A woman who says she was mistreated by police officers during a psychotic episode has urged the Metropolitan Police to do better when interacting with mental health patients.

Amber Rodgers was detained by police twice in a few days in spring 2022 during a psychotic episode, shortly after being diagnosed with acute schizophrenia.

The 27-year-old, who lives in Harrow, said an injury caused by police handcuffs caused permanent scarring and she was falsely accused of assaulting an officer.

But her complaint about the police was rejected, despite her being cleared of the charge.

“I know I can’t change the police – they are so impenetrable – but perhaps someone will read this and realise they’re not alone in experiencing police cruelty through the lens of mental illness,” she said.

“I’m totally aware that when I’m unwell I am not very pleasant to be around. But I wasn’t hitting or harming anyone. I was just swearing and saying I needed help with the voices in my head. I’ve never been violent when I’m unwell.”

Amber describes herself as having been a “high-flyer" at school, getting 13 GCSEs and five A-levels.

At 18, she moved from Huddersfield to London after being accepted into the Courtauld Institute, one of the world’s most prestigious art colleges.

But in her twenties her mental health began to deteriorate.

In March 2022, police were called to a café in Harrow on the Hill.

“When I was unwell I thought I needed to protest,” she explained. “I was protesting in the café.”

An officer slammed a pair of handcuffs against Amber’s wrist, she said, cutting her skin.

She was later released without charge.

A few days later, Amber attended a north London emergency department.

“I was asking for help from the mental health team,” she said.

“The hospital called the police, which I still can’t believe, really. The nurses should have been able to see that I was in distress and needed medical help.”

When police arrived, said Amber, “they were all circled around me”.

She showed them the open wound to her wrist, caused by the handcuffs a few days earlier, she claimed.

“A male officer grabbed my wrist and squeezed it and pulled my arm really hard and far up my back,” she alleged.

It hurt so much, Amber said, that she reflexively tried to push the officer away – for which she was then charged with assaulting an officer by beating.

News Shopper: The scars Amber says she was left with after a police officer slammed handcuffs against her wrist when she was suffering from a psychotic episodeThe scars Amber says she was left with after a police officer slammed handcuffs against her wrist when she was suffering from a psychotic episode (Image: Charles Thomson)

“I never assaulted anybody,” she said. “The officer squeezed wrist and it hurt and it was a reflex. I didn’t even have time to think about it.”

When the case came to court, a judge threw it out – but Amber said she has suffered from flashbacks and nightmares ever since. Even seeing police now makes her frightened.

“Life can be messy sometimes and I haven’t made perfect decisions all the time,” she said.

“But I also wasn’t well. I could have been criminally convicted. Sometimes mentally ill people haven’t really done much wrong but police don’t know how to deal with them. They aren’t trained very well.”

The Met said it had launched a ‘Right Care, Right Person’ scheme in 2023 to make sure people in crisis are attended to by medical experts instead of police officers.

It said mental health incidents could be “challenging”, “fast-moving” and “unpredictable”.

“In the vast majority of these cases police do a very difficult job with great compassion and sensitivity, responding to what are essentially medical emergencies,” said Superintendent Jack Rowlands.

“The Met fully acknowledges that people suffering from mental health issues… should not feel like they are being criminalised in their time of crisis or need.

“In 2022, the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards fully investigated a complaint about the treatment of a woman in a mental health crisis.

“A full investigation was carried out, including reviewing body worn video of the incident and reviewing custody records.

“It was established that while in custody at Holborn police station the complainant was consistently monitored, seen several times by health professionals and provided with medication.

“We recognise this must have been a distressing time for the woman, however no misconduct was identified for any officer.”