Responding to Independent Office for Police Conduct figures on deaths during or following police contact for 2017/18, APCC Lead for Transparency and Integrity, Julia Mulligan PCC said:
“The fact that deaths in or following police custody are at their highest level for a decade will be a great concern to Police and Crime Commissioners, who will want to work with their Chief Constables to ensure that this is effectively addressed at a local level.
“More widely, it is sad to see that so many of the people who tragically died in these circumstances had either mental health or drugs/alcohol problems. Both these issues present not just the police but also local authorities and the NHS with real challenges. Together we must get better at supporting people with such vulnerabilities, so deaths can be prevented.
“This means having good, effective local support services in place, including health based places of safety for people in mental health crisis. Police and Crime Commissioners have longed campaigned for people with health problems to be dealt with effectively by the health service, and although we welcome recent changes in legislation that make police custody very firmly the exception, we do have concerns about provision in some areas. The same is true for substance misuse support services. We would also therefore strongly encourage local commissioners to work with PCCs to ensure people who are at risk can be better supported and harm prevented.”
APCC Lead for Custody and Chair of the Independent Custody Visitor Association, Martyn Underhill PCC said:
“It is concerning that deaths in or following police custody are at their highest level in a decade.
“Mental health and drugs and alcohol, identified as common factors amongst those who have died, present many challenges not only to the police but local authorities and healthcare providers as well. Supporting people who are struggling with mental health and drug related problems requires a multi-agency approach and we must work together to improve the support for those vulnerable people in order to prevent further deaths.
“But relying on local arrangements, which will vary from force to force, is not acceptable. We need a solution that is sustainable and this will only be achieved through statutory provision.”