You will have seen coverage of a reported incident this week in which one of our police officers was assaulted. As there has been a charge on the case, I am not able to say anything further about this whilst the case goes through the court process.
What I can, and want, to talk about though is that for many of our officers and staff, the prospect of getting assaulted and abused whilst on duty, is sadly a common reality.
As the Chief Constable of Cleveland Police I will never accept that facing verbal or physical assault is part of wearing our uniform.
Officers, staff and volunteers step out on duty every single day to make the communities in which we all live, safer. An officer is a physical representation of safety and security so when that notion is rocked by incidents of assault and abuse, we all feel it keenly. Indeed, the reaction in all of us is visceral.
Nationally, there were over 30,000 assaults on officers in 2019/20 and the number is rising. Make no mistake, it is an indelible stain on our national consciousness.
When we get up in the morning and go to bed at night, we do so in the knowledge that there are officers on patrol and caring for us; trying to turn confrontation into community and hate into harmony. ‘Thanks’ for the work they do is not required; nobody joined the police service for public recognition but we cannot do it without public support.
All of the tools our staff are provided with, CS Gas, Taser, Batons etc pale into insignificance when compared to the most important tool they have and it’s not a tool carried in a utility belt.
An officer’s most important tool is not issued by me as Chief Constable, but conferred by you as members of the public – public support.
Seeing the public support and reaction to incidents of assault and hate makes all the difference to emergency workers and it makes stepping out of the door on a morning to patrol those same streets a little easier.
Our people out in uniform, out on our streets, are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and friends. They have responsibilities at home, as well as in their professional lives, and they deserve to get home, after their shift – uninjured and safe.
When you bump into family members on the street, you stop and talk – perhaps this week, give an officer a wave or a smile as they keep you safe (or even a thank you) – it makes all the difference.
Just like yesterday, we’ll be out there today, helping make our communities safer for all of us
Richard Lewis, Chief Constable