Use of force data

What is use of force?

Use of force is a term for a range of policing tactics that can be used by officers.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that physical force has been used against a person.

The term use of force includes verbal interaction with a person – known as tactical communications – handcuffing people, physical restraint and use of a TASER device or irritant spray.

Each time force is used (including tactical communications and handcuffing), our officers record the incident, giving details about the type of force applied, why it was needed, and the outcome of the incident.

Officers put themselves in potentially difficult and dangerous situations every day and have to think and act quickly when faced with challenges. There are occasions, when in order to maintain public safety or protect themselves, officers may have to use some kind of force.

They are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when necessary.

Why are we publishing use of force data?

BTP was one of a handful of police forces to have acted as pathfinders for a new initiative to ensure use of force is recorded accurately and consistently across all police forces in the UK.

By recording use of force properly, we can analyse how it is being used and make comparisons between forces. This insight helps us to compare the effectiveness of different techniques and improve the tactics and equipment we use.

It also informs the training given to officers, enables us to ensure certain groups of people are not disproportionately targeted and that we are answerable if use of force is not applied correctly.

It will provide greater transparency into how and why force is used; strengthening the vital relationship between the police and the public that is at the heart of our model of policing by consent.

ACC Alun Thomas, BTP lead for use of force, said: “We are proud to be one of the ‘pathfinder’ forces that has been involved in the pilot of this national scheme.

“As a pathfinder force we realise we may have recorded more uses of force than many other police forces to date, as our officers are more familiar with the process. However, we believe it is important that we can show the public, who we serve and protect, that we are policing in a fair, safe and effective way. 

“Ensuring that each use of force is accurately and consistently recorded across the country means that we can identify areas for improvement and develop our extensive training.

“If there are occasions where someone is not happy with the use of force they have been subjected to, we have well-established procedures in place to help them if they wish to make a complaint. Every complaint is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

“If you wish to make a complaint, please complete our online complaints form or contact us by post, by writing to the Professional Standards Department.

“We are pleased to share our figures with the public in order to be transparent about how we work, and strengthen the vital relationship between the police and the public.”

The data: April 2017 – June 2017

The data for April 2017 to June 2017 shows that use of force was deployed by officers a total of 1,304 times.

To give some context, 8.6 million people travel on the railway every day, and our officers responded to tens of thousands of incidents during this time period, across England, Scotland and Wales.

The vast majority of our use of force incidents was tactical communications, at 95.6 per cent (that is officers verbally interacting with the person), followed by unarmed skills at 44.7 per cent. Unarmed skills include tactics such as physically holding someone back. These overlap as more than one type of force may be used in the same incident, hence the percentage numbers.

Alcohol was the most common factor affecting officers' use of force, featuring as an impact factor in 57 per cent of cases.

The data shows that the most common subject profile was a man aged between 18 and 34, and 73 per cent of all subjects were white.

As we gather more comparable data, we will be able to use it to track trends and address any concerns raised about certain groups of people being disproportionately targeted.

See some of the key points from the data here (PDF).

Find the raw data for BTP's use of force here (Excel).