Large rise in fatal pursuits and shootings

Pursuit safety training could be reviewed as the number of deaths following police chases more than doubled in a year.

Jul 25, 2017

Pursuit safety training could be reviewed as the number of deaths following police chases more than doubled in a year. Figures released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show forces recorded 32 road traffic fatalities in 2016/17, an increase of 11 on the previous year and the highest figure since 2008/9. Twenty-eight of these deaths followed police pursuits – more than double the 13 recorded in the last report. In total, 230 people died after contact with police, and fatal shootings reached the highest point for 12 years. The IPCC has now promised to work with senior officers to examine whether pursuit training needs to be updated. IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers said: “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.” Roads policing numbers have almost halved since 2000 with fewer than 4,000 now working across England and Wales. The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) believes this shortfall could mean pursuits now often cover a wider area and take longer to contain – potentially leading to higher numbers of fatalities or serious injuries. Twenty-two people killed were involved in collisions either as drivers or passengers, five were pedestrians and one was a cyclist. The remaining four non-pursuit related deaths included cases where a patrol car struck a pedestrian and a dangerous driver who had been signalled to stop and subsequently collided with another person. The number of these cases remained broadly consistent with the average over the last five years. Last year also saw six fatal police shootings including the terror-related death of Westminster attacker Khalid Masood on March 22 – the highest total since 2004/5. Three of these cases are still being investigated by the IPCC, but the three that have so far concluded found no evidence that the officers involved had committed misconduct. Forces were involved in 14,700 authorised firearms operations over the same period. There were 14 deaths in or following custody, the same as in 2015/16 and the second lowest figure in the last 11 years. Since 2007, the number of deaths in this category has almost halved. One death in custody and another eight cases investigated by the IPCC involved restraint but Dame Anne said this “does not necessarily” mean restraint contributed to the outcome. Eight of the detainees who died in 2016/17 were known to suffer from mental health issues including schizophrenia and depression. Another 11 had proven problems with alcohol or drugs, which likely contributed to two of the fatalities. One man taken into custody for drug-related offences was believed to have swallowed a package containing narcotics while trying to avoid arrest. He later became unwell and was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards. Apparent suicides following custody continued to fall this year with 55 incidents recorded, down from 60 in 2015/16. The total is still higher than the average from 2006/7 to 2012/13, when there was a significant spike in incidents. The IPCC believes some of this increase may be due to better identification and referral of cases. Another 124 ‘other’ deaths following police contact were investigated, up from 102 the previous year. Dame Anne said it is important for bereaved families and forces alike that the IPCC “is able to investigate all of these deaths independently and robustly”. According to the PFEW, police driver training is the most consistent it has ever been but falling numbers of traffic officers have led to a “more dangerous environment”. Pursuits lead Tim Rogers told Police

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