THREAD: For those concerned about the police incident in Epping here is some insights from our submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria @RCMentalHealth which can be read here…
Our client work over almost 40 years has indicated strongly that people living with mental health conditions face significant risks of death, disability, injury, humiliation and other forms of detriment when in contact with police.
Our clients with mental illness describe excessive police contacts, stops and searches. They receive
inappropriate fines and charges (including assault police and resist arrest). They experience
criminalisation, hospitalisation and imprisonment.
Interactions between police and people who appear to have a mental illness ‘are remarkably frequent’. Approximately
20 percent of all police interactions involved a person perceived to be experiencing mental illness according to a 2011 survey of Victorian Police officers.
Police are often the first responders to incidents involving a
mental health crisis in the community. Section 351 of the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) grants police with the power to detain and transport a person experiencing a mental health crisis to an appropriate location.
People experiencing mental illness are massively over-represented in incidents involving both fatal and non-fatal police force. ‘Out of 48 fatalities in Victoria between November 1982 and February 2007, all but six of those killed had recorded histories of mental health problems’
‘police were found to be two times more likely to use pepper spray on those who appeared mentally disordered, even after controlling for other situational and individual characteristics’. (Kesic, Thomas & Ogloff).
Contrary to popular beliefs, ‘people experiencing a mental disorder are much more likely to be a victim of crime than a perpetrator’. One study found people who had a diagnosed mental illness ‘were over 1.5 times more likely to have been a victim of violent crime.
Police as first responders: In an unacceptably high number of cases, the attending police response has resulted in increased fear, anxiety or distress of the person in crisis. The police members’ words, actions and behaviours often
cause a ‘cascade of escalation’.
When a person who police are interacting with becomes distressed, upset, argumentative, swears or otherwise displays uncooperative behaviours, police ‘scale-up’ their
response accordingly.
This escalated response then prompts further distress, fear or anxiety, to which police respond to accordingly. People experiencing mental illness or living with some form of
cognitive disability often report feeling ‘trapped’ in a situation during a police encounter...
where their every move is interpreted as antagonistic to police and their own attempts to deescalate the
situations become impossible when their main motivation is to stop or remove themselves from a
stressful situation.
Clients report that their own attempts to deescalate the situation is ignored by police or become impossible once police reach a certain level of 'escalation'.
Whilst the lawful justification to use force may not be present BEFORE the police encounter, by the END of a cascade of increasingly tense interventions and responses, the police members may perceive the justification to use force exists.
Efforts to improve police response to people experiencing a mentally health episode or fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the police role...
– where efforts to “establish rapport” with “listen and offer support” or “treat with dignity and respect” are at odds
with or directly conflict with police (perceived) imperatives to maintain situational control and functional imperatives to enforce laws.
The ongoing harm caused by police responding to mental health call-outs leads us to conclude that a new, non-aggressive, de-escalatory, care-based strategy of responding to mental health call outs that DOES NOT involve police must be the priority response.
Mental health crisis responses and welfare checks should be led by trained and adequately resourced health professionals, assessing incidents independently of police, and placing people with a mental illness at the centre of decision making about their treatment and care.
We must have properly funded non-aggressive, de-escalatory and care-based alternatives to police as
first responders to mental health call-outs, regardless of perceived 'risk' the person poses.
Links, references to the quotes above and further recomendations to the @RCMentalHealth can be found here… #VicPolWatch

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More from @Police_Acc_Proj

18 Aug
"The Victoria Police employ a risk-based system that classifies young people who have been in conflict with the law as ‘youth network offenders (YNOs)’ or ‘core youth network offenders" @DrLWeber1 @MigrationMonash #VicPolWatch Thread:
"A senior local officer explained: ‘We can run that tool now and it will tell us - like the kid might be 15 - it tells how many crimes he is going to commit before he is 21 based on that, and it is a 95% accuracy. It has been tested.’
"Young people who participated in this study said they were often asked about their age, identity and friendship networks and required to account for their presence when they were gathering in public places, using public transport or simply walking along the street."
Read 19 tweets

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