In the Media

Letter to the Observer on police training

PUBLISHED February 24, 2013

We ask police officers to make split second judgments on the huge variety of situations they face in protecting the public: in fact we rely on them making those decisions in the knowledge they will be held to account for them when things go wrong. That is why it is so important we do give them the right tools, which include training, to support them in doing the difficult job they do.

It is not correct to say that 'the Association of Chief Police Officers has categorically refused' to provide training on dealing with people with disabilities (Trauma of autistic boy shackled by police, Observer, 17 February). Dealing with vulnerable people and those with disabilities or mental health issues is embedded in officer training across the service. Restraining vulnerable people appropriately is also a central part of officers' initial training and it is revisited throughout their career. All of this training and guidance has been reviewed and updated with the input of outside expertise from the health and charity sector in the last five years.

However, equipping nurses and professional carers with skills in dealing with vulnerable people takes years, and even then mistakes are made. Police officers are not health professionals but the service of last resort - they must try and help individuals at any time of day or night, when hospitals are already full up and other services have no staff available. They may do their best but in dealing with situations that are outside norms of behaviour they will never be as well trained as a specialist. The service is constantly trying to improve its response to every part of society but we also need to recognise this of police officers and be realistic about what we ask of them.

ACPO lead on mental health and disability Chief Constable Simon Cole