Assaults against police officers and staff are never acceptable, aren't 'part of the job' and won't be tolerated - that's the message from North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lisa Winward.
CC Winward now provides a written statement in court cases involving physical and verbal assaults and hate crimes against police officers, staff and volunteers.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 received Royal Assent last year. It doubles the maximum sentence from 6 to 12 months in prison for assaulting an emergency worker.
On average, there are ten assaults against North Yorkshire police officers and staff every month. Since the start of December 2018, 19 statements from the Chief Constable have been included in case files involving such incidents. In one incident, an offender spat in an officer’s face – in another an officer was bitten on the leg, breaking the skin.
The written statements highlight to the court the serious impact of these assaults – both on the victim, the force and the wider community. One such statement read as follows:
“I am the Chief Constable for North Yorkshire Police and have responsibility for the delivery of policing activity across the county. In order to execute my duty I must rely upon the actions of a large number of Police Officers and Police Staff members who place themselves in harm’s way on a day to day basis. They do so in order to protect the vulnerable, keep communities safe, respond to calls, and to prevent and detect crime.
“In providing this statement I hope that it will assist in my duty to protect the members of the organisation that protect the public.
“All too often police officers and staff are subjected to assaults and threats. While the severity of such attacks changes, the impact upon society does not. It is never acceptable to assume that assaults upon police officers and staff should be tolerated, they are not simply ‘part of the job’. While it is clear that the nature of policing requires members of the organisation to handle difficult and hostile situations, assaults upon them are serious and unacceptable. The sentencing guidelines reflect this fact and highlight that assaults on public officials performing their duty are an aggravating feature. There are many ways in which assaults against public servants impact upon society. Each time an officer or member of staff is assaulted there are potential sickness absences. These absences impact acutely on resourcing and the ability of the force to deliver ‘front–line’ policing. They also place additional strain on other members of the organisation due to the transfer of work to others, which can have significant impact on the wellbeing of police officers and staff.
“On average in North Yorkshire there are 10 assaults against police officers and staff per month. These assaults can result in a member of the organisation being absent through sickness, which clearly impacts on the community as it limits the service which can be provided.
“Not only do assaults on police staff and officers have a negative impact on the community but also internally to the organisation. On a personal basis, police colleagues suffer not just physical injuries, but also the psychological effects. Many find the return to frontline duties after being assaulted, especially challenging or traumatic. On a wider scale, morale is significantly impacted when officers and staff see their friends and colleagues being assaulted and abused. This, in turn, can damage the ability of the force to recruit new people into the organisation.
“The public call upon the police to help them when they are most in need. We have a duty to protect the public but we are all too often prevented from doing so due to violent individuals who choose to attack those who are there to help them.
“Most importantly it should be remembered that police officers and staff are people, they are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. When they are attacked they become victims just like any other, but victims who have been attacked while trying to protect others from being victimised.”
North Yorkshire Police has also introduced a new plan for dealing with assaults on police, which reinforces the fact that the Victims’ Code apples to all victims, including officers, staff and volunteers, and commits to ensuring they receive the right welfare support and supervision.Posted on in News stories