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POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY CALLS FOR URGENT MEASURES TO CUT PURSUIT DEATHS

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'Police forces must take urgent steps to meet the rising tide of ...
'Police forces must take urgent steps to meet the rising tide of
public concern about a totally unacceptable 178 per cent increase in
fatalities involving pursuits by police over four years.'
Speaking at the launch of the 2000/01 Annual Report to parliament,
Alistair Graham, chairman of the independent Police Complaints
Authority said:
'There has been a dramatic reduction in deaths in police care and
custody from a high of 65 in 1998-99 to 32 this year. We now need to
see a similar reduction in deaths and serious injuries from incidents
involving police vehicles.
'All forces should review their current approach to make sure they
have implemented the recommendations of the Lind Report on pursuit
driver training. The widespread introduction of data recorders
('black boxes') for police vehicles involved in pursuits may help to
prevent police drivers taking unacceptable risks with public safety
as well as their own,' he said.
Sir Alistair said:
'Given that public safety is paramount in police driver training it
is disappointing to report that in the year ending 31 March the
number of pursuits has increased. We supervised investigations into
28 incidents and there were fatalities in 19 of them.'
The number of deaths involving a pursuit by police has risen from
nine in 1997/98 to 25 this year. It is important to emphasise that in
most cases a police vehicle was not directly involved in a collision
causing death or injury. Of those who died 18 people were in the
vehicle being followed by the police.
Sir Alistair said:
'Pedestrians and people in other cars also died as a result of the
pursuits.'
In December 2000 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)
launched its new police driver training course, introducing a
universal standard for driving in England and Wales. It is an
essential element of the course that officers recognise the need to
give priority to public safety above all other considerations such as
attending an incident or apprehending a suspect.
It is worrying to note that there are still reports of officers
participating in pursuits or responding to emergency calls, with
inadequate training and using inappropriate vehicles.
Deaths in custody
Sir Alistair said:
'Deaths in police care and custody reduced from 47 in 1999/2000 to
32 this year. Of particular significance is the further fall in the
number of people who died either in a cell, police station or
following detention.
'We made 16 recommendations in our report published in 1999 to reduce
the risk of cell deaths. Improved custody officer training,
particularly in first aid and dealing with suicide risks, CCTV in
cells, and improved procedures can significantly reduce risks. Only
two cell deaths were due to self-harm this year - one-sixth of the
figure two years ago.'
Some recent deaths in custody have highlighted weaknesses in the
collaboration between NHS mental health trusts and police forces.
The report urges that:
* The appropriate place of safety for section 136 mental patients
should be a designated hospital and not a police cell, unless the
individual is suspected of a serious criminal offence;
* Assessment for any underlying medical condition should precede a
psychiatric examination of section 136 patients;
* NHS trusts and police forces should agree written protocols for
the handover of such patients at hospital; and for defining
responsibilities when returning patients, who are absent without
leave, to hospital.
The report also calls for further improvements in the care of
detainees in police cells including:
* A doctor should be called when a detainee's blood/alcohol reading
exceeds 150 mg per 100 ml;
* All custody staff should be trained before taking up their
duties, and not only custody officers;
* Custody staff should be trained to deal with drunkenness,
a drugs overdose and cardiac arrest.
Sexual assaults and harassment
In the 1997-98 annual report the authority said that some male
officers displayed an outdated and unacceptable attitude towards
women and that a few are prepared to betray their position of trust
for personal sexual gratification.
Sir Alistair said:
'We regret to report that some male officers' behaviour continues to
damage the reputation of the police service. We see it not only in
the cases that we supervise and review but also in the reports of
tribunals hearing claims brought by women working in the service.
Allegations of harassment and sexual assault go to the core of
confidence in policing. If women cannot trust the police officers on
whom they call for protection, who can they rely upon?
Learning the lessons
Sir Alistair continued:
'Learning the lessons from complaints can make a big difference to
improving police performance. In a study of 100 randomly-chosen
cases, 11 led to changes in force procedures. They included reviewing
the aftercare provided to people sprayed with CS; identifying better
training for criminal justice section staff in disclosure to the
Crown Prosecution Service; and improving sensitivity in questioning members of ethnic minorities.'
* Annual Report and Accounts of the independent Police Complaints
Authority, 1 April 2000 - 31 March 2001, HC41, The Stationery
Office, London, ISBN 0-10-291037-5, price£15.25.
The report is on the internet.
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