Police Officers have been assaulted since forever. In the good old, bad old days it was not unusual to have a tussle with some ne’er do well in the course of arresting him, and sometimes it was even a her. Times change, Society changes and assaults on our officers seemed to become far more serious and commonplace.
It was definitely not unusual to give one’s evidence in Court in a contested case of Assault on Police or ABH and at the end of it the Magistrate would frequently say “Assault one of MY officers? You will go to prison for 6 months”. I don’t suppose that gets said so much these days.
At the other end of the spctrum I well remember appearing at Crown Court as the Arresting Officer of a yob charged with ABH on a WPC in a pub brawl. During the course of the arrest his nose had been broken, with all the associated crap that brings on. Unsurprisingly Defence Counsel opened with “Did you hit my client officer?” Answer, “Yes Your Honour, I did”. “HOW did you hit my client officer?” Answer “With my right, clenched fist Sir”. “Tell me officer, did you punch him hard?” Answer “I don’t know Sir, but I certainly intended to”. At which point the Judge raised his head, adjusted his specs and said “Quite right too officer”. That was the last word I ever heard about that.
Both are examples of how the Courts tried to protect the Police from assaults.
The likes of the Professional Standards departments and IPCC sometimes seem to forget that Police Officers are fully entitled to defend themselves.
So far this year it seems that significantly more officers are being assaulted and more seriously so. Or maybe that it’s just receiving more media attention. Either way it’s not acceptable.
Sergeant Harry Tangye posted a brilliant article this morning concerning the use of Taser and I couldn’t hope to better his piece, so I won’t try, but you can read it here.
I am certainly not advocating that officers should get their punches or Taser in first, definitely not, but they should certainly be confident that if they do have to assault or Taser somebody in the course of an arrest etc then they wil be supported by Professional Standards, just so long as their actions have been reasonable and lawful.
If an officer is dealing with an allegation of assault made against a local, identified suspect, then it really doesn’t take too long to stablish whether or not the suspect was acting in Self Defence, or whether he/she was the aggressor. Why should it take Professional Standards or IPCC months, or even longer, to finalise an allegation of assault against an officer. If the officer was acting reasonably and lawfully it should be apparent at an early stage and the complaint dismissed (gosh, imagine that).
There are fewer and fewer front line cops on the streets, assaults will not drop proportionately, your chances of being assaulted will increase if anything. We really shouldurgently be having discussions about making Taser available to ALL response officers and to end the folly known as Single Crewing, in this day and age it is not appropriate. An officer who has been incapacitated is of no use to anyone.
For those of you who have read Harry’s piece on Taser and are still not sure I would suggest that it is better to be Taser’d 10 times than to be shot or asp’d once.
Complaints, Professional Standards, IPCC and the Courts ALL have to stand up, go back a few years and start taking the appropriate action when officers are assaulted or if they necessarily assault an offender in the course of their duties. They need to stop being so lily-livered and deal with complaints of assault against officers PROMPTLY, identify and prosecute suspects suspected of assaulting our officers and then sentence them appropriately if and when convicted.
Nothing less is acceptable.