POLICE in Scotland are likely to be assaulted within two years of joining the force, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said yesterday.
His comment came as figures revealed there were almost 20 attacks every day on officers.
Police Scotland statistics show there were 573 assaults – including physical and verbal attacks – on officers in August. More than half took place in the west of Scotland. Of all recorded assaults, 83 resulted in an injury and 51 happened while an officer was making an arrest.
Sir Stephen warned more needed to be done as the problem was affecting police morale.
The figures were collated by Police Scotland and presented at yesterday’s board meeting in Rutherglen.
Sir Stephen said: “I would be very keen to work with the police authority [on this]. I’m keen to know where they happen and when they happen.
“The story here is officers being beaten in the execution of their lawful duty. If you want to look at the morale issue, officers look at each other and say which one of us is going to get assaulted today.
“One reason we look for them to be fit is so that they recover quicker. They will probably be assaulted in the first two years of being an officer.”
The meeting was not given comparable figures from previous months, but was told the levels were “consistent”.
There were 326 assaults in the west of Scotland, 160 in the east, and 87 in the north in August.
However, the figures reflected the higher number of officers in the west and the more rural nature – and therefore fewer officers – in the north.
Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said: “This is a grim statistic which sums up the very brave job our police officers do .
“We have to ensure our officers are equipped to deal with difficult individuals to lessen this risk a nd, when assaults do take place, make sure the culprit is dealt with very severely by the courts.”
The Scottish Government’s Victims and Witnesses Bill includes “restitution orders” where people who assault police on duty pay towards a fund to help their victims.
It has emerged there has been a 49 per cent increase in officers leaving the force in the six months since Police Scotland was created, compared to the six before. Sir Stephen said assaults on officers were not helping, but also blamed concerns over changes to pensions.
Sir Stephen said he would seek to hold talks with the Scottish Government, which has previously said it is sympathetic to the plight of police and firefighters.
“Changes to pensions, I would suggest, are the biggest threat to police morale in several years,” he said. “Officers will have to work longer, pay in a significant amount more and get less out.
“People feel there’s a better way of providing for their families than joining the police, and that’s a real shame,” he added.
A government spokesman said: “It is entirely unacceptable that those protecting the public should be assaulted. That is why we support the judiciary in using the full force of the law against anyone found guilty.”