Figures show rise in use of force by police

File picture of handcuffs being applied

The number of children arrested by Suffolk Police has fallen by 70% over the last decade - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Police insist officers will only use force proportionately and lawfully after figures showed a rise in incidents involving handcuffing, restraint and other tactics. 

Incidents involving use of force went up 24% in Suffolk to 3,700, compared to 15% across England and Wales to 491,984, in the year ending March 2020.

Police used non-compliant handcuffing on 1,212 occasions, including 142 times on children aged 11-17 and 105 times on people with a perceived mental health condition.

Limb and body restraints were used on 186 occasions, including 23 times on children and 20 times on people with a mental health condition.

Irritant spray was used on 145 occasions; five times on children and nine times on people with a mental health condition.

Spit and bite guards were used on 66 occasions; six times on children and three times on people with a mental health condition.

Restraint tactics – like using handcuffs – were the most common type of force used by police across the country (78%).

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In 68% of incidents, the reason given for an officer using force was in a bid to protect themselves, a Home Office report said.

Of the total number of incidents, officers were themselves injured as a result of an intentional assault on 10,711 occasions.

The Police Federation of England and Wales said the increase in use of force should be seen in the context of “unacceptably high cases of violence against police officers”.

A Suffolk police spokesman said officers had hundreds of interactions with the public each week and used force rarely, but added: "When it is necessary to use force – for example, when someone poses an immediate danger to others or themselves – it is used proportionately and lawfully.

“Most commonly, officers only use force to protect themselves or others from attack, which has been an increasing concern for chiefs in the last year as assaults against officers have increased. The increases on assaults towards emergency services staff was recognised by the government, which promoted a change in law to support officers and staff undertaking their roles.”

The force said the overall rise in recent years reflected a commitment to improving recording methods, and that, in providing the best possible service to the public, data would be used to shape future decisions about training and equipment.