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Use of Force

Each day Avon and Somerset Police respond to thousands of incidents and calls across diverse communities in urban and rural settings.

The vast majority of these matters are resolved peacefully. However, on occasions it will be necessary for our officers to exercise a use of force to uphold the law and keep the public or themselves safe from harm.

Our Vision and Values articulate that we are committed to protecting people from harm. This is underpinned by the College of Policing Code of Ethics in being open and accountable for our actions.

Therefore where a use of force is exercised, a record is made and you can find figures relating to these incidents here:

Any use of force by a police officer should be reasonable, justified and proportionate to the circumstances.  Police officers should also conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the following principles and guidance:

It is important to recognise that each use of force incident involves a unique set of circumstances, with the officer's decision making based on a variety of factors. The circumstances and considerations should be continually reassessed using the National Decision Making Model to achieve this.

Frequently asked questions

What is use of force?

Whilst not a fully exhaustive list, use of force will include:

  • unarmed skills including holding or restraining the person
  • drawing or using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (asp baton/taser/incapacitant spray
  • use of handcuffs
  • and at the highest end, a threat or use of lethal force

What is incapacitant spray?

There are two types of incapacitant spray: PAVA and CS spray.

They are used to incapacitate someone by causing the eyes to close and irritating the skin and respiratory system.

The spray canister can be drawn as a deterrent or deployed to cause temporary incapacitation. Officers in Avon and Somerset are issued with PAVA spray.

Do police have the power to use force?

The law allows the police to use reasonable force when necessary in the execution of their duties.

Police use of force is governed by three main areas of  legislation:

Do Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police (civilian) staff have the power to use force?

The Police Reform Act 2002 allows Chief Officers to extend additional powers (beyond those already available to members of the public) to civilian employees. However, this has not been done within Avon and Somerset.

What are the police processes should force be used?

When an officer uses force on an individual, their first duty is the immediate care of that individual and to ensure that they receive any necessary medical care.

Subsequent to the incident, the officer will be required to make a record of the use of force in line with national guidelines.

What information will be recorded about me?

The use of force form completed by an officer does not contain any identifying information relating to the subject of the use of force.

The officer will however , note your perceived age, gender, your demeanour, any disability (mental or physical), injuries sustained and caused.

Personal details will be recorded on the custody system if the person has been arrested, officer statement and any subsequent investigation file.

How do I make a complaint?

Details of any complaint against police can be made online or in person to an Inspector who will act as the initial investigating officer and discuss with you the nature of your complaint and record it as appropriate.

What information do the police have to give me?

There is no national requirement for officers to give you a reference number following any use of force.

To ensure transparency the officer must give you their collar number when requested.

How long have you been recording the data for?

In 2017 a commitment was made by forces nationally to both record this data and to release the information to the public.

This provides greater openness and transparency into how and why force and insight into the difficult situations police officers are confronted with every day and the quick time decisions they have to make to protect the public from harm.