The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is aware of the jury’s narrative verdict returned onTuesday at the inquest into the death of Olaseni Lewis in 2010.
The MPS must now take time to consider the detail of that narrative and any recommendations that the coroner makes in a Preventing Future Deaths report.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, responsible for professionalism, said:
“Seven years ago Olaseni Lewis died in tragic circumstances. I would like to say sorry to Mr Lewis’ family and friends for their loss, and the circumstances in which he lost his life.
“Today, the jury who have heard all the evidence relating to his death, have raised serious concerns about the actions of our officers on that day. That is clearly of grave concern for us and we must now fully consider the detail of their narrative verdict.
“We will seek to speak to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who independently investigated Mr Lewis’ death, to understand the next steps regarding the misconduct process facing our officers. What is clear is that given the length of time since Mr Lewis died, that process must be as prompt as possible.
“I must be very careful about what I say so as not to be seen to prejudge that misconduct process, which is important for Mr Lewis’ family and our officers.
“All officers receive comprehensive officer safety training, including restraint techniques, and how to recognise Acute Behavioural Disorder (ABD) which is a rare and extremely complex condition. The fast moving nature of incidents such as these means they are some of the most difficult officers, who are not medical professionals, have to face.
“However, the jury stated that the officers failed to follow their training and they also raised concerns about the quality of national training. This we will address as a matter of urgency with policing nationally.
“I hope it is of some comfort to Mr Lewis’ friends and family to know that the way the Met deals with mental health has changed beyond recognition in recent years.
“Each year there are on average 35,000 calls to police in London where mental health is a factor – it’s a significant portion of our work. That gives some idea of the scale of the issue and why it is so important people with mental health are dealt with in the most appropriate, understanding and respectful way possible.
“Our position has always been that police officers are not medical professionals and therefore not the right people to make clinical decisions about the care and treatment of people who are mentally unwell. However, police are often the first to respond to a person in mental health crisis and can also be called to deal with incidents in mental health settings such as hospitals and care centres. It is our role to provide those officers with the very best training and awareness for their own protection and the protection of others.
“Until recently there was no clear national position on when police can be asked to attend mental health settings and for what reason. Now the position is far clearer with the launch, in January, of national guidance which clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals and police. Importantly, this includes when police can be asked to attend mental health settings, for what reasons, and what can be expected of them when they do attend.
“We focus on ‘care’ rather than ‘control’ and restraint must be considered as the last resort. This is because we know physical restraint can be humiliating, terrifying and potentially dangerous. As police officers the last thing we would seek to do is to place someone with mental health issues in that position.”
The MPS remains committed to on-going work around mental health with many initiatives introduced and improvements made in recent years. The MPS has also worked in partnership with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the LAS to develop additional joint training for all officers and staff when dealing with violent people in crisis. New protocols are in place to assist police called to hospitals or mental health settings with greater communication between officers and medical staff to ensure a collaborative approach.
Following Mr Lewis’s death the matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate.
The MPS fully co-operated with the investigation and in September 2011 the IPCC concluded no police officer should be the subject of misconduct proceedings.
The IPCC subsequently announced a reinvestigation to look more closely at the issue of restraint of Mr Lewis and the findings of the original IPCC investigation were quashed in a High Court ruling in September 2013.
The matter was reinvestigated with a final report in April 2015 recommending six officers face gross misconduct hearings and five face misconduct hearings. One officer had left the MPS prior to the second IPCC investigation; two others have also since left the MPS.
Following liaison with the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, the IPCC subsequently directed the MPS to hold gross misconduct and misconduct hearings in connection with those officers still serving. The CPS also considered the matter in 2015 and decided no criminal charges should be brought against any officer.
An investigation into the matter by the Health and Safety Executive continues.