ipcclogoThe Independent Police Complaints Commission has found that Devon and Cornwall Police call handlers failed Valan Pitts prior to his death in 2012.

Pitts - also known as Chang Somers - was a vulnerable adult whose body was found in Paignton in August of that year after he was reported missing in July.

In the run-up to his death - ruled by an inquest as accidental - he made a number of calls to the force control room. After his disappearance meanwhile, his family also had contact with Devon and Cornwall in the same way.

Following its investigation, the IPCC has identified: ‘a number of individual failings by several members of police control room staff who either handled calls poorly or failed to take the appropriate action.’

The investigation also reviewed the force’s failure to immediately upgrade the case to a missing persons enquiry, despite Valan becoming known to officers as a vulnerable individual earlier in the month.

Speaking of the findings, IPCC Associate Commissioner Tom Milsom, said: “Mr Somers was a vulnerable person who made and had several contacts with the police over a period of time when his mental health was clearly deteriorating.

“Several officers and police staff in the control room came into contact with Mr Somers. Some recognised his vulnerability and sought to pass on messages and give him reassurance. Others completely missed the signs that were there and did not recognise and share information effectively.”

He continued: “There was a lack of mental health awareness among call handlers and, in some cases, a lack of politeness and respect afforded to Mr Somers and then at a later time, his family. He was clearly displaying signs of considerable stress and was seeking help from the police.

“After his disappearance his family were desperately worried about him. The way some of their calls were handled left them feeling distraught at a time when they needed reassurance.”

As a result of the investigation, four members of control room staff were disciplined by Devon and Cornwall Police. Two resource deployment officers also received a final written warning, with a further two getting written warnings.

The IPCC also recommended a case to answer for misconduct against a call handler who has since resigned from the force.