Use of force by Dyfed-Powys Police ‘under-recorded’

THE use of force by Dyfed-Powys Police is being under-recorded, according to a review, but many officers feel that the form-filling required is a burden.

The review by police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn looked into the types of force which are commonly used, and also the injuries sustained by officers.

The force has invested more than £342,000 in body worn video equipment and £3,150 on spit and bite guards.

Alcohol, drugs and mental health were the main issues which led to the use of force, such as ground restraints, take-downs and handcuffing, said the review.

It concluded that Dyfed-Powys Police policing by consent — described by some officers as a “nicely-nice” approach — was to be commended, but added: “That said, current reporting does not provide an accurate breakdown of how often force is used.

“The under-reporting by officers has made it difficult to draw conclusions in support of the aims and objectives of the review.”

Police officers everywhere decide when and what form of force to use when attending incidents, and are answerable to the law in ensuring a minimum level is required.

The situation is different when Tasers and guns are deployed, as authority is needed from someone at inspector level and above.

Officers who took part in the commissioner’s review questioned the need to record so many levels of force, especially low-level methods, and raised concerns that statistics would be misleading because an incident involving multiple officers required each officer to fill in a form.

The review said: “While those spoken to understood that they should be completing forms and found them straightforward, the overwhelming view was that they presented an additional administrative burden in addition to numerous other reporting and recording requirements.”

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Between April and June this year the review also found that 61 officers and police staff reported injuries of their own — mostly minor — although two were recorded as severe.

Officers told the review that use of force training should be more realistic, with one suggesting that police should work towards a martial arts-type self-defence qualification.

The new Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act doubles the maximum sentence for those who assault officers during the course of their duties.

Officers welcomed the use of body-worn video, although one said it took so long to download 55 minutes of footage that the footage was lost because that camera was needed for the next shift.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s professional standards department recorded 55 allegations by complainants relating to use of force between April 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, six of which were deemed to be serious assaults.

Of the 55 allegations, 40 non-serious assaults had so far been finalised, and the vast majority were not upheld.

Three of the allegations required “local resolution” as there was no indication that proceedings would be justified or that there was any infringement of the complainant’s human rights.

Following the review, the commissioner has requested that the force immediately introduces unique reference numbers for use of force forms and body-worn video footage, and that senior management reiterates to officers what their footage recording requirements are.

Management should also, said the commissioner, consult with officers on the current use of force training “to ensure this reflects reality as far as possible”.

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