Thursday, 23 Sep 2021

Chief Constable rages: police are nation’s ‘punch bag’

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His startling comment came as the Daily Express revealed that more than 20,000 cops have been attacked since the first lockdown began in March last year. Nearly 50 officers were victims of assaults daily, including being shot and infected with Covid. Others were stabbed, beaten and bitten, leaving deep physical and mental scars.

Mr Robins, who heads the West Yorkshire force, said: “A punch bag gets hit from every side; it feels a little like that in policing at the moment. [Officers] are punched, kicked, pushed and spat at every day. They are also racially and religiously abused or insulted because of their gender or sexual orientation, but that is another sad story.”

He highlighted the police have been denied the three percent pay increase offered to NHS staff and to firefighters: “Last week we saw officers who have been working on the frontline of the pandemic not deemed worthy of a pay rise; yet colleagues in local government and the fire service were.” 

The Daily Express used Freedom of Information requests to ask all 46 police forces how many officers were assaulted between March 23 2020 ‑ as lockdown began ‑ and last June 1; some 35 responded.

Findings show rank-and-file officers were subjected to violence on a level which their bosses said they had not seen before.

Across the 436 days, an average of 48 officers were attacked every 24 hours ‑ some, several times. Each incident led to an average of 21 days off sick.

West Yorkshire suffered the most: 3,001 assaults, an average of seven a day, with 336 operational days lost to injuries.

There were 1,718 attacks on Essex officers, or four a day. The combined injuries were so severe that 2,035 working days were written off. So far this year the force has had 588 assaults on staff; 138 were attacked more than once. 

Ben-Julian Harrington, Chief Constable of Essex, said: “The figures obtained by the Daily Express are shocking. I have seen some of my officers stabbed, doused in petrol with a baying mob calling for them to be set on fire, run over, kicked, stamped on, punched, spat at.

“We are not the exception, we are the rule. Up and down the country, every day, the people charged with protecting you are assaulted. The pandemic has created a policing challenge like no other.”

Our survey is the most comprehensive picture of violence experienced by police told to enforce virus legislation.

Our data indicates 14 percent of Britain’s 153,000 officers were assaulted during lockdown.

The final toll will be worse ‑ some cases may not have been reported and 11 forces did not supply data, as bosses said it would cost too much to compile or because they failed to reply in time.

Injuries resulted in 9,154 operational days lost ‑ the equivalent to one officer’s 40-year service.

In Avon and Somerset ‑ hit by Black Lives Matter and Kill The Bill protests ‑ 1,236 staff were attacked at a cost of 229 working days.

Broken bones meant 54 days lost, facial injuries cost 38, concussion accounted for 31 days and in 26 cases assaulted officers then tested posted for Covid.

Devon and Cornwall had 1,063 staff attacked, with 100 days lost ‑ 50 of them to a single officer. More than 1,000 officers were assaulted in theWest Midlands.

Met Police officers were involved in some of the most serious disorder with scores injured, including after Euro 2020 football matches.

In June last year a mounted police officer was thrown from her horse after it bolted during a demo in central London. Met Police figures were not available for our survey timeframe.

But there were 2,027 assaults on its cops in May, June and July last year, 38 percent up on 2019.

Officers left feeling betrayed by the lack of a pay rise had earlier been denied priority access to Covid vaccines.

The starting salary for a qualified constable is £24,780 ‑ the UK average is £31,461.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, was today delivering a demand to No 10 for immediate on police pay. He claimed “police officers doing their very best to enforce the Covid laws and keep the public safe were seen as the villains of the pandemic.”

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley said: “I have seen officers punched, stabbed, shot, persecuted and ridiculed whilst attempting to implement confusing, rushed and ambiguous legislation, in order to protect the public and, rightly, the NHS only to be ignored when it comes to a pay settlement.

“[The lack of a pay increase] is quite frankly an insult and wholly unacceptable. This indicates a complete lack of awareness, appreciation or recognition for the incredible work officers have done.”

Hard-working cops have also been let down during the pandemic by a series of tragic incidents.

Serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has admitted murdering marketing executive Sarah Everard, 33. He is due to return to court in September.

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was jailed for eight years for unlawfully killing former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson, using a stun gun on him and kicking him in the head in Telford, Shropshire.

While Ian Pilling, Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, apologised “unreservedly” at a public inquiry for failings by the force in its emergency response to the Manchester Arena terror bombing which killed 22 people on May 22 2017.

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