Over 1,000 Covid-linked assaults on police recorded as attacks against officers in Scotland continue to rise

More than 1,000 assaults on police officers were linked to Covid-19 during 2020-21, new analysis has revealed.

The 1,087 reports were identified by searching cases for keywords such as ‘spit,’ ‘cough’ and ‘Covid.’

This figure contributed to a total of 6,942 recorded assaults on officers and staff, 413 more than they year before - a 6.3 percent rise year on year.

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Reported attacks are also up 18 percent on the five year average, continuing a long term trend of increasing assaults against the police.

Police patrol in the Meadows, Edinburgh. Pic: Michael Gillen

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff stepped-forward to help combat the spread of the virus, conducting in excess of 120,000 interactions with members of the public to explain rapidly changing guidance, encourage everyone to do the right thing and enforce the law where required.

“I am grateful to the vast majority of people who responded with remarkable co-operation and support for their police service.

“Officers and staff work with dedication and a commitment to helping people and violence and abuse against them is utterly deplorable and unacceptable. It is not simply part of the job and will not be tolerated.”

DCC Taylor described the increasing assaults on officers as a “concerning trend” and said it is a priority for Police Scotland because it “causes physical and psychological harm to dedicated public servants.”

She said: “There is also a cost to the public purse through days lost to ill-health or personal injury claims.

“We will continue to work to better understand how we prevent violence and abuse against officers and staff, what impact it has on our colleagues, and how we can better support them to do their job.”

Bodycams for armed police

Police Scotland recently asked for public views on armed police officers using body worn video (BWV) cameras to record certain incidents. Police said almost 9,000 people took part in that survey and the majority thought the use of BWV would increase trust and confidence in the police and make them feel safer.

This positive response means police will now equip armed police officers with body worn video cameras this year.

It is also expected that a national consultation with the public will start in the summer about providing BWV cameras to more officers and staff right across Scotland.

Police said they have improved their infrastructure to support more take-up of existing Taser provision and are engaging with partners and elected representatives about plans to increase the numbers of specially trained officers equipped with this important safety kit.

Focus on the critical issue of officer and staff safety will continue in 2021-22 and further details will be released as progress is made.

A Police Scotland divisional breakdown of assaults showed Glasgow had the highest number of total assaults with 1,577 and coronavirus related assaults with 336. Lanarkshire was second with 1,309 and 228 respectively.

The North East area recorded 654 assaults and 150 Covid-linked assaults.

Edinburgh was next with 550 assaults, however data was unavailable for how many of those were coronavirus related.

Data on Covid-linked assaults was also unavailable for Tayside, Highlands and Islands and the Lothian and Borders divisions.

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