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Police use of force surged 12.5% at height of lockdown despite fall in crime

Human rights group Liberty warns emergency Covid-19 powers have ‘exacerbated unfair, excessive and discriminatory policing’

by Bethany Rielly

POLICE use of force surged by 12.5 per cent during the height of the lockdown compared to the previous three months despite a fall in crime, a civil liberties group has said. 

Campaigners have said that the “alarming” surge in police use of force is the result of emergency Covid-19 powers which they claim have “exacerbated unfair, excessive and discriminatory policing.” 

Liberty Investigates sent freedom of information requests to 32 constabularies.

The figures showed that between April and June there were 163,749 instances of the police using force against members of the public, compared with 145,543 from January to March. 

Of those, 21 recorded an increased use of force with West Yorkshire seeing the greatest surge, recording a rise of 49 per cent.

The biggest spike in the number of incidents was registered by the Metropolitan Police whose officers used force 59,692 times from April to June compared with 50,010 from January to March: a rise of 9,682 instances of use of force.

Black and ethnic minority (Bame) people were also disproportionately targeted by police forces during the height of lockdown. 

This was most significant in London where 38 per cent of the Metropolitan Police’s use of force from April to June was against black people.

Black people make up only 13 per cent of the capital’s population. 

Responding to the findings, Inquest director Deborah Coles said: “These are alarming figures … Emergency powers have only exacerbated unfair, excessive, and discriminatory policing, especially against racialised communities. We know all too well this can lead to deaths and serious injuries.”

The report by Liberty Investigates, the investigative branch of the civil liberties group, highlighted two cases of police use of force on members of the public.

One involved 20-year-old-student Kai Cummins, who said that he was pepper-sprayed, placed in a ground restraint, handcuffed and held in an arm lock after police mistakenly identified him as the driver of a stolen car that crashed in south London. 

Mr Cummins said that he was handcuffed so tightly that his wrists were “swollen, bruised and marked for at a least a month” after the incident.  

The Met said that his complaint is being investigated locally. 

A National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) spokesman said that the increased use of force during lockdown was due to the police carrying out more proactive operations against known criminals.

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