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Chiefs to meet in September to discuss officer safety

24 Aug 2019

Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt talks about the work that chief constables do to protect their officers and has called a meeting in September to discuss if anything more can be done to keep them safe.

Policing is a career with huge rewards. There’s enormous satisfaction in solving crime, seeing justice done or working within your community to improve people’s lives. This is what motivates people to become police officers.

But we choose to put on the uniform knowing there are risks. Knowing we may have to put ourselves in harm’s way to protect the public. Knowing there may be times we will have to run towards danger.

Our training, teamwork and public support gives us the confidence to face those risks.

It is the responsibility of each chief constable to do all they can to keep their officers as safe as possible. Nothing else we do is as important - because if we can’t protect our people, how can we protect the public?

Each chief keeps the threats and risks in their force under constant review, and ensures that training, equipment, resources and tactics are matched to the nature of local circumstances.

The recent brutal attacks on officers and the tragic death of PC Andrew Harper remind us all that, even with the right training and equipment, police officers can be vulnerable to the most violent aggressors.

Levels of violence are an increasing concern across the country and attacks on our officers have gone up. That’s why chiefs are increasing the number of officers trained to use Taser. We’ve recently changed the rules so that student officers, who face the same threats as their colleagues with greater experience, can also be trained to carry Taser – subject to the same rigorous assessment and training process.

Not every officer wishes to carry a Taser and that should remain their choice. In the same way that using a baton and incapacitating spray is not possible in every situation, so too a Taser is not the answer to all violent and threatening situations. Each circumstance will be different.

We must always resist knee-jerk reactions to events, however worrying they may be. Chiefs must take these decisions based on regular, objective assessments of the threat and risk at a local level, as well as the views of officers and communities. The policing challenges are different in different parts of the country, and chiefs’ decisions are rightly based on their specific circumstances.

That said it is important we reflect at a national level and look at the big picture. I am going to bring all chief constables together early in September to collectively consider the current threat picture for our officers, and to see if there is anything more we can do to tangibly improve their safety. To inform that discussion, I will ask each force to share the learning from recent officer assaults. I will also ask the Police Federation to share their perspective and any evidence they have.

Our officers accept, at times, they will have to run towards danger and deal with violent offenders. That’s part of the job. But we must never reach a point where it is acceptable for officers to be violently abused, attacked, injured, or worse. It is not. Attacks on police officers protecting the public have a corrosive effect across society.

If an attack does happen, we must do everything to support that officer and their family, and bring the offender to justice.  But prosecutors, judges and magistrates must also do everything within their power. Assaulting police officers undermines the rule of law and offenders must be seen to be held to account.

Martin Hewitt
Chair, National Police Chiefs’ Council

This article was originally published in the Daily Express on Saturday 24 August.