Police criticised for restraining aggressive individual

The police are often called upon to protect the most vulnerable of society, the sick, the young and the elderly.  So it should be of no suprise to the public that when a care home phoned the police because a they could not control an aggressive male the police arrived and restrained him to protect the residents, themselves and the male.

What makes this particular male different is that he too suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a disease where depending on the severity can make the patient violent as well as suffer from visual, olfactory and auditory hallucinations.

The article from the Daily Express starts off with an inflammatory headline:

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The family here, as upsetting as it is has mistaken the use of handcuffs with arrest.  While their use is most common during an arrest they’re also used during stop/search and when sectioning a person under s136 of the Mental Health Act.  Unsurprisingly ACPO have a document on the use of handcuffs.  Bearing in mind the potential aggression or violence that Alzheimer’s patients may subject others to then according to the ACPO guidance then at first glance this is an appropriate use of handcuffs.

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This section of the article is overtly critical of officers who had to make a split second decision.  They were confronted by powerfully built male (as shown in the original photo) who no longer has the ability to recognise when he has hurt someone or control his anger in a ‘normal’ way.  The officers had to prevent harm from coming to the other residents and prevent harm from coming to themselves.  There are number of ways this can be done.  A police officer may use certain grips or holds – this means that the officer would have to maintain this hold until such time as the detained person either ceases being violent/aggressive or tires themselves out.  The officer could use arm entaglement but again this means the officer has to remain hands on until such time as the risk is no longer present, or they could do as they have done in this instance and handcuff the person.  It should be noted that it is not best practice to handcuff someone to the front ‘palm to palm’ as this does not allow for effective control and restraint.

I am sure the officers who attended would have attempted to use their conflict management training to calm Mr. Hyrons before using force, however as I was not there (indeed, as were not the family or the reporter) we do not know the level of aggression Mr. Hyrons was offering at the time.

Interestingly the family admit that the gentleman in question has ‘childish tantrums’ however they don’t expand on this.  As their family I would expect them to know what phrases and actions would calm him down however people who have only just met him would have no idea of these tactics so they are not available to either the care home staff or the attending officers.

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There is no doubt that Mr. Hyrons was upset, however an Alzheimer’s patient who is upset can be a terrifying experience for those who are not used to that particular patient, it is also potentially dangerous to allow them to remain unrestrained due to the potential risk of harm coming to the patient and those around them.

Mr. Hyrons son states he spoke to one of the officers involved and the officers were indeed correct in their comments.  As Mrs. Hyron was not present and did not witness her husbands behaviour she cannot state that it was ‘brutish’.  Would she rather her husband was restrained on the floor? Would she rather he ran amok and injured other residents or the staff?  Both of those are potential risks of allowing her husband to remain unrestrained in the way that he was.

The comments from the Alzheimer’s society are spectacularly unhelpful, especially stating that the officers ‘abused’ Mr Hyrons.  They used force on an aggressive male who staff, who are dementia specialists, were afraid of.  If they would rather Alzheimer’s patients remain unrestrained at all times I’m sure they have fool proof ways to prevent harm from coming to those patients?

The balance on this article is poor, four lines are allocated to the police to rebut this article.

The article in the Express is essentially a rehashed version of this article in the Birmingham Mail from 20th September.  The original article has a little more detail than the one in the Express and states that Mr. Hyron was sectioned for 28 days following this incident.  Interestingly in this article Mrs. Hyrons admits that “My husband has been aggressive towards me in the past…” although this comment was absent in the article in the Express.

Overall this incident is fraught with difficulties.  I have no doubt that no officer anywhere in the country wakes up in the morning relishing the thought of restraining an unwell, elderly male.  That said every officer would act to reduce harm to vulnerable people and in this case, as unpleasant as it is, handcuffing an aggressive dementia patient is reducing harm to those around him including the other residents and patients within the care home.

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5 thoughts on “Police criticised for restraining aggressive individual

  1. mentalhealthcop

    You’re quite right here: the police attended an unknown person in an unknown situation and took a difficult decision in the middle of the night. Acting carried risks and not-acting carried risks and we’ve seen these kinds of incidents before where it took several police officers to subdue a 59yr old patient who had threatened care staff who were in the process of sectioning him and then proceeded to seriously assault a police officer. It was interesting on that previous occasion that the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society refused to condem the police, pointing out that they’d come unplanned into a situation involving a person they did not know and acted according to their training. Interesting on this occasion, that the use of handcuffs is described by their regional lead as “abuse”.

    None of us were there, as you say. We don’t know who appropriate or inappropriate it may have been or whether it could have been handled differently. I noted in the Birmingham Evening Mail article that mention of previous violence, of “tantrums” but also a a feeling that the man’s care needs had been mis-assessed. That final point may or may not have been true and it may have contributed to the inability of staff to manage the gentleman without resort to the police. None of that alters what those officers were asked to handle and I notice that after restraint, appropriate processes have been instigated to have him assessed under the Mental Health Act and admitted under the Act. As the Alzheimer’s Society CEO said following the “Humberside” case: no-one with Alzheimer’s goes from that well to that ill in a few hours, so it would be a fair question to ask if the man’s needs were being adequately met leading up to his respite placement and the 999 call.

    All of that said: no-one wants to hear of this sort of thing happening … but prevention of the need lies in the hands of non-police agencies and we have a duty to keep people safe.

    Reply
  2. Zoe Grant

    I agree with the majority of what mentalhealthcop has to say but do resent the transference of blame.
    Thankfully there are only a minority of instances whereby mental health professionals have to resort to seek assistance of the police. I can speak from experience that this decision is not taken lightly.
    As mental health professionals we are trained to manage violence and aggression in a therapeutic least restrictive manner, this does include at times applying physical restraint in an attempt to minimise harm to patients themselves or others.
    There are very few occasions when we feel that we need to work collaboratively with the police to ensure the safest possible outcome, I only wish police would share this view.
    Sometimes it’s in the interest of our public for us to work and respond collaboratively to ensure the safest possible outcome for all and not the fault of health professionals for not always being able to do this without support.

    Reply

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