16 May 2017
West Midlands’ Chief Constable Dave Thompson has delivered his biggest hint yet that his force will get spit guards, at our conference in Birmingham, 16-17 May.
Mr Thomson told the 700-strong audience in Birmingham today: “Your local branch board absolutely convinced me we need to take this step. But we are engaging in community consultation because we have concerns about how we are seen by the public we serve.”
The West Midlands has 6,800 officers and is Britain’s second largest force. Birmingham, Britain’s ‘second city’, has a population where nearly half of inhabitants are under 30 and 37% are of black and ethnic minority, he said. More than half of the 43 forces in England and Wales currently use spit and bite guards and several others, including the Met, the largest force, are trialling them.
Mr Thomson added: “We need to attract and retain officers; all forces are going to have to nurture and support staff – many in policing feel over criticised and undervalued.”
Also speaking during the ‘political session’ were Yvette Cooper, Labour parliamentary candidate, and Policing Minister Brandon Lewis. Ms Cooper said: “We have lost over 20,000 police officers since 2009 – we know this has had a real impact on frontline policing and we still do not have the resources to make sure the police can do their jobs.” She also cited the recent HMIC State of Policing report which identified deficiencies in neighbourhood policing, a nationwide lack of detectives and IT issues across every force.
Mr Lewis paid tribute to “the best police force in the world”, picking up this year’s conference theme of Protect the Protectors in which we are seeking greater protection for officers who are assaulted and tougher sentences for offenders: “Both myself and the Home Secretary value what you do … if someone decides to break the law and attack you, they should face the full weight of the law and justice should be seen to be served.” But he stopped short of indicating any further measures to ensure more appropriate punishments for offenders.
To jeering from the audience he also insisted that higher crime figures were down to “better recording of crime” and appeared to rule out any significant increases in funding in the future.