Page last updated at 19:23 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 20:23 UK

Police chase deaths 'need action'

Police vehicle
The number of deaths associated with police pursuits rose by 66% in 2008-09

A mandatory police pursuit policy should be adopted to combat rising numbers of people killed in car chases, says the police overseer, the IPCC.

Forty people died in 2008-09, up from 24 the previous year, the Independent Police Complaints Commission reports.

It says different chase policies are adopted by different forces, causing confusion for the public and making officers' actions hard to evaluate.

The call came as the IPCC issued its annual report.

The report also revealed a drop in the number of people who died in police custody in 2008-09, from 22 to 15.

It also said there had been a 30% rise in the number of complaints made to the IPCC, to nearly 15,000.

New guidelines

The IPCC says that over the last two years it has been working with the policing community to agree a national policy for police officers engaged in pursuits.

Guidelines have been agreed, but until they become law, says the IPCC's Tom Davies, "individual forces will continue to work to their wide range of policies.

"This means police officers can be using different policies to colleagues from another force who police the same road 100 yards further along," he said.

"This makes providing a consistent evaluation of officers' actions difficult for IPCC investigators. It also confuses the public and therefore undermines their confidence in the standards they understand officers should adhere to."

Therefore the IPCC had decided to begin applying the new guidelines on police chases before they are codified in law, he said.

Some of the changes the IPCC would like to see are:

  • Local police control rooms to take a greater decision-making role in police pursuits
  • Risk assessments to be undertaken quickly where possible
  • Motorcycle pursuits only to take place under exceptional circumstances, such as where serious criminality is involved.

The IPCC chairman, Nick Hardwick, contrasted progress on deaths in police custody with the deteriorating figures for police pursuit fatalities.

He said that in the case of deaths in custody, there was a strict procedure to assess what had gone wrong following every death, and individuals were held to account if necessary.

But he said such stringent procedures had yet to be introduced in the area of police pursuits.

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