POLICE officers in Hampshire were 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.
The incidents have been described as “vile, disgusting and awful”.
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.
Olivia Pinkney, Chief Constable at Hampshire Constabulary, said at the start of the pandemic there was “genuine fear” among police staff.
At the meeting of the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel held earlier this month she said: “It is horrible any way, my staff say they’d rather being punched in the face than being 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 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 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.
But the hotel provision will remain in place and has incurred no costs so far.
In a statement the force added: “This was so that we could ensure officer’s 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. People who deliberately assault, spit or cough on police officers, and other emergency workers, will always be dealt with swiftly and rigorously.”
Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: ” It is disgusting, it is the behaviour of animals. It is bad enough any time but it is even worse during this time. These are just awful awful people and I hope that we prosecute people that do that.”
Cllr Dave Shields, cabinet member for stronger communities at Southampton City Council, described the increase in the number of incidents as “worrying”.
“There’s no excuse for this,” he said.
Kit Malthouse MP for North West Hampshire and Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Justice, said the government has recently announced plans to double the maximum sentence for assaulting front line workers from one to two years.
He added: “The message is clear, if you attack our police or any other emergency worker, you will face the full force of the law. I have no idea what goes through the twisted mind of someone who assaults a police officer or indeed even spits at them. It is a truly disgusting thing to do to someone whom you will making your first call to when you are in personal danger.”
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