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Why we are campaigning to 'Protect the Protectors'

Monday, 06 February 2017

Vice-Chair Calum Macleod introduces our new campaign and looks at how big a problem assaults on police really are.

This week we launched in earnest our campaign to Protect the Protectors: our collective bid to make a real difference to the working lives of officers and potentially other emergency sector workers.

Not only do we want a change in legislation to help get tougher sentences for those who assault police and other emergency workers, but we are also seeking better training and access to equipment – wider roll-out of protection measures, such as Taser, body worn video and spit guards.

But just how big a problem is it? Getting an accurate picture on the scale of the issue is difficult.  Many officers themselves don’t report incidents and official statistics are patchy. Our own analysis has revealed shocking new estimates, however estimates are just that. The true picture of this issue is one which needs accurate recording and that is why we are pleased the Government have taken steps to ensure this accuracy moving forward. We however need to ensure that our own forces are recording these properly and in a consistent fashion.

Being assaulted doesn’t happen to every officer though of course, some will go through their entire careers never having had to deal with it. But you can bet those officers will at least know someone who has. Our message is loud and clear: our members, the police officers who protect the public day in and day out, need to have confidence that they have the support of the criminal justice system to bring those who perpetrate an assault against them to justice.

There needs to be a deterrent and at this moment in time we do not see that deterrent. Too often an assault on an officer is the first to be dropped from the charge sheet, dropped by the court or perpetrators receive a slap on the wrist.  This has to stop. We are not advocating over filling an already crammed prison population; what we are advocating is that there are proper penalties that will prevent and deter these assaults occurring in the first place.  The assaults have to stop and if the legal process needs to set examples along the way, then so be it.

But you don’t have to have physical scars to be injured and I think this is also an important point. Many officers suffer mental health difficulties because of what they have seen and what they have had to deal with, irrespective of whether they have been subjected to an assault. And that’s another arm of our campaign – to get improved welfare support. All too often mental health is not talked about and we must move towards a better culture where officers can, and do, talk about it and then can get access to the help and support they need.

It will be interesting to see the public’s response to the campaign. We all get incensed when we read some of the light sentences that get handed out to those who assault us as we go about our work and you cannot help but be moved by some of the stories they tell and the impact an attack can have. So I hope the public get behind it, because while there are those who are happy to assault officers, and there are those who are happy to film such assaults when they happen, we must not lose sight of the fact there are many many more who find it as abhorrent as we do.

Whether we ever get close to having an accurate picture of the true scale of the problem remains to be seen, but we must remember officers are people too: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters , daughters, sons and partners. Ordinary people doing an extra ordinary role coming from the public to serve the public.

Assault is not part of our job, nor is it part of the role others perform in public service.

One assault is one too many.

More information on our campaign can be found on the 'Protect the Protectors' webpage.

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