Police officers need vaccine priority because they are being “consistently and deliberately” targeted in Covid attacks, Gloucestershire Police Federation has said.
Steve James, Federation Chair, was talking after it emerged that one in three police officers who responded to a survey have had the Covid-19 virus used as a weapon against them.
The Police Federation of England and Wales’s 2020 Demand, Capacity and Welfare survey, published yesterday (28 January) found that 32 per cent of officers had been purposely threatened with breathing on coughing by a member of the public who was believed to carry the virus, while nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said someone had actually done so.
Steve said: “These findings illustrate just why the Police Federation continue to make the case for police officers to be treated as a priority group for vaccinations. Whilst there are there are occupations, such as teachers and shop workers, who may also be at high risk of infection, the police are unique in being consistently and deliberately targeted like this.
“The last week has seen the death of a number of officers around the country from this virus. How many more do we need to see before the Government prioritise us for vaccinations?
“Not only must our officers face the novel threat of being assaulted and infected with this terrible virus, but this is just the new face of a deeply concerning increase in assaults on our officers.
“The survey shows that that over half of our officers have faced some form of physical attack over the last year. Whilst that’s over half of all officers, its likely the overwhelming number are frontline officers, often our youngest and least experienced officers.”
Officers felt undervalued for the dangerous work they do, and high levels of fatigue and occupational stress were found in the survey to be commonplace, the survey also found. Mental health and wellbeing issues were highlighted by 77 per cent of police officers, and the majority (90 per cent) of these respondents indicated psychological difficulties had been caused, or made worse, by working within policing.
Steve added: “All of this is now, sadly, taking its toll on our officers. In force we have seen an increase in psychological illness suffered by our officers over the last year.
“There is no doubt that for many the stresses of the job have been made that much worse by the struggle of balancing family and personal life amid lockdown and restrictions.
“To know however that on top of that they must face an increased risk of being attacked just adds to the pressure. I know our force are aware of the pressures that our officers are under, and the increased toll it is taking on many, and I would encourage anyone who is feeling things getting on top of them to ask us for help.”