Bristol, England – New data has revealed a concerning number of deaths related to interactions with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary during the last fiscal year. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has expressed worries about the heavy reliance on police as first responders for individuals in vulnerable crisis situations.
In the 2022-23 financial year, six deaths were linked to Avon and Somerset Constabulary. These included one death in police custody, one resulting from a road traffic accident involving police, and one classified as an apparent suicide. Additionally, three more deaths occurred during incidents involving the constabulary, which were investigated by the IOPC.
The IOPC’s acting director-general, Tom Whiting, emphasized the need for action across various agencies to prevent such deaths, especially among vulnerable people requiring specialist care. Concerns have also been raised by police chiefs about the strain on resources due to mental health incidents.
In England and Wales, deaths in or following police custody rose from 11 in 2021-22 to 23 last year, with a total of 196 deaths involving police, including 52 apparent suicides, three fatal shootings, and 28 deaths from road traffic accidents. Advocates argue that many of these deaths are preventable and highlight issues of institutional racism, disproportionate use of force, and neglect of people in need of care.
Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for custody, acknowledged the challenges and risks in custody environments, mentioning a new national partnership agreement aimed at introducing a new approach for police forces in handling health incidents.
In conclusion, the rise in deaths involving police in England and Wales, including those in or following police custody, has sparked concerns about the appropriateness of police as first responders for vulnerable individuals in crisis situations. The need for a collaborative effort across various agencies to prevent such deaths has been emphasized, as advocates push for resources to be redirected into community, health, welfare, and specialist services.