New Zealand has a very low rate of deaths in custody according to a report released today by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), which notes numerous safety improvements implemented by Police to ensure the safety of detainees.
Assistant Commissioner Operations, Nick Perry, says Police had made a raft of safety improvements over the years to ensure the safety of those in custody.
"Since 2000, we have made a series of improvements to our policies, procedures and facilities, with those efforts resulting in fewer deaths and better care of people in custody. “This means the majority of the Authority’s recommendations have actually already been implemented, but we welcome their focus on lessons we can learn to make further improvements to ensure the safety of those people in our care.”
Nick says 13 of the 20 IPCA recommendations had already been actioned, while the remaining seven required further work or consideration.
As well as acknowledging the progress Police had made on improving the safety of those in custody, he says the report provided valuable insight into the challenges that police faced on a daily basis dealing with people in custody.
“The report acknowledges that people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, as well as those affected by mental health issues, make up a significant proportion of those taken into custody, which adds to the difficulty and complexity of what Police staff have to deal with every day.
“While any death in custody is a tragedy, this needs to be put in perspective against the 1.3 million people that Police have dealt with in custody over the 10-year period covered by the report.
“As the Authority has acknowledged, deaths in custody are rare, and don’t necessarily reflect the overall quality of care provided by Police. Although not all deaths are foreseeable or preventable, there are always things that we can do better.”
Nick says among improvements Police had implemented were better recording of detainees’ information, development of a national programme to ensure greater standardisation of training for all custodial staff, changes to the police manual for managing prisoners, and a $3m upgrade of custodial facilities to reduce the risk of suicide.
Source: New Zealand Police.