16 May 2017
Assaulting a police officer or other emergency service worker needs to become as “socially unacceptable as getting behind the wheel of a car drunk”.
This is according to Calum Macleod, Vice Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), who addressed Conference on Tuesday on the theme of Protect the Protectors.
Among the aims of the campaign are tougher sentences for those who assault emergency service workers, as well as a wider roll-out of protective kit such as spit and bite guards, Taser and Body Worn Video – and changes to the law to require those who spit at blue light workers to submit to a blood test.
Mr Macleod said: “This is not about party politics – it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about standing up for the men and women in uniform who are protecting society. Our campaign shows the human cost to policing. We all have family, feelings and frailty and we are all breakable. Yet every day, police officers put themselves in harm’s way.”
The session watched moving videos of police officers, including Vicky Thompkins from West Yorkshire who spoke about the trauma of being head-butted in the face, which damaged her teeth. PC Mike Bruce from West Midlands Police, who addressed delegates from the stage, spoke about his ordeal and the effect on his family, when an offender spat in his eyes and face. He was tested for Hepatitis B and received a positive, which thankfully later turned out to be false. The point was made that all of this would not have been necessary had the offender been compelled to give a blood sample.
Nick Smart, Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation, also spoke of the need for tougher sentences to act as a deterrent. One of his officers, PC Karl Heath from Wakefield, had been slammed head first into the floor, shattering his collarbone – but due to failings in the investigation, the man charged walked free from court. “Sentences need to reflect the physical and mental injuries and the impact on families,” he said. “Our officers are becoming society’s punch bags.”
Support for the Protect the Protectors campaign also came from James Bethell, chief executive of campaigning firm Westbourne, who said it has the “smell of success about it”, and Holly Lynch, the former Labour MP for Halifax who is campaigning for re-election. Holly was instrumental in getting the campaign off the ground with PFEW after seeing first-hand the danger that police officers face. She had joined PC Craig Gallant on patrol in her constituency when he was surrounded by a hostile crowd. Having arranged a debate in Parliament this year, she was successful in her reading of a Ten Minute Rule Bill. Holly pledged to continue championing the cause and added: “Officers will only report assaults if they have confidence that there will be investigation.”
Ending the session, Calum Macleod said: “We are not seeking to increase the prison population but if examples need to be set along the way, then so be it.”