Gloucestershire police officers used force more often last year than they did before the pandemic, new figures show.

The figures come as a human rights charity says the police "should not be handed new powers", as it claims current ones put the public at risk of harm.

Home Office figures show the number of incidents in which Gloucestershire Constabulary used force rose 359% to 5,060 in the year to March, from 1,102 in 2019-2020 – the year before the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the incidents last year, 326 resulted in the subject being injured.

Across England and Wales, 608,000 use of force incidents were recorded in 2021-22, up from 492,000 in 2019-20.

Gavin Hales, a senior associate fellow at the Police Foundation think tank said last year involved “something of a return to normal crime levels” after a drop in crime over successive lockdowns.

He added that the rise could in part be due to the recruitment of new officers, and improved recording of incidents by police forces.

Across the country, 79% of incidents involved restraining the subject – such and handcuffing or forcing them to the ground – with restraint tactics being used 4,091 times in Gloucestershire.

Police forces can use multiple tactics in one incident, so this figure may be higher than the total number of incidents where restraint was used.

Men aged 18 to 34 are by far the most likely to be subject to police force nationally – 2,169 (43% of) incidents in Gloucestershire involved people who fell into this category.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at civil rights campaign group Liberty, said: “We all want to feel safe in our communities, but the Home Office report shows that this is often not true for black people.”

Across England and Wales, black people are 3.5 times more likely to be subject to use of force tactics.

Ms Andrews continued: “Dehumanising police tactics, especially those involving use of force, don’t keep us safe but instead subject people to traumatic and distressing experiences, leaving a lasting impact on both individuals and communities.”

Nationally, black men aged 18 to 34 account for 7% of all use of force incidents, despite comprising just 0.5% of the overall population.

Liberty have cautioned against calls to extend police powers.

“We must have meaningful discussions about how we can better keep communities safe, and prioritise solutions which have human rights and social justice at their heart,” Ms Andrews added.

A Home Office spokesperson said that sometimes force can be a "vital tool" in policing.

“We are clear that nobody should experience force because of their race,” they added.

“The causes of racial disparities in the criminal justice system are complex and reflect broader social inequalities the UK Government is committed to tackling.”

The spokesperson said the Home Office is making it easier for officers to use body worn video and giving communities opportunities to scrutinise incidents of police force.