13 December 2018

The Home Office has today (13 December) 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% of incidents but representing only 3.3% of the general population.
  • White people were underrepresented in the statistics, representing 73% of incidents but 86% 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 yesterday’s report on progress on deaths in police custody by the Government (12 December), 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 and alcohol, and mental health service.

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.”


For more information and interview requests contact Lucy McKay on email or 020 7263 1111.

  • Last month the inquest into the death of Adrian McDonald concluded finding his death was caused by the “effects of cocaine and stress of incident”, in which he was arrested, restrained, bitten by a police dog, Tasered and left in a police van struggling to breathe.

  • ‘Seni’s Law’, the Mental Health (Use of Force) Bill, which was prompted by the 2010 death following police restraint of Seni Lewis, passed through the third reading in Parliament on 6 July. It strengthens the monitoring and protection of people in mental health settings from potentially dangerous restraint and use of force.

  • The inquest into the restraint related death of Terry Smith, who died in 2014, concluded on 5 July, finding neglect and multiple failures by Surrey Police contributed to his death.

Restraint Related Deaths of black men:
During this reporting period 2017/2018, INQUEST are aware of six restraint related deaths of black men:

  • 21 June 2017 - Edson Da Costa, 25, died in Newham, East London following restraint by police six days earlier.
  • 19 July 2017 - Darren Cumberbatch, 32, died in Nuneaton, Warwickshire following restraint by police.
  • 15 July 2017 - Shane Bryant, 29, died in Leicestershire following restraint by members of public and police two days earlier.
  • 22 July 2017 - Rashan Charles, 20, died in Hackney, East London following restraint by police. The inquest into the death of Rashan Charles concluded in June this year. All other inquests listed here are awaited.
  • 24 November 2017 - Nuno Cardoso, 25, died in Oxford following restraint by police. 
  • 9 March 2018 – Kevin Clarke, 35, died in Lewisham, South London following restraint by police.

In addition, on 9 April 2017 – A black woman in her 50’s (who has not yet been named publicly) died in Cheshire several days after being arrested and restrained with leg shackles.

  • Angiolini’s recommendations on use of force and restraint include:
  • Police practice must recognise that all restraint can cause death.
  • National policing policy, practice and training must reflect the now widely evident position that the use of force and restraint against anyone in mental health crisis or suffering from some form of drug or substance induced psychosis poses a life-threatening risk.
  • The ability to de-escalate should be paramount skill of all officers.
  • Restraint equipment should be strictly limited and subject to robust monitoring and review.
  • The national ‘use of force’ data collection must be continually reviewed. Monitoring of ethnicity and mental health should be part of that system.

See the INQUEST policy briefing for more information. (From page 4).

The 2017 government response to Angiolini said: Police training and practice must emphasise that under certain circumstances any form of restraint can potentially lead to death. This is particularly true in instances where a suspect is suffering from acute behavioural disorder (ABD), mental health crisis or the effects of drugs or alcohol. In these instances, the use of restraint – whilst sometimes necessary – may have the effect of aggravating the individual further, heightening the need for further restraint and increasing the risk that a medical emergency will arise. We must seek to break this cycle.”

A report on progress by the Government (published on 12 December) mentioned no progress on these recommendations.

Population statistics: The 2011 Census recorded that 86.0% of the population were white, 7.5% were people from asian ethnic groups, 3.3% were people from black ethnic groups, 2.2% were from mixed/multiple ethnic groups and 1.0% were from other ethnic groups. As recorded in: Office for National Statistics (1 Aug 2018), Population of England and Wales