Author(s): McKinnon I, Grubin D
Abstract: Aims: The Metropolitan Police Service, like all police forces in the UK, have a screening procedure to identify detainees with significant physical or mental health problems who require further assessment by a doctor, and those with learning disabilities who may require the presence of an Appropriate Adult at interview. The ‘risk assessment’ tool used by the custody sergeant for this purpose, however, has never been evaluated, although concerns have been expressed regarding its efficacy. The aim of this study is first to evaluate how well the current assessment process identifies detainees with significant mental and physical health problems or with learning disability, and then to develop a new screening tool if the current instrument is ineffective. Method: The study was approved by the Newcastle and North Tyneside Research Ethics Committee and sponsored with a grant from Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust. Given the paucity of data on the prevalence of health disorder in police custody, we have audited 650 consecutive police custody records from five London Boroughs. This allowed us to perform a power calculation for the intervention stage of the study. Based on the outcome of this, we will interview police detainees using a structured interview. This includes: 1. A structured assessment of physical health 2. An assessment of current psychiatric symptomatology 3. Suicidal ideation 4. Drug and alcohol dependence. 5. Tests of intelligence The outcome of these interviews will be compared with that from the existing police assessment. Findings from this stage of the study will be used to either modify the existing screening instrument used by the custody sergeant, or to develop a new screening tool, which will be evaluated in the same manner as the existing screen. Results: Based on the prevalence data, we estimate that approximately 700 detainees will need to be interviewed to detect whether or not the existing screening tool adequately detects health disorder and learning disability. Interviews with detainees to evaluate the existing screening instrument are now being undertaken.