An average of four assaults a day have been committed since April 2020 with officers being routinely kicked, punched, bitten and spat at whilst attempting to bring offenders into custody and protect vulnerable people from harm.
During the same time period there have also been 66 incidents in which both officers and police staff in Kent have reported suffering racist abuse.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley, who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Officer and Staff Safety, said: ‘Whilst policing is a dangerous profession, being assaulted must never be seen as just part of the job and it is abhorrent that so many are being attacked throughout the course of their duties.
‘The vast majority of officers enter the police service because they want to protect people and keep their communities safe. It is therefore totally unacceptable that some criminals think nothing of lashing out at those brave men and women who would also be there to help them and their families if they needed it.
‘It is particularly troubling that some of my officers and staff are also being racially abused whilst being assaulted. There is absolutely no place in society for offences motivated by prejudice and nobody should be subjected to that type of behaviour.’
During 2020/21 there were a total of 1,610 assaults on Kent Police officers and 37 instances of racist abuse towards officers and staff. In 2021/22 (up to 16 March) there were 1,615 assaults and 29 instances of racist abuse.
A proposal to increase the maximum penalty for people who commit assaults against emergency workers from 12 months to two years’ imprisonment is currently being debated in Parliament as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021.
Chief Constable Pughsley said: ‘Criminals who attack police officers and other emergency workers are an absolute disgrace and the plan to increase the maximum sentence to two years’ imprisonment has my full support.
‘Police officers run towards danger when others understandably run away from it, and they do not deserve to be physically attacked for their efforts. Whilst I am often relieved to hear that an assaulted officer has not received any lasting injuries, there are still too many suffering cuts, bruises, breaks and the emotional trauma associated with being attacked on duty – especially when they have been bitten or spat at and have to wait several weeks to find out if they have been infected with any diseases.
‘Following an assault it is important my officers and staff receive the same level of care that would be given to other victims of violent crime, and we have a comprehensive welfare and support system in place to help with their recovery. We also ensure officers have access to protective equipment including spit guards and, if they wish, tasers in order to keep themselves and other members of the public safe.
‘I must stress again that attacks or racist abuse targeted against officers and staff are never tolerated and that anyone who commits such disgusting offences can expect to be arrested, charged and brought to justice.’