CRIME

What is Excessive Force and How Do I Report It?

If you or a loved one have recently been arrested and you feel that the police officers involved displayed an unnecessary amount of physical force, there are steps you can take to report it and ensure that it is investigated. You may also be eligible for compensation.

A recent incident saw a couple forcibly restrained by police in a branch of Tesco in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. According to mobile phone footage from the scene, it appears that the police officer who attended the incident swung his arm at Nasir Hussain after he refused to leave the store when Tesco colleagues apparently declined to sell the pair more than ten large bottles of water. Comments Hussain makes in the footage also refer to being “punched”. Moments later, his wife, Mahira Hussain, is forced to the ground and restrained. The policeman later received medical attention for injuries to his face. At the time of writing, a police watchdog is investigating the officer’s actions for signs of excessive force while the Hussains have been charged with assaulting an officer.

The term “excessive force” does not have an exact definition and the level of force police officers may be expected to use can vary considerably between cases. A conduct document on the subject of “Police Use of Force” prepared for the The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC, now replaced by the Independent Office for Police Conduct or IOPC) by TNS BMRB (now Kantar Public UK) in 2015 states that both the general public and members of the police force tend to rank the severity of types of force in a similar manner. The list that was generally agreed upon in rising order is as follows:

  1. Voice Commands
  2. Physical Restraint (there is some difference of opinion as to whether handcuffs should be included in this field or have its own separate level, one step higher on the scale of severity)
  3. Physical Strikes
  4. CS Spray
  5. Taser
  6. Baton
  7. AEP Rounds
  8. Dogs
  9. Firearms

Certain types of force, such as CS spray, tasers, AEP rounds, dogs and firearms can only be used by officers who have reached a specific level in their career and have received the correct training, so any instance of an unqualified officer using these kinds of tools against a detainee should immediately be considered a breach of regulation.

According to the same study, officers are strongly encouraged to take the following criteria into account when deciding on the level of force that they would consider appropriate in a particular situation:

  • The number of individuals involved. Is the officer engaging with an individual or a larger group of people? Are they outnumbered, or do they and their colleagues outnumber the suspects?
  • The nature of the threat. Have there been recent reports of violence undertaken by the individual in question? What are they doing and how are they currently behaving? Are they being aggressive? Does it seem likely that they will strike out, cause harm or violently resist arrest?
  • The physicality of the individual and the physicality of the attending officer in contrast.
  • Current action. Does the officer consider that they or others are currently being assaulted, or are in imminent physical danger?
  • Existing intelligence. Has the officer involved been made aware of any mental health conditions, prior convictions or violent tendencies that may affect the level of resistance or violence the detainee might display?
  • Context. What is the surrounding landscape like? Are there bystanders present who could be injured? Does the detainee have weapons close at hand? How would the general public reasonably expect the officer to behave in this specific situation?
  • The potential outcome of force. Does it seem likely that the suspect could become easily injured? Does the risk of this outweigh the potential danger the individual might represent to others?

The above information provides a helpful set of guidelines for anyone interested in understanding the elements of a situation that should be taken into account when the decision to use force is made. It may also prove useful to those who feel that they have been treated with excessive force by a police officer in the past. If you believe that you fall into this category, it’s a good idea to try and apply the criteria above to your own experience. If, from this, you draw the conclusion that excessive force was used, the next step is to collect any evidence of this that may be available. Film, audio and images of the incident that may have been recorded on mobile phones can be extremely helpful, as in the case of the Hussains mentioned at the beginning. You also have the right to ask local businesses for CCTV footage of an incident. Photographs of any injuries you received as a result of the use of force can also be shown in court.

Of course, before you take any decisive legal action against the police, it’s important that you make contact with a qualified legal specialist to support, assist and represent you throughout the process of making a claim. Contact DPP Law today on 0333 200 5859 for comprehensive help and advice about pursuing your case.