‘Significant improvements’ to mental health response after Taser incident

A force has stressed the “extensive changes” to its mental health crisis response policy after being criticised for Tasering a man with a mental age of seven.

Jan 31, 2018

A force has stressed the “extensive changes” to its mental health crisis response policy after being criticised for Tasering a man with a mental age of seven. Avon and Somerset Constabulary officers arrested and charged the man outside a supported accommodation facility in 2015 following reports that he was putting other residents in danger. The case collapsed when the 28-year-old’s mother found CCTV footage that countered the officers’ claims that he had assaulted them. An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation cleared the officers involved of wrongdoing but criticised another for failing to produce the CCTV footage. The force now said it has made “significant improvements” to its mental health policy since the incident occurred. A spokesperson said: “We now have a dedicated force lead for autism who is a member of the National Police Autism Association and are looking to introduce the nationally recognised Autism Champions scheme, which will ensure a trained officer will be a first point of contact for advice and guidance. “All new officers and civilian investigators now undergo training covering autism spectrum conditions and other non-visible disabilities, with more bespoke training for investigators who specialise in interviewing vulnerable adults. “We also outlined to the IOPC how we’ve made extensive changes to the way we respond to people in mental health crisis and have a strategic mental health lead to prioritise this ongoing work.” On August 12, 2015, officers were called to an emergency incident in Bristol outside The Laurels supported accommodation. The caller claimed the man, known as ‘Max’, was “terrorising other clients” and was “intoxicated”. They added: “We don’t feel safe, some of the clients don’t feel safe and are vulnerable here, so its best probably to take him off the premises as soon as possible.” The call was graded as requiring an immediate response and a Taser was used to help arrest Max for criminal damage and assaulting an officer. Statements gathered by the IOPC said Max had pushed a PC in the chest, causing the officer to stumble backwards. The officers claimed they were in danger as they did not know whether Max was armed. However, CCTV footage passed to the defence by Max’s mother showed a different version of events, causing the trial to collapse. Avon and Somerset Constabulary acknowledged that “inaccurate” information about the alleged assault was passed to the police and crime commissioner and apologised for the error. The IOPC added that this mistake had no influence on how the case was dealt with. Another IOPC investigation highlighted performance issues for four officers relating to the identification of vulnerable people in custody and ensuring appropriate adults are provided during interviews.

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