by Simon Basketter
At least 190 people died after contact with the police in England and Wales last year.
Some 19 people died in police custody or shortly after being released.
The tame cop watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said that two thirds were experiencing mental distress at the time of their deaths.
Of the 19 people who died in 2020-21, 17 were men and two were women. They were between 24 and 85 years old. Seventeen were white and two were black.
The IOPC said that police used force or restraint against 12 of the 19 people, but it apparently “did not necessarily contribute to the deaths”.
One person was shot dead by police. There were 25 deaths in police-related car crashes and 54 suicides after people were held in custody.
Another 92 other deaths following contact with the police were investigated. In eight of those, restraint was used by the police.
The previous figures, 2019-20, saw 18 deaths in or following police custody, three police shootings, 24 deaths related to road traffic incidents and 54 apparent suicides following custody.
The IOPC also investigated 107 “other” deaths following contact with the police.
Deborah Coles, director of the Inquest charity, said, “Last year the world responded to the death of George Floyd and mobilised against deaths in police custody and racial injustice. Yet once again the data on deaths in police custody and contact in England and Wales repeat the same patterns—nothing changes.
“Successive governments are willing to accept these deaths. Which we know from our casework are often caused by systemic failures to safeguard intoxicated people or people in mental health crisis, dangerous restraint and neglect.”
“The focus of this government however is denying structural racism and inequality, appearing tough, ignoring evidence and repeating failed policies focused on criminalisation.
“Ultimately to prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing and redirect resources into community, health, welfare and specialist services.”
Since the end of the IOPC statistics reporting period on 31 March 2021, Inquest has recorded a further five deaths in or following police custody and contact.