Dozens of deaths following police contact in Thames Valley over past five years

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Warning police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situations

Dozens of people have died following contact with Thames Valley Police over the past five years, new figures show.

The figures come as the Police Action Centre warns that police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situations.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Every year, the Independent Office for Police Conduct releases figures on the number of deaths following contact with police forces in England and Wales.

Police Action Centre warns police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situationsPolice Action Centre warns police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situations
Police Action Centre warns police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situations

They show between April 2017 and March of this year, 46 people died after contact with Thames Valley Police – including six in 2021-22.

Of the deaths recorded since 2017, six happened in police custody, and eight were the result of road traffic accidents involving police – one of which also involved Hampshire.

There were also 14 apparent suicides which happened after police contact – and Thames Valley Police was also involved in a suicide that happened after contact with Bedfordshire.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There was also one person killed in a shooting involving Thames Valley Police in the last five years – including one in 2021-22.

A further 17 deaths that involved Thames Valley Police occurred during other incidents that the IOPC has investigated – which can include police helping medical staff to restrain someone, or if officers are called to an incident that ultimately results in a fatality.

Other police forces were also involved in two of these incidents.

The organisation warns that as the figures include deaths that it has investigated, they may not cover every death that has occurred after police contact.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Director General of the IOPC, Michael Lockwood, said that each death is a "tragedy".

He welcomed the drop in deaths in police custody – falling from 19 across the country in 2020-21 to 11 last year – but added that there had been a concerning rise in deaths from road traffic accidents.

Across England and Wales there were 39 fatalities in road traffic accidents involving police in the year to March – with Thames Valley Police accounting for three of them – compared to 25 the year before.

Mr Lockwood added that a "system-wide" response was necessary to tackle deaths in police custody, highlighting that mental health, drug and alcohol problems are prevalent among those who have lost their lives in the last year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We need to make sure that appropriate health and social services are available to meet the needs of those in crisis, particularly in response to issues of mental health.

"We also need to ensure police custody is as safe as possible, and to better train officers to de-escalate in conflict situations where feasible," he said.

Sophie Khan, director of legal and policy at Police Action Centre,which provides advice on police misconduct, said the figures suggest a “serious lack of training” among police forces, particularly on dealing with mental health crises.

She added that a culture of self-preservation needs to be tackled within police forces in order to avoid preventable deaths.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Nev Kemp, lead for custody at the National Police Chiefs' Council, which represents senior police staff, said incidents are "always fully investigated, scrutinised and lessons are learnt”.

"Whilst we cannot eliminate all risks, we aim to ensure that those that find themselves in custody are cared for, treated fairly, with as much dignity as possible," he added.