Surrey's Police and Crime Commissioner has told of her fury at assaults on “outstanding” police personnel – and warned of the “hidden” mental health challenges faced by those who serve the public.
In 2022, the force recorded 602 attacks on officers, volunteers and police staff in Surrey, 173 of which resulted in an injury. The numbers have risen by almost 10 per cent on the previous year, when 548 assaults were reported, 175 of which involved an injury.
Nationally, there were 41,221 assaults on police personnel in England and Wales in 2022 – an increase of 11.5 per cent on 2021, when 36,969 assaults were recorded.
Ahead of National Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place between May 15 and 21, Mrs Townsend visited Woking-based charity Police Care UK.
The organisation discovered through a commissioned report that around one in five of those who serve suffer with PTSD, a rate four to five times that seen in the general population.
Mrs Townsend, the national lead for mental health and custody for the Association o Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “It doesn’t matter what the job is – no one deserves to be fearful when they go to work.
“Our police personnel are outstanding and do an incredibly difficult job of protecting us.
“They run towards danger while we run away.
“We should all be outraged by these statistics, and concerned about the hidden toll such assaults are having, both in Surrey and around the country.
“As part of an officer’s working day, they may be dealing with car crashes, violent crime or abuse against children, meaning it’s perhaps no surprise that they may struggle already with their mental health.
“To then face an assault at work is appalling.
“The wellbeing of those who serve in Surrey is a key priority, both for myself and our new Chief Constable, Tim De Meyer, and for the new chair of Surrey’s Police Federation, Darren Pemble.
“We must do everything we can to support those who give so much to Surrey’s residents.
“I urge anyone who needs help to reach out, either within their force through their EAP provision, or in the event that adequate support is not forthcoming, by contacting Police Care UK. If you have already left, that is no barrier – the charity will work with anyone who has suffered harm as a result of their policing role, although I urge police personnel to work with their forces first.”
Mr Pemble said: “By its very nature, policing will often involve intervening in extremely traumatic events. This can result in huge mental distress for those who serve.
“When anyone working on the frontline is then attacked simply for doing their job, the impact can be significant.
“Beyond that, it also has a knock-on effect to forces around the country, many of which are already struggling to support officers with their mental health.
“If officers are forced out of their roles either temporarily or in the longer-term as the result of an assault, it means there are fewer available to keep the public safe.
“Any form of violence, harassment or intimidation towards those who serve is always unacceptable. The role is tough enough – physically, mentally and emotionally – without the added impact of an assault.”