Stabbing prompts calls for new police baton: As Lesley Harrison's condition improved, new police batons were demanded. Steve Boggan reports

LESLEY HARRISON, the policewoman stabbed through the heart by a suspected burglar on Sunday, was taken off a ventilator yesterday and managed to scribble a note to her family saying she planned to stay in the force.

Merseyside Police said her condition remained critical but staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital had detected signs of improvement. The officer's stance was welcomed by colleagues amid calls for the introduction of American-style side- handled batons which can offer more protection against knife attacks.

PC Harrison, 29, was stabbed three times after attending the scene of the burglary in Wavertree, Liverpool, with another female police officer. It was the fourth serious injury she had suffered while on duty in five years. But despite the attack, the federation and senior women police officers said they would reject calls for women to be excused dangerous operational duties.

Inspector Jan Berry, chairwoman of the Police Federation in Kent, said female officers did not welcome unnecessary concern on their behalf. 'All police officers go through control and restraint training regardless of their sex,' she said.

'Some women who joined the force in the past expected to deal with different things than we do today, but certainly the policewoman who joins today expects to do exactly the same job as her male colleagues. The brute strength argument has been used in the past, but it does not hold good any more. I may not be in the next series of Gladiators but I have never had any difficulty performing my duties.'

Insp Berry echoed calls yesterday by Alan Eastwood, the national chairman of the Police Federation, for side-handled batons to be used for a trial period. Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, abandoned proposed trials because he was concerned that the batons would 'fundamentally alter for the worse the style of policing in this country'.

Mr Eastwood said: 'The Police Federation is very unhappy that operational officers are being denied a piece of equipment that could help them defend themselves better.'

He said the side-handled baton, which can exert a blow up to 10 times more powerful than a truncheon, would also help female officers to even up the physical odds against male assailants.

No statistics are available showing the number of injuries suffered by women officers compared with men, and it is understood no research has been conducted into the psychological effects on criminals of being confronted by a female officer.

PC Jan Norton, a policewoman serving near where PC Harrison was stabbed, said officers believed the baton could offer more protection.

'We understand it is lightweight and acts as an extension of the arm, keeping the suspect at arms-length while you negotiate with him or call for assistance,' she said. But she also said female officers did not want to be treated differently from male colleagues.

'It can be quite patronising when a male officer goes over the top with concern. We do not want any special attention. Sometimes a female can defuse a situation far better than a male.'

Brian Hilliard, editor of the Police Review, said 12 per cent of Britain's 127,000 police officers were women. Like their male colleagues, they trained for about 32 weeks and had to pass minimum standards of fitness, stamina and strength. Mr Hilliard said the psychological barriers that determined which tasks men and women were given had been broken down.

'It is not unusual for two women to patrol together,' he said. 'Ten years ago, some female officers were mollycoddled and there were some unofficial guidelines suggesting that they be kept in a support role during public order incidents like riots. That is no longer the case. There are no operational no-go areas for women.'

PC Harrison's mother, Lilian, said: 'The doctors told us her heart will heal. She loves the job. She says every time she goes out it's an adventure.'

Police are waiting to question a 28- year-old man about the stabbing. He is recovering from a head wound.

Leading article, page 18

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk