Police officer proud of legacy left for ‘most vulnerable’
SERGEANT Leon Margetts believes a community should be judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable people.
The Queensland Police Service officer will soon retire after 42 years in uniform, having played an integral part in improving the way police deal with people with mental health issues.
Sgt Margetts took on the role of Mental Health Interventions Co-ordinator for Ipswich in 2009, in addition to his position as frontline supervisor.
"That (was established by QPS and Queensland Health) as a result of a coroner's inquiry back then in relation to several shootings of mentally ill people," he said.
"I was responsible for training police in Ipswich and worked closely with West Moreton Health to develop strategies and procedures so people were dealt with in a better way."
One of the key things to come out of it was the Police Mental Health Co-Responder Program, which was first trialled in March 2017 and brought on full time six months later.
It operates seven nights a week and involves a mental health nurse attending call outs with police officers.
"The first response police car would go first with two police officers then make an assessment, then call the mental health car if they need it," Sgt Margetts said.
"When the scene is safe and everyone is safe, the police car can then turn and leave and go back to normal duties.
"A lot of people would say police are probably not the best people to be going to mental health jobs and in some respects that's maybe true.
"The thing is we do get called. We work 24/7. We're going to get called to any job and we have to go.
"Police are never going to be mental health experts because that's not what they do. We need to give them some resources to help them deal with those jobs."
Sgt Margetts said the program had produced positive change over the past two-and-a-half years but it needed to continually evolve.
He said the strong partnership formed between police and health services was key.
"Who knows in years to come, it could be 24/7," he said.
"That would be ideal. Police now, particularly in the Ipswich district, are much, much better at dealing with mental health jobs.
"I can leave knowing that they have come ahead in leaps and bounds in what they were before.
"We get a lot of jobs where we have repeat calls of service.
"Every time police get called back, the situation can escalate and sometimes when it escalates to the sixth or seventh time, police have to use some sort of force."
Sgt Margetts will retire in March next year after 12 months of long service leave and plans to travel Australia before visiting Japan.
"I know I'm leaving things in pretty good hands," he said.
"I think Ipswich has a long history of dealing with vulnerable persons over the years. I grew up here, I know Ipswich.
"I think Ipswich in years to come will be able to look back and be proud of what they did and how they dealt with vulnerable persons. If we can have that holistic approach to those vulnerable persons, I think Ipswich is doing a pretty good job in that area."