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WATCH: The times south-west police use force

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10:03am 22nd September 2017
(Updated 10:03am 22nd September 2017)

For the first time, the number of times police in Cornwall and Devon have used force during an emergency call-out is being revealed.

From the 1st of April this year, all police forces have had to fill out forms recording the number of incidents involving tactics like tasers, firearms and batons.

Figures for Devon and Cornwall Police show officers submitted 2648 reports between April and June 2017 - and you can read a full breakdown here.

A breakdown of the numbers show officers in Cornwall used a taser 38 times. The weapons were drawn 29 times and fired on 8 occasions.

Across the Duchy and Devon, officers used some sort of spray 96 times, a baton 18 times and firearms on 10 occasions.

However, the most-used tactic was so-called 'Tactical Communication', which is basically talking things through to resolve a situation.

Speaking about the use of tasers, Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Figures also show that out of 139 records of officers drawing their Taser, Taser was fired on only 17 occasions. This clearly demonstrates that the deployment of Taser alleviates serious situations.

"It is important to note that more than one officer can deploy a Taser in any one incident, which would be counted as separate use of force tactics occurring in the same incident.

"We recently announced an increase in numbers of officers trained to carry Taser following a public consultation which showed 88% of respondents agreed that more officers should carry a Taser".

Devon and Cornwall Police says each officer present at an incident involving a use of force tactic must submit a use of force form, therefore the number of forms submitted will be greater than the number of incidents involving use of force tactics.

There is currently no robust mechanism to identify the precise number of individual incidents involving use of force.

It added that the use of force form includes a variety of data including the types of tactics used in any one incident.

These include tactical communications (when an officer verbally interacts with a member of the public), both compliant and non-compliant handcuffing, the use of a form of restraint, the deployment and/or fire of a Taser, or an irritant spray.

More than one tactic can be used in a single incident therefore the number of tactics recorded will be greater than the number of forms submitted.

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Key Facts and Figures:

  • During 1 April 2017 and 30 June 2017 officers attended 42'463 incidents inDevon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
  • During the same time period 2648 individual use of force forms were submitted for approximately 1700 individual incidents involving a use of force tactic.
  • Less than 5% of attended incidents involved a use of force tactic.
  • The most reported tactic used was 'Tactical Communication', being cited as one of the tactics used on over 60% of the forms submitted.
  • A use of force tactic was predominantly used as a form of Protection (Protect Self, Protect Other Officers, Protect Public and/or Protect Subject).
  • Over 40% of forms submitted cited 'Protect Subject' as one of the reasons for a use of force tactic being used.

The data is broken down geographically and includes officer perceived age, gender, and ethnicity for the individuals concerned.

Over 80% of forms were completed after contact with men. Almost half of the forms submitted were after contact with an 18-34 year old. The majority of forms were submitted after contact with an 18-34 year old male.

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Deputy Chief Constable James Vaughan said: "Our officers face dangerous situations every day and in the current climate it is imperative that we employ proportionate and appropriate tactics in each situation we face in order to achieve our number one objective, protecting the public.

"Use of force tactics are there to protect not only the public but also the safety of our officers. Figures show that in the same time period 168 officers were assaulted, four of which leading to grievous bodily harm injuries.

"Our officers go through rigorous and continued training on tactics which are considered by the Home Office as a use of force. Officers are highly trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when necessary.

"This data gives insight into what being a police officer involves, and the challenges they deal with whilst also providing information to help us compare effectiveness of different techniques. This enables us to make more informed decisions about training, tactics and equipment.

"The figures show that use of force tactics often diffuse potentially volatile and dangerous situations. In the majority of incidents, tactical communication techniques are used first. Figures also show that out of 139 records of officers drawing their Taser, Taser was fired on only 17 occasions. This clearly demonstrates that the deployment of Taser alleviates potentially serious situations".

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Deputy Chief Constable James Vaughan added: "It is also prudent to mention that according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, Devon and Cornwall Police have the highest levels of public confidence of any force across the country, which is 85%.

"The Force is first out of 42 forces in six out of eight categories - overall confidence, respect, fair treatment, community understanding, community priorities and police dealing with crime and ASB.

"This is extremely important to all of my officers who look to police by consent by using proportionate and appropriate use of force tactics in each situation".

Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: "I welcome the collection and publication of this data, it has the potential to provide a greater degree of transparency to the public and to be used to reassure the public regarding the appropriate use of force.

"In order to develop a better understanding of what the data is saying my team is working with the police to develop an effective process to review the use of force in Devon and Cornwall.

"That process will involve key stakeholders and independent members of the public.

"The focus of that scrutiny work will be to assess the appropriate and proportionate use of force, to provide reassurance to the public and to highlight opportunities to build on good practice".

10:03am 22nd September 2017

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