Deaths Linked to Avon and Somerset Constabulary Raise Concerns Over First Responder Responsibility

BRISTOL, England – New data has emerged revealing a number of fatalities associated with encounters involving the Avon and Somerset Constabulary during the past fiscal year. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has expressed concerns about the heavy reliance on police as first responders for individuals in crisis.

The IOPC reported six deaths linked to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary in the 2022-23 fiscal year, including one in or following police custody and one from a police-related road traffic accident. Additionally, one death was classified as an apparent suicide.

Three more deaths occurred during incidents involving the constabulary that were investigated by the IOPC, ranging from police assisting medical staff in restraining individuals to responding to incidents resulting in fatalities.

The acting director-general of the IOPC, Tom Whiting, stressed the need for multi-agency action to prevent such deaths, especially among vulnerable people in need of specialized care. Across England and Wales, deaths in or following police custody rose from 11 in 2021-22 to 23 the following year, the highest figure since 2017-18.

Inquest, a charity that examines state-related deaths, believes many of these deaths are preventable. Inquest spokesperson Lucy Mckay highlighted issues of institutional racism, disproportionate use of force, and neglect of people in need of care, advocating for resources to be redirected into community, health, welfare, and specialist services.

Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for custody, mentioned a new national partnership agreement aimed at introducing a new approach for police forces in handling health incidents where policing may not be the best response.

In summary, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary has faced scrutiny for its involvement in a number of deaths, prompting calls for a collaborative effort to prevent fatalities, especially among vulnerable individuals. The IOPC and other organizations are advocating for a shift in resources toward community, health, and specialist services to address the underlying issues contributing to these deaths.