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Use of force stats offer more transparency

Friday, 01 September 2017


Simon Kempton, lead on Use of Force forms, explains why the new system shows transparency but more work needs to be done to create a clearer picture.

Now that ‘use of force’ statistics are being released by police forces across England and Wales, how do they stack up in painting an accurate picture of the reality of what officers face on a daily basis?

Well, they certainly give a flavor of the sheer volume of incidents colleagues deal with but as with any new process only time will help paint the full picture.

The figures are being published after new forms by the Home Office were introduced in April, meaning we only have three months of data and no benchmark for comparison.

Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Bedfordshire were three of the first forces to publish their results. Tactical Communication and handcuffing which are the lowest from of force had the highest frequencies by all three forces. PAVA, Taser and the use of a baton showed the lowest frequency ranging from 1%-2% therefore showing that in most cases officers will use the least impactive use of force to detain a suspect.

As we’ve previously outlined, the changes bring benefits to frontline officers, the main one being that for the first time we will be able to definitively say which training, tactics and equipment is working and which need changing. The information is also already helping to prove the case for the likes of spit guards by highlighting how often officers are being assaulted by spitting and biting. The pre-existing Taser use form was also included as part of the new form, is cutting down on duplication for officers who have used Taser.

There are, however, downsides to the introduction which need to be acknowledged and managed by forces. Without the right investment in IT systems, the form can be a bureaucratic burden to officers with examples of it taking more than 20 minutes to complete. However, there are examples of great practice across the country where forces have invested in fit for purpose systems; the Metropolitan Police, for example, introduced a web-based form which takes between two and three minutes to complete and this good practice must be shared and adopted by others. This view was reflected by a blog written by Commander Matt Twist on 1st August 2017 where he acknowledged the importance of having an IT system that is fit for purpose and reduces the bureaucratic burden officers can face.

“In my own force, we have developed a computer based e-form that officers can use to complete the form, aiming for a ‘gold standard’ of about two to three minutes to complete for the average incident, which can also be done on the go. I know other forces have similar approaches and the process of recording can be very quick.
Each force are publishing their results individually, normally on their website, rather than centrally by the Home Office. Whilst this allows forces to put context around the figures (for example, comparing the use of force to the huge number of incidents attended), it does mean that it can be difficult to collate and interpret to give a national picture. It is important, however, that forces do provide that context to dispel some of the myths about the use of force by police in England and Wales.

On our part we have commissioned a national survey of IT provision to highlight areas of improvement. This includes evolving the form to better suit the needs of front line officers. We will continue the on-going work with the NPCC, College of Policing and the Home Office to reflect and help refine the process, understand the overarching picture and use these important findings to continue our drive for greater protection for our members through our Protect The Protectors campaign.

Read Simon's blog on Use of Force from February

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