IOPC identifies learning for Merseyside Police following non-fatal shooting

Published: 14 Oct 2021

Following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into a police shooting in Liverpool, Merseyside Police has made changes to ensure more incidents are fully captured by officers’ body-worn video cameras.

Our independent investigation, which followed a mandatory referral from the force following the non-fatal shooting of a woman in Toxteth on 9 July 2020, concluded in March. We found no indication that any police officer may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence.

However, due to a force policy in place at the time, a setting on the officers’ body-worn cameras, which would have allowed the moment the shot was fired to be recorded, was not enabled. This has now been addressed as a result of our recommendation to Merseyside Police.

Following the incident, we attended the scene and conducted a detailed examination. During the investigation, we obtained witness statements from police officers and members of the public; conducted house to house enquiries; and launched a witness appeal. We analysed CCTV and body-worn camera footage; downloads from Tasers, radio and telephone transmissions; and information contained in experts’ reports.

We found the force incident manager had decided officers equipped with body armour and Tasers should attend the scene to assess the situation following reports of a woman with knife acting erratically in North Hill Street. Two firearms officers, who were equipped with Tasers but who had not been specifically deployed, told us they were in the area and decided to attend to support their colleagues after learning of the incident from radio transmissions.

During the incident, one of the firearms officers drew their Taser. The woman came towards the officers with the knife in her hand. The other drew their pistol and fired once at the woman, seriously injuring her.

The woman continues to recover from her injuries, having been discharged from hospital in June.

Following the conclusion of the investigation, we issued a statutory recommendation to the force in relation to the use of body-worn video cameras. While the devices have a 30-second pre-record feature, allowing footage to be captured prior to being activated, force policy was not to enable this setting due to its impact on battery life. It meant that despite the officers activating their body-worn cameras to record when they first approached the woman, the footage only began after the woman had been shot.

In its response, the force confirmed it would be using the pre-record feature in future and had been working to address concerns about the battery life of the cameras.

IOPC Regional Director Amanda Rowe said: “This was an extremely distressing incident that left a woman with very serious injuries and we wish her well with her continued recovery.

“We recognise the impact this has had on those involved, as well as the wider community. That is why it was so important for this use of potentially lethal force to be subject to a detailed investigation that was independent of the police.

“The officers involved put themselves in harm’s way to protect members of the public and we found the use of force was necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. However, we did find opportunities for the force to learn from this incident and we welcome the change to the way body-worn cameras are being used, which will benefit officers and the public alike.”

We also issued a learning recommendation regarding the need for all staff to be reminded that officers involved in a shooting should not be identified during the post-incident procedures.

And learning was identified in relation to the storage of crime scene logs after we had difficulty obtaining this information. As result, the force has developed a new process to ensure records are stored in a consistent manner and circulated details to staff.

In addition, we found individual learning for the two firearms officers, who should have informed the force incident manager of their decision to attend the incident. We decided this was best dealt with through a reflective conversation with supervisors rather than disciplinary action. Both officers were treated as witnesses throughout the investigation.

A summary of our investigation and details of our statutory recomendations can be found here.

  • Merseyside Police
  • Death and serious injury
  • Use of force and armed policing