Independent Police Complaints Commission
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Deaths in police custody stable but sharp increase in pursuit-related deaths and fatal shootings, figures released by IPCC show

While deaths in police custody remain at low levels, there has been a sharp increase in vehicle pursuit-related deaths and fatal police shootings, figures released yesterday by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show.

The thirteenth annual deaths statistics show:

  • There were 14 deaths in police custody, the second lowest figure recorded by the IPCC and fewer than half the number when the IPCC began in 2004
  • There were six fatal police shootings, higher than any year since the IPCC began collecting statistics in 2004
  • There were 28 deaths related to police pursuits of vehicles, more than in any year since 2005/06.

Commenting on the figures, Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said:

“Figures for individual years need to be treated with caution, as the numbers involved are relatively small, and it is not clear whether year on year variations are a spike or a trend.

“It is welcome that the number of deaths in custody has remained at less than half the number recorded when the IPCC was set up.  Learning from our investigations has undoubtedly contributed to this fall.  However, each death is an individual tragedy, and it remains the case that the great majority of those dying both during and immediately after custody are vulnerable – through mental health and/or substance use problems.  This is a challenge for policing, but it is also a challenge for the other services that need to be properly resourced to provide support and alternatives to police custody.

‘‘There has recently been concern about deaths that follow the restraint of an individual by the police.   One of the deaths in custody and eight of the other deaths investigated by the IPCC fall into this category.  This does not necessarily mean that the restraint contributed to the death.  That is what we investigate.   I very much welcome the fact that the police service is now keeping statistics of all uses of force, as we recommended last year, to improve transparency and influence training and practice.

“While the number of fatal police shootings has risen this year, this is in the context of many thousands of authorised firearms operations - 14,700 in 2015/16.  The deaths happened across six forces, and one was terrorism-related.  It is important that each incident is thoroughly and independently investigated, to provide public reassurance.  Investigations into three of the 2016/17 incidents are complete and, as in the great majority of firearms investigations, we have found no indication of misconduct by any firearms officer.

“The rise in pursuit-related deaths is noticeable.  None were in response to emergencies, and two-thirds of the people who died were passengers, bystanders or other road users.  All but two incidents involved cars.  Pursuits are dynamic and fast-moving events, and there are authorised procedures to ensure that they are as safe as possible. When we investigate, we examine whether those procedures have been followed, taking account of known risks.  In most of the incidents investigated, this was the case.  However, given the rise in fatalities, we will be working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to look at the causes and whether any changes to police pursuit safety or training are needed.

 “It is important, for bereaved families, for the public, and for the police themselves that the IPCC is able to investigate all of these deaths independently and robustly, to ensure accountability and to provide learning that can help prevent future deaths.”


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