2 May 2019
WILTSHIRE Police has the highest officer assault rate in the country, figures reveal.
The county’s police federation chief called the numbers surprising, warning that the force’s safety training for officers was “not what it once was”.
And he urged those who assault uniformed staff to remember that police officers were human too.
Last year, there were 103 reports of assaults on Wiltshire Police officers – double the number in the previous year.
It meant more than 12 assaults for every 100 officers on the force, according to analysis by British Transport Police and presented at a police seminar this week.
The analysis put Wiltshire equal with Hampshire as the worst force in the country for assaults on officers. The average across all police forces was seven assaults per 100 officers and PCSOs.
Insp Mark Andrews of Wiltshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “To find out that we were one of the highest in the country – considering we’re sleepy little Wiltshire – was a surprise.
“I have raised with the force my concern the safety training is not what it once was and the force is looking into ways to enhance that.
“As a community we need to realise that police officers are human. Some people seem to forget that officers are someone’s child, partner or parent.”
Wiltshire Police’s chief constable dismissed as “absolutely abhorrent” assaults on his officers, saying the attacks often had a long-term impact on officers’ health and wellbeing.
“It is really important to me that I take time to write a personal statement for every case which goes to court where a person has been charged with assaulting one of my officers or staff – I have written over 100 of these since April 2018,” Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said.
“Assaults on any emergency service worker are absolutely abhorrent.
"Police officers, staff and volunteers on the frontline put themselves in danger day in, day out to protect those living in our communities and it should never be seen ‘as part of the job’ for them to be on the receiving end of an assault of any kind.
“I am fully committed to ensuring that all of our frontline officers, staff and volunteers have every available tool and training they require to protect themselves. As part of this commitment, we have recently rolled out spit and bite guards to officers and staff and I will continue to offer all frontline officers the opportunity to receive Taser training if they want it.
“It is important to recognise that assaults on those on the frontline can have a long-term impact, which can be physical and psychological.
"As well as this, it can impact on their family members, and their absence from duties whilst they recover can impact on the resilience of the force.”
The force introduced spit hoods in March in a bid to protect officers from spitting suspects. The hoods have proved controversial nationally, with groups like Liberty condemning their use.
Last year, Wiltshire officer Insp Gill Hughes told reporters she had feared for her life after she was rounded on by a drink driver who punched her and smacked her head into a wall: “I couldn’t breathe and all I could think was that I was going to die. I truly believed that I was never going to see my children again.
“I really think that the only reason he didn’t kill me was because, following a previous assault at work two years earlier, I had started tae kwon do training so was able to defend myself pretty well.”
Insp Hughes smacked her attacker with a pair of handcuffs. He fled into a nearby house before returning with a knife. He was eventually Tasered.