Police assaults spark taser gun plea
VIOLENCE against police officers in Suffolk soared by 25% last year, with the number of assaults recorded now reaching the 400 mark, it has emerged.The rise sparked calls last night for the Government to roll out the use of taser guns to frontline police officers to give them greater protection on the streets.
By Danielle Nuttall
VIOLENCE against police officers in Suffolk soared by 25% last year, with the number of assaults recorded now reaching the 400 mark, it has emerged.
The rise sparked calls last night for the Government to roll out the use of taser guns to frontline police officers to give them greater protection on the streets.
The figures, compiled by national magazine Police Review, reveal the number of assaults on officers in Suffolk increased from 321 during 2003/04 to 400 in 2004/05.
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That was almost double the number in Norfolk, where there were 203, while in Cambridgeshire the figure was 354, Bedfordshire 106, Essex 424 and Hertfordshire 589.
Jim Keeble, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said he was not aware of any marked rise in serious assaults on police officers but he called on the Government to change the rules for the deployment of taser guns to increase officer safety.
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Taser guns fire darts that release an electric charge - temporarily paralysing the target. But at present, they can only be used by trained firearms officers.
“We anticipate quite a number of officers would actually like to be armed with taser because it does work on 98% of offenders unlike CS spray which does have a failure rate on some people when they are incapacitated on drugs,” he said.
“It offers a significant degree of protection and almost guarantees incapacitation of the offender.
“Taser has to be deployed in the same way as if you're deploying fully armed officers who could shoot someone dead. It is at odds with the fact that in other parts of the world taser is used more frequently.”
Mr Keeble put the increase in assaults against officers down to Suffolk Constabulary making tackling violent crime its top priority.
“If you are, as we are in Suffolk, treating violent crime in a public place as a priority offence, that means putting more officers on the streets at the time when violence crime occurs, quite obviously in the late evening and early mornings and violence related to alcohol.
“If you put more officers into place to tackle that I would suspect that one of the results is more officers have recorded assaults upon them while arresting offenders and that sort of thing.
“An assault can be anything from being slapped to being stabbed. I'm not aware of any marked rise in serious assaults on police officers within the past 12 months.
“The force is working very hard with Operation Nightsafe to try and reduce that. In the run up to Christmas, we took part in the Government's Nightsafe campaign and a far greater number of officers were on the streets.”
Just four months ago, Stephen Simpson, 24, of Portman Walk, Ipswich, was jailed for 18 months for attacking Suffolk Pc Wayne Souza in a custody suite.
Pc Souza, 30, was assaulted as he was checking Simpson into police cells, and was left with a double fracture of the cheekbone, a broke nose and nerve damage. He was forced to spend four months off work recovering.
Speaking to the EADT last night, Mr Souza said the seriousness of the incident was rare, but it did make him contemplate leaving the force because he has a family. But he did return and has been on full duty since October.
“If I do go to an incident, I am more cautious of people now. It's not a bad thing in a way, I'm just more on my guard,” he said.
“It's a fact that police do get assaulted, may be it's about a lack of respect.”
A spokesman for Suffolk police said last night the vast majority of violent crime and assaults did not involve any injury.
“However, these statistics do highlight the fact that, despite living in one of the safest counties in the country, policing and protecting the public is a challenging and demanding job that can at time be dangerous,” he said.
“The safety of the public and our staff is of paramount importance and all officers receive the appropriate safety training and equipment to minimise the risk of assault.”
Nationally, there were 21,845 assaults on officers were recorded last year - an average of sixty every day and one every 24 minutes.