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Use of Force

There are occasions when Police Officers will use force in the course of their duties to uphold the law and keep the public and themselves safe from harm.

What is Use of Force?

Whilst not a fully exhaustive list, Use of Force includes:

  • Unarmed skills such as physically holding, pinning or restraining a person
  • Handcuffing to the front or rear
  • Drawing or using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. For example:
    • an ASP baton (a static or expandable stick used to cause temporary incapacitation)
    • a Taser (a Home Office approved hand-held, electronic device which uses an electrical current to temporarily incapacitate someone)
    • PAVA irritant spray (designed to temporarily incapacitate someone by causing the eyes to close and irritation to the skin and respiratory system)
  • Limb/body restraints
  • Spit and bite guards
  • Public order shields and batons
  • Use of dogs
  • Attenuating Energy Projectile (AEP): aimed or discharged
  • A threat or use of lethal force (used in severe circumstances)
  • Firearms: aimed or discharged
  • Other/improvised

What happens if the police use force on someone?

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.

How often do we use force?

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

This provides greater openness and transparency into how and why force is used. It also gives 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.

View the latest figures relating to Use of Force incidents:



Use of Force governance 

Police Use of Force is governed by three main areas of legislation:

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.

Can Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police (civilian) staff 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 personal information is captured?

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

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, along with the officer’s statement and any subsequent investigation file.

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 personnel number when requested.

Have your say

Independent Advisory Groups

Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) are made up of members of the public who have an interest in the community and the policing of it. IAGs work with us to consider local policing issues, such as Use of Force, to help improve the service we offer.

Find out more about becoming a member of an Independent Advisory Group

Scrutiny of Police Powers panel

The Scrutiny of Police Powers panel is independent and made up of local people who help the Police and Crime Commissioner monitor the use of police powers through reviewing cases.

Find out more about the Scrutiny of Police Powers panel on the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) website.

Independent Custody Visiting Scheme

The Independent Custody Visiting Scheme gives volunteers the opportunity to visit Police Centres to carry out spot checks on the welfare of detainees in custody.

Created by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), the scheme aims to give confidence to the general public regarding the custody facilities and welfare, rights and entitlements of detainees.

Find out how to apply to be an Independent Custody Visitor on the OPCC’s website.

How do I make a Use of Force 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 record it as appropriate.

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