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The Police Watchdog Says The Number Of Deaths Following Police Contact Has Risen Since Last Year

Fatal shootings are the highest since 2005 and deaths following police pursuit have more than doubled.

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A report published today by the Independent Police Complaints Commission shows that deaths during or following police contact have risen.

There were six fatal police shootings in the year to 31 March 2017, according to the annual report – the highest recorded figure since 2004/05.

The report also shows that police were responsible for 32 road traffic fatalities over the period, an increase of 11 on the previous year and the highest figure recorded in the last eight years. Twenty-eight of the 32 deaths were a result of police pursuit-related incidents – more than double the figure for the previous year, which was 13.

The report shows the IPCC investigated 124 deaths following contact with the police, up from 102 since the previous year.

However, the IPCC says that figure rising isn't a reflection of an increased number of incidents, but rather an increase in the number of investigations the body is carrying out.

The report comes in the wake of two recent deaths in London that will be included in next year's figures. A young black man from east London died a few days after police contact in June: The police stopped Edir Frederico Da Costa, a 25-year-old father, during a police car stop. He was then taken to Newham General Hospital, and died a week later, on Wednesday 21 June.

In late July, another black man died following police contact in Hackney. Twenty-year-old Rashan Charles died after being chased by police into a shop in east London. The CCTV footage from the shop has gone viral.

The footage shows shows the man being grabbed by a uniformed police officer before both men fell to the ground with the officer's arm around the man's neck.

The video was shared alongside the hashtag #JusticeForRash, as well as criticism of the police’s actions and a lack of media coverage.

Locals, family members and friends of Rashan Charles are gathered outside Stoke Newington Police station for a vigi… https://t.co/5LMHPRHSHp

Islington councillor Claudia Webbe, executive member for environment and a former Met police adviser, told BuzzFeed News: "The timing of the IPCC report is significant because we have had a number of reports where young black men in London have died following contact with police and it's left a community hurting."

She added: "This doesn't bode well for police's relationship with the public, it's extremely fragile. The police have an important power – they have to use that power proportionately."

The IPCC report claims 101 deaths followed police contact, either directly or indirectly, after concerns were raised about someone’s welfare. It said 26 of these deaths were related to concern for the person’s health, possible injuries, intoxication or general wellbeing, while 21 of the fatalities followed concern for welfare linked to domestic related incidents.

There were 14 deaths in or following police custody, the same figure as recorded last year. The number of deaths of this kind has remained relatively constant over the last eight years.

The annual report also showed that there were 55 apparent suicides following police custody, compared to 60 recorded the previous year.

In January 2016, Sarah Reed, a 32-year-old black woman, took her own life in prison after she wasn't given the mental health support she needed. She was also a victim of a police assault, which she reported.

Earlier this month, a jury concluded that unnecessary delays and failures in care contributed to Reed's death.

Webbe said: "[For] those with mental health difficulties, prison is not a place for such individuals in the first place. The system failed Sarah Reed. She should have never been in Holloway prison at all."

She added: "The fact this is a black woman amplifies the whole racialisation of the whole thing. It's as though black lives don't matter. This [builds] this new movement the among young people, Black Lives Matter. This is something that's been going on for decades now. We can't shy away from this."

She also said the police need more resources: "But they need better awareness and training and responsibility, and accountability for their responses when dealing with the members of the public, particularly when dealing with black members of the public, because ... the relationship with the black community continues to be at an all time low."

Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said: "Figures for individual years need to be treated with caution, as the numbers involved are relatively small, and it is not clear whether year on year variations are a spike or a trend.

“It is welcome that the number of deaths in custody has remained at less than half the number recorded when the IPCC was set up. Learning from our investigations has undoubtedly contributed to this fall. However, each death is an individual tragedy, and it remains the case that the great majority of those dying both during and immediately after custody are vulnerable – through mental health and/or substance use problems.

"This is a challenge for policing, but it is also a challenge for the other services that need to be properly resourced to provide support and alternatives to police custody."

Commenting on recent high-profile deaths, Owers continued: "There has recently been concern about deaths that follow the restraint of an individual by the police. One of the deaths in custody and eight of the other deaths investigated by the IPCC fall into this category. This does not necessarily mean that the restraint contributed to the death. That is what we investigate. I very much welcome the fact that the police service is now keeping statistics of all uses of force, as we recommended last year, to improve transparency and influence training and practice."

She added: “The rise in pursuit-related deaths is noticeable. None were in response to emergencies, and two-thirds of the people who died were passengers, bystanders or other road users. All but two incidents involved cars.

"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."

Victoria Sanusi is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Victoria Sanusi at victoria.sanusi@buzzfeed.com.

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