Police in a London borough faced a backlash after an officer tweeted they could not catch criminals because they were too busy searching for missing people and dealing with mental health issues.
The comments were made in a post on Lewisham borough’s Twitter account just before midnight on Wednesday which read: “So busy dealing with the fallout from mental health issues and ‘missing’ people don’t have time to fight crime.”
The tweet was immediately criticised by users of the social media site with one saying : “Someone’s getting fired in the morning.”
Another wrote: “I’m guessing you don’t see that as your role but I would argue it is still important. Recognising you do need more support.”
The tweet had been deleted by 2.30am. At 2.35am the account posted: “Busy night in #Lewisham with #missingpeople and mental health related calls. These calls are important to us and we are doing our upmost.”
The Met faced criticism over its use of Twitter last week when the force was accused of “demonising” Notting Hill Carnival in a tweet linking the event with a seizure of heroin in Catford.
Three years ago the force’s helicopter Twitter account came under fire for arguing back when people asked why helicopters were flying over their homes.
On one occasion residents questioned why the aircraft was flying over homes at 2am. The account replied: “Not sure if searching for a stabbing victim and firearms suspects is unnecessary, but apologies if you were disturbed.”
The controversy in Lewisham came as new figures emerged showing that calls to the Met police relating to mental health issues have soared by a third in the last five years.
There were 115,000 calls to the Met in the 12 months to July in which someone raised concern about a person’s mental health – an average of 13 an hour.
A Met spokesman said: “A tweet posted by @MPSLewisham at 23.56pm on August 30 was erroneous and did not reflect the values and work ethic of Lewisham borough or indeed the MPS.
“This is why it was removed. A new message has since been tweeted by @MPSLewisham.
“Every call matters to us. Dealing with vulnerable missing people and attending calls related to mental health issues is a vital part of everyday policing.”