Assaults on police have been on the rise, with a top local officer saying it is linked to attempts to enforce Coronavirus rules. The issue was raised at an online meeting of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel yesterday, when members heard that the number of incidents where officers have reported people spitting on them has risen in recent months.
The meeting was told that although assaults on officers and other emergency workers had been rising for a number of years, the current pandemic had led to incidents where officers were attacked when dealing with complaints about illegal gatherings or people breaking social distancing rules.
At the meeting, Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns Williamson was updating members of the five West Yorkshire Councils on current crime trends, and how they were being impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic.
Wakefield Councillor Stuart Hepinstall asked about assaults on officers, adding: “How are we dealing with it in West Yorkshire? It seems like it is increasing to me.”
Mr Burns Williamson said assaults on all emergency workers, not just police, had been a worrying trend in recent years.
Services had worked with politicians to raise the issue, and started the “Protect the Protectors” campaign.
He added: “It is really concerning, and the Government is looking into it as the current legislation is not acting as the deterrent it ought to be.”He said work was done to make sure officers who had been attacked had the support they needed.
He added: “We also try to work with communities to explain why police are carrying out certain activities.
“We won’t tolerate officers being assaulted, and some cases are dealt with quite swiftly.”
Deputy Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “As a result of more engagement and enforcement around Covid we have seen an increase in assaults on officers – in particular spitting.”
Cllr Hepinstall had also raised the issue of cases of alleged police aggression when making arrests. Dpt Cons Foster said all officers are given safety training and unconscious bias training.
Mr Burns Williamson said police were awaiting national guidance on upcoming changes to Covid rules – which will see gatherings of more than six people become illegal from Monday.
He told the meeting there had been a rise in Anti Social Behaviour reports in recent months, and this was linked to lockdown. He said many of the reports stemmed from neighbour disputes and reports of nuisance bikes.
Panel member Roger Grasby questioned the Commissioner on recent comments made by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson.
He said that it was “inevitable” there would be a rise in violence in the country after lockdown – caused by a mix of pent up frustration from having been stuck indoors for months and fears of an increase in unemployment due to the pandemic.”
Mr Burns Williamson said: “I don’t share that view.
“We need to look at the things we can put in place to mitigate that. We need to look at planning for certain eventualities, but I don’t think it is inevitable at all.”