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West Midlands Police Federation

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‘Mental impact of assaults has to be considered’

23 July 2020

More emphasis needs to be placed on the psychological impact of assaults on officers, says the deputy chair of West Midlands Police Federation.

John Williams, who represents the Federation at the Force’s assaults meetings, said the Force needs to realise that it is not always the physical injuries an officer receives that have a lasting impact on them.

“We speak to officers who may have only received a minor injury and yet it has a profound effect on them mentally,” says John, “It can affect their confidence when carrying out their duties, play over and over in their minds, cause sleep disturbances and anxiety. This can then affect their relationships with their families, friends and colleagues.

“At the other end of the scale, you can hear of officers who receive far more serious physical injuries but bounce back and are largely unaffected. The point is you can’t assume anything. Each officer’s individual circumstances and feelings have to be taken into account. There is no one approach that you can take and the Force has to be mindful of this.”

The Federation has urged the Force to also consider an appeals process when an investigation into an officer assault results in ‘no further action’ and has welcomed the fact this is going to be discussed in more detail.

“When officers are unhappy with the decisions taken by the CPS they have a victim’s right to review and this should not be forgotten,” says John, “Sometimes we are seeing charges for assaults on the police being dropped as if they are less important than other allegations but I think the words of Rory Stewart when he was justice minister should be in everyone’s minds.

“He said an assault on any individual or citizen in our society is terrible but an assault on an emergency worker was an attack on everyone since these people are society’s constituted representatives, protecting society and delivering services on its behalf. Therefore he argued these attacks should be punished more severely than an attack simply on an individual victim.

“I think that is true and that is why we need to see these offenders receive tough sentences as a punishment but also as a deterrent to others.”

During the assaults meeting, John raised the Federation’s concerns about a Force ‘awareness video’ which shows officers how to stop vehicles safely. While welcoming the video, the Federation is concerned that the film only relates to drivers who are compliant.

John also asked if there was any intention to incorporate vehicle extraction into the Force’s personal safety training but was told this was difficult due to the time involved and funding issues.

Tim Rogers, deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation and the national Federation’s response driving lead, is currently working on plans for an amendment to the Police Powers and Protections Bill, which is due before Parliament in the autumn, which will give police powers to require a driver to get out of their vehicle after a police stop.

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September 2020
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