On the day a young policeman died on duty in Berkshire the Deputy Chief Constable of Sussex Jo Shiner said that assaults on police should not be seen as ‘part of the job’.
Ms Shiner was responding to figures released that day showing that assaults on officers in Sussex have risen by 16 per cent over the last four years.
She said: “Working for the police can be a dangerous and unpredictable job and every day our brave officers and staff work hard, often in difficult and challenging circumstances, to keep people safe.
“Being assaulted while they are doing that is completely unacceptable and must never be seen as part of the job.”
An average of three officers are assaulted every day across Sussex. A total of 1,033 assaults were reported in 2018/19. Officers are routinely kicked and punched resulting in injuries from scratches and bruising, through to dislocations, fractures and concussion. Officers are regularly spat at, which in many cases leads to them having to undergo a worrying wait following HIV and hepatitis tests.
One example Ms Shiner highlighted of the abuse faced by Sussex officers happened on Thursday night, she explained: “Two officers attended an address in Hove to conduct a welfare check. They were both attacked, with one of them being punched several times to the head, resulting in concussion. He was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital where he remained overnight. During the fracas, his colleague’s knee was dislocated and she was also taken to hospital, where the injury is to be assessed for a suspected hairline fracture.
…the ‘do gooders’ and the liberals out there will be up in arms at such a suggestion, but action needs to be taken.
“A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent and remained in custody at lunchtime on Friday.”
For retired Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore it’s all getting too much, he says society has to change and needs to ‘wake up’ to what is happening rather than continuing to let things degenerate.
“First there was an officer in London seriously stabbed several times who fortunately survived his ordeal. Next there was the incident where a police officer was run over with his own police vehicle and then there was the tragic death of PC Andrew Harper who was run down by suspects involved in a burglary and during the past week, here in Sussex, there have been three major instances involving assaults on police officers, some of whom have been hospitalised as a result of the injuries they have sustained,” says Mr Moore.
In recent months Mr Moore has been an increasingly vocal critic of policing not just in Sussex but across the UK, he says: “I have been involved in a number of media interviews in which I have highlighted these matters and made the point that things need to change.
“Sadly, even teachers and health workers are not exempt from such treatment at the hands of thugs who seem to think that it is the norm to carry out these assaults just because they do not like someone or something. I am going to argue here that society has to change and that we need to wake up to what is happening rather than continuing to let things degenerate even further than they already have.”
He believes that as a society we have ‘sleep-walked’ into the position we are now in.
He says: “When I joined the police in the late 1970s, of course there were assaults on officers even then. However, these were a lot fewer in number and the murder of a police officer in the line of his or her duty was an exceptionally rare event. I specifically recall a youth with no previous criminal history who assaulted me causing a black eye who was sentenced to six months youth custody.
“When the magistrate told him of the sentence, he cried in open court because he realised the seriousness of what he had done. Similarly, another youth who I seized a kitchen knife from was immediately given a sentence of 18 months imprisonment. This type of sentencing reflected the seriousness of how society saw such criminality.”
He reckons things started to change at the turn of the century: “Society seemed to become more liberal in the way in which it saw things,” he says.
“This coincided with the ‘New Labour’ regime of Tony Blair. It is hard to keep politics out of such considerations because it is, after all, politicians who set the agenda for the nation. Sadly, in my view, this period was a bad one for our country.
“What we have seen is a change in parenting standards whereby we now have endless excuses being made for yobbish behaviour. I see it every day on Facebook, local notice boards where parents of youngsters witnessed carrying out acts of vandalism seem to be hell bent on suggesting that their ‘little darlings’ were not involved even when they were seen doing it!
“Teachers regularly now seem to be the victims of assaults at the hands of some of the children they teach, compounded subsequently with the parents of the same children then either, at best ignore the behaviour or at worst try to justify it sometimes even threatening the same teachers! I know this for a fact because my 38 and 37 year old son and daughter work as teachers. My son seems to be regularly involved in having to restrain children and escort them from the school premises. Is this what we employ teachers to do? Did this happen in my days at school? Of course not. Most of the time we were scared stiff to even contradict a teacher, let alone physically confront them. It was known as respect,” says Mr Moore.
He says the behaviour we see today ‘simply has to stop’.
“The first step in my view is to get on with recruiting as many police officers as Boris Johnson has promised us. We have the third lowest number of police officers per capita in Europe and yet we are one of the biggest and densely populated countries.
“Sentencing by the courts needs to be a lot more severe. Any assault on an emergency or other public sector worker should immediately result in a prison sentence and one of considerable length. I don’t hold with the argument that prison doesn’t work. Frankly, while rehabilitation is important, I believe that punishment is more so. If we need to build more prisons because UK society is so sick, then so be it in my view.
“Finally, but perhaps most significantly and controversially, as a nation we need to grasp the nettle and deal with poor parenting. If necessary, we need to develop parenting classes for those with the greatest need.
“I recognise that the ‘do gooders’ and the liberals out there will be up in arms at such a suggestion, but action needs to be taken. We have speed education courses for those who commit speeding offences on our roads, so why not have parenting classes for those who do not appear to be capable of instilling the necessary respect and discipline into our children,” says the one time head of Sussex CID.
He concludes: “The time for talking needs to stop and the time for action needs to start!”