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The police are charged with maintaining order and keeping people safe. To do this, we sometimes encounter violent, aggressive or dangerous individuals.
So we may need to use force to protect the public and ourselves from harm and to enforce the law.
Officers are trained and permitted by law to use force in certain circumstances. The following are some official use of force strategies. They are approved for use by police forces across the country:
There are also a number of other approved use of force strategies in the United Kingdom. Police officers are trained to use these when there is a legitimate purpose and if absolutely necessary. A legitimate and necessary purpose may include restraining suspects who are resisting arrest or preventing someone being harmed.
Members of the public who do not regularly encounter the police may be alarmed when they see some of these strategies being used.
In recent years, incidents are increasingly recorded by bystanders on mobile phones and shared on social media. While they may show part of an incident, it’s important to remember they often fail to show the full circumstances including why the use of force has occurred.
To ensure the police remain fully accountable, we regularly publish data on our officers’ use of force, which you can see on this page.
Officers also receive regular training to ensure they use force appropriately, legally and in line with national policing policies.
If there are concerns that officers have not followed the correct procedures or their use of force was inappropriate, the incident may be reviewed by our Professional Standards Department or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which provides further accountability.
This table breaks down in which police area within North Yorkshire the incident occurred, and is comparable with numbers of police officers and incidents in those areas.
This table identifies where the use of force incident occurred. In some cases the incident will have occurred in more than one location which accounts for the total number being higher than the total number of submitted forms. If the incident took place in multiple locations then those completing the record will select all that apply.
This table shows the tactics that officers and staff have used during the incident. This is intended to help develop an understanding of how often tactics are used in isolation and how often multiple force tactics are used collectively. The data obtained allows police forces to identify the number of tactics used and in what order.
In relation to irritant spray, North Yorkshire Police use PAVA spray. If the item is drawn with the immediate intention of deploying it, then the advice is to select ‘used’ on the record. If, however, the item is drawn as a deterrent and subsequently used then the record should indicate it was both ‘drawn’ (indicating it was an unsuccessful tactic) and also ‘used’. The same applies with Baton drawn and used. In North Yorkshire police officers are equipped with a straight expandable baton known as an ASP.
The national use of force record also includes compliant handcuffing. There remain valid operational reasons why subjects would be handcuffed even when they appear to be compliant – such as where a drugs search will take place or where there is intelligence to suggest handcuffing may be necessary and proportionate. When a record is completed by the officer they have the opportunity to select multiple options in order of use. It is expected in many situations that officers will have used tactical (verbal) communications as a first option prior to any escalation in options. Where tactical communications were successful and there was no other requirement for any further tactical options then a use of force record would not ordinarily be required.
This table shows the breakdown between adult and under-18-year-olds. The total relates to the number of forms and not individuals subjected to force. As will be shown in the ‘Tactics used’ section, there are circumstances where no physical application of force was used such as where baton, irritant spray and Taser are drawn but not deployed.
This table refers to the gender of the subject as the officer perceives it to be.
This table refers to the ethnicity of the subject as the officer perceives it to be. The total number relates to total number of records created and not the total number of subjects. In some cases the same subject may have been involved in a use of force incident on more than one occasion.
This table shows how many records identified that the subject was injured as a result of the use of force. This does not include injuries that the subject had prior to the force. A minor injury is an injury reported that may require some simple first aid but does not meet the definition of severe. A severe injury is a fracture, deep cut, deep laceration or any injury causing damage to an internal organ or the impairment of any bodily function or, an injury which, after initial assessment at hospital, requires formal admission to hospital.
Police officers and staff are asked to indicate on the record whether they were injured in any way during the use of force incident, even if they would consider it to be minor. Accidental or coincidental injuries not related to the incident should not be considered. This question is aimed at capturing how often officers are injured as a result of incidents in which they have had to use force, the level of those injuries and will help assess the level of threat that officers face more generally.
Police officers and staff should only select ‘yes’ if they were personally spat at during the incident.
Police forces for several years have been collecting more data about use of force, but it has not always been comparable or consistent nationally.
In 2014 Theresa May, the (then) Home Secretary, called for “transparency” across the use of force spectrum. The then NPCC Lead for Conflict Management, CC David Shaw (rtd.), was asked to lead “an in-depth review of the publication of Taser data and other use of force by police officers, and to present options on how police officers are deploying these sensitive powers, who they are being used on and what the outcome was”.
As a result of this review a commitment was made at Chief Constable Council in January 2017 for all forces to collate and publish data on use of force. This commitment aims to enhance our evidence base, strengthen our model of policing by consent, and demonstrate legitimacy of our tactics and robustness of our monitoring processes.
At the time of the review, Chief Constable David Shaw described the publication of use of force data in the following terms:
Increased transparency will better enable individual uses of force to be placed in context, and provide greater reassurance amongst the public that force, when used, is proportionate, lawful, accountable and necessary in the circumstances. It will also assist in identifying instances where this is not the case.
North Yorkshire Police officers and staff are expected to complete the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Use of Force form whenever they use force. The record is completed electronically and can be done remotely. Police staff that may be required to submit a record include Police Community Support Officers and Civilian Custody Detention Officers. Police staff do not carry personal protective equipment.
Where more than one officer is involved, then a record should be completed by each officer involved in using force. Therefore, the total number of records do not relate to the total number of incidents or subjects.
A use of force incident is ‘officer focused’, and refers an officer’s use of force against a person, rather than ‘subject focused’.
In other words, if two officers use force on one subject in a single encounter, two use of force incidents would be created.
The term ‘subject’ is what is referred to on the national form and relates to the member of the public on whom force is used.
Officers are trained to use to force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. This data help us to identify and act on any instances where this is not 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.
Recording and publishing all of this data is a significant change for forces as they use a range of recording systems. It will not be accurate to simply aggregate force data returns for a ‘national’ picture. This is the first phase of the project and we will be working to continuously improve the quality and consistency of use of force data.
This data collection and publication will reduce bureaucracy by consolidating processes like the lengthy Taser recording form, and make it easier to access to consistent information thereby reducing the need for Freedom of Information requests. Nationally, the use of force programme board will be reviewing and seeking to improve the recording and collation process as the project continues as regular practice.