27 November 2017
Researchers from the Connect partnership gave an insight into the co-production, delivery and evaluation of police mental health training to an audience of academics and police at the College of Policing. The Police Knowledge Fund Showcase Conference drew together the experiences, lessons, and findings of 14 research partnerships between 39 police forces and 30 universities across the UK aimed at developing new evidence-based approaches to problems faced by those on the frontline of policing.
Presenting on the theme of ‘co-production’, Dr. Arabella Scantlebury, Dr. Nicola Moran and Inspector Bill Scott highlighted the lessons learned from the Connect partnership.
Dr. Nicola Moran spoke on the development and delivery of a bespoke mental health training package for frontline officers at North Yorkshire Police. The training was co-produced by a research team at the University of York and North Yorkshire Police in conjunction with mental health professionals from Tees, Esk and Wears Valley NHS Foundation Trust and was specifically designed to enable frontline officers to better identify, record, respond to, refer on, and review incidents involving people with mental health problems.
Nicola indicated that whilst the specialised training was designed with North Yorkshire Police’s specific needs in mind, it was informed by College of Policing Learning Standards and benefitted from the input of a wide range of mental health professionals including: crisis teams, place of safety teams, street and force control room triage teams, community mental health services, GPs and the voluntary sector.
Facilitating a dialogue between police officers and mental health professionals on practice, perspectives and principles was a key element within the development and delivery of the training:
“to be able to have those conversations, to identify bottlenecks, tensions and conflicts, and then work through some of these individually and take bigger issues back to senior managers was very important”
A randomised control trial (RCT) and qualitative study was then conducted to assess the effectiveness of mental health training.
Dr. Arabella Scantlebury gave an overview of the RCT, focusing on its collaborative approach towards production and dissemination:
“Police officers were co-authors on all our publications and were essential because what we didn’t want to do was to write a very academic piece which might only inform academic work, but equally would make useful recommendations for the police going forward”
Dr. Arabella Scantlebury added that companion evidence briefings were produced to ‘disentangle the academic jargon’ and inform police practice on the ground.
The RCT revealed that whilst training did not reduce the number of calls to North Yorkshire Police which resulted in an officer attending incidents with mental health, there was an increase in the number of mental health and related tags and warning markers recorded police systems from officers based at intervention group stations. Mental health training was also found to improve police officers’ knowledge, attitudes and confidence in responding to incidents involving individuals with mental health problems and in referring individuals to mental health services and other relevant agencies.
Inspector Bill Scott provided a policing perspective on co-production. He told the conference that whilst differences exist between academics and police officers, academic partnerships and collaborations represented an ‘untapped resource’ which offered the police access to valuable resources such as analytical expertise. In particular, he mentioned how police officers lack the time, resources and skills to effectively interpret the growing amount of data they are faced with and that partnership working may provide solutions.
Inspector Bill Scott further addressed the need to maintain continued momentum for evidence-based approaches within the police force, especially concerning how frontline police officers deal with incidents involving people with mental health problems concluding:
“This has been a fundamentally beneficial arrangement…particularly for the people we serve because it has allowed us to deliver services in a much better, more informed and more intelligent way”
The Connect partnership between the University of York and North Yorkshire Police (NYP) aimed to improve the way that NYP and other agents deal with incidents involving people with mental health problems.
The evidence briefing ‘Mental health training for frontline police officers’ can be downloaded here.
The publication in PLOS One ‘Effectiveness of a training program for police officers who come into contact with people with mental health problems: A pragmatic randomised controlled trial’ can be downloaded here.