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Published: 13 March 2023

SPA Public Confidence Polling Report - 16 March 2023

Report Summary

This report provides members of the Policing Performance Committee with an overview of the SPA Public Confidence Polling Report.

To access the full document please open the PDF document above.

To view as accessible content please use the sections below. (Note that tables and some appendixes are not available as accessible content). 


The publication discussed was referenced in the meeting below

Policing Performance Committee - 16 March 2023

Date : 16 March 2023

Location : online

Policing, Mental Health and Vulnerability

In December 2022 the Authority convened a conference on the theme of policing, mental health and vulnerability, bringing together a range of partners from across the Scottish public sector, third sector and law enforcement sector, including representation from England and Wales. Delegates were asked to provide their thoughts on what critical questions might be asked of the Scottish public in relation to the role that policing plays in supporting people experiencing mental health distress, relative to the role played by other agencies, and relative to other policing priorities and responsibilities.

A number of key insights have been obtained through the polling, with additional analysis and detail available in the Diffley Partnership report.

The public were asked about the importance of various aspects of police service delivery, including the role of safeguarding people experiencing a mental health crisis. The most important policing activity from the perspective of the public is responding to crime-related incidents (76% saying this), followed by solving crimes (64%), patrolling neighbourhoods (43%), protecting vulnerable adults and children (37%) and supporting victims of crime (24%).  In relation to safeguarding people experiencing mental crisis, only 7% of people rated this as being a top-3 policing activity, alongside the policing of social media and the digital work (also 7%).

Additionally, with regard to a range of services that could be contacted in the event that a family member or friend was experiencing a mental health crisis, only 14% of people said that they would contact the police service. This is much lower than health and social care services or third sector groups by a high margin e.g. 77% would contact a GP, 72% a mental health charity/helpline, and 60% community mental health services.

Regarding police involvement in situations where a mental health crisis presents, 80% of people identified community mental health services as the most appropriate agency to partner the police, with only 25% identifying ambulance services and 21% A&E services.

There is also a perception that the police would not perform well in meeting the needs of people experiencing mental health crisis relative to other agencies, and almost half of people would not be confident that the police would be able to make an effective referral to the right agency of service.

In terms of overall insights from the questions asked regarding policing and mental health, we have a better understanding of public feeling as summarised:

Traditional police activities (tackling and solving crime and patrolling neighbourhoods) are regarded as being most important;

The police would not be the first-choice agency for people to call regarding mental health crisis situations;

The public have less confidence in the police than in community-based health/social care services in relation to meeting the needs of people and making effective referrals.

Related Publications

The documents below are related by Topic and are the most recently published

SPA Public Confidence Polling Phase 4 - February 2024

Published: 19 April 2024


Wick - March 2024 - Community Confidence Action Research Evaluation Findings

Published: 10 April 2024


Green icons showing 7 inter-connected circles.

Public Polling - 12 March 2024

Published: 18 March 2024


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Community Confidence Project update - 12 March 2024

Published: 18 March 2024