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Putting officer safety first

Growing concern about the rising numbers of attacks on police officers has prompted the launch of a national campaign aimed at giving them better protection.

The 'Protect The Protectors' campaign was launched today (Monday 6 February) by the Police Federation of England and Wales and is being supported by Leicestershire Police Federation.

"Day in, day out police officers face dangerous situations and life-threatening risks as they go about their duties serving their communities," says Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation.

"But those dangerous situations and those risks should not come from members of the public who increasingly seem to think that it is OK to assault a police officer, a member of police staff or other emergency workers.

"It is far from OK. It is totally unacceptable and it is time that police officers were offered better protection so that they can get on with the job they set out to do - fighting and preventing crime, keeping the peace and protecting the vulnerable."

In Leicestershire, the Federation has worked with the Force and the Leicestershire Police branch of UNISON to launch a seven-point plan on officer and staff assaults which ensures those subjected to an assault on duty receive proper support from colleagues, line managers and investigative teams.

Tiff has welcomed the support Leicestershire Police Federation has received from the Chief Constable Simon Cole in relation to the seven-point plan and also the roll-out of Taser training to 120 officers.

"We are fortunate that the chief officer team listened to our concerns and acted. Working together we are doing all we can to ensure that locally our officers are better protected and supported," says Tiff, "But I feel it is time more is done nationally."

The 'Protect The Protectors' campaign will call for:

  • a change in legislation, leading to tougher sentences for those who assault emergency service workers
  • better training and access to equipment - wider roll-out of protection measures, such as Taser, body worn video and spit guards
  • more accurate data on police assaults, and
  • improved welfare support.

Nationally, and at a local level, the Police Federation's Parliamentary Working Group has raised serious concerns around police assaults with new figures suggesting an assault on a police officer happens every four minutes*.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch is leading calls in Parliament for tougher sentencing for those who assault police and other emergency workers. She began to champion the cause when she accompanied a single-crewed officer on patrol in her constituency and had to dial 999 after he came under attack. Tomorrow (Tuesday 7 February) Ms Lynch will present a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the issue in Parliament.

Calum Macleod, vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "The campaign will develop in earnest, not only to call for the Government and the Sentencing Council to do more to safeguard public servants in the line of duty, but to show the

realities of policing and what officers have to endure in their own words, through a series of hard-hitting videos and case study material."
PC Mike Bruce and PC Alan O'Shea of West Midlands Police will be at Parliament tomorrow, recounting the assault they faced and the impact it had on them. While arresting two men in a pub, an offender spat in their faces and mouths. They then faced an agonising six-month wait to find out if they had contracted HIV or hepatitis.

Also attending tomorrow is West Yorkshire officer PC Dan McLaughlin who was assaulted by a man who was resisting arrest. During the struggle, PC McLaughlin was hit five or six times over the head with his police radio.

Physical and verbal assaults on police officers are commonplace. Incidents are often under-reported and historically it has been difficult to determine the scale of the issue and national picture.

More information can be found at www.polfed.org/assaults

*The estimates are based on the Police Federation of England and Wales' Officer Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey in which approximately 17,000 officers took part. The data estimates there were potentially more than two million (2,113,602) unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12 month period, (includes hitting, kicking, struggling to get free) and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon during the same period.