Bristol, England – New data has revealed a concerning number of deaths in connection with Avon and Somerset Constabulary during the last financial year. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has raised alarms over the heavy reliance on police to handle individuals in crisis, especially those who are vulnerable.
In the 2022-23 financial year, there were a total of six deaths linked to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, with one occurring in police custody and another resulting from a road traffic accident involving police. The IOPC also reported one death classified as an apparent suicide. Additionally, the constabulary was involved in three other incidents resulting in deaths, all of which were investigated by the IOPC.
The IOPC’s acting director-general, Tom Whiting, highlighted the need for action across various agencies to prevent such fatalities, especially among vulnerable individuals who require specialized care. This echoes earlier concerns raised by police chiefs about the strain on resources due to mental health incidents.
Furthermore, across England and Wales, deaths in or following police custody increased from 11 in 2021-22 to 23 in the last year, marking the highest figure since 2017-18. In total, there were 196 deaths involving the police, including 52 apparent suicides, three fatal shootings, and 28 deaths from road traffic accidents.
In response to these figures, Inquest, a charity focused on examining state-related deaths, emphasized the preventable nature of many of these fatalities. The charity’s spokesperson, Lucy Mckay, highlighted issues of institutional racism, disproportionate use of force, and neglect of people in need of care, advocating for resources to be redirected into community, health, welfare, and specialist services.
On the other hand, Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for custody, acknowledged the tragic nature of every death and emphasized the thorough investigation and scrutiny that follows. He also mentioned a new national partnership agreement aimed at introducing a new approach for police forces in handling health incidents where policing may not be the best response.
In conclusion, the increase in deaths involving police custody and the Avon and Somerset Constabulary highlights the need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the methods used to handle vulnerable individuals and those in crisis. The data underscores the urgency for greater collaboration among various agencies to prevent such tragic outcomes.