Chemical burns and fractured bones: Attacks on Yorkshire's police officers revealed

Police officers who are out on the streets protecting the public are being subjected to a barrage of violent attacks, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Thursday, 26th October 2017, 6:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:48 am

Chemical burns, bites from HIV-positive prisoners and fractured bones are just some of the harrowing injuries suffered by on-duty officers across Yorkshire over the last two years.

Police chiefs have today warned that while officers accept there will inevitably be challenging situations on the job, they are often becoming victims of assaults themselves.

From October 2016 to March this year, more than 700 West Yorkshire Police officers were subjected to violent attacks, figures obtained via Freedom of Information requests show.

Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

With an average of 117 attacks every month, 20 per cent of the assaults on the force’s frontline staff resulted in injury.

Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The emergency services are the people who head into danger when everyone else is running away and sometimes it can be forgotten that each firefighter, police officer or paramedic is also someone’s mother, father, daughter or son.

“Attacks on emergency service personnel not only put the individual themselves at risk but also the wider public, particularly if it requires the crew member to finish duty and receive medical attention.

Police forces have said that the actual figures of those being attacked could be higher, as many assaults on officers are often not recorded as crimes.

Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

It comes after a private member’s bill - to hand out tougher sentences for those who attack emergency workers - was given government backing after being debated in Parliament this month.

In East Yorkshire, 23 Humberside Police officers had to be treated in hospital after being attacked on the job over the last two years.

In one case, phlegm landed in an officer’s eye after they were spat at by a prisoner detained in a cage in the back of a police van in East Yorkshire, in 2015.

Elsewhere, an officer had to be taken to hospital in Hull in 2015, suffering from chemical burns, when caustic soda crystals were launched at them.

Another policeman was kicked so hard in their ear that it caused swelling to the brain last July, the data shows.

In February this year, one officer was bitten while escorting a Hepatitis C-positive prisoner to a scan at Goole Hospital.

At another hospital last year a policeman on ‘bedwatch’ was also potentially infected with viruses.

A description of the data supplied by Humberside Police said the prisoner “grabs right arm digs nails in with dried blood on hands, and tells officer they are HIV/Hepatitis B positive”.

Some 83 officers at the force have been assaulted on duty since 2015, according to the figures.

Meanwhile, South Yorkshire Police saw attacks on their officers almost double over the same period. A total of 104 policemen and women were assaulted in South Yorkshire last year - compared to 65 in 2015.

From April up to October this year, North Yorkshire Police have already recorded a shocking 178 assaults made against its officers.

These peaked in April, when 31 on-duty officers were attacked in just one month.

Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “It’s appalling that officers can be subjected to physical assaults whilst carrying out their job.

“The role of a police officer is to protect our local communities and to promote confidence – but this should not come at the cost of their own personal safety.”

"When you become a police officer you know that there will be challenging situations that you will deal with as part of your daily job – but all too often officers are becoming victims of assaults themselves and it is not acceptable. If we all look after the welfare of our officers and staff then they will be more able to look after the wellbeing and welfare of our communities.”

Halifax MP Holly Lynch has been campaigning for greater protection for police, firefighters and NHS workers from assaults.

Last year she began her ‘Protect the Protectors’ campaign to deter people from assaulting emergency service workers, calling debates on the issue and introducing a bill to Parliament.

Although the initial bill failed to pass due to time constraints, the legislation has now been re-introduced as a private member’s bill’ by Labour’s Chris Bryant MP.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart said: “This bill is a massively important step forward in the campaign to impose stronger deterrents and stronger sanctions to better protect those who we all rely on.

“Any form of assault is unacceptable and is not part of the job for police officers or any other emergency service worker."