Police use force against black people at a rate “five times higher” than against white people, according to an official report.
Black people were also “involved in proportionally more incidents” involving the use of less lethal weapons, like Tasers, and firearms, according to Home Office data.
The report, which looked at use of force incidents by police in England and Wales in the year to March, said: “Use of force tactics, ranging from handcuffing and ground restraint, to the use of batons, CEDs (Tasers) and firearms, involved people perceived as being from a black ethnic group at a rate five times higher than people perceived as being from a white ethnic group in English and Welsh police force areas (excluding the Metropolitan Police).”
Being the largest force in the country and due to the higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) living in London, figures for the Metropolitan Police were calculated separately so as not to “skew” national figures, the report said.
It added: “In the Metropolitan police force area, use of force tactics involved people perceived as being from a black ethnic group at a rate four times higher than those perceived as being from a white ethnic group.”
The figures come after police chiefs pledged a plan of action to address racial inequalities and a panel was launched to look at racial disproportionality in the use of Tasers.
According to the experimental statistics, incidents where a police officer used force in England and Wales rose by 64,000 in a year.
In the year to March, there were around 492,000 recorded incidents in which a police officer used force. This is up from 428,000 in the previous period.
Between April 2019 and March 2020, restraint tactics – like using handcuffs – was the most common type of force used (385,000 incidents, 78%).
Tasers, known as conducted energy devices (CED), were used in 32,000 incidents but were not discharged in the majority of cases (86%). Total Taser use has risen by 37% from the previous financial year, the report added.
Earlier this year, police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) called for “greater scrutiny” of the use of Tasers by officers after a series of incidents and concerns about the “disproportionate” use of the weapon against black people and those with mental health problems.
This came after the Home Office said it would spend £6.5 million on 8,000 more stun guns for police.
The figures also showed being under the influence of alcohol was another common factor, being highlighted in 180,000 or 37% of incidents.
In 68% of the incidents (335,000), the reason given for an officer using force was in a bid to protect themselves, the report said.
Of the total number of incidents, there were 10,711 where officers were injured as a result of an intentional assault. Some 256 of these were classed as “severe” injuries.
The “sharp increase” in police use of force over a year should be seen in the context of “unacceptably high cases of violence against police officers” in the same period, the Police Federation of England and Wales said.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s work on self-defence and restraint, said force is rarely used in the vast majority of officer interactions with the public, adding: “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.”
The overall rise in incidents in recent years reflects better data recording by forces, he said.