South Wales Police is committed to keeping our communities safe. We promote preventative measures, engage in community engagement activities and provide a visible presence across South Wales to reassure and protect.
However, there are also occasions when, in order to maintain the safety of the public and of police officers themselves, some sort of force may have to be used.
Why is this data being released?
From April 1, 2017, a new way of recording use of force became mandatory for all police forces, with officers required to fill out a form every time any type of force was used in the course of their duties. Police forces are now expected to release that data on a quarterly basis as part of a commitment to transparency and openness.
Police officers are confronted with difficult and dangerous situations every day. They walk towards danger when others walk away, thinking and acting quickly to keep people safe, and, as part of these duties, officers will occasionally need to use force.
This data gives insight into what being a police officer involves, and the challenges they deal with on society’s behalf. It will help to contextualise each use of force by showing how using minimal force prevents more serious options or harm to the public.
It will also provide greater transparency than ever before into how and why force is used, strengthening the vital relationship between the police and the public that is at the heart of this country’s model of policing by consent. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when necessary. This data help us to identify and act on any instances where this may not be the case.
Access to this data will give us a wealth of information that will help us to compare the effectiveness of different techniques enabling more informed, evidence-based decisions about training, tactics and equipment.
You can find the core principles of use of force on the College of Policing website here.
How is the data recorded?
On April 1, 2017, it became compulsory for officers to complete use of force forms after any such incident. South Wales Police was one of a handful of forces across Wales and England to have acted as pathfinders for this new initiative, piloting the scheme a year earlier, and we expect this to give us a more accurate picture at this stage than we might otherwise have had.
Police officers are required to submit a use of force form every time force has been used – including tactical communications (when an officer verbally interacts with a subject), both compliant and non-compliant handcuffing, the use of a form of restraint, a Taser, or irritant spray.
Please remember, a use of force incident refers to an officer’s use of force against a subject. This means the same subject would appear more than once within the data if more than one officer used force during a single police encounter.
South Wales Police has developed a web form, which can also be used via a mobile app, in order to streamline the process for officers. Typically, the form will take two to three minutes to complete and submit.
The data published here has had the personal details of subjects and officers removed. Any other details which could lead to the identification of a specific incident have also been taken out.
How does South Wales Police use the data?
As a pilot force, South Wales Police is likely to have recorded more uses of force than many other police forces.
Being a pilot force has also allowed us to make organisational changes where necessary, for example in how we deliver training to our frontline staff. We have also recognised that, despite officers being equipped with batons, these were rarely being used, with the data suggesting officers were instead using more unarmed skills (corresponding with injuries to both the subject and to officers).
Training has been changed to encourage officers to engage and encourage the subject to comply with officers’ instructions, and, when unarmed skills are used, to attempt to keep themselves and the subject upright and so preventing injuries sustained from falling to the ground.
Because this data is being collected and reported by police forces for the first time, there are likely to be some issues surrounding data quality. Because of this, and due to the complexities of determining what exactly counts as a use of force, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has cautioned that comparisons between forces may be unreliable and misleading.
This is the first phase of the project and every force will be working continuously to improve the quality and consistency of use of force data.
You can find a spreadsheet containing the data here.
South Wales Police has also produced the above infographic to summarise contained in the spreadsheet in an easily digestible format.
Our officers deploy to hundreds of incidents every day, making 7,149 arrests during Q1 2017/18 and submitting 4,830 use of force forms. Forms are filled in when tactical communications are used, as well as other uses of force. We choose to include this figure to demonstrate that our officers will attempt to defuse a situation to gain a subject’s compliance before escalating to other use of force options. However, instances where solely tactical communications are used are not recorded as uses of force.
It should be remembered that although these tactics are referred to as uses of force, they also include compliant handcuffing and unarmed skills – for example, placing a subject in an escort position – which do not involve high levels of force but which the public may perceive to be forceful.
These forms also help us to analyse our own tactics, and, alongside the use of equipment such as body-worn video, ensure our policing is open and transparent. We also closely monitor the number of complaints resulting from officers’ use of force. In Q1 2017/18 that number was 22, or 0.04% of the total number of incidents to which our officers were deployed.
Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “This information is really important to us because it helps us scrutinise what is working well – but also where improvements need to be made.
“We work closely with stakeholders, including community cohesion groups, to ensure we are as open and as transparent as possible about the methods of our policing. We analyse our data so as to ensure that we do not discriminate in our use of force and so that we can respond to any concerns raised by minority groups.
“There is robust and comprehensive internal scrutiny of uses of force, and officers must fill in a nationally devised form every time it is used. This helps provide the context for and the results of their actions. A joint legitimacy board, including independent members, also monitors and scrutinises our uses of force and helps hold South Wales Police to account.
“For those who may feel they have been unfairly treated, we clearly signpost the ways by which they can make a complaint. But we welcome the fact that, overall, we have received a very low rate of complaints, which is an indication that the communities of South Wales support the work we do to serve them and keep them safe.
“However, any complaints we do receive are taken extremely seriously, and we will continue to monitor closely all uses of force within South Wales Police in order to ensure our practices are appropriate and accountable.”
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