Deaths in custody: Families ‘appalled’ as new law grants officers anonymity

police riot shieldsource: The HuffPost
published: 7 October 2020

Families of people who have died in police custody have expressed serious concerns about a new policy which gives anonymity to the officers involved.

Campaign groups and relatives say it will be harder to hold police accountable under the ramped up policy, which came into force in July.

They believe it is misguided for forces in England and Wales to take extra steps to protect anonymity at a time of global calls for greater transparency following the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

The new guidance gives officers involved in custody deaths the same level of anonymity as firearms officers following a fatal shooting.

Leading campaigner Tippa Naphtali, whose cousin Mikey Powell died whilst in the custody of West Midlands Police in 2003, said: “At a time like this, in the limelight of racial issues and the Black Lives Matter issues, it’s appalling.

“It’s really disrespectful that they should even be thinking of a policy of this type, which is basically to afford police even more protection than they currently have, which makes them almost untouchable.”

The new “Death or Serious Injury Authorised Professional Practice” policy was announced on the Police Federation website in July.

A statement on the site said: “Officers involved in deaths or serious injuries will be given protection in College of Policing policy – akin to colleagues who carry firearms.”

The policy sets out clear steps that should be taken by forces to “protect officers legally, ensure their welfare is looked after as well as assist with the investigation that follows”.

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