Chief Constable speaks out as figures reveal shocking levels of assaults on officers
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Nearly 600 Essex Police officers have been assaulted whilst on duty, protecting and serving the public, so far this year.
Shocking figures show from January 2021 to date 588 officers were attacked whilst on the line of duty and of those 138 have been assaulted more than once.
In 2020 a total of 868 officers were assaulted whilst on duty and in 2019 a total of 774 attacks on officers took place.
So far this year, your officers have been punched, kicked and even run over whilst trying to apprehend criminals and keep the public safe.
In a personal reflection on the attacks on his workforce, Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington said:
“Since I became Chief Constable of Essex Police in 2018, I have seen some of my officers: stabbed, doused in petrol with a baying mob calling for them to be set on fire, run over, kicked, stamped on, punched, spat at, threatened………….I could go on.
"And the sad reality is that here, in Essex, we are not the exception, we are the rule.
"Up and down the country, every day, your police officers, the people charged with protecting you, are assaulted.
"The figures obtained by the Express are shocking there is no doubt.
"In Essex whilst the number of offences is higher than the actual number of officers assaulted (many offences may occur and be recorded during one incident) the number of individual officers being attacked is nonetheless disgusting and unacceptable.
"Let’s not forget, police officers are made of strong stuff. They join the job knowing they will run into the face of danger, that they will see traumatic things, and many of my officers turn up for their next duty a matter of hours after they have been attacked on the front line.
"In some cases they have to take associated sick leave because many have suffered serious injuries and required lengthy hospitalisation and recuperation – that is not something they should be criticised for, indeed that’s the very least we should afford them when they are paying a very heavy price (and in some cases, sadly, the ultimate price) for protecting you, the public.
"The pandemic has created a policing challenge like no other. Officers have had to enforce legislation, the like of which we have never seen before.
"It has been challenging for us all. My force has recorded its lowest ever sickness rates amongst officers throughout the period and I’m hugely proud of that, it is testimony to the public service they and all police officers exist to give. But there can never and will never be an excuse for using violence against our protectors.
"We are hugely grateful to our Criminal Justice partners (both the CPS and judiciary) who continue to support us, particularly in Essex, where we have seen high numbers of offenders charged, remanded and imprisoned for attacking officers.
"We are also grateful to the government for the Assaults on Emergency Worker legislation, which created the specific offence to deal with this issue. But there is more to do and I know I speak for everyone right across policing when I say we support the excellent campaign by Lissie Harper for Harper’s Law to create automatic life sentences for those who kill emergency service workers.
"When we lose a colleague, as in the tragic case of PC Andrew Harper, it affects the policing family deeply.
"I still remember, like it was yesterday, the night 30 years ago when, as a young probationer Constable, I was one of the first officers to arrive on scene where my Sergeant had been fatally stabbed- that memory will never leave me or any of the team on duty that night. We must make sure no police officer death is ever in vain and those who take their lives pay by losing their liberty for life.
"We do all we can here at Essex Police (supported by our PFCC Roger Hirst) to look after our officers.
"We wrap excellent welfare around those who are assaulted (and their colleagues who have to witness and investigate it) and we do all we can to bring those responsible to justice.
"But I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t leave a lasting impact on officers and their families – it does, I don’t doubt many officers are anxious when they pick up their warrant card and many families dread the knock on the door.
"I would also be lying if I said that the growing level of attacks and violence against police is not a constant worry – it is.
"I would also be disingenuous if I said that I am not concerned that this will cause a knock-on for police recruitment – it may well do, particularly against the backdrop of another freeze on police pay which is a bitter pill to swallow.
"I know I have painted a bleak picture, but the figures speak for themselves.
"But let me conclude by saying that despite the danger they face, your police officers – whatever badge they wear – turn up for work every day knowing what they will face.
"And let me ask one thing of you, our public – stand with us and up for us.
"When you see us in the street say hello, when we are trying our best be patient and when we are down, bloodied and broken, continue to show us the support you always do because the public are the police and we are the public.”