Alarm at armed police officers being called onto mental health wards

Tonight’s BBC Panorama programme on the Met Police’s Specialist Firearms Command Unit following a number of people who have been killed by armed officers comes at a time when human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK have learnt that armed police been sent to mental health wards.

This shocking revelation and has come to light after a number of Freedom of Information (FOI’s) request were made to the Metropolitan Police involving an incident where specialist TSG (Territorial Support Group) riot officers were called to ‘River House’ a secure mental health ward run by South London and Maudsley (SLAM) NHS Trust, just weeks after the verdict of the high-profile Sean Rigg Inquest in 2012.

A heavily redacted report published by SLAM over a year after this incident took place, makes no reference to TSG riot police or the Armed Response Unit that attended the hospital during this incident.

BMH UK has learnt through a FOI response from London’s Metropolitan Police (see attached) that in 2012 a total of 48 police officers attended the mental health ward at SLAM.

The team of police officers included:

3 Inspectors

4 Sergeants

10 Police Constables from the response team at Bromley

21 Police Constables from the Territorial Support Group. (TSG)

6 Police Officers in two vehicles from the Armed Response Unit (ARV)

2 Police Officers from the Dog Unit (with two dogs)

1 Detective Sergeant,

1 Detective Constable from Bromley

Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said:

This shocking revelation has reinforced concerns from many quarters of the community that detained psychiatric wards are not safe places for black people: We don’t know if anyone was bitten,Tasered or shot. Knowing armed officers that are trained to shoot to kill are attending calls made by mental health staff raises serious human rights concerns.

SLAMs heavily redacted report on this incident gives no indication of the seriousness of what happened. What we can see from the Met FOI response is mental health providers reliance on specialist police to deal with vulnerable mental health patients, which is of grave concerns particularly in light of the case of Olaseni Lewis who died after his was restrained by 14 officers who were called onto the ward by staff at SLAM in 2010.’

David Merry human rights campaigner said:

As one patient at South London and Maudsley has died following police contact, I was concerned that police had intervened again on 1st October at River House. I was shocked to find out that six officers from the Armed Response Unit as well as more officers from the Dog and TSG unit were deployed to attend an incident that occurred on a mental health ward.

The only report on this incident is a heavily redacted one eventually published by SLAM after many request almost a year after they said that they would publish it. Learning that 48 police officers were deployed for this incident is incredible.

I am awaiting the outcome of a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office concerning SLAMs decision to withhold part of the investigation report into this incident, as well as other information from the Metropolitan Police Office relating to this case.’


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