Scandals including Wayne Couzens and David Carrick have led to more officers being assaulted, with the public increasingly losing trust in their law enforcers, the boss of the police union has warned. There are more than 110 attacks on officers every day across the country and it is feared this could get even worse, with officers finding themselves branded “rapists and sex pests” by members of the public.
Policing was shocked to the core when serving officer Couzens kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021.
Then David Carrick was unmasked as one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders after he admitted 24 counts of rape as well as charges of sexual assault, controlling and coercive behaviour, and false imprisonment. He was jailed for 30 years.
A series of other sex, racism and misogyny scandals has also rocked forces.
Even the recent tragic case of Nicola Bulley sparked controversy, with Lancashire Police being criticised for their handling of the lengthy search and the decision to release details about her health and vulnerabilities. Reviews are underway into the case.
Steve Hartshorn, chairman of the Police Federation, said all this has led to people having less respect for officers, with some abusing and attacking them.
He pointed to violence at a hotel housing migrants in Knowsley, Merseyside, which ended with a police van being torched.
He said: “We need to rout out the criminal and corrupt officers, and face the pain now. But in a few years to come, policing will have shown itself to have cleaned its act up.
“There is so much good work being done every single day. But officers are on the floor in terms of how they get spoken to and how they get treated.
“There are amazing cops out there but there are people saying ‘you’re a rapist’ or a ‘sex pest’ and they’re not going to do this or that. In certain quarters we are seen as fair game and people want to fight.
“Look at Liverpool. Why on earth did they trash the police van? They were there to keep the peace but we have become the target.
“When allegations are made about cops, there are certain people who go ‘I don’t trust you to do that because you are one of those types of people’.
“But it is all on body camera and if people co-operate they have nothing to fear if they are arrested. They can go to a custody suite and can always make a complaint after, if they think they have been dealt with inappropriately.”
Figures for the year ending March 2022 show there were 41,221 assaults on officers, up from 36,969.
This amounts to more than 112 per day.
The federation has warned that this has led to “unprecedented levels of mental exhaustion and mental ill-health” among officers.
Mr Hartshorn added: “It has got worse. It’s crazy. We have had 700,000 sick days in the past year, which is 2,009 police officers off sick every single day, and assaults on police have gone up.”
In 2013, the number of sick days was just 302,000.
“We have seen this increase in assaults coming and I think you have to link the sick days to it, through increases in mental health problems – and this is only the people who report their mental health problems.”
Last year, the maximum sentence for an assault on an emergency worker was increased to two years.
But Mr Hartshorn is not convinced that the tougher sentences are acting as a deterrent or if courts are using them to their full potential.
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