More than a third of police officers assaulted in past year, research shows

About 39% of police officers have been assaulted in the past year but a third of staff are not happy with the safety training they have received, a major study has found.

Research involving 40,000 police officers and staff, thought to be the biggest survey of its kind, showed that 88% of officers said they had been assaulted during their career, with 39% having been attacked in the past year.

However, 34% of staff said they were not satisfied with personal safety training.

Some forces in England and Wales offer 16 hours training per year, with others only providing four, while some include first aid and fitness tests as part of the curriculum.

A national curriculum and recommended contact time with trainers will now be brought in across all 43 forces, as part of a series of recommendations by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) following the review.

It was commissioned by NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt last autumn following a series of serious attacks on officers.

He said: “In this review, we have followed the evidence, listened to the concerns of those within the service, and heard the views of the public.

“The review and the breadth of its recommendations show that there is no one piece of equipment that is the answer to all violent and threatening situations. Instead, chief constables have agreed a broad package of measures that will significantly enhance the safety of our brave and hard-working front line.”

The NPCC has called for a number of changes in the law as part of its report, published on Wednesday.

It wants a specific offence of targeting an officer with a vehicle to be created, as well as tighter laws around the possession of ammonia and similar corrosive liquids.

As part of the review, the council has also called for spitting and hate crimes to be considered as aggravating factors when suspects are brought to court for attacking officers.

The number of attacks on police has risen in the past five years, and the latest figures show that assaults on emergency workers rose by 31% in the month to August 2, compared with the same period last year.

These have been fuelled by coughing and spitting incidents related to coronavirus, unrest at protests and illegal raves.

Tthe NPCC wants suspects who spit at police to be forced to give a blood sample to test for disease, and spit guards issued to all officers if supported by local risk assessments.

Chief constables are also being left to decide how many officers to issue with Tasers, with strong support among the rank and file.

The review showed that 76% of police officers and 85% of specials want to deploy with Tasers every day.

However NPCC safety lead Alan Pughsley stressed that officers should not become over-reliant on the devices and they are no guarantee of safety.

National Police Chiefs Council lead for safety Alan Pughsley
National Police Chiefs Council lead for safety Alan Pughsley

The body has also commissioned research into why black, Asian and minority ethnic suspects are more like to be Tasered.

Che Donald, vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents more than 120,000 officers, said: “There are many good points raised in this review, with much good work already in play.

“However, chief officers must now take swift action to implement all immediately, so they are meaningful, make a tangible difference and are directly felt by officers on the ground.

“This review must not become just another door stop and be forgotten about a year down the line. That would mean letting down my colleagues even further.

“Along with the majority of the public, the federation is appalled by the atrocious levels of violence colleagues have faced recently and has been demanding action. That’s why we welcomed this review and want to see its findings make a real difference.”