The Home Office is being urged to rethink an “aggressive, confrontational and coercive” approach to policing that sees Black people six times more likely to have force used against them by officers.
Human rights charity Liberty told NationalWorld the Government is failing to address the “over-policing of people of colour” and discrimination in the use of police powers in the UK.
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The comments came ahead of the impending sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 murder of African American George Floyd, which prompted worldwide protests against police brutality and reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement.
The latest Home Office figures, analysed by NationalWorld, suggest heavy-handed policing against ethnic minorities is also a reality in England and Wales, with Liberty arguing that discrimination by officers blights communities and causes “lasting harm to people’s lives”.
The figures reveal that Black people, who make up only 3.4% of the population in England and Wales, accounted for 16.4% of incidents where police force was used in 2019-20 – 80,000 out of a total of 492,000 incidents. White people, who are 85.5% of the population, were involved in 341,000, or 69%, of incidents.
The figures mean there were 409 incidents of force for every 10,000 Black people, based on Office for National Statistics population estimates for mid-2016.
For white people, the rate was 68 per 10,000 – meaning Black people were six times more likely to have force used on them.
The rate for Asian people was 78 per 10,000, 111 for people of mixed race, and 116 for all other non-white ethnicities.
While the figures do not reveal the likelihood of different ethnic groups to have force used on them when coming into contact with police, separate Home Office figures show Black people are also disproportionately affected by police force relative to the number of arrests made.
Only 8.9% of people arrested in 2019-20 were Black, almost half the proportion of use of force incidents involving Black people (16.4%).
The use of force statistics involve the ethnicity the officer perceives the person to be, while arrest figures are based on the suspect’s self-defined ethnicity.
‘Lasting harm to people’s lives’
Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns manager for Liberty, said an ongoing failure by police and government to “address discrimination in the use of police powers, and across the criminal justice system, is causing lasting harm to people’s lives, and entire communities”.
She continued: “Emphasising aggressive, confrontational and coercive policing tactics will only worsen the over-policing of people of colour – and that is the approach this Government is determined to double-down on in the Policing Bill currently going through Parliament.
“If the Government was serious about building safer communities, it would listen to the people who experience discriminatory over-policing, stop relying on coercion, control and punishment and instead look at solutions that rebuild trust.”
A range of tactics are captured in the Home Office data, including the use of handcuffs, dogs, firearms and other methods of subdual. Each incident could involve multiple tactics, or different tactics used by multiple officers on one suspect.
Firearms and pepper sprays
Firearms were the tactic used most disproportionately against Black people – they were 12.6 times more likely to have guns used against them compared to white people.
They were also 10.2 times more likely to have batons drawn against them, 6.9 times more likely to have Tasers and other conducted energy devices (CEDs) discharged on them, and 2.7 times more likely to be subject to pepper or other irritant sprays.
Not all those who have force used on them will be arrested. Force may also be used to disperse people, or when detaining them on mental health grounds.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said policing relies on confidence and cooperation to keep people safe, and that it was taking action to strengthen this.
“We recognise that there is a big gap between the levels of confidence that many Black and white people have in the police, and we are committed to changing that,” a spokesperson said.
“We have welcomed in external help and independent scrutiny to create a plan that can change the experiences of Black people inside and outside of policing for the better.”
The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment.
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