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Police Officer Safety

Part of Community Pharmacies – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Labour, Halifax 5:04 pm, 2nd November 2016

First, I want to thank my Front-Bench colleagues for putting this issue into the spotlight by making it the subject of our Opposition day debate today. I also want to join the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Brandon Lewis in paying tribute to the brave officer who was attacked in Lancashire only this morning. That attack is a stark reminder of just how important today’s debate really is. To those who attended my Adjournment debate on police officer safety on 11 October, I apologise for repeating myself.

My interest in this issue stems from the time I spent with West Yorkshire police in my constituency over the summer recess. On Friday 5 August, I joined the police in Calderdale for a 2 pm to 10 pm shift to get front-line experience and to see how the demands on our local police are changing. I was keen to see for myself how well police officers on the frontline in West Yorkshire were coping with cuts of £160 million over five years, resulting in the loss of 1,200 police officers—a reduction of 20% of the force. I spent the afternoon visiting community projects with neighbourhood policing, but I moved over to response policing in the evening, where I joined PC Craig Gallant in reacting to 999 calls.

I had already discussed with the Police Federation and senior officers my concern that, due to a combination of reduced numbers and the ever-expanding responsibilities of the police, officers are regularly being asked to respond to emergency calls on their own as a single crew. Only days before my shift, a female police officer had responded to a domestic call in my district and, disgracefully, been head-butted by an offender, breaking her eye socket and knocking out her teeth. It was not long into my time with PC Gallant before we attempted to stop a vehicle and speak to the driver. The driver initially sped away but after a short chase he eventually stopped. When PC Gallant got out of the car to speak to him, the situation quickly escalated and he was surrounded and forced to draw his baton. I was so concerned for his safety that I rang 999 myself, believing that that was the fastest way to make contact with the control room and stress just how urgently he needed back-up. Thankfully, other officers arrived at the scene to help to manage the situation. Amazingly, no injuries were sustained on that occasion, but I saw for myself just how quickly situations can become dangerous and just how vulnerable officers are when they are out on their own.