Cumbria Police Federation

Weaponising and Welfare: Covid-19 - a View from the Thin Blue Line

22 October 2021

Four in ten police officers said they have been spat at by people claiming to have COVID, a new survey has revealed.

Weaponising and Welfare: Covid-19 - a View from the Thin Blue Line also found that 60% of officers had suffered from anxiety and sleep loss during the pandemic. Over half said they had feelings of hopelessness resulting in an inability to focus at work.

Officers told the University of Cumbria study that PPE was “slow to come” and they would have liked more testing and more welfare guidance and support during the pandemic.

Worryingly over half of respondents said not enough hand sanitisers were available to officers and staff, while 30% said changes to workplace conditions were not made soon enough.

Forces could have done better in offering welfare advice, too, the survey found, and nearly 40% said they would have liked to see better management support.

Some officers told the survey there were worried they and their families might die and that guidance, in places, on interviewing prisoners in custody was “woefully inadequate”.

38% of all respondents’ report being spat at by someone with, or claiming to have, Covid, while 59% say isolation procedures following possible Covid contacts rarely took place.

One officer told the survey: “A suspect was located regarding a fail-to-stop Road Traffic Collision. Upon locating the suspect she immediately resisted and assaulted me by punching and spitting. After she was restrained on the floor she stated that she had Covid-19 and HIV and laughed. She then continued trying to spit at other officers.”

Jamie McTear, Cumbria Police Federation Secretary, said: “Despite this being a small survey pool it gives a snap shot of the effects the pandemic has had on police officers across the country - and this was just after the first lock down last year.

"Thankfully for our members in Cumbria, the constabulary were quick to ensure they had suitable PPE from the outset, to help  protect them while they were keeping the county safe.

“This survey demonstrates that officers were on the front line fighting the pandemic in a vulnerable position from risk of infection, alongside our NHS colleagues, yet the government saw fit to recognise this with a 0% pay rise. It also leaves the worry of the longer term detrimental effect policing the pandemic has had on officer mental wellbeing.”

72 officers from Cumbria, Cleveland, Durham, Northumbria, Hertfordshire, BTP, The Met, Suffolk, Lancashire, Leicestershire and Thames Valley Police took part in the research.

To see the study in full, go to: