Use of force
We are committed to keeping the communities of Thames Valley safe. Ideally this is best done through preventative measures and we actively engage with our communities to promote these messages. However, there will always be occasions when we will have to resort to using force to achieve control of people who resist or are violent to make sure people are safe. Our staff 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. We cannot keep the public safe unless we ourselves are safe.
In order that this can be done all police officers whatever rank or department and whether they are a regular officer, special constabulary and certain staff, e.g. custody officers receive special training. The purpose of this training is to maintain the safety of the officer or staff member, the public and the subject.
This training starts with a basic course. After which all officers have to refresh their training annually. The programs include the use of personal protection equipment [PPE]. Depending on their role this can include body armour, handcuffs, batons, synthetic pepper spray, restraint devices and tasers. In addition to this Authorised Firearms Officers [AFO’s] have a separate rigorous training regime in the use of their special weapons and tactics.
The training also equips officers to show the justification necessary to ensure that applying force is reasonable, proportionate, lawful and necessary.
All officers when resorting to using any force – even the compliant application of handcuffs - must submit a report describing the circumstances. The information this provides is scrutinised to ensure that any learning can be acted upon to minimise the chance of injury to both officers and subjects in future incidents.
We welcome any enquiries or requests for information concerning how we use force and very much appreciate the support shown by the public especially in the light of recent events.
Why is Thames Valley Police releasing this data?
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. In line with police forces around the country we are committed to releasing this data on a quarterly basis.
This data gives insight into what being a police officer or member of staff involves, and the challenges they deal with on society’s behalf. It also provides 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.
This data is used to help us compare the effectiveness of different techniques which underpins evidence-based decisions about training, tactics and equipment.
How is the data recorded?
From April 1, 2017, it became compulsory for officers to complete use of force forms after any such incident – including both compliant and non-compliant handcuffing, the use of a form of restraint, a Taser, or irritant spray. Thames Valley Police was one of a handful of forces across Wales and England to pilot this new initiative.
The published data has had personal details removed along with any details which could lead to the identification of a specific incident.
How does Thames Valley Police use the data?
As a pilot force in the recording and analysis of this data Thames Valley has played a key role in helping to shape the national requirement.
Being involved in the pilot has also allowed us the opportunity to identify organisational learning and helped to shape and guide how we deliver training to our frontline staff. Our intention moving forward is to utilise this data to identify means of improving our core personal safety training, hopefully leading to a reduction in injuries to both subjects, officers and staff alike.
Because this data is being collected and reported by police forces for the first time, 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.
Quarterly publication of data
Each quarter we will be publishing our use of force data and in July 2018 will produce an annual report for 2017/18. We will also provide an overview (in PowerPoint) to summarise the spreadsheet content which is extensive.
Assistant Chief Constable Dave Hardcastle said: "We welcome the opportunity to provide this information to the communities of Thames Valley to help reassure them that our use of force is proportionate, lawful and only applied when necessary. Gathering and presenting this information helps us identify what is working well and where we need to make improvements.
"We work closely with stakeholders, including our independent advisory groups (IAGs), and we welcome the challenge that they provide in holding us to account and ensuring we are as open and as transparent as possible about the methods we apply. We analyse our data to ensure that we do not discriminate against any particular community groups or demographics in our use of force and so that we can respond to any concerns raised.
“I can assure the public that there is robust and comprehensive process to scrutinise when force is reported to have been used and when our staff are assaulted. This evidence was used to underpin our rollout of spit guards to all our front line officers earlier this year.
“We are also utilising the roll-out of body-worn video to ensure we can review use of force incidents, especially the most serious ones.
"This is the first quarterly publication of our use of force and I hope that this helps to demonstrate our commitment to keeping the communities of Thames Valley safe.”