Figures reveal “worrying” rise in use of force on children by Derbyshire Police

Derbyshire Constabulary is using an increasing number of force tactics – including police dogs – on children, new figures reveal.

By Ben McVay
Monday, 17th January 2022, 1:26 pm

Home Office statistics show Derbyshire Constabulary used force tactics on under-18s 914 times in 2020-21 – with 17 involving children under 11.

This was up from 693 the year before and 451 in 2018-19 – the first year such figures were recorded at police force level.

Last year Derbyshire officers handcuffed children 405 times, physically restrained them on the ground on 53 occasions and used 36 limb or body restraints.

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Home Office statistics show Derbyshire Constabulary used force tactics on under-18s 914 times in 2020-21 (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Officers also recorded four instances of firearms being used - though it is not known whether they were fired or aimed - and three incidents during which dogs were used.

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 8 per cent from 72,000 a year before and the most since national comparable records began in 2017-18.

Officers across the two nations drew or fired TASER devices 2,600 times on children in 2020-21 – with 28 uses logged by Derbyshire Constabulary.

However, none of these saw the device discharged.

Derbyshire Police, however, commenting on the data, pointed out that the rise in incidents of force tactics over the last two years may be a result of improved recording of crimes.

A spokesman said: “This is simply showing the proper number of incidents and is not actually an increase in the number of incidents that have occurred.”

He added: “Where young people are involved in incidents particular consideration is given to the impact that any force could have on them.

“However, while statistics show how frequently different types of force are used, they do not give any indication of the incidents that officers are attending and the circumstances that they face.

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“For instance, one of the incidents that led to force being used in 2021 was a 16-year-old who ran from officers armed with a knife in Derby city centre.

“In this case, officers restrained the boy due to the potential danger posed to all those present.”

Derbyshire Constabulary say the use of force is carefully risk assessed while “clear guidance and training” is in place to ensure that the appropriate level of force in any given situation.

They added: “In all cases officers will attempt to avoid using force – other than in situations where it is believed by the officers that there is no prospect that non-forceful tactics will work.”

Regular meetings, chaired by the Assistant Chief Constable, are held to provide oversight of the use of force – and involve extensive scrutiny of incidents where force is used.

The force says this year, following a national recommendation to all forces, further training in communication and de-escalation skills will be delivered to officers in order to give other tactical options before force is used.

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."

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