To coincide with Dementia Awareness Week, the force has been putting significant work into raising awareness amongst staff and officers of what dementia is and best practice in dealing with people with dementia since joining the Dementia Action Alliance earlier this year.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “It is vital when those with dementia have contact with the police that our officers and staff are aware of the signs to deal with the incident appropriately and the processes for referring that individual for further care and support – if that is not already in place.
“The focus on increasing understanding of dementia has already paid dividends with a recent incident highlighted to me where an officer was called to a report of a shoplifting offence but was able to spot the signs that the alleged suspect had dementia and had not intended to take the items without paying. By better understanding the condition and the visible symptoms of it, the officer treated the individual with dignity, care and respect and not as a suspect for a criminal offence.
“While we are putting significant efforts into ensuring that our own officers and staff understand the individual needs of those with dementia, we also want to raise awareness in the wider community and ensure that we are all playing our part in looking out for vulnerable residents of West Yorkshire. We are also keen to work with registered carers, friends, relatives and those with dementia to make sure that we understand how we can support them and in turn how they can aid us in our work.”
West Yorkshire Police has been working closely with care providers over the last year and encouraging them to sign up to the Herbert Protocol which ensures that key information is kept on file by the care home or sheltered housing provider to speed up the process should a resident be reported missing.
This has been extended with individual carers, friends and relatives now also able to sign up to the scheme.
Community Champions have recently been introduced in each of the districts to actively engage with dementia community groups and organisations to better understand the needs of those with dementia and any particular areas of concern for them. They also act as dedicated points of contact for officers and staff who require advice after coming in to contact with individuals with dementia as part of their work whether that be as a victim, witness or suspect for a crime or as a missing person.
Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “People with dementia are potentially vulnerable and need treating with care, compassion and dignity. I am pleased to be able to support the Herbert Protocol and that West Yorkshire Police are doing what they can to ensure officers and staff understand the individual needs of those with dementia.
“It is great that Community Champions will be on hand in each of the districts throughout West Yorkshire to help and promote awareness. I applaud West Yorkshire Police and core partners for their work in this dementia campaign.”
More information about the dementia campaign and the Herbert Protocol are available at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/dementia