Assaults on police in Notts rises by 40%
The number of police officers assaulted on duty in Notts has jumped by around 40 per cent in the past year, according to figures from the Police Federation. Jayne Garfitt reports...
THE TV documentary Coppers threw Notts Police into the spotlight.
While the public disorder was perhaps the most recognisable incident, the Channel 4 show screened earlier this year also revealed the abuse police on the beat have to deal with day to day.
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Criminals they are sent to deal with swear as officers try to explain why they are there and when an officer is forced to arrest them things often turn violent.
This is exactly what happened to Sergeant Simon Edwards when he was called to a crowded bar in the city centre.
As he approached a rowdy reveller, the two policemen who had hold of him lost their grip and Mr Edwards was punched in the face.
"Luckily he was punching from a fairly awkward position so I didn't require medical treatment," he said.
"There have been a couple of other incidents where I've taken a knock, but overall in 20 years of policing I've been either very lucky or I've communicated well with the people I'm dealing with.
"I could give you many examples of officers being assaulted though. I'm a supervisor of several officers and I get more concerned if my colleagues are assaulted."
One incident in particular stands out for Mr Edwards.
He and two other officers were patrolling the city centre late on a Friday night when one of his colleagues was assaulted.
The female officer was held in a headlock for around 30 seconds.
"There were only three of us there and no other officers available for back-up," said Mr Edwards. "If it hadn't been for two university students coming to help out then that would have been all three of us potentially assaulted.
"It can be quite scary. The officer was very shaken-up by it, but she had a lot of experience and you do get quite hardened to it.
"But that doesn't alter the fact that each of our staff have to go home to their families and if they are going home injured it's not pleasant.
"A lot of people argue it's an occupational hazard but it's one that can be designed out, the risk can be reduced if there are enough staff and if you have the right training and equipment, but sometimes that doesn't always happen."
Figures from The Police Federation show the number of recorded assaults on police officers jumped by around 40 per cent compared to last year, with 284 assaults taking place from April 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, compared to 200 the year before.
However, the number of injuries sustained by police officers during assaults was down by 24 per cent.
For Mr Edwards the assaults that are not brought to justice are the most frustrating.
The punch in the face he received remains unpunished after the case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mr Edwards believes it is cases like this which have contributed to the rise in the number of recorded assaults.
"I still think the vast majority of the public respect the police," he said.
"There's also been a general lowering of standards by the public in simple things, like people now seem to think it's OK to drop litter; they think it's OK to urinate in doorways and they think it's OK to push police officers, and that's because they know they'll have their day in court, come away with an £80 fine and then be free to go and do it again."
Phil Matthews, chairman of Notts Police Federation, said the figures are an obvious cause for concern.
"While we've seen a decline in serious injuries; we've seen a rise in the number of police assaults," he said.
"For it to jump by the amount it has could be for a host of reasons.
"It could be that we haven't got the right number of officers to control people on the street, or it could be because there's a growing propensity among people who are that way inclined because there's no disincentive to stop them.
"It does seem to have become more socially acceptable to assault cops and get away with a lesser sentence, which is why we would always want to see offenders attracting the harshest possible sentence to act as a deterrent.
"No one deserves to go into work, do their job and get assaulted for it."
But with Notts Police facing even more cuts, Mr Matthews fears the situation will get worse.
He said: "The concerns are going forward with a diminishing number of officers, pressures on the budget and having to share everything that can be shared, is that going to exasperate the injuries they already risk suffering in the line of duty?"
A Notts Police spokesman said: "Assaults against police officers are always of great concern to us and the safety of our officers is a priority.
"While our officers expect to face challenging and often confrontational situations, no one has the right to assault them or any other person.
"An injury to one officer can inevitably put additional pressures on resources to ensure the public is not affected by that officer's absence.
"Each incident is reviewed by senior officers in conjunction with the force's health and safety department and staff associations to ensure our working practices are correct.
"However, the number of incidents in which a police officer is assaulted represents a tiny fraction of all the incidents we attend, which illustrates that the overwhelming majority of the public retains a healthy respect for the force and the difficult job our officers have to do."