The Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) is providing funding to support a Rapid Research Project which will seek to understand the factors influencing assaults on police officers, how this might be prevented and how officers and families may be best supported.
As part of the #NotPartOfTheJob campaign, Police Scotland has identified that over the past five years reported assaults on police officers and staff have increased by over 22%. Last year between April and June 2020 there were 20 reported assaults per day.
A 2019 rapid evidence review conducted by SIPR sought to explore some of the driving factors behind these statistics as well as identify potential measures which may reduce risk (see Appendix A). This report provided several recommendations for further research including:
• More complete literature review or full systematic review of research within this area;
• Conduct research to understand how police staff report assaults and what could be done to improve this, such as:
1. Understanding current policies and procedures for reports of this nature;
2. Exploring whether officers feel comfortable reporting experiences of assaults; and
3. Exploring the extent to which police officers perceive that assaults are “part of the job”.
4. Undertaking analysis of police data on assaults along with data from the Scottish Government’s Crime and Justice Survey e.g. to specifically examine responses from police officers and their experience of crime.
In 2020/21 Police Scotland undertook internal research with officers exploring officers’ experiences of assault including reporting particularly focussing on whether officers felt supported by Police Scotland in the reporting and handling of their case. Some of the key findings from this analysis identified the need to develop:
• Support which is available for supervisors and management teams to manage wellbeing and mental health, creating supportive environments and asking the right questions to focus on the needs of the individual – where people feel safe to talk about how they are feeling and what affects them;
• Creating workplace and culture for social spaces that encourages peer interaction, building personal relationships, trust and support;
• Tracking the patterns of repeat assaults and why these might happen to target improvements and prevention. Also, we must raise colleague awareness and understanding of the value of reporting incidents, so we have a true picture for managing safety and wellbeing effectively;
• Equipping frontline officers and staff with good communication and engagement skills for diffusing confrontation and preventing an assault. This should be a consideration, particularly for repeated assaults.