Police Federation

The unacceptable reality of police officer assaults cries for urgent change

National Chair Steve Hartshorn speaks on the imperative need for better protection, justice, and support for those who protect our communities and sheds light on the pressing need for change. Assaults should never be normalised; they're crimes that need swift justice.

26 October 2023


As guardians of society, police officers are tasked with maintaining law and order, often at great personal risk, and the alarming statistics surrounding assaults on police officers in England and Wales reveal a concerning growing trend.

In the year ending March 2023, 40,330 assaults on police officers were recorded, which averages to 110 assaults per day, painting a dark picture of the risk’s officers face daily, and a grim reminder that this issue is far from being resolved.

Assaults against police officers and staff should never be normalised. These brave individuals do not sign up for the job with the expectation of being assaulted. Assaults on police officers are not an occupational hazard; they are serious crimes and should be treated as such. Police officers’ working conditions should not include an acceptance of violence as a part of their duty.

One of the critical aspects that must be addressed is the inadequate protection and support offered to officers who have been harmed on duty. Their safety and wellbeing must be paramount, and improvements in this area are long overdue. Police forces and the Government need to work closely and tirelessly to reduce the frequency of these assaults and provide better protection and support for those who risk their lives to protect us, through the best available equipment, training, and safer crewing by reducing the frequency of single crewing.

The role of police has evolved significantly over the years. Today, officers are not just law enforcers but also community caretakers and, at times, first responders to individuals not only those experiencing mental health crises, but also those in medical crisis who require first aid when assaulted and no local ambulance service is available due to waiting times at hospitals. This expanding role highlights the importance of training and awareness. It is essential that officers receive proper training and support to navigate the challenges posed by a society grappling with issues such as mental and physical ill heath ill health.

It is disheartening to witness cases where criminals, who assault police officers, escape custodial sentences. These incidents are of grave concern and reveal the need for a more rigorous approach from our criminal justice system. Some judges appear to not take these assaults seriously, ultimately failing the victims of crime – the very people who endanger their lives for the protection of the communities they serve. Assaults on police officers must never be viewed as just being part of the job. They must be met with the full force of the law, ensuring justice is swiftly served, and victims are protected.

Operation Hampshire has been implemented and allows Chief Constables the ability to track on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, via only 18 very simple data metrics the data that can potentially reduce the issues of the 40, 000 assaults on police. Everyone gains when we can identify training needs to reduce the injuries, provide suitable occupational health for better returns to work and help them deal with abstraction and deployment issues which will help save public funds and increase the number of officers available to protect the communities. I am hopeful that this data can be approved in time for inclusion in the Annual Date Returns for 2024 and will be calling out those who do cannot support our police officers in such a simple task in the provision of data.

There have been some shocking cases where offenders have been let off at court due to the unavailability of a barrister allowing them to walk free from the court despite leaving police officers with severe injuries and no justice.

Is it wrong for officers to expect that when they go out to do their job, and if they are assaulted in any manner, they will have and must have the full support of the criminal justice system?

The high number of assaults on police officers is a concerning issue that cannot be swept under the carpet. Assaults on police officers are serious crimes, and they should be treated as such, with the seriousness they deserve.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, as the undisputed voice of policing, representing more than 145,000 rank and file officers will continue to raise this issue at every forum. We are working with the Crown Prosecution Service, The Home Office, Oscar Kilo and the NPCC to find ways to resolve and deter assaults on police officers to ensure those who protect the public are adequately safeguarded and supported. What we cannot let happen is that it sits in the "too difficult" box - try telling the 40,330 officers assaulted last year about difficulty.

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