Trends in less-lethal use of force techniques by police services within England and Wales: 2007-2011

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2014 Mar;10(1):50-5. doi: 10.1007/s12024-013-9492-9. Epub 2013 Oct 31.


The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of, and any changes in, usage patterns of the less-lethal forms of Use of Force (UoF) modalities--incapacitant spray, impact rounds, and Taser(R)--between 2007 and 2011 by English and Welsh police services. Additional information regarding the deployment and discharge of firearms was also sought. Two thousand Freedom of Information Act applications were made to 50 police services in England and Wales and related jurisdictions requesting the provision of: (a) the total number of deployments of incapacitant sprays, Taser(R), impact (baton) rounds, and armed response units (ARU); (b) the numbers and types of any resulting medical complications; and (c) the details of any local policies requiring assessment by a healthcare professional following a deployment. Responses were received from 47 police services, with only 10 of these supplying complete data. The remainder supplied incomplete data or refused to supply any data under s12 of the Freedom of Information Act (time and cost restrictions). From 2007 to 2011, the use of incapacitant sprays, Taser, and firearms have increased (incapacitant sprays deployed: 3496, 3976, 6911, 6679, 6853; Taser deployed: 499, 2659, 4560, 6943, 7203; Taser discharged: 15, 85, 161, 338, 461; firearms: 0, 7, 4, 19, 32). Baton rounds and ARU use showed greater variability over the same time period (baton rounds: 1007, 1327, 1123, 1382, 1278; ARUs: 11688, 13652, 13166, 13959, 12090). Only two services could provide details of medical consequences from use of incapacitant sprays, Taser, and baton rounds. No service could provide details of any related medical complications following use of firearms. Data collection and release are variable and inconsistent throughout English and Welsh police services and thus caution is needed in determining trends of UoF techniques. Deaths or injuries inflicted using UoF techniques result in much public scrutiny and the low level of data recorded in these cases is of concern. Common systems for recording use and adverse outcomes of UoF techniques are needed to inform the public and others who have concerns about such techniques.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Electroshock / adverse effects
  • Electroshock / trends
  • England / epidemiology
  • Firearms
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Irritants / adverse effects
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Police / trends*
  • Restraint, Physical / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Wales / epidemiology
  • Weapons*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control*


  • Irritants