We all understand the need for to the IPCC getting involved when someone meets their maker in custody. It’s an entirely necessary evil these days when everyone wants someone to blame, and a large percentage of them want to blame the Police. The facts have to be established, and the speculation replaced by some degree of factual information.
In recent years though, (formalised by the Police Reform Act 2002) the I.P.C.C. have come to our door on more and more occasions. New terms have been created to widen the scope for the Police to be examined as a potential blameworthy party. To this end we have a new and extended version of the “Death in Police Custody” called the “Death Following Police Contact” which applies when a person dies and there is a potential link between recent contact with Police (outside custody or detention) and that death.
After a third death in just over a week where the deceased had recently been on the receiving end of a taser deployment or incapacitatant spray, the IPCC are, yet again, doing the necessary and this news has prompted the predictable shouting from the cheap seats as Amnesty International proclaim our little yellow friend is a “potentially lethal weapon”.
On those terms though a spoon is equally capable of becoming a potentially lethal weapon.
Imagine the scene…the duty probationer makes the tea (they offered by the way – it’s NOT bullying), and in a moment of complete madness (and one that will later see their workbox gaffer-taped to the ceiling of the inspectors office) touches the hot spoon on the bare forearm of a passing P.C.S.O. In true “Final Destination” style, the P.C.S.O. stumbles and falls out of a recently opened window to their death three floors below.
Would we ban spoons?
What if two others died in similarly bizarre spoon-related accidents?
In this latest case, Philip Hulmes, 53, was hit by a Taser after refusing to leave his terraced house in Over Hulton, near Bolton on Tuesday night. It is reported by West Midland Police, that his daughter had called the police after he locked himself inside his house while in possession of a knife and began to harm himself.
The fact that he had been tasered is unlikely to have had anything to do with his death. That would have been caused by the significant stab wounds he appears to have inflicted on himself. The taser may well have prevented further injury to himself or others including the Police Officers he was threatening at the time.
In the other cases currently being investigated body-builder Dale Burns, 27, (pictured) died his flat in Cumbria last week after being subjected to shocks from a Taser gun and pepper spray. Eight officers attended a disturbance and attempted to arrest him for Criminal Damage. He refused to calm down and required a shot of pepper spray and three taser shocks to subdue him. Bearing in mind the size of this chap (it is alleged that he was also taking steroids) I would imagine that he was physically capable of taking on most officers in the confines of a bedsit and that any force used would be quite justified if used for the safety of those present.
Jacob Michael, 25, died on Monday after being pepper sprayed during his arrest by 11 officers in Widnes, Cheshire. The amateur rugby league player ran from his house after being sprayed with pepper spray and was captured a short distance away after a foot pursuit. He became ill in custody and was taken to hospital where he later died.
Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, the charity that advises the family of those killed in contentious circumstances, suggests that these incidents are further examples of unlawful and excessive use of force or gross neglect. It’s nice to see that the families of those that have died in circumstances where Police have been involved have such an independent and unbiased standpoint.
Perhaps one day, the media and institutions such as Amnesty International and Inquest will realise that just because the IPCC are investigating, it doesn’t mean the Police were at fault!
I am now waiting for renewed calls to ban taser, CS and pepper spray to start coming from the wings.
What these people will never fully appreciate is that we carry these things to defend ourselves, facilitate safer arrests of violent suspects and to protect others from harm. If they have been used, there would have been good reason for it. Not everyone hangs their head in shame and puts their arms out to be cuffed. I am damn sure that if Burns told me he wasn’t going to come quietly I would use my canister of spray on him before taking him by the arm and, no doubt, doing a rag doll impression. That’s why we have S.3 of the Criminal Law Act and S.117 of PACE.
There is currently no suggestion in ANY of these cases that the Police were directly responsible for the deaths being investigated. All the above had the option to walk out quietly…none of them chose to take it. Who made that decision?