Inspector Jim Jones, Claire Lilly & Chief Inspector Mark Mangnall
To coincide with Remembrance Day, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are proud to raise awareness of a dedicated veteran protocol.
From today (Saturday 11 November 2023), as communities come together to honour Remembrance Day; a solemn occasion that commemorates the sacrifices of those who have fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts, the significance of this day, this year has been elevated to new heights with the launch of a ground-breaking veterans’ initiative, The Forcer Protocol.
The Forcer Protocol is a tool used by the police to ensure key information is available to them when they are searching for service veterans who are lost or have gone missing when they return home.
GMP is proud to be the first force to implement the Forcer Protocol, on an initial six-month pilot, following its role in helping shape this from the outset through its Armed Forces Covenant and collaboration with founder, Claire Lilley (formerly Forcer).
Currently, around 3% of the population of Greater Manchester is made up of veterans with over 250 within GMP highlighting the importance of highlighting a key issue and tactic in helping those in need when they need it, as research from the University of Manchester has showed veterans under 25 are two-to-four times higher at risk of suicide than the general population.
The Forcer Protocol follows a three-step approach. Prior to an individual going missing, Safe and Found Online by visiting Forcer Protocol – Safe and Found Online, will provide the opportunity for professional carers, family members and friends to complete a form which records vital information in relation to the veteran in case they go missing
Officers will only ever ask for the information provided on the form if the person is reported to them as a missing person using the below three-step approach:
- The person is reported missing to GMP. The dedicated department dealing with reports from the public will then ask whether that person is known to be a veteran in every missing case as part of the initial assessment. The Force Operations Centre can then get direct access to Safe and Found Online, giving them crucial information in a matter of minutes.
- GMP will then identify the risk, investigate, and will hopefully locate the missing person safe and well.
- A referral is then completed on a Single Veterans Pathway, particularly through Operation Nova and the NHS, to ensure that the veteran gets the correct support they need, and also will potentially reduce demand on policing in the long-term.
Whilst anyone can sign-up, it is important to note that if the person who is missing is in the Greater Manchester area, officers will automatically be able to access the details through Safe & Found Online when checking if they are a veteran.
If in another force area, the person reporting the missing person needs to make it clear to the respective police force that details have been submitted through the Forcer Protocol so an access request can be granted to them.
Chief Inspector, Mark Mangnall, who has been a key figure in bringing this protocol to GMP, said: “The Forcer Protocol has been designed to support veterans in our communities, ensuring we reduce the risk to vulnerable people and put support in place to prevent repeat demand by having a joined-up approach to problem solving and sharing accountability with the NHS and Veterans Charities.
“Serving within and transitioning from the Armed Forces can be an overwhelming experience at times and in some instances difficult and distressing. Essentially, they end up leaving behind a way of life, a lifestyle for which members of the community can be daunting and uncomfortable.
“Greater Manchester Police are the first force in the country to trial this protocol as we are leading the way in relation to our Armed Forces Covenant and Veteran support which will hopefully be adopted nationally after our key involvement.”
The Forcer Protocol is named after Alan Forcer, who tragically completed suicide following concerns over his whereabouts. Alan suffered with complex PTSD, extreme anxiety, physical pain, and debilitating depression following service in Northern Ireland and Kosovo during the height of the conflicts. The devastation of war and transition to civilian life weighed heavily on Alan’s mind, as it does many veterans.
His story and the issues he encountered along the veteran care pathway were sadly not unique to him. If the information contained had been immediately available to the police when he went missing, it is conceivable that he could have been found and give the support that he needed.
Claire Lilly, who founded the Protocol in Alan’s memory added: “In my opinion preventative measures are ultimately the cure. Police forces are key figures within the community and at some point, will encounter a veteran reservist or serving member, so it is extremely important we inform and educate.”
Whilst actor, author, and television presenter, Ross Kemp who is a key public advocate of the protocol being adopted, said; “Having worked with our armed forces and veterans for over 20 years, I know that many who have served our country often struggle adapting to civilian life.
“The Forcer Protocol is vital to ensuring the safety of vulnerable veterans and I fully endorse it and GMP in adopting it. I believe it should be also implemented at a national level.”