UK police chiefs apologize to Hillsborough disaster families

LONDON (AP) — Britain's police chiefs promised a “cultural change” on Tuesday as they apologized to families of the victims in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, the U.K.'s worst sports disaster which saw 97 people killed during a crush of soccer fans at an overcrowded stadium.

“For what happened, as a senior policing leader, I profoundly apologize. Policing got it badly wrong," said Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the College of Policing’s chief executive officer, said as the body published a response to a 2017 report into the experiences of victims' families.

A crush in the lower tier of Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, a city in northern England, at an FA Cup semifinal match led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool supporters on April 15, 1989. Many victims were smashed against metal fences, trampled on or suffocated in the crush.

Authorities spent years blaming fans for the disaster, and an initial inquest ruled the deaths an accident. But a campaign by survivors and victims’ families succeeded in getting the verdicts overturned in 2012, after a far-reaching investigation that examined previously secret documents and found wrongdoing and mistakes by authorities.

A second inquest concluded in 2016 that the victims were unlawfully killed as a result of failings by police, the ambulance service and the Sheffield Wednesday soccer team, which plays at Hillsborough Stadium. The report found that the behavior of fans didn't contribute to the deaths.

Several former police officers and a lawyer were charged years after the disaster with attempting to pervert the course of justice, but none has been convicted.

The National Police Chiefs Council and College of Policing said Tuesday that the code of ethics used by police forces will be reviewed. They also said there will be a new code of practice on police information and records management to prevent the problems faced after the Hillsborough disaster, when records were lost or destroyed.