INQUEST responds to statistics on police use of force

By agency reporter
December 14, 2018

The Home Office has published statistics on police use of force (April 2017-March 2018). The statistics include:

  • A total of 285,562 incidents of use of force by police officers.
  • Black people were overrepresented, as subject in 12 per cent of incidents but representing only 3.3 per cent of the general population.
  • White people were underrepresented in the statistics, representing 73 per cent of incidents but 86 per cent of the general population.
  • In order of overall frequency, alcohol was the most common factor impacting the decision to use force (127,000 incidents), followed by drugs (85,000 incidents) size/gender/build (79,000), mental health (68,990), prior knowledge (59,177) and possession of a weapon (40,214).
  • The outcome of 12,000 incidents of force was detention under the Mental Health Act.
  • 15,000 use of force incidents were recorded in a medical setting.  

Police forces have been required to publish use of force data since April 2017 and these are the first statistics of their kind.

This publication follows the report on progress on deaths in police custody by the Government, over one year on from the publication of the Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC.

Angiolini’s review found that police practice must recognise that all restraint can cause death and made a series of recommendations on the use of force and restraint more broadly. She also made recommendations on institutional racism, as well as on intoxicated subjects. The progress report by the Government does not mention any progress on these important recommendations, despite commitments in their original response to the review.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct reported in this period that 17 of the people who died in or following police custody or other contact were restrained or had force used against them. Of these 17 people, nine were white and eight were black. The IOPC report also showed, 12 of the 23 people who died had mental health concerns, and 18 deaths had links to drugs and/or alcohol.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “These long overdue statistics are welcome concrete evidence of what we already know. Officers report most commonly using force not because of prior knowledge or possession of a weapon, but because of alcohol and drugs, the ‘size, gender or build’ of the subject, or mental ill health. These figures beg questions about discriminatory assumptions and attitudes towards certain groups of people.

All restraint has the potential to cause death, and the same issues are reflected in the numbers dying. This is clearly not only a policing issue but about the need for investment in frontline drug, alcohol, and mental health services.

The Angiolini review made pragmatic recommendations to address racism, dangerous use of force, and safer responses to intoxicated people, yet more than one year on the government has reported no progress in these areas. These troubling figures should accelerate much needed change in culture and practice.”

* See the statistics on police use of force here

* Read Deaths in Police Custody: Progress Update here

* Read the Angolini review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody here

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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