Police officers in South Yorkshire faced nearly 500 assaults last year, new figures show.
The Police Federation has hailed the introduction of a new law which will allow tougher sentences for offenders, saying that officers should not have to consider assault “just part of the job”.
Figures from the Home Office show that between April 2017 and March 2018, 477 assaults against officers were recorded in South Yorkshire Police.
Of those, 241 caused injury. It is the first time that assaults causing injury to police officers have been recorded separately from those against members of the public.
Assault against an officer without injury is recorded as a distinct offence. Numbers have been published since 2015-16, and they show an increase in recent years. In 2017-18, 236 offences were recorded, 16% more than in 2015-16.
John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said that the numbers are still likely to under-represent the scale of the problem.
He said: “This is an issue I feel passionately about and I have long campaigned to have it addressed. Any attack on a police officer is unacceptable.
“And while I am glad that the ONS and the Home Office are improving their data collation regarding assaults on police officers I do not believe that these figures represent anywhere near the true picture of the level of violence our members face on a daily basis.
“Steps have been taken to improve the quality of the data, however there is still work to be done to ensure that all incidents are accurately recorded so a true picture can be obtained.
“This responsibly also falls to the individual chief constables to make sure that all officers have the confidence – and support – to report every incident.
“I know some do this already but they must all ensure all acts of violence, whether physical or verbal are accurately recorded. And it must be a priority as we can only deal with a problem when we know the true scale of it. “
Across England and Wales, 72 assaults on police officers took place every day in 2017-18.
In a bid to tackle the situation, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill will be passed into law this autumn. Under it, the fact that assaults are committed against emergency workers will be taken into account when sentencing offenders, potentially leading to tougher sentences.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on wellbeing, Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, said: “All too often police officers and police staff are subjected to assaults and threats. While the severity of such attacks changes, the impact upon society does not. It is never acceptable to assume that assaults upon police officers and police staff should be tolerated - they are not simply ‘part of the job’.
“Colleagues suffer not only physical injuries, but the psychological effects. Many find the return to frontline duties after being assaulted particularly challenging or traumatic. We are optimistic that the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill, when introduced, will go some way to protecting our staff.”