Local police officers spend more time dealing with missing and vulnerable people than investigating crimes.
Tayside’s police chief last week told councilors in Perth and Kinross the change posed a “societal challenge”.
Chief Superintendent Phil Davison was presenting the latest Quarterly Policing Report to the Housing and Communities Committee of Perth and Kinross Council.
Following his presentation at the Virtual Meeting of Monday, January 24, the Liberal Democratic Councilor of Perth City South, Liz Barrett, asked what was done to meet the growing number of people in crisis suffering from mental health problems.
Divisional Commander Ch Supt Phil Davison said: “The increasing policing activity taking place in the space of missing persons or vulnerability calls where there are behavioral issues around is increasing significantly, so that at any time, it now represents much more than traditional police activity in the investigation of crime.
“This position reflects a societal challenge.
“It’s been an increased challenge because of the pandemic and the impact has been a real problem for everyone.”
Tayside’s senior police officer told councilors they were considering a public health approach to policing to ensure people receive the most appropriate support at their point of crisis.
He said: “On a national basis, there is a new agreement of three services between the Scottish ambulance service, NHS 24 and the Scottish police.”
He said calls coming into the police assessed as having a mental health vulnerability in them can be diverted to NHS 24, allowing those with mental health nursing expertise to deal with them.
Ch Supt Davison told advisers about a service being piloted in nearby Dundee – a mental health triage car. It is also being tested in Inverness and Glasgow. The cars are manned by a paramedic (with additional training in mental health), a mental health nurse, and sometimes a police officer.
Chief Inspector for the Perth and Kinross Area Commander, Graham Binnie, highlighted the success of Perth and Kinross services such as The Neuk and The Lighthouse for Perth. He said both had been “of great help” to local officers.