The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for a now-deleted tweet that said dealing with people who were missing or had mental health issues denied officers “time to fight crime”.
Lewisham borough tweeted late on Wednesday: “So busy dealing with the fallout from mental health issues and ‘missing’ people don’t have time to fight crime.”
At 2.35am - nearly three hours after the original tweet was sent, the Lewisham accounted tweeted again to say missing people and mental health calls were “important to us and we are doing our upmost”.
The Met said the old tweet was “erroneous” and did not reflect officers’ attitudes.
A Met Police spokesperson said: “A tweet posted by @MPSLewisham @23:56hrs on Wednesday, 30 August 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.”
But people laid into the original tweet, with one person asking how police had time to “fuck about on Twitter” if they had none to fight crime.
One woman implored the officers to acknowledge mental health and missing people were “still important” though she recognised police needed more support.
The changing balance of police work - particularly the increasing time officers deal with mental health issues and cases of missing persons - has been a major topic of the argument over police cuts.
Earlier this year, West Midlands Police chief Dave Thompson warned police time and resources were in danger of being consumed by an “inexhaustible pit of vulnerability” after central Government funding for police was cut by 20% under austerity and cuts to other services.
The Government has previously sought to use years of falling crime to suggest cuts to police funding are not compromising the service.
Police Minister Brandon Lewis was jeered by Police Federation representatives at their conference earlier this year, when he said crime had fallen by a third since 2010.
It has been claimed that police only spend 20 percent of their time responding to crime.
But this was dismissed by a 2012 report by the police inspectorate, which found officers spent 80 percent of their time responding to incidents where they had to “to protect people from becoming victims of crime, or to stop crimes happening”.
The report specifically included missing persons as an example of an incident that had the potential to be a crime.