550 Norfolk police officers injured in the line of duty

The perils of policing in Norfolk can today be revealed after it emerged that on average 10 officers are injured on duty every week.

Sarah Hall

The perils of policing in Norfolk can today be revealed after it emerged that on average 10 officers are injured in the line of duty every single week.

Figures released to the Evening News show that 550 Norfolk Constabulary officers were injured on the job in just 12 months.

The injuries included 147 assaults, 27 road crashes, five who were hurt when they “fell down holes”, nine injured by animals and three injured when they were exposed to loud noise.

Meanwhile, some 51 Norfolk police officers were contaminated with CS gas, seven were injured with a dangerous substance, 18 were hit by a moving, flying or falling object and seven were injured with “body armour”.

The injuries were sustained in a number of locations with the most, 226, on public highways, 79 in public dwellings, 30 in a custody suite and 36 were injured during a training exercise.

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Today, officers said there has been a steady rise in the number of injuries they were receiving, which has subsequently led to an increase in officers off work, due in part to a growing number of assaults from members of the public.

Norfolk Constabulary praised staff for their bravery in “meeting a range of challenges” which are thrown at modern police officers on a daily basis.

A spokesman for the force said: “Our frontline officers do have to face dangerous situations and confront violent people in the course of their duties.

“We would commend our staff for their bravery and for their ability to meet a range of challenges on a daily basis in order to protect the public and uphold the law.

“Frontline officers are well trained and well-equipped with a range of safety equipment to offer them as much protection from injury as possible.

“We also have specialist officers with a much higher level of training in tackling particularly dangerous situations including incidents involving firearms and large-scale disturbances.

“Norfolk Constabulary deplores any type of assault on police officers. Part of their role is to support, work with and protect the public and we will take action against those people who attack officers to secure a prosecution and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The latest figures, obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, cover the period from April 2006 to March 2007.

David Benfield, general secretary of the Norfolk Police Federation, attributed a lot of the injuries “the angry man on the street”.

He said: “Sadly it is a reflection on modern society that there are more assaults on police officers and an increasing number of people are resisting arrest.”

But Mr Benfield said a number of injuries suffered by police officers would also result from training.

Some 51 officers were “exposed” to CS gas which Mr Benfield said would have been through inhaling the poisonous gas when dealing with members of the public - although the use of the gas is accurate when in controlled situations if there is a lot of chaos there could be collateral damage to officers.

The five injuries from falling down holes are not precise but it is suspected an officer fell down a pavement or road hole while in the course of duty.

Seven officers have reported injuries from body armour where some officers perceive they have suffered muscular skeletal injuries from the heavy sleeveless jackets they are required to wear.

Mr Benfield added: “Some of the officers can get spat at or get blood on them and we get them to record this as an injury for obvious infection reasons.

“With regards to getting hit by a moving object it means we could go to an incident and be attacked by implements such as stones or bottles which is what happened during a Norfolk rave last year. Some are unavoidable when police are taking part in police support unit training.”

Norfolk Constabulary said all police officers receive several weeks of training in all aspects of policing, including unarmed defensive tactics, when they join.

Throughout their service operational officers are then required to refresh this training every six months to show they are competent in the use of unarmed defensive tactics, use of batons, CS spray and restraints.

Norfolk police officer sickness for the year ending March 2008 was 84 hours per annum per officer against a target of 70 hours.

The police spokesman added: “We remain committed to tackling the issue of officer and staff absence. The force takes each case of sickness on its merits. Some cases, of course, are the result of injuries sustained on duty. In all cases however, our Occupational Health staff work with the individual, their management and representatives to bring about as early a return to work and operational duties as is possible and is something we continue to get better at.”

Norfolk Police Authority chairman Stephen Bett said: “Policing is a risk business, and while we try to alleviate risk as much as possible, we cannot alleviate all risk.

“I'm afraid it's part of the job for officers to go into situations where they could be injured. We do our best to make sure it does not happen, but we cannot always stop it.”

What do you think about the job Norfolk's police officers do? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk