Rise in police use of force, including dogs, on South Yorkshire children

South Yorkshire Police is using a rising number of force tactics – including police dogs – on children, figures reveal.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 11:58 am

The Howard League said police forces across England and Wales should reduce the "worrying" rise in use of force incidents involving children.

Home Office statistics show South Yorkshire Police used force tactics on under-18s on 855 occasions in 2020-21 – with six involving children under 11.

This was up from 697 the year before, but down from 896 in 2018-19 – the first year such figures were recorded at police force level.

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Officers also recorded two instances of firearms being aimed and 14 occasions when dogs were used – five of which resulted in dog bites being inflicted.

Across England and Wales, 77,000 use of force tactics on children were recorded in 2020-21 – including 551 on under-11s.

The number of tactics used on under-18s was up eight per cent from 72,000 a year before, and the most since national comparable records began in 2017-18.

South Yorkshire Police's lead for the use of force, Chief Inspector Kevin Bradley, said: “Every day, our officers respond to hundreds of incidents across our communities, with the vast majority being resolved peacefully.

"However, on occasions, it is necessary for our officers to use of force to keep the public or themselves safe from harm while upholding the law.

"Officers receive training and guidance around the use of force and will in all cases, attempt to resolve incidents through communication, using force as a last resort and then only force that is necessary and proportionate to achieving a lawful objective, such as preventing injury to any person or effecting a lawful arrest.

“The figures quoted show the number of tactics used against individuals, not the amount of individuals where force was used against them.

"Therefore, one ‘use of force incident’ refers to one officer’s use of force involving one person.

"As such, the ‘number of incidents’ reported is not equal to the number of unique incidents or people involved in incidents. For example, if one person is restrained by two officers, two use of force reports are completed.

"Furthermore, an officer may use multiple tactics in one incident. In these situations, multiple tactics are recorded in one incident. The officer/s are then required to record their use of force which is reviewed by a supervisor.”

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “A steep rise in the police use of force against children is a worrying trend, particularly when the levels of children arrested remain thankfully low.

“Police forces across England and Wales should review what might be behind this rise and work to reduce the number of incidents involving children."

Officers across the two nations drew or fired TASER devices 2,600 times on children in 2020-21 – with 39 uses logged by South Yorkshire Police.

Of these, two saw the device discharged.

TASER weapons are designed to temporarily incapacitate someone with an electric shock – either fired at someone from a distance or held against their body to stun them.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.