Protect the Protectors
Assaults on police officers are sadly commonplace. The latest welfare survey data from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) suggests there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon during the same period.
To assault a police officer, prison officer, or other emergency service worker is to attack society itself and should never be accepted as 'part of the job'.
We have joined with PFEW and the Prison Officers' Association to campaign for:
- a change in legislation
- tougher sentences
- better training and access to equipment
- more accurate data on police assaults
- improved welfare support.
42-year-old Edward Taylor* was off work for three months after an assault on duty left him with a broken toe and fractured foot.
The officer, who has 13 years' service with BTP, was injured when he responded to a report that a member of train staff had been attacked by a passenger. As PC Taylor and his colleague restrained the woman, she kicked out, knocking him to the floor.
Back at station, PC Taylor removed his boot to find his foot was blackened with bruising. At hospital, x-rays confirmed his toe was broken and he had three hairline fractures in his foot. He was put into plaster up to his knee and taken home by a colleague.
"It was tough on my family. My son was only four or five months old and my wife was getting up every couple of hours with him; I couldn't help as I was having to sleep downstairs because of being in plaster. I couldn't even pick him up or bath him."
The woman who assaulted PC Taylor received a conditional caution and a fine.
"There is no deterrent," he said. "This was the first assault which led to me taking time off work but I've been assaulted at various times since; in the last month I've been spat at and bitten twice."
*Not the officer's real name
33-year-old Pete Wilcock has been a police officer for around 5 years and has already experienced several assaults on duty. He supports the Protect the Protectors campaign which calls for better protection for police officers and other emergency service workers.
Having been kicked, spat at and wrestled to the ground Pete feels disheartened by the way assaults on police officers are often dealt with. "It's really disappointing when you've got a suspect and nothing happens to them," he said. "It seems to me that while we're a victim on paper, we don't get the sort of service that's provided to a member of the public."
Pete, who is based in the North West, was still in his probation the first time he was assaulted. Having intervened in a fight, he was kicked three times by a man he was restraining. More recently, again responding to reports of a fight, Pete was injured when he was wrestled to the ground by one of the men involved. This time charges were brought, resulting in a community order and a fine.
Pete continued: "The main thing for me would be that guidance is put out to not have out of court disposals; any assault on police should be dealt with by a charge or summons."
Having been knocked unconscious, PC Chris Henschel finds it hard to remember everything that happened to him when he was assaulted.
Earlier this year he was on duty with two colleagues when they responded to reports of criminal damage in progress at a train station in Essex. The suspect was behaving aggressively towards staff and it took all three officers to get him under control and into handcuffs. During the struggle PC Henschel was kicked in the shins and spat at, but worse was to come. Back at the station the man headbutted him, knocking him unconscious.
PC Henschel took two days off work due to the pain in his face, dizziness and headaches. There may be no lasting damage, but the assault has made him wary:
"Since the incident I still get the excitement and adrenaline of running to a call but now that excitement quickly turns to dread. I get a horrible feeling in my stomach not knowing what I'm walking into or what is going to happen to me or my colleagues around me."
The man who assaulted PC Henschel was sentenced to two years in prison for a total of seven offences, including ABH.
Adam Heslop says his confidence was 'rocked' when was assaulted on duty earlier this year. He suffered a broken nose when he was punched in the face while assisting with an arrest.
"It's the first time in nine years of policing that somebody had succeeded in punching me. I didn't expect it at all and I felt a bit useless," Adam explained. "For a few months afterwards, I went into incidents thinking that everybody was going to punch me and I was getting massive anxiety and adrenaline rushes from even the most mundane of incidents."
Adam's attacker was charged with ABH. She was given a curfew and ordered to pay court costs of £85. Adam received £100 in compensation.
"I know better than to expect justice from the courts when it comes to police assaults," Adam said. "I think that's one of the reasons assaults are up significantly. She thought nothing of assaulting me and wasn't really inconvenienced by the court's sentencing."