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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Fedration Chairman: "No surprise" that officers believe they have contracted Covid-19 while on duty

28 January 2021

Nearly half of police officers responding to a Police Federation survey who believe they have caught Covid-19 during the pandemic, think they contracted the virus on duty. 

The PFEW’s 2020 Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey, released today, found that one in four officers believed they had contracted Covid-19 (26%). Almost half (45%) of these respondents believed they contracted the virus through ‘work-related activities’.

Andy Berry, Chairman of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said: “I don’t find it surprising at all that very many officers have contracted Covid-19. Firstly the roll out of sufficient PPE was slow at the start of the pandemic thus unnecessarily exposing officers. But more significantly the role of the police officer can be very challenging to fully insulate from the Covid risk. 

“Many elements of policing whether such as arresting, caring for victims, first aid places officers up close and personal to members of the public creating an unavoidable risk of infection. This is why at the start of January I went public, including writing to South West MP’s, asking that the vaccination of police officers should be prioritised.”

The survey also showed that almost one in three officers (32%) reported a member of the public who was believed to carry the virus had purposely threatened to breathe or cough on them, while nearly a quarter (24%) said someone had actually done so.

Andy added: “It is such a sad indictment that Covid-19 has been weaponised in a year where we saw 803 assaults on police officers between April and December. That’s an increase of nearly 12% over the same period the previous year. 148 of those assaults included spitting which is one of the most foul and base forms of assault in normal times but unforgivable at a time when they could be spread such a virulent disease.  

“The weaponization of Covid was also recently reported by the Crown Prosecution Service. There is no doubt in my mind that those who choose to assault a police officer or other emergency worker should, in almost every case, expect to face a prison sentence. There is no excuse and no mitigation to these offences and they deserve harsh treatment at both Magistrates and Crown Courts.”

Over half (55%) had been the victim of an unarmed physical attack over the previous 12 months.