Police officers are assaulted in Gloucestershire at a rate of almost three every single week, and the force will be increasing use of Tasers as a result.
Some 138 police officers were assaulted between the start of June 2018 and the end of May 2019, an average of 2.7 every week, figures from the Home Office have revealed.
There were 61 assaults in Gloucester in the 12 months up to June 2019, with 37 in Cheltenham, 19 in Stroud, 10 in the Cotswolds, eight in Tewkesbury, and three in the Forest of Dean.
Gloucestershire Constabulary have decided to increase the number of Specialist Taser Officers, allowing more officers to receive Taser training, in response to the issue.
The news comes after Gloucestershire Constabulary said four of their police officers were allegedly assaulted in the county in a single day.
Assistant Chief Constable (Operations) Craig Holden said: “Officers and staff expect to put themselves in harm’s way in one form or another on a daily basis whilst keeping the people of Gloucestershire safe. However, what is not acceptable is for them to be assaulted whilst they are in the course of their lawful duties.
“It is unacceptable to assume that assaults upon police officers and staff should be in any way tolerated, it is simply not ‘part of the job’. While it is clear that the nature of policing requires members of the organisation to handle difficult and hostile situations, assaults upon them are serious and will not be tolerated.
“Over the past two years the Constabulary has embedded a Supportive Leadership and Wellbeing programme which includes the protection of our staff and aftercare provided to them if they have unfortunately been the victim of an assault while in the line of duty.”
Gloucester saw a higher rate of assaults than any other part of Gloucestershire, working out as 47 incidents for every 100,000 people living in the area.
Almost four in five (79%) of the anti-police attacks resulted in an injury.
Gloucester was followed by Cheltenham (32 police constable assaults for every 100,000 people), Stroud (16) and Cotswold (11).
Mr Holden added: “There was an urgent review of officer safety which was commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council after serious attacks on officers and a national increase in assaults last year. The Home Office also announced additional funding for Taser uplift.
“Ensuring our staff have the correct training and protective equipment is of utmost importance, not least of all because in order to protect the public our staff need to be protected themselves. Tasers are effective at de-escalating dangerous situations and their provision in Gloucestershire is regularly reviewed and is based on an assessment of threat and risk.
“Following a recent extensive review and consultation on the use of Taser we will be increasing our number of Specialist Taser Officers. This will allow more officers to receive Taser training.”
The figures – which do not include more serious assaults such as attempted murder – show the number of assaults on police officers in Gloucestershire has fallen in the last year.
There were 107 in the 12 months to June 2017. That had risen to 218 by June 2018, but fell back to 138 in the 12 months to June 2019. The recent fall in anti-police attacks runs counter to the national trend.
Across England and Wales, police forces have recorded a steep rise in assaults on police constables in the line of duty.
Home Office data shows that in the year to June 2019 there were 30,513 assaults (with or without injury) on officers – up from 27,237 in the previous 12 months and 18,220 in the year before that.
Some 10,363 attacks in the year to June 2019 caused an injury.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The rise in assaults on our officers is completely unacceptable and must never be seen as just part of the job.
“The recent surge of severe, high-profile attacks is a serious concern and the Federation will continue to push for increased protections for officers including a wider roll-out of Taser.
“But Taser is just part of the solution; there must also be a stronger legal deterrent.
“My colleagues feel failed by the criminal justice system that should be there to support them when the thugs who attack them are let off with little more than a slap on the wrist.
“We welcome the Government’s pledge to double the current maximum sentencing to 24 months – something we initially fought hard for through our Protect the Protectors campaign – and I will be discussing this with the Home Secretary when I meet with her in the coming weeks to ensure those who attack my colleagues are dealt with severely.”
Across England and Wales, Stevanage was the worst place for attacks against police officers.
There were 152 per 100,000 people living there.
That was followed by Norwich (145 per 100,000 people), and Westminster (126 per 100,000 people).
The figures only include assaults recorded by police, meaning that the true numbers could be even higher.