Police chiefs to hold emergency summit amid fears over attacks on officers

By Helen William, PA

Police chiefs are to gather for an urgent summit to see what can be done to protect officers, it has been announced.

It comes after the death of Pc Andrew Harper in the line of duty on August 15 and a recent spate of violent attacks on officers.

Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said he has asked the most senior officers in England, Wales and Scotland in September “to see if there is anything more we can do to tangibly improve” safety.

It also comes after two forces – Durham and Northamptonshire – may be set to allow every frontline officer who wants a Taser to carry one on duty amid concerns about the risks of modern policing.

Mr Hewitt said that each force will be asked to share lessons learned from recent assaults during the talks with the chief constables, and the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, has been asked to give its input.

Pc Andrew Harper with his wife Lissie (Thames Valley Police/PA)

In a statement Mr Hewitt wrote: “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.”

Chairman of the NPCC Martin Hewitt said attacks on police officers protecting the public have a corrosive effect across society(David Parry/PA) 

Durham Police’s new chief constable Jo Farrell has said her staff will be issued with new X2 Tasers if they want one, and they will undergo training on using the non-lethal weapons.

Northamptonshire Police’s chief constable Nick Adderley has also said that every frontline officer in his force could have a Taser, because the risks they face had risen “dramatically”.

John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales which represents over 119,000 rank and file officers, described the summit as “crucial” but warned it “must be more than just talk”.

He said: “Assaults on officers show no signs of abating having risen from 26,000 last year to 30,000 this year – not to mention the shocking incidents over the last month.”

Mr Apter added: “Officers are telling me daily they are feeling vulnerable due to the lack of this vital, life-saving protective equipment.

“I know chiefs want to do the right thing, but they must also be seen to do the right thing.

“I hear all the time from leaders within policing that officers and staff are their most valuable asset – but now they need to prove it.

“Wellbeing needs to be more than just a poster on the wall. It is paramount that officers receive the right tools to do their jobs.”

He also noted: “We have lost almost 22,000 boots on the ground since 2010, so what we want to see now is the Government carrying out its recruitment pledge to boost officer numbers by 20,000 to help tackle this issue.”