8 February 2021
Dyfed Powys Police Federation secretary Roger Webb has said it is “wrong on every level” that police officers are being subjected to assaults as they carry out their duties.
Roger hit out after the responses from Welsh officers to last year’s demand, capacity and welfare survey, carried out by the Police Federation of England Wales (PFEW) every two years, reveal that they are around seven per cent more likely to be insulted, threatened, hit or kicked than English officers’ responses suggested in the same survey.
Out of the 888 officers from Wales who took part, 35 per cent said, since the start of the pandemic last March, they were verbally insulted at least once a week, 24 per cent said they were verbally threatened at least once a week and 17 per cent said they were physically attacked without a weapon at least once a week.
Roger said: “These figures are very disappointing and it is wrong on every level that officers are being attacked while seeking to serve and protect their communities. But what is becoming more galling is the fact that the Welsh Government seems to be showing a lack of support for officers during this pandemic.
“While I accept that the statistics may be partly due to Welsh forces being more rigorous during lockdowns, it does highlight how our officers are being failed by members of the Senedd. In addition to being subjected to assaults, police officers currently risk catching coronavirus on a daily basis. The very nature of their role means they cannot socially distance and, while they have personal protective equipment, this does not give them full protection from Covid particularly when we are seeing so many people prepared to weaponise the virus and spit and cough over officers while claiming to have coronavirus.
“Not only are officers risking their own health but they could be inadvertently taking the virus back to their families or passing it on as they go from job to job during their shifts. While they may wear a uniform for their job behind that uniform they are still human beings who, while carrying out a unique and challenging role in society, still have the same pressures and anxieties as other people during the pandemic – they are worried about their families, their health, their finances, home schooling, just like everyone else.
“Yet we are not seeing any signs that the Welsh Government is going to do anything to help protect police officers by giving them and other frontline workers who have been such a critical part of the nation’s response to the pandemic any priority in the vaccine roll-out programme.”
He is also calling on the Force’s senior leadership team to stand with the Federation in calling on better support from Welsh politicians.
Roger’s comments come after the four Police Federation branches in Wales sent an open letter to Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister last week, suggesting he has reneged on his commitment to protect officers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
They accused him of failing to support their calls for frontline police officers to receive the vaccine as the roll-out continues and said: “Now is your opportunity to make a visible commitment to backing policing and reaffirm the statement you publicly made in April last year. Now is the time. Protect our frontline. Do everything you can to support policing.”
As the priority groups stand, police officers will only receive the vaccine according to their age.
Mark Bleasdale, the PFEW Welsh lead and chair of the Welsh Affairs Sub-Committee, said: “Police officers face a tirade of abuse and assaults on a daily basis and it is concerning to see that these seem even more common for officers in Wales, than for our colleagues over the border.
“The survey was carried out while police forces were battling to enforce the Covid regulations and it is possible that as Welsh forces were more stringent with enforcing rules and travel bans they were subjected to more unacceptable abuse.
“While the reasoning for the higher figures is not clear, what is crystal clear and, always has been, is that abuse of any sort towards police officers, is totally unacceptable.”
Roger added: “We have no issue with the most vulnerable being vaccinated first but we know some other workers have been immunised despite not falling into a vulnerable group or being on the frontline so our members feel they are being treated with contempt.
“No other key workers face the same circumstances as police officers in the execution of their duties. It’s time this Government protected the protectors.”
In addition to the letter to Mark Drakeford from the combined Police Federations of Wales, a Senedd petition has gained more than 10,000 signatures from those who believe police officers should receive the vaccine.