West Yorkshire Police Federation speaks out against 'Covid type' spitting and coughing assaults on officers
The chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation has spoken out against "Covid type assaults" on officers, following a rise in spitting and coughing attacks.
There has been a surge in the number of police officers being coughed at, spat on or bitten since the Covid-19 pandemic began, new figures show.
West Yorkshire Police has condemned the "unacceptable" attacks on its police officers who have been assaulted by individuals who claim to be infected with coronavirus.
Figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request show there were 669 assaults on West Yorkshire Police officers and staff from February to November 2020, which involved spitting, biting or coughing.
It's up nearly 50 per cent from the same period in 2019, when 457 incidents were reported.
The chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth, welcomed the tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers which are now available to the courts.
But Mr Booth said the federation will be prepared to campaign further if this does not lead to a decrease in the number of assaults on police officers in the county.
Mr Booth said: "My colleagues continue to be assaulted and the fact that the number has increased over the last year is of grave concern.
"What has made the situation worse in the last year, is the Covid type assault which may have prompted an increase in spitting and biting.
"The Federation has been campaigning for increased sentences for those who assault emergency workers and we welcome the Home Secretary for her part in increasing the sentence available to the courts.
"There will be a period of reflection to see if this increased sentencing results in fewer assaults. But we will be prepared to campaign further if there is not a decrease in numbers."
It comes as research suggests a third of police officers in England and Wales have been threatened with infection by members of the public claiming to have the virus.
A survey of around one in 10 rank-and-file officers by the Police Federation of England and Wales found that 30 per cent said at least once during the last six months a member of the public thought to have the virus had threatened to spit at them.
And 32 per cent said someone who they believed to have Covid-19 had threatened to breathe or cough on them.
West Yorkshire Police condemned the attacks on its officers as "completely unacceptable" and said it is committed to protecting officers while they are working.
A police spokesperson said: "During the Covid-19 pandemic West Yorkshire Police have experienced cases where police officers and staff were threatened and assaulted by individuals who claimed to be infected with Covid and went on to cough/spit at a member of staff.
"This behaviour is completely unacceptable and we will take positive action wherever possible to protect our staff whilst at work.
"West Yorkshire Police is committed to ensuring that our staff are as safe as possible whilst working."