IOPC Director General comments on annual deaths statistics report 2019/20
22 Oct 2020 01:07 PM
The Independent Office for Police Conduct yesterday published its annual ‘Deaths during or following police contact’ report for 2019/20.
Published for the 16th year, the statistics provide an official record setting out the number of such deaths, the circumstances in which they happen, and any underlying factors. Figures across the different categories can fluctuate each year, and any conclusions about trends need to be treated with caution.
Commenting on this year’s figures, IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood yesterday said:
“Every death is a tragic loss for the families and loved ones involved, and can have a profound effect on others.
“Police have hundreds of thousands of interactions with the public each year. Where deaths do occur following contact with police, it is important we have in place robust systems of investigation and accountability, identifying learning where we can so changes can be made to reduce future risks.
“These statistics include deaths which have occurred across a range of circumstances including deaths in or following custody, police shootings, road traffic incidents, as well as a number of cases where police have been called in relation to concerns for someone’s welfare.
“The number of deaths in or following custody has remained relatively stable this year – an increase of one - and in line with the average figures for the last decade. It is welcome that police-related road traffic deaths, particularly those involving pursuits, have decreased substantially from a high the previous year. Even so, there were 19 pursuit-related deaths which highlights the importance of continued scrutiny in this area.
“I know from meeting bereaved families the importance of seeing something positive come out of their tragic loss – that lessons can be learnt to reduce the chances of other people dying in similar circumstances.
“It is therefore really disappointing that year-on-year we continue to see drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues feature so prominently. This highlights the need for systemic changes which are beyond the remit of policing.
“Far too often officers are left dealing with vulnerable people in mental health crisis or medical emergencies whose needs and risks have not been adequately managed. Police must be properly trained and equipped to recognise vulnerability and manage the risks and challenges they face. But if we truly want to prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing to resources in community, health, welfare and specialist services.
“It is not acceptable that we continue to see these issues every year and a more joined-up response is needed between agencies.”
Mr Lockwood said the IOPC would continue to identify themes and issues and influence change where needed to ensure there is learning.
“As an example, our work has helped shape the national policing strategy on mental health. This includes highlighting the importance of verbal de-escalation and containment as preferable to physical restraint. Our investigations have also contributed to safer detention practices. On the topic of road traffic incidents, we have updated national guidance to help police officers use tactical contact to stop suspects on two-wheeled vehicles more safely.”
The report, additional data tables and our presentation on the most recent statistics on deaths during or following police contact are available on the IOPC website.