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How dangerous is it to be a UK police officer? | UK News

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Assaults on police officers has risen by a third in just four years following the spike in violent crime across the UK in 2018-19, statistics have suggested.

While knife crime offences have hit a record high, up by 8% on the previous year in England and Wales, police officers are increasingly becoming the target of violence.

On Thursday evening, PC Andrew Harper was killed while responding to a reported burglary in Berkshire. Thames Valley Police said a 13-year-old boy was among 10 people being held in custody at different police stations across the region.

Police at the scene
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Police at the scene where PC Andrew Harper was killed

Earlier this month, PC Stuart Outten was stabbed in the head with a machete during a vicious attack in Leyton, east London, while trying to perform a routine vehicle stop. He is still recovering in hospital from his serious injuries.

The recent violence on police officers comes as statistics this week revealed a rise in police assaults, with approximately 28 attacks a day on officers as a crime epidemic sweeps the UK.

PC Stuart Outten
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PC Stuart Outten was stabbed in the head with a machete

Officers were victims of 10,399 alleged assaults that caused injuries last year, which is up 32% from 7,903 recorded in 2015-16, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

There were a further 20,578 reported assaults on front line officers who were not injured in the attacks.

All recorded assaults on officers have risen by around 18% in the 12 months to March 2019 compared to the preceding year.

Changes in data collection

As there are some additional issues with the reliability of the data, the Home Office said the numbers “are not thought to provide a complete picture of assaults against police officers”.

It is not possible to compare the complete statistics for this year with those of any year before 2017 due to a major change in the way the data is collected.

Policeman
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Before April 2017 it was usually not compulsory for officers to self-report cases

Two types of crime data on police officer assaults are collected by the ONS for England and Wales.

The first type, “assault without injury on a constable”, saw a rise of 13% in 2018-19 compared to the previous year with 20,578 recorded incidents.

Meanwhile, there were 10,399 recorded incidents of the second type, “assault with injury on a constable”, up by 27% on the year before.

This resulted in an 18% increase on the total of 26,295 assaults on police officers that were recorded in 2017-18.

A police officer in the doorway of a government building in Marsham Street in Westminster after an incident in which a man was stabbed
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Officers were victims of 10,399 alleged assaults that caused injuries last year

Before April 2017, “assault with injury on a constable” was not a crime category, with a separate crime category for these incidents since set up.

While assaults on officers appear to have risen in the past year, it was not compulsory for officers to self-report cases before April 2017, meaning there was a likely under-count of the number of assaults.

Rise in violence since 2015

Tracking the change in the number of “assaults without injury on a constable” can be compared across the past four years, however – as there have been no changes to the way incidents are being recorded.

Since 2015-16, the number of these assaults has risen by 33% – but not all recorded assaults are included.

Figure one, below, shows the time series trend for this type of offence, which is comparable over time.

Between 2006-07 and 2012-13 there has been a general downward trend in the number of offences of “assault without injury on a constable” recorded by the police.

It remained stable until 2015-16, when the number of offences increased by 8%, from 14,367 to 15,454 alleged offences.

By March 2018, 18,114 of these type of offences were recorded by the police, which is a 10% increase compared with the previous year.

But the only true comparison available for measuring recorded assaults on officers is between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

More police on the streets

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply shocked” and “appalled” at the news of PC Andrew Harper’s death.



Boris Johnson reacts to the murder of PC Andrew Harper in Berkshire



PM: PC’s murder ‘a mindless and brutal crime’

Mr Johnson’s comments followed his pledge to hire 20,000 more police officers and an announcement of a range of investments to boost the criminal justice system.

He also vowed to see violent offenders jailed for longer as a result of an “urgent review” of sentencing laws.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “totally shocked” by the death and said it highlighted the need for more police officers on the streets.

PC Harper is the first officer to be killed on duty since March 2017, when unarmed PC Keith Palmer was stabbed by Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge terror attack.

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