Use of Force
How Police Scotland uses force, the training officers receives and how this is recorded.
Policing Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do.
Our policing style is also based on the statutory requirement to improve the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities in Scotland.
Constables take their authority and legitimacy from the people of Scotland. The strong relationship of trust that policing in Scotland has with our communities is underpinned by the principle of policing by consent.
Therefore, all constables who join Police Scotland declare as part of their Oath of Office that they will uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people.
What is Use of Force?
Use of Force is defined as any physical use of force, except compliant handcuffing and come along hold / escort hold. It includes:
- Empty Hand Techniques;
- Irritant Sprays - PAVA (both drawing and discharge);
- Leg Restraints and
- Spit Hoods.
Separate forms are completed for the use of Taser.
Spit Hoods are only used when someone has refused to stop spitting or biting officers and staff or refused to stop attempting to do so.
All PAVA discharges are automatically referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) for independent scrutiny.
The level of force used must be proportionate, legal, and absolutely necessary. Officers are individually accountable in law for the amount of force they use.
The use of force in any situation will involve a unique set of circumstances. Deploying use of force tactics will be based on a variety of factors. A police officer’s priority will always be ensuring wider public safety as well as that of the individual(s) they are dealing with.
On a daily basis, Police Scotland’s officers respond to thousands of calls in our communities to help people and keep them safe. As part of their duties, police officers will sometimes need to use force in order to uphold the law and protect the public and themselves.
Only a small percentage of incidents recorded by Police Scotland result in the use of force being deployed.
Any use of force is scrutinised and Police Scotland records all use of force as part of the organisation’s commitment to the continual review and improvement of Operational Safety Training and keeping people safe.
Police Scotland will keep use of force recording under continual review in order to make improvements where identified.
Use of Force forms
A Use of Force Form is manually completed by officers / staff following an incident where the use of force is applied. Therefore the data available on this page is dependent on officers completing these forms.
In 2018, the Police Scotland Use of Force form was updated to include the recording of subject ethnicity. An individual's ethnicity is determined by the subject and not by officers. Where information is not provided, officers have the option to record "not known".
In addition to ethnicity recording, the Use of Force form was updated to capture more detailed information. It was simplified to enable officers and staff to record use of force more efficiently and accurately.
These improvements to the form, along with increased awareness of the requirement to record all use of force; which is reinforced during annual Operational Safety Recertification, has meant there has been an increase in the number of forms being submitted across the country.
Police Scotland has a moral, ethical and legal duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of its people. We would be neglecting that duty if safety techniques and personal protective equipment (PPE) were not provided and officers/staff were not appropriately trained in the use of PPE and safety techniques.
Police officers and some members of police staff are trained to carry and use handcuffs, batons, PAVA irritant spray and Fastrap restraints as well as being trained in empty hand control and restraint techniques.
On appointment, all police officers (including Special Constables) receive seven days of Initial Operational Safety Training. This includes inputs on conflict management, de-escalation and tactical communications in addition to training in Operational Safety techniques.
Criminal Justice Police Custody and Security Officers attend a five day initial Operational Safety Training course. All police officers and relevant members of police staff are required to attend an annual two day Operational Safety and First Aid Recertification training.
Specially Trained Officers (STOs) who deploy operationally in possession of a Taser are required to undertake additional training.
Violence against officers and staff is completely unacceptable and is not simply part of the job.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone outlined his commitment to reduce the impact of violence and improve the safety of officers and staff in his Assault Pledge. This also resulted in an enhanced Operational Safety Training package being introduced.
Armed Policing deployments and use of force is recorded separately.
The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 provides police officers with the powers of arrest and use of reasonable force.
The management information reports on this page provide quarterly figures drawn from completed Use of Force forms.