With members of my own family serving in the Police, assaults on Officers, Staff and Volunteers isn’t just a professional concern, but a personal one too. I would dread to think that a decision that I had taken would mean that they did not have the equipment or support they required to help keep themselves safe from harm.
Over the past four years as PCC, I have been unequivocal in my support for our police who go out every shift to fight crime and antisocial behaviour and in doing so frequently put themselves in dangerous and difficult situations. So every time that our Chief Constable has come to me with a proposal for new equipment, I have funded it, or given my support to the principle.
I backed the roll out of spit and blood guards, so that they could better protect themselves from spitting incidents. I funded the programme to give every Officer in Kent in a frontline role a TASER if they wanted one, and passed the rigorous training. I have also backed new welfare programmes to help those who need help both physically and mentally and funded better body worn video.
The Government is backing our police too – not just with 20,000 more Officers, but extending the sentence for those found guilty of assaulting an emergency workers and bringing in a new Police Covenant. It remains that case however that over a thousand assaults on Officers in each of the last couple of years. There’s more that needs to be done, including those harsher sentences for the lowlifes that assault emergency workers – including life sentences for those who kill cops.
Today at Kent Police College, I was pleased to be invited by the Chief Constable to the launch of the National Officer and Staff Safety Report, which makes important recommendations that will give them the equipment, skills and backing they need when faced with dangerous situations. 28 recommendations have been proposed, including:
The package of agreed measures agreed includes:
- The College of Policing overhauling current safety training and replacing it with a new national curriculum, including recommended contact time with trainers, which all chief constables in England and Wales have committed to ensuring is met. Current provision of personal safety training was found to be inconsistent with officers in some forces receiving 16 hours of annual training compared with four in others.
- Introducing an improved process for decision-making about deployment, equipment and other operational issues. A national framework for conducting a strategic threat and risk assessment will be created to ensure consistency of approach across police forces, even if local circumstances mean different decisions about equipment and deployment.
- Every chief constable reviewing whether their frontline officers and staff have the equipment they need and increasing the availability of Taser, body armour, spit and bite guards, protective gloves and high-visibility clothing to proportionate levels if supported by their strategic threat and risk assessments. The Review has maintained the position that these decisions must be taken by chief constables based on local circumstances.
- Research to examine racial disparities in the police use of Taser. In England and Wales, national use-of-force data has shown that people perceived to be black or black British were involved in a higher of proportion of incidents where less lethal weapons (principally Tasers) were drawn compared to people perceived to be white. Research has been commissioned to address the current evidence gap in understanding the causes of the disparity and to make recommendations to minimise it.
- Expediting trials of new technology or equipment that could enhance safety such as changes to prevent assaults in police vehicles and remotely operated vehicle immobilisation devices.
- A hard line approach to investigations into officer assaults with arrest of an offender the default position. This will be supported by work to set out the standards police victims of assault should expect at each stage of the criminal justice process and a review of impact of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 on the outcomes for those assaulted.
It was a great event, as we were joined by the Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, who has given Government’s backing to improving police safety, and were able to show the media how good the training actually is, with demonstrations of Officer Safety Training, Taser Training and role plays.
I will continue to back Kent’s Officers, Staff and Volunteers with the resources they need to keep them and the public safe – and I hope that this report will lead to more action locally and nationally.