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History > 2009 > UK > Police  (I)




Police numbers reach record levels

Rise of 1,911 officers despite budget cuts
Forces still failing to meet race equality target


Thursday 23 July 2009
11.27 BST
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 11.27 BST
on Thursday 23 July 2009.
It was last updated at 16.27 BST on Thursday 23 July 2009.


Police numbers have hit a record high in England and Wales, with 143,770 officers in post in March this year, according to official figures out today.

The Home Office said this was an increase of 1,911 officers over the previous 12 months and included 1,200 constables.

The increase includes 648 police community support officers, who have a patrolling role, to bring their total to 16,331. The number of such officers has grown rapidly from only 1,176 when the role were introduced in 2003.

The new figures for the 43 police forces in England and Wales indicate that budget cuts and efficiency savings being faced by chief constables have not yet led to a reduction in police numbers.

However there was not a uniform rise across the country. While 27 forces increased their numbers, including an extra 1,100 recruited by the Metropolitan police in London, 16 forces reported a fall in numbers. The largest falls were recorded in North and South Yorkshire and Humberside.

Women now represent 27% of rank and file police officers but only hold 13% of senior posts.

There are now 6,290 black and minority ethnic police officers, an increase of 497 in the last year. However this represents only 4.4% of the total and fails to meet the 7% race equality target set for the police.

    Police numbers reach record levels, G, 23.7.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/23/police-numbers-record-levels






CCTV shows officers carrying man IPCC claimed walked into station and died

Footage captures police using aggressive techniques to arrest Faisal al-Ani,
who died of heart failure in Southend police station


Wednesday 1 July 2009
13.02 BST
Paul Lewis


Newly obtained CCTV footage has revealed how police officers carried a bruised and apparently limp man into custody moments before he died, contradicting an initial statement by the investigating police watchdog that he had "walked into the police station" and then collapsed.

The footage, shown to Faisal al-Ani's inquest and released by the coroner after legal requests by the Guardian, also shows three officers pinning him to the ground while arresting him in Southend-on-Sea town centre. The restraint techniques used by the officers against Ani, a 43-year-old suffering from an acute psychotic illness, were criticised in a report commissioned by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

On Monday, the jury at Ani's inquest at Southend civic centre returned a narrative verdict that was broadly supportive of police actions, finding that the force used by the police to restrain Ani had been appropriate even though officers deviated from standard techniques, but that they had failed to take appropriate care of his physical welfare.

Ani, who died of heart failure, was seen acting strangely in the High Street in Southend, Essex, around 9pm on 31 July 2005, the night he died. The father of six had a history of mental illness and was exhibiting symptoms consistent with a psychotic episode.

Three police community support officers witnessed him gesturing wildly, staring up at the sky and becoming involved in an aggressive altercation with some teenagers.

Two police constables and an inspector attended the scene. CCTV footage captured them approaching Ani, who initially appeared to offer to shake an officer's hand. The officers walked him around the corner and, as he began resisting, wrestled him to the ground.

Ani was held on the ground for about 10 minutes as officers tried to cuff him. The footage shows officers using several restraint techniques that were critised in a report written by a police trainer for the IPCC. The report said the officers had showm "little concern for [Ani's] welfare".

The report was particularly cricital of an officer who placed his leg and knee across Ani's back, very close to his neck, for a prolonged period of time. "This is a position that has a high risk for injury to the upper spine and is in contravention to all guidance," the report said.

The two-week inquest heard that officers could deviate from standard guidance in some circumstances. The jury said Ani had posed a risk of injury or harm to himself or a police officer, and decided that officers took appropriate steps in restraining him.

Ani was placed in the back of a waiting patrol car. Moments later, CCTV cameras recorded the car stopping at a green light en route to the police station, where it paused for several minutes.

Police said the journey to the police station was halted because Ani became extremely violent and kicked out the rear nearside window, leaving his foot sticking out. The officers in the car said they punched Ani several times and struck him with a baton in self-defence. At the time, Ani's hands were cuffed behind his back.

Ani's family say that despite the verdict, it is still not clear what happened to him in the car. They say none of the independent witnesses at the inquest said they saw broken glass or feet sticking out of the window.

"We've heard the police officers' account, but no one really knows what went on in that car," said Ani's mother, Marie. "All I know is that when my son came out of that car he had to be carried out, and it didn't look like he was moving."

Ani's last moments were captured by an outdoor camera overlooking a ramp leading up to the police station.

The IPCC initially said Ani "arrived at the police station and walked into the custody suite waiting area where he collapsed". Four months later, after viewing CCTV images of him being carried into the police station, they corrected the mistake.

Today, the IPCC said in a statement their error had been made "in good faith" and that after noticing the mistake, investigators issued a correction and "apologised directly to the family".

Ani's family said that the day after his death, they were told by an Essex police family liaison officer that he had walked into the station. "I asked her: did he walk into the police station? And she said yes," said Marie al-Ani. "I was concerned how he got there. She said he walked into the police station and then he collapsed at the custody desk."

Essex police said they are not able to verify whether the family liaison officer said this.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that in 2007 there was "insufficient evidence" to press charges over Ani's death. The IPCC concluded that the actions of the officers were "reasonable" and they should not face disciplinary action over the incident.

Marie al-Ani said the IPCC's investigation into her son's death had been "a shambles" that left many unanswered questions. "I feel that the IPCC is biased toward the police," she said. "If it had not been for that CCTV footage that showed Faisal carried into the police station, we would have believed them when they said he walked in."

The family are aggrieved that a CCTV camera overlooking the area where Ani was placed inside the police station was said not to have been recording when he was taken into the custody area. They claim IPCC investigators failed to notice police had taken more than 24 hours to write accounts of his arrest and death.

In a statement, Essex police said it extended its condolensces to the Ani family, and said the inquest had supported the actions of its officers. Chief Superintendent Dave Folkard, who runs Essex police's complaints department, said Ani had posed a danger to the public, and officers moved "swiftly and positively" to prevent harm to anyone.

    CCTV shows officers carrying man IPCC claimed walked into station and died, G, 1.7.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/01/faisal-al-ani-police-arrest






Village photograph triggers police murder hunt for missing teenager - 80 years late


Wednesday 4 February 2009
The Guardian
Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.01 GMT on Wednesday 4 February 2009.
It appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday 4 February 2009 on p5 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 01.51 GMT on Wednesday 4 February 2009.

The disappearance of a servant girl in rural Sussex in the 1920s is being treated as murder by detectives, 83 years after she went missing on her way to work.

In one of the oldest cold case reviews the country has seen, officers announced this week that they would reopen their investigation into what happened to 16-year-old Emma Alice Smith in 1926. The move follows the screening of a short film based on her disappearance.

At the time the teenager vanished, Britain was in the grip of industrial crisis, Stanley Baldwin was prime minister and Eamon de Valera was making sure the Irish question was at the forefront of his mind.

But the villagers of Waldron and Emma's parents and younger sister, Lillian, were distraught after she failed to return home from Tunbridge Wells, where she was working. She had cycled to the station at Horam in East Sussex as usual earlier in the day to catch a train, but never came back.

Her family reported her missing to the local police, and it is believed the local newspaper may have carried an article, but the weeks and months passed and soon Emma's fate was something that occupied the minds only of her closest family and friends in the village.

That was until a village playwright called Valerie Chidson decided to research Emma's disappearance for a short fictionalised film after seeing a picture of the teenager in an old village photograph.

"I was looking at the picture, the row of girls' faces, when a man just came up to me, pointed to this very pretty girl aged about 16, and said 'That girl disappeared you know'," said Chidson yesterday. "That pricked my interest in the story and I just kept wondering how she had disappeared. The general belief was that she ran away. Only, her father said she would never have done this."

A few years later Chidson overheard someone talking about the photograph in the pub. She discovered the man in the pub was a relative of Emma's, and he claimed her killer had made a deathbed confession but her relatives had chosen not to go to the police because the crime had taken place so long ago.

Last year - persuaded by Chidson - Emma's great nephew spoke to Sussex police and passed on the information given to him by his mother, her niece.

On Monday night Chidson presented a 40-minute film to a select audience including Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles, of the major crime branch of Sussex police.

Afterwards, Bowles announced that his team had decided to carry out a cold case review, codenamed Operation Stratton, on the suspected murder of Emma Smith. He said yesterday: "The sister of Emma Alice was tending to a dying man in 1953 and he admitted to her that he had killed her sister. He told her that he had destroyed the evidence and dumped her body in a pond."

Emma's sister was now dead, he said, so inquiries into the identity of the man who had allegedly confessed to her would prove very difficult. Given the passage of time, the police inquiry would not be one in which officers would point the finger of suspicion at any individual.

"This investigation is to locate the body of Emma Alice and return that body to her family for a proper burial that they wish to give her," said Bowles.

    Village photograph triggers police murder hunt for missing teenager - 80 years late, G, 4.2.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/04/missing-girl-murder-hunt-1920s