Assaults on UK police officers up by 21% over lockdown, with rise in spitting
By Laura Parnaby, PA
Police forces across the UK have suffered a 21% increase in assaults on their officers over the lockdown period.
Figures gathered by the PA news agency from 31 forces show that at least 7,863 instances of assault were recorded over the first three months of lockdown, compared with 6,505 for the same period in 2019.
This comes as a recent study involving 40,000 police officers and staff showed that 88% of officers said they had been assaulted during their career, with 39% having been attacked in the past year.
Leicestershire Police recorded the most substantial increase of 102%, with 205 cases noted in the first three months of lockdown, up from 101 the previous year.
The next largest increase of 57% was recorded by Derbyshire Constabulary, followed by South Yorkshire Police and Cleveland Police each noting a rise of 55%.
Leicestershire Police’s Chief Constable Simon Cole said a “particularly distasteful trend” of offenders spitting and coughing on officers and threatening to infect them with coronavirus has also developed countrywide.
He said: “The rise in assaults has huge impacts on staff both physically and mentally, and it has a huge impact on communities.
“Thousands and thousands of days of policing are lost because of these assaults.”
He added: “I think officers and staff know that they have to take risks on occasion, and they understand that, it comes with the nature of policing. But you can also see that they’re concerned.”
Some 38 offenders spat on Leicestershire Police officers in the first three months of lockdown, compared with 20 last year, and coughing entered the offence records with 10 incidents in 2020, up from zero.
Mr Cole said police forces are working together in an attempt to safeguard their officers against assault, and all his officers have been equipped with body-worn cameras to record any incidents as court evidence.
All 43 forces will be establishing more contact time with personal safety trainers following the rise in assaults, as recommended by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
The NPCC also wants suspects who spit at police to be forced to give a blood sample to test for disease, and also called for spit guards to be issued to all officers if supported by local risk assessments.