Police chiefs to hold emergency summit on protecting officers

Aamna Mohdin
Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex/Shutterstock

Police chiefs are to hold an emergency summit on protecting officers after a spate of violent attacks on officers. The summit will explore what can be done to protect officers following the death of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty on 15 August.

The chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Martin Hewitt, called for a meeting in September with the most senior officers in England, Wales and Scotland “to see if there is anything more we can do to tangibly improve” safety.

Two forces – Durham and Northamptonshire – are looking at allowing every frontline officer who wants a Taser to carry one on duty, amid concerns about the risks of modern policing.

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

In a statement, Hewitt wrote: “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.”

Hewitt noted that levels of violence were an increasing concern and that attacks on officers had risen. This fear has driven some police chiefs to provide more officers with Tasers, he added.

The NPCC recently changed the rules so that student officers can also be trained to carry Tasers.

“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,” Hewitt wrote.

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.

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

John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents more than 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.

“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.”