Sussex’s Deputy Chief Constable has described an increase in assaults on police officers and other emergency workers during the coronavirus pandemic as ‘sickening’.
The comments from Jo Shiner come as news that Sussex Police has recorded a 39% increase against officers. PCSOs and other emergency workers in April compared to the same period last year – with an increasing number linked to Covid-19.
In all, 169 offences were recorded against frontline officers and staff* in the first four weeks of the lock down. These included officers being punched, kicked, bitten, spat and coughed on and threats to infect the officers and their families.
Last weekend, eight police officers and a PCSO across Sussex reported assaults including:
A man from Brighton who said he had Covid-19 and coughed in the officers face when he was arrested for possession of cocaine.
An officer who was bitten on the finger by a man fined for being out under Covid-19 legislation in Littlehampton.
In two other incidents in Brighton officers were kicked, grabbed, spat at and racially abused.
Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “It is absolutely sickening that police officers, staff and other emergency workers, putting themselves in harm’s way every day to help others, are being faced with violence and the threat of contamination.
“I have spoken to a number of injured officers over the past month and know how traumatising this is, both for the officers and their families, worried about the consequences.
“I have no doubt the vast majority of people will be equally appalled and agree that anyone putting public service workers in harms way during this crisis, or indeed at any time, deserve the harshest of sentences.”
In Sussex, 122 assaults against police officers were recorded between 23 March and 28 April, an increase of 58% compared with the same period last year.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I’m appalled that the women and men on the frontline of this crisis are being threatened with the virus that they are working so hard every day to protect us against.
“Let me be clear, coughing or spitting at an emergency worker and claiming to have Covid-19 will not be treated as some sort of practical joke. It is a crime and you will face harsh consequences.
“Whilst most people are behaving responsibly to help our emergency services, a few individuals are continuing to act selfishly. In many ways this pandemic has already brought out the very best in our communities but where it brings out the worst, offenders will be swiftly brought to justice.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that such behaviour could constitute common assault, and attacks on emergency workers specifically were punishable by up to two years in prison.