Hackney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson, Pauline Pearce has welcomed news that the Metropolitan Police has issued new guidance advising officers not to squeeze the jaws of suspects to try to stop them from swallowing drugs.
Vice magazine reported the change came after the force’s medical director Meng Aw-Yong met with police chiefs.
Meng Aw-Yong told the magazine:
“If an officer sees someone with drugs in their hand, absolutely stop them from putting drugs in their mouth – that’s the easiest thing; I’ve no problem with that, but once the package is in the mouth, doing nothing has a lower risk of harm or death than attempting to force them to [spit] it out.”
A spokeswoman for the Met confirmed:
“The Met has not, and will not, prejudge the outcome of the independent investigations being carried out by the IPCC into the deaths of Mr Da Costa and Mr Charles.
"However, it is only right for the protection of the public and our officers that our tactics are kept under review. Following new medical advice this month the Met has temporarily suspended the use of mouth searching by force where it is believed that somebody is concealing drugs in their mouth.”
Pauline Pearce called for this tactic to be halted at a meeting with with Matt Twist, the Metropolitan Police Commander and the Hackney Superintendent Louis Smith, where Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon was also in attendance.
Welcoming the news Pauline said:
"I'm so pleased the police have decided to suspend this practice and I'm glad the police are making good common sense decisions to stop another tragedy from happening.
"I have told the police officers I have met following the death of Rashan Charles that it is much safer and logical to let them swallow the package, get them to a hospital where they can be X-rayed, find out if they have swallowed anything and then get them the medical attention they need in a safe environment.
"The medical advice confirms this and I hope the suspension of this practice is made permanent and that the guidance is rolled out nationally."