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Public should 'get involved' to stop attacks on police officers, Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick says

‘We don’t want people taking crazy risks, we do want people getting involved,’ Britain’s most senior police officer says

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 04 December 2018 16:22 GMT
Police brawl with man in Hackney branch of McDonald’s

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for members of the public to “get involved” if they see an officer being attacked.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick spoke out after a series of incidents where people filmed officers who were injured or at risk, rather than trying to help.

“Officers getting assaulted and people thinking that’s funny and putting it on the internet – I think that’s disgusting,” she told LBC Radio.

“I think I want to live in a society, and I think I do live in a society, where people are active citizens.

“People stand up and say ‘that’s not right, don’t do that’ and on occasion, if they feel able, get involved and do something physical. You have to look at the circumstances.

“If there’s a man pointing a gun at you we don’t want you running at the man pointing the gun, that would be crazy.

“If you see an officer getting a kicking and you feel able to assist, absolutely I want my public getting involved, and we see people getting involved, including in some of those videos.

“We don’t want people taking crazy risks, we do want people getting involved.”

Last month a video of two officers being attacked in Merton, south London, was shared thousands of times after a passing driver stopped to film the assault and posted it on Twitter with the caption “south London at night... lol”.

Dashcam video shows man punching police officer in Liverpool

The officers had stopped a car and were attempting to arrest the three occupants, but one was dragged around in the road while the other took a flying kick to the chest and landed feet from the path of a moving bus.

A male and female officer were injured but they managed to arrest one of the men with the help of a passing motorcyclist.

Incidents have happened across the country including in County Durham, where officers were surrounded by dozens of teenagers throwing bricks and setting off fireworks last month.

In August, West Midlands Police condemned the “absolutely disgusting behaviour” of people who recorded a police officer lying injured in the road after being knocked off his motorbike during a chase.

Police leaders say the phenomenon, which was also highlighted in the aftermath of last year’s terror attacks in London and Manchester, has become widespread since the rise of smartphones.

Members of the public are known to have intervened in separate incidents, pulling a motorcyclist off a police officer who was being attacked in Liverpool in April.

But in the wake of the Merton attack, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh warned that officers might be forced to let violent suspects go.

He added: ”Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it.

“We’re going to come to a point where we’re going to start pushing messages out to our colleagues, ‘Risk-assess it dynamically and, if you think you can’t detain a person, just let them go’.

“We don’t come to work to get assaulted, and if we’re not going to be backed up in what we’re doing then what is the point?”

One officer is under criminal investigation after a 17-year-old sustained serious head injuries and another incident that left a man with a broken leg is being probed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Scotland Yard has defended the tactic as a way of bringing down moped robberies, which are linked to a wider trend of rising violent crime.

So far in the capital this year there have been 123 homicides, more than the 118 in the whole of last year, not including the victims of terror attacks.

Ms Dick said that after three years of gun and knife crime increasing, the rate was now starting to level off and come down.

But she admitted that it would take a long time to tackle the 180 violent gangs in London that are “busy” dragging children into crime.

The government branded the abuse of emergency service workers a “national scandal” while backing laws seeing offenders jailed for twice as long.

Changes that came into force last month make it a criminal offence to assault workers including police, paramedics, firefighters, prison officers, search and rescue personnel and custody officers.

The previous six-month maximum sentence for common assault was doubled to a year for the new crime created by the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act.

It also enabled judges to increase terms given to people committed for a range of other crimes where the involvement of emergency services was an “aggravating factor”.

The debate comes amid a row over the Metropolitan Police’s use of “tactical contact” to ram suspects riding mopeds off the vehicles.

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