HAMPSHIRE Police Federation says officers across the country are ‘hurting’ after a tough few weeks in which they’ve not had the support they deserve.
Politicians and the media have criticised officers for how they policed the Sarah Everard vigil, while many have taken to social media to fan the flames around the Bristol’ kill the bill’ protests.
Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield said it’s been difficult to hear the level of criticism, particularly from the Government and senior MPs, many of whom rushed to judge without getting the full facts.
“It’s definitely been a tough time, and I think the first few days, particularly after the protest at Clapham Common, officers were feeling really low, just feeling like they’re constantly getting a kicking from the media,” she said.
“Then when you’ve got MPs joining in, it does feel like we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. The feeling is we’re society’s punch bag and not to have the support from MPs is really hurtful, particularly when they’re making judgements on a short video clip that’s been put on social media before the full facts are known.”
As those facts became clear with over 40 officers injured in the Bristol protests, Zoe said MPs views began to shift, but it shouldn’t take police vans being set on fire to get the backing and support officers need.
“As the days went on following Clapham Common, more came out about what actually happened, and there was a bit of a change,” Zoe said.
“We did then see some positive comments from MPs and then obviously following the Bristol protests the Home Secretary talked about ‘thuggery’.
“So that’s more positive, but it shouldn’t have to got to the extent where I think it’s up to 40 officers that are now injured, and police vans being set on fire, for MPs to realise this isn’t acceptable.
“When they are making judgements on social media with tens of thousands of followers, the majority of the public will listen to MPs, they will listen to their views, so it has a huge ripple effect.
“The vigil should only ever have been about Sarah. What will people remember from all this now?
“Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be Sarah.”