HAMPSHIRE Police Federation is calling on the justice system to continue taking a tough stance on people who assault officers once the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Assaults on officers in England and Wales have risen by 14% in the past month of lockdown compared to the same period last year.
Many of those have been virus related with dozens of officers reporting they have been spat on or coughed at as people attempt to weaponise the disease against them.
Hampshire Police Federation Chair Alex Charge says there are several reasons behind the worrying increase in assault stats and has called on magistrates and courts to carry on taking them seriously.
“A lot of the people who are weaponising COVID-19 are the same people that were assaulting us before, but they’re just now spitting at us because it’s another way of doing it,” he said.
“I’m broadly very pleased with the response from the courts. We’ve had a lot of people who have been to court and who have been prosecuted, it’s got good news coverage, and they’ve gone to prison which is what we’d expect.
“It makes officers feel valued,” Alex added, “when they’re out there protecting the public and they are assaulted or threatened or spat at, that people are made an example of.
“I hope after COVID-19 that continues and that when officers are kicked and pushed and shoved when they’re just trying to do their jobs, then prison is the starting point.
“I’m not saying that in every single case someone should go to prison. But we should move back from that place rather than it being that you have to do something severe to a police officer or any other emergency service worker before prison is even considered.”
Reporting and dealing with the fall out of assaults on officers is, however, much improved, Alex said.
“We’ve got plans dealing with assaults on officers; there’s lots of scrutiny. When I was a young PC, it wasn’t unheard of to be interviewing the person who had assaulted you a couple of hours earlier. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
“There is support; you get contact from your line managers, there’s wider support if you’re injured – it’s been recognised as a real problem.”