Protect the Protectors
The Police Federation of England and Wales
Nobody expects to go to work and get assaulted but that is the reality that faces the police forces of England and Wales. Indeed, such is the volume of assaults - one officer is attacked every four minutes - that it is now accepted as ‘part of the job’. The Police Federation of England and Wales even believes that estimates of 2.4 million attacks - both verbal and physical - a year understates the reality.
The Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign had three objectives. Firstly, to get better protection for officers through improved equipment. Secondly, to change the law, so that those who assault officers face greater penalties. And finally, to get officers to recognise that being assaulted is not part of the job.
The first phase, between February 2017 and November 2017, was designed to raise awareness of the issue. Working with other emergency services, and drawing on real-life case studies, the Federation used owned and earned channels to tell the stories of those who had been beaten, stamped upon, stabbed and punched. They featured officers who had had their teeth knocked out, their hair pulled out, been scratched and slashed - simply for trying to protect the public.
The objective of second phase, which launched in December 2017, was to initiate a change in legislation that would result in harsher sentences for those who attack police officers. The Police Federation also sought a wider roll out of protective equipment, such as spit and bite guards and body worn video, and to improve reporting standards and procedures for police assaults.
Targeting four audiences - Government, public, officers and chief officers - the campaign was designed to show the human cost of an assault. All 43 branches across the country created local case studies to target their own chief constables and MPs and gain media coverage. Template letters to lobby MPs and reinforce the message were sent to each force, while one-to-one sessions and drop in meetings offered further insight to politicians.
A new three-minute video was launched at the Police Federation’s national conference in May 2018, showing victims speaking about their assaults, interspersed with flashbacks to their injuries. Longer videos were created, allowing victims to speak in depth. These have been watched more than 11,000 times.
As a result, a Private Members Bill went before Parliament to create a new offence of assaulting an emergency worker in October 2017, which received unanimous cross-party support. It received the backing of the House of Lords. And in November 2018, a new law came into effect that doubled the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers from six to 12 months.
‘This was a very strong campaign - impactful and emotive - that achieved good results,’ said the judges. ‘It was clear in both its objectives and its outcomes.’