Force calls for bodycam footage of all officer assaults to be shown in court
A chief constable has urged the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to do more to secure tougher sentences against offenders who assault emergency service workers.
Responding to the news that more forces are offering Tasers to all frontline officers, the chair of Avon and Somerset Police Federation, Andy Roebuck, says the force is leading the way in taking a range of measures to address a rise in the number of officers and staff facing violent attacks.
Speaking to Police Professional after Northamptonshire Police and Durham Constabulary announced they were offering the devices to every frontline officer who wants to carry one this week, Mr Roebuck said he is working with the Constabulary in agreeing an uplift of Taser capability for front line and other specialist role officers.
He believes something must also be done nationally to address the growing number of assaults on all emergency service workers that has been partially caused by government funding cuts.
“There are things we need to do to protect our officers. The uplift in Taser is an important part but some of the public perception is fragile,” Mr Roebuck added.
“We have been warning the Home Office that there would be consequences of its actions. And while there is now greater support in the last few years for the protection that is needed for officers, it has been at a tremendous cost in terms of lives lost and serious injuries caused.
“Taser is only one thing we are doing in Avon and Somerset to make officers and police staff feel safe in their working environment. At no point should one of them come to work in fear of being assaulted.”
Avon and Somerset Constabulary Chief Constable Andy Marsh has written to the CPS requesting that officers’ bodycam video footage be shown in court in every case of assault on police, even when offenders plead guilty, to ensure the correct sentence is passed.
Mr Roebuck said: “We want to prevent our officers from being injured and Taser is one of the tools that can help. There are other measures being considered and utilised within the Constabulary that will protect officers and prevent injuries.”
“We feel that the Crown Prosecution Service are not stepping up in providing that deterrent in our courts,” he explained.
“We want that footage shown, regardless of the court and regardless of the plea. To actually see and hear what happened in that violent situation will carry much more weight than a victim personal statement or police officer’s statement.”
He said the force is embracing the recent trend of offering the conducted energy devices to every officer who wants to carry one, however, in Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Tasers are being issued in line with the threat to officers within the frontline.
The force has created a profile of the officers most likely to be assaulted, by length of service, age, time of day and location that assaults are likely to occur.
It has also examined the offenders and type of events that are most likely to lead to assaults, and Tasers will be issued according to the risks being faced.
Other measures to protect officers include doubling the personal protection training for officers with one to five years’ service – from one to two days – to enhance their situational awareness and de-escalation skills.
Mr Roebuck believes there is a ‘feral core’ of society that believes it is acceptable to assault emergency service workers, and the best way to protect officers is if they receive an appropriate prison term.
“We need to consider all options for the treatment of offenders with an understanding that new behaviours cannot be taught, future generations must be educated about what the emergency services do for society and understand that it is unacceptable to attack them,” he said. “But people here and now who assault emergency workers must appreciate that they will be accountable for their actions and dealt with robustly through the criminal justice system.”
The use of Taser is not helped, Mr Roebuck believes, by the often sensationalised way the devices are portrayed by the media, being described as weapons or guns. They should be seen alongside other personal protection equipment such as batons and CS spray.