Police officers are regularly required to respond to mental health crises – estimates suggest that police respond to a mental health call out approximately every 12 minutes. Victoria Police themselves have acknowledged that it is not appropriate for police officers to be acting as first responders in mental health crises. In spite of this, they are often the only organisation that is available to respond quickly and at any time of day.
The use of police as first responders perpetuates the stigma that people experiencing mental and emotional distress are dangerous or are criminals and often causes further trauma to people who are already in vulnerable situations.
Police training is inconsistent with trauma informed care and using police as first responders diverts their time away from situations where they are truly needed. Furthermore most complaints about police are investigated by the police themselves and are largely found to be unsubstantiated.
The practice of police investigating police has to stop.
VMIAC’s latest policy and position paper, shows our stance on these issues, and suggests alternatives to our current, unsustainable, and harmful system.