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July 2017 sees the national publication of data from some police forces on their Use of Force - whether that is a form of restraint, handcuffing, use of a Taser or irritant spray.

This data will provide greater transparency than ever before into how and why force is used; strengthening the vital relationship between the police and the public that is at the heart of our model of policing by consent. 

In recent months nationally, there has been a change as to how use of force is recorded by all police forces, with the introduction of a new reporting form. In Surrey and Sussex, a decision was made to remain with our existing IT solution rather than introduce a new system which would have entailed added bureaucracy for officers and staff and a greater cost to Surrey and Sussex Police. Therefore, neither Surrey nor Sussex Police are yet in a position to share data publicly at this stage. We anticipate our solution being in place over the next few weeks and will look to publish our use of force data by the end of the summer. However, if anyone has a concern about an individual incidence of use of force on them or others, they can still contact us and we can look at that more closely.

ACC Steve Barry who oversees our approach to use of force data said: “Police are charged with maintaining order and keeping people safe. In fulfilling these duties, we will sometimes need to use force to protect the public and ourselves from harm.

“This appetite for collating and publishing data may sound straightforward but it is actually complex, for example in determining what exactly counts as use of force, how we communicate the need to record this information consistently to police officers, and to properly interpret and understand the data so we can draw meaning from it. Recording and publishing all of this data is a significant change for forces as we use a range of recording systems.

“This is the first phase of our project and we will be working to improve the quality and consistency of use of force data as well as improving public access to this information.

“We are fully committed to being transparent about our use of force, but I personally made a decision to only publish when we can reassure ourselves that our data is accurate and set in some context. In time, access to this data will give us a wealth of information that will help us to compare the effectiveness of different techniques enabling more informed, evidence-based decisions about training, tactics and equipment. It will also allow the public to give us feedback on our overall use of force.

“Police officers are confronted with difficult situations every day. They walk towards danger when others walk away, thinking and acting quickly to keep people safe. This data will give us insight into what being a police officer in Surrey and Sussex involves. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. This data will help us to identify and act on any instances where this is not the case.

“We have established a joint Legitimacy Board, which is attended by the Chair of an Independent Advisory Group, where we scrutinise use of force data. We have also briefed officers and staff on the importance of completing their Use of Force forms. Officers know that for some time we have already been scrutinising some use of force such as Taser and police use of firearms. There is a briefing video for all staff [below], which we encourage the public to watch."