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 use of force may have to be used.
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.
You can find a spreadsheet containing the data here. The data is also summarised in the infographic above. You can click on the image to expand it.
Our officers deploy to hundreds of incidents every day, making 10,284 arrests during Quarter 1 2019/20 and submitting 4,901 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 Quarter 4 2019/20 that number was 26, or 0.81% of the total number of incidents where force was used.
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.
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.
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.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Gilmer said:
“Due to the nature of their work, police officers are occasionally confronted with a set of circumstances where using force is appropriate. Using a minimal, but appropriate, level of force may also prevent more serious incidents or harm to the public.
“Police officers who have used force in these incidents complete a use of force form, which allows them to explain what force has been used, and the justification for doing so.
“The recording of the data also helps bring about improvements to the safety of both officers and subjects by informing training plans, alongside the use of other methods and technology such as officers’ body-worn video.
“Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only where necessary. Recording those uses helps to ensure those principles are observed.
“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 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 are robust and comprehensive internal scrutiny of uses of force. 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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