A third of police time is spent dealing with people suffering from mental health issues, Kent’s police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott has revealed.
In an interview with the Canterbury Journal, Mr Scott says the work diverts officers from doing other policing jobs.
And he fears it may be caused by those in crisis failing to access the health services they need.
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He said: “It is sadly the case that there is an increasing reliance on the police to assist people in mental health crisis.
“Residents may not realise that around 33% of Kent Police’s time is now spent dealing with incidents involving mental health.
“There are people who are still not benefiting from the extra money that clinical commissioning groups have been given for mental health by the government.
“When people in crisis have to be looked after by police officers and staff, instead of trained healthcare professionals, that draws valuable policing resources away from fighting crime and anti-social behaviour. Clearly, it is not the best thing for the person in crisis either.
“I will continue to raise awareness of this problem and work with others to reduce demand on policing and ensure vulnerable people get the right help from the right person at the right time.”
Mr Scott is the national lead for mental health issues among his fellow police and crime commissioners. A former Conservative councillor on Bexley Council, he was elected commissioner in May 2016 and replaced Ann Barnes.
Police and crime commissioners replaced the former police authorities in England and Wales in 2012.
Mr Scott describes his role as “to set policing priorities for the county, by consulting with the public and putting together a Police and Crime Plan”. His office also controls the police budget and holds the chief constable of Kent to account.
He added: “I love my job. Working so closely with Kent Police and being able to see the work of our officers and staff up close is a real privilege.
“I cannot thank them enough for what they do. I have also been able to visit really interesting places like the Mid-Point in the Channel Tunnel and observe specialist officers receive their firearms training.
“Unfortunately, my role means I also hear distressing details about cases of abuse which have taken place in our communities.
“Behind each of those is a victim and, while it is comforting to know that many offenders are being brought to justice, hearing those stories can be very testing at times.”