Reducing and highlighting violence against police officers and emergency services workers has been a priority for me since I came into office in 2016.
It is a sad fact that high harm assaults against police personnel have gradually risen since 2017/18, and this increase has been further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, with an increase in Covid-19 related assaults against officers. This level of violence is not acceptable.
There is some good news though; in 2018 the Government changed the law and the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 was introduced so that anyone found guilty of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic faced a maximum of 12 months in prison. This Bill was consulted upon again in 2020 and the maximum prison sentence for a person assaulting an officer increased to a two year maximum sentence.
Over the last four years it has been clear that vast majority of our communities are very supportive of the difficult work our officers do, but we can do more to reduce the violence that officers face on a regular basis – in every force, in every region, every day. There remains a small number of people who need to realise that attacking a police officer is not, and will not, be tolerated. It can also have long-lasting consequences – both for them and the officer in question. It is my sincere wish that with the threat of increased sentences, that perpetrators will think twice before committing this horrible crime.
I am confident that West Mercia Police is committed to keeping officers and staff safe. I have seen for myself the regular training officers get and the support mechanisms that are already in place for our workforce. Additional help and advice is available through the Police Federation, Victims Support and Victim Advice line.
My #BehindTheBadge campaign was launched in January 2017 and calls for better protection for staff in order to reduce incidents whilst ensuring officers and staff continue to get the same level of support as any other victim of crime. We must do all we can to protect those who protect us.
What I aim to achieve:
- A change in attitudes and behaviour. I want the public to see the person behind the police badge, and the wider impacts that an assault has on them, their family, friends and colleagues.
- I want our communities to understand the challenging and sometimes dangerous role our officers and staff face.
- I want to send a clear message to those likely to commit offences, that any kind of abuse will not be tolerated, and that there will be harsh repercussions.
- I want our officers and staff to continue to feel confident to report incidents, knowing that they will be fully supported, in the same way that any other victim would. My Victims Charter outlines the kind of support they can and should expect. Support mechanisms are already in place internally through West Mercia Police’s Seven Point Plan and additional support is available through the local Victims Support service, which I commission.
- I want to influence the national agenda on this issue, calling for better support for officers and staff, whether this be through better training, the roll-out of body-worn cameras or any other initiatives which will help us protect those who protect our communities.
- I welcome the approach by the courts to impose tougher sentences for those who assault officers and staff and want to see this continue.
The current picture:
- Nationally a police officer is assaulted every 4 minutes.
- Figures from Apr 2017 – Mar 2020 show that 1,832 offences where the victims were on duty personnel were reported in West Mercia.
- Apr – Sep 2020 332 assaults were recorded. This is a 10% increase compared to the same period last year, and a 17% increase compared to the same period in 2018/19. This equates to 1.6 each day.
- Or 1 assault for every 13 officers in the last 3 months
- The volume of assaults recorded in the last quarter (Jul – Sep 2020; 193 offences) are the highest recorded over the last 3 years.
- Since March 2020, there have been 27 offences directly attributable to COVID, and a further 55 offences where a member of the workforce has been ‘spat on’, but the offence did not meet the criteria to be determined as a ‘COVID defined’ offence.
PCC John Campion said “Highlighting this issue is a continued priority for me, and whilst I’m pleased that this has been raised at a national level with the Assault of Emergency Workers Bill, there is still a lot more that we can do as communities to ensure dedicated and professional officers and staff, return safely to their families and loved ones.
“Violence against police, or any emergency services workers is never acceptable. It’s important the people can recognise the long lasting impact that assaults have, and that negative behaviour displayed by a minority is challenged. I promise to continue to engage with our communities, so we can continue to protect those who protect us.”
Please support the campaign on social media: @WestMerciaPCC #BehindTheBadge
The campaign is supported by the following partners:
For more information on the Police Federation’s national campaign to #ProtectTheProtectors visit their website