POLICE officers in Hampshire have been spat at more than 100 times during the pandemic, it has been revealed.
Between March and September this year Hampshire Constabulary recorded 115 cases of officers being spat at, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The incidents have been described as “vile behaviour”, and officers are now being given the opportunity to self-isolate in hotel rooms. The government has pledged to tighten the law as the number of officers spat at is on the rise.
Hampshire Constabulary figures revealed that this year the highest number of incidents was recorded in March when officers were spat at 26 times.
It was followed by August with 23 incidents, February with 19 and January and May with 18 each.
Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said at the start of the pandemic there was “genuine fear” among police staff.
At the meeting of the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel earlier this month, she said: “It is horrible. My staff say they’d rather be punched in the face than spat at, but when Covid is with us that makes it even more dangerous.”
Police officers in Hampshire were spat at 152 times between January and September this year. Over the same period last year the force recorded 120 incidents, 100 of which happened between March and September.
Zoe Wakefield, chair of the Hampshire Police Federation, said it is “concerning” that figures are on the rise.
She added: “In any situation spitting is vile behaviour, but it really is not an acceptable part of a police officer’s job to turn up to a crime, to help members of the public, and have coronavirus weaponised against them.
“The courts need to play their part and implement the maximum sentences they can if a person is assaulting a police officer. And if they have the power to implement custodial sentences, then they should be doing that.”
It has not been revealed where in Hampshire the incidents happened. But Hampshire Constabulary said that, to date, no officers or staff who had been spat or coughed at are reported to have contracted the virus, and no offer of hotel accommodation has been taken up.
In a statement the force added: “This was so that we could ensure officers’ loved ones were protected and to give peace of mind to officers whose partners or family members were clinically vulnerable or shielding.
“Attacking a police officer, either verbally or physically, when we are trying to do our duty is appalling behaviour and will not be tolerated.”