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Better police systems needed for at-risk detainees

26 June 2008

Better police systems needed for at-risk detainees

Green Party Spokesperson for Mental Health Issues, Sue Bradford, says the case of four police officers acquitted of assaulting a man in custody demonstrates systemic problems in the force when it comes to dealing appropriately with people with mental health issues.

"The Green Party accepts that the four officers were found not guilty by a jury of their peers, but it is clear that detainees are not always given appropriate treatment while in police custody.

"It is a reality that police are often on the frontline of dealing with people who are unwell.

"This makes it critical that they are properly trained and supervised, rather than being left to use some of the more punitive tools of their trade, such as batons and pepper spray, as methods of physical and psychological control.

"Police Association President Greg O'Connor has acknowledged that the decisions made on the day in question were 'less than perfect'.

"I would go further and say that as since police officers are often on the front line of dealing with people with psychosis, there must be safeguards and accountabilities to ensure those in police custody don't face the risk of major injury or death.

"In this particular case I do not understand why - apparently - mental health professionals were not brought in right away to assist with and defuse the situation, rather than having police ratcheting up levels of violence.

"There is a real risk that in using these primitive management techniques we will continue to fill our prisons with people who should be receiving good health treatment and support, not facing a system of ever accelerating criminal penalties caused by the harshness of their interface with police and the courts."


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