The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has endorsed a series of principles aiming to reduce the impact of assaults on officers.
A step forward: John Apter
Following an initiative pioneered by Hampshire Police Federation (HPF) Chair John Apter, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has published an eight-point plan to try and ensure a better response by his force when officers are assaulted and to change perceptions so being attacked while on duty is not seen as “part of the job”.
The document will be supported by investigative guidance, an enhanced system for monitoring assaults and local senior leadership governance.
The move came about after Mr Apter spoke on the subject at a meeting of the National Police Chiefs’ Council last autumn, which caught Sir Bernard’s attention.
In tribute to Mr Apter’s work, the MPS has named the initiative Operation Hampshire.
“It’s about better training, looking after people better post-incident and changing the culture,” Mr Apter said.
“All joking aside, it is quite humbling that somebody has bothered to give you that recognition.”
The MPS is the Uk’s biggest force, employing over a quarter of all police officers and its adoption of the measures gives a significant boost to Mr Apter’s campaign.
“For the MPS to take this on now, it gives you a warm feeling that forces around the country, including the biggest force of all, are taking this really seriously,” he added.
“I know it’s going to assist officers in the MPS, or wherever it has been implemented, I know it’s going to make a difference.”
Last year, Hampshire Constabulary introduced a seven-point plan, outlining investigation standards for assaults on officers.
Since then, other forces, including West Midlands Police, have used it as a template to present their own initiatives.
The Home Office estimates around 23,000 assaults took place across England and Wales last year.
In April, pressure from HPF resulted in the Home Office calling for more accurate data on officer assault from forces.
Currently, information from their health and safety or human resources systems is voluntarily provided. However, input is patchy as only around 20 to 25 per cent of all assaults can be identified.
For 2015/16, alongside health and safety data, the Home Office has requested statistics relating to officer assaults stored on forces’ crime recording systems.
So far Hampshire Constabulary, West Mercia Police and Gloucestershire Constabulary have agreed to provide the additional data.
Progress is also being made in other areas with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary agreeing to include questions on how forces treat police officer assaults as part of their efficiency inspections and the College of Policing conducting research into the subject.
Mr Apter now plans to focus on the sentencing of these offences and will be meeting with Parliamentary Undersecretary for Justice Dominic Raab, to discuss the issue.
“I’m proud it has made such an impact, from what started off as me moaning to my chief constable and threating legal action against him because officers weren’t getting protection they need.
“It not about getting officers who are victims of assault treated better than the public, it’s about getting them treated the same as the public. They deserve nothing less.”
The MPS’s new principles are;
(1) A member of the operational command unit’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) must be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable of any assault on an officer or staff member. The SLT member must review the investigation, allocate resources and welfare support for the officer.
(2) A MetAir – an online Accident Reporting System – form must be completed for all officers and staff injured during an assault.
(3) Total Victim Care and the Victim Codes of Practice apply to assaulted officers and staff just as much as it does for the public.
(4) An officer must never be the officer in the case for an investigation into their own assault.
(5) An assaulted officer should wherever possible have their statement taken from them by a colleague; a member of police staff should never write their own statement.
(6) Best evidence must be presented to maximise the chances of prosecution.
(7) The MPS will ensure that learning is captured from incidents where colleagues are assaulted and that learning is fed back through training and briefings where appropriate.
(8) That being assaulted will never be seen as simply ‘part of the job’.