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‘There needs to be changes’ Welsh police to get more mental health support

Police in Cardiff said they have felt increased pressure because there are now fewer officers patrolling the streets.

PC Barry Walker has been on the beat protecting the public for just over 28 years. During this time he has even arrested generations of the same family.

I was dealing with individuals, then I was dealing with their children, then their children… I’m locking up the grandkids of the ones I started with.

– PC BARRY WALKER, SOUTH WALES POLICE

Despite this, PC Walker said the job has completely changed since he joined the force.

10%-Decrease in the number of police officers on the streets of Wales since 2007.

PC Walker

Knife crime is almost at epidemic proportions at the moment, County Lines is horrific…

It is difficult, it’s very challenging. Usually when you get to start your shift, you’ll come in and as soon as the first call comes out, you’re out and you don’t come back in again…

It’s not the job I joined. And the fun element, shall we say, a lot of that’s gone out of it, because you’re just so busy.

– PC BARRY WALKER, SOUTH WALES POLICE

Another issue for officers is having to deal with mental health crisis calls, which they said should not be cases for police.

There does need to be changes but the changes need to be in the amount of people that are here and the nature of the calls that the police are having to attend that aren’t police calls.

I feel for people that we have to go for them when dealing with mental health. Because [a police van] shouldn’t arrive if you’ve got a mental health condition. Because that is only going to exacerbate their issue and their condition. The relevant people should be going to the relevant calls. And we’re definitely not the ones for a lot of the vulnerable calls and a lot of the mental health calls.

– PC BARRY WALKER

Police

The Policing Minister Nick Hurd has been on patrol with officers, including PC Barry Walker, in Cardiff today to discuss the UK Government’s plans to increase mental health support for police.

I’ve had a very frank conversation with officers here at the station where they’re making the point, which I completely understand, demand on them has increased, there are fewer of them and of course there are consequences there in terms of the strain and the pressure they’re under. So our response is we’re investing more in the police system here in Wales… A billion pounds more as a country we’re spending on police and recruiting more than three and a half thousand more officers.

– NICK HURD, MINISTER FOR POLICING AND FIRE

Some have suggested if policing was devolved, there would be a more joined up approach with health and other services in Wales. It is argued this could make it easier on officers.

Mr Hurd said there are currently no plans to devolve policing.

Wales has got some of the best police forces in the country.

As far as I can see the police forces are cooperating extremely well with the devolved administration and the devolved health service so I’m not sure there’s a problem that needs fixing there other than the need to continue our increased investment and support for the police so that they’ve got the resources and the powers that they need to do their very difficult and demanding job on all our behalf.

– NICK HURD, MINISTER FOR POLICING AND FIRE

police

For PC Walker, the news from Mr Hurd is welcome, as he says officers in Cardiff have had to find their own ways to cope.

I feel extra pressure but I’ve got a very good family life and very good colleagues here and we self brief at the end of incidents. It’s almost self mentally treating each other if you like. And that’s the way I cope with it.

– PC BARRY WALKER

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