The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of the work our police, other emergency services, NHS and key workers do in often difficult circumstances to protect us all, and they too deserve protection and support while they do this challenging work.
However, there has sadly been a significant increase in assaults on police officers and staff throughout the pandemic – there were over a thousand assaults on police officers and staff in 2020 in Avon and Somerset alone.
Every weekend, police officers are punched, kicked, scratched, spat and coughed at while doing their job. This is unacceptable.
I have made three actions a priority in my role as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner and I will continue these if elected:
- Supporting initiatives led by the Chief Constable to introduce a 7 Point Promise to enhance support for all staff and officers affected by assault and to ensure that Courts must consider every police assault and see Body Worn Video evidence;
- Working with the Chief Constable to ensure that officers have the right equipment to protect themselves; and
- Supporting plans to increase the robustness of sentencing guidelines for assaults on police.
Given the reduction in police funding and officer numbers since 2010 as a result of austerity and central Government budget cuts, officers remain under pressure across Avon and Somerset. Officer numbers reduced from approximately 3,300 in 2010 to just over 2,500 in 2018.
Even with the additional funding for new officers that has been promised by Government, it will take many years to recruit and train these officers to fill the gaps. This has been exacerbated by the Police and Crime Panel’s decision to veto the council tax precept.
These funding challenges have brought significant additional pressure on existing officers, meaning that clear and demonstrable action to protect police welfare is extremely important.