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Police criticised for handling of mental health patient

News from IPCA
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a person detained by Wellington Police for a mental health assessment should have been constantly monitored while in Police custody until he was able to be assessed by a mental health professional.

Shortly before 2am on 9 October 2016, a woman called for Police assistance because her partner was attempting to commit suicide at their Lower Hutt address. The first officer who arrived saw the man making a further attempt to end his life.

After trying to speak to the man, Police decided to detain him at the Wellington District Custody Unit (DCU) for a mental health assessment. The man became agitated and uncompliant as he was guided towards the door to be taken to the Police car. He had to be restrained and handcuffed.

The Authority found that, when he arrived at the DCU, the man was inappropriately evaluated as requiring ‘frequent monitoring’ (checks at least five times an hour at irregular intervals) and should have been evaluated as requiring ‘constant monitoring’ (watched by a staff member without interruption) until staff from the Crisis Resolution Service (CRS) were able to assess him.

“The custody supervisor should have recognised that, since the man had attempted suicide immediately before coming into Police custody, he needed to be evaluated as ‘In need of care and constant monitoring’ until CRS staff were able to assess him” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

In addition, even though the man was inappropriately evaluated as needing ‘frequent monitoring’, he was not checked five times an hour while in Police custody as required by Police policy.

The Authority also found that, although Police had a duty of care to the man and were justified in detaining him, it would have been preferable if they had considered contacting the CRS to find out if someone was available to come to the man’s address to assess him or could conduct an assessment over the phone. They could also have discussed taking the man to hospital before taking him to the DCU.

Full IPCA report