Culture change and Taser needed to reduce police assaults

18 May 2016

Assaults on police cannot be tackled effectively unless there is a change in culture, as well as a national roll out of Taser.

Addressing the annual conference, John Apter, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said that it was wrong to accept police assaults as just being part of the job. He said: “Policing is dangerous and unpredictable, but if you say being assaulted is part of the job then that makes it right, and it is not right.”

He said it was down to chief officers to drive the change needed and that relationships with other agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), College of Policing and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) were vital to reducing the overall number of assaults on officers. However, he also criticised chief officers for refusing to allow a national roll out of Taser.

Mr Apter said: “It’s a disgrace to say Taser shouldn’t be rolled out further. It is an essential piece of kit. I accept it’s expensive, but what’s the cost of the safety of officers?” He also called for officer safety training to be standardised across all 43 forces in England and Wales and said he would raise the matter with the College of Policing. “It isn’t right that there isn’t a standard. It isn’t good enough. If we get it right, we can look after our people.”

Mr Apter also cast doubt on the reliability of figures which suggest around 23,000 officers are assaulted annually. He said the figure is based largely on health and safety data where officers voluntarily record their assault. However, in Hampshire just 25% of officers did this. Mr Apter also said that given there were 1,118 assaults in his force alone in the last 12 months, it was unlikely the national figure could be accurate and the data was ‘fundamentally flawed’.

Alex Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of the College of Policing, admitted that he was suspicious of the national figures for assaults. He paid tribute to the work of John Apter and Hampshire Police Federation which he said had challenged the ‘malaise’ that surrounded police assaults.

Mr Marshall urged forces to adopt a seven-point plan aimed at improving the way how assaults on police officers are investigated, which was developed by Hampshire Police Federation, as it has already made a huge difference. He accepted some forces had varied the plan, but cautioned against introducing too much inconsistency.

The College of Policing is working with Hampshire Police Federation and is studying the force’s assault figures. Early findings have revealed a link between assaults and alcohol, as well as domestic violence incidents and dealing with those with mental health issues.

John Montague, Senior District Crown Prosecutor at CPS Wessex urged delegates to build a relationship with their local CPS so cases could be better understood.