Unless the Government is going to fund mental health and other services adequately, it won’t change.
“We might have to respond to someone going missing from the hospital, for example, who they know has mental health issues. We’ve got to try and find them and detain them while they wait for their assessment or transport.
“It’s not good for them; they’re not criminals. They’re ill.
“Officers are not trained in mental health care; they have to decide how to deal with each case.
“It’s challenging. We might know and be able to help people with mental health issues in our neighbourhood, but we just don’t know whether people might be mentally ill or just want to be violent towards us.”
Dealing with domestic violence and the number of people who wanted to harm themselves during the pandemic was also a constant worry for officers.
“People couldn’t escape because they were told to stay at home, but home wasn’t their safe space,” Zoe explained.
“We need to increase the number of police officers as part of any other investment in social care services.
“Social services staff want to help, and to do their job, they work hard, but they’re limited by resources.”