The police ‘are not society’s punchbags’, a boss representing frontline officers has said, after one of his colleagues was attacked as he tried to tackle a suspect, while laughing passersby posed for selfies without coming to his aid.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, warned attacks on officers seem to be increasing as footage emerged of the shocking scenes, which unfolded yesterday on a London street and were filmed from a nearby car before appearing online.
They show a uniformed PC tackling a man to the ground in Hackney, northeast London, before other men aim punches and kicks at the officer and a man appears brandishing a baseball bat.
As a crowd gathers, rather than coming to the PC’s aid, people instead pose for mobile phone selfies with the officer grappling in the background, and jostle with his female colleague.
Two men, aged 20 and 38, were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer following the incident, which left both officers with minor injuries but not needing hospital treatment.
Home Secretary Priti Patel led the condemnation, describing the attack as ‘sickening, shocking, disgraceful’, while Mr Marsh said: ‘We are not society’s punchbags. We have families we want to go home to at the end of every shift. But the dangers are stark. And seemingly escalating.’
Meanwhile, the national chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, described the scenes as ‘stomach-churning’ and said: ‘How dare people stand by and video my colleagues in distress?’
The Metropolitan Police also issued a firm statement on Twitter this morning, which read: ‘Yesterday, two officers from @MPSHackney were attacked whilst assisting someone in need of help.
‘Officers should be able to go about their work, protecting the public, without fear of abuse or attack. Two men have been arrested.
‘Being assaulted is not ‘part of the job’.’
The suspect the policeman was tackling had been pointed out to police by members of the public following reports of an assault, the Met said last night and arrests were later made.
Taking to Twitter after seeing the footage, Ms Patel branded it ‘sickening, shocking and disgraceful’. ‘My thoughts are with the outstanding officers who were subject to this disgusting violent attack,’ she said.
In another message, referencing the Met’s tweet, she added: ‘All assaults on our brave police are completely unacceptable.
‘Perpetrators should be in no doubt that they will face the full force of the law. Actions have consequences.’
Hackney’s own borough commander, Marcus Barnett, said: ‘This is truly despicable & society should never accept such behaviour – we are here to protect you! The officers are safe, but clearly shaken & incredibly brave too. Arrests will be made… this must stop.’
And London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘I utterly condemn the disgraceful attack on two Metropolitan Police officers.
‘These brave officers were doing their duty and assisting the public. We owe them a debt of gratitude and I wish them a full and speedy recovery.
‘Attacks on our police will not be tolerated. I urge anyone with information to come forward to ensure the perpetrators of this disgusting attack feel the full force of the law.’
The two officers were flagged down at 3.30pm yesterday afternoon by a member of the public who reported an assault. The victim pointed out their attacker and officers went to speak to those involved, the Met said.
A force spokesman said: ‘As an officer attempted to speak with those involved, one of the men resisted and a struggle ensued. A number of other people became involved whilst the officer was on the ground.’
Footage shared online shows a uniformed officer with his arm around a suspect’s neck.
He appears to try and throw the suspect to the ground, but instead they both end up on their backs.
As the officer calls for backup, the man he was trying to detain repeatedly shouts ‘Leave me the f*** alone,’ while holding one of the officer’s wrists.
Four people, two on bikes, quickly crowd around the altercation. Two more men arrive, one carrying a baseball bat.
Seconds later, a punch appears to land on the back of the officer’s head, who is still on the floor.
As one member of the crowd leans over to shout at the officer, his colleague arrives at the scene and screams at the crowd to ‘get back’.
When she attempts to push the crowd away, they grab at her arms and begin to shout at her.
One of the crowd then dances in front of the altercation, while appearing to take a selfie.
In a separate video, members of the crowd are seen kicking at the female officer’s legs as she tries to break apart her colleague from the suspect.
Superintendent Martin Rolston, from the Central East Command Unit, said: ‘This incident, which was captured on someone’s mobile phone is truly shocking.
‘My officers went to the assistance of a member of the public – who asked for their help – after stating that they had been assaulted. What happened next is a reminder of the risks our officers take whilst going about their duties.
‘It is fortunate that their injuries are not more serious. There is no place for this level of violence on our streets.
‘We are engaging with our community partners to discuss what happened and I hope that anyone who witnessed what happened comes forward and speaks with us.’
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, slammed the ‘horrific, stomach-churning scenes’.
‘Disgusting behaviour from those who attack the officers, those who film what’s going on and those who do nothing. They are cowards, the lot of them,’ he said.
In an interview on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, he said there had been a 27 per cent increase in officers being injured in assaults over the last 12 months, while there were more than 30,000 attacks on officers in England and Wales alone in 2018/19 – equivalent to 85 every single day.
He added: ‘I’ve got mixed feelings on things being videoed, because on one hand, how dare people stand by and video my colleagues in distress?
‘Far too many stand back rather than assist anybody in trouble. I accept we have to manage our own risks but when people are in trouble, as a citizen you should step forward.
‘It’s almost like a hobby now for some to video an attack on a police officer and put it on social media – not to assist an investigation but to mock my colleagues and to almost encourage violence against them.
‘Our colleagues need to be given the equipment and support to be able to defend themselves and other members of the public and sometimes we worry too much about what things look like on our television screens rather than the safety of my colleagues.’
Mayor of Hackney Phillip Glanville told followers: ‘Anyone seeing these videos tonight will be as shocked & horrified as I am by this attack on two Hackney police officers. My thoughts are with both officers & praise their bravery when faced with this situation. Our police are here to protect us & scenes like this are unacceptable.’
Meanwhile Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for next year’s London Mayoral elections, linked the incident to the Black Lives Matter protests, which saw police criticised for failing to take a tougher line with demonstrators.
‘This is what happens when you try to appease the mob,’ he tweeted. ‘You lose control of the streets.’
On Monday Priti Patel told MPs that at least 35 officers had been injured during Black Lives Matter protests in London as she said she ‘salutes their bravery’.
She said: ‘As the ugly tally of officer assaults shows some protesters regrettably turned to violence and abusive behaviour at the weekend.
‘This hooliganism is utterly indefensible. There is no justification for it. There is no excuse for pelting flares at brave officers, throwing bikes at police horses, attempting to disrespect the Cenotaph or vandalising the statue of Winston Churchill, one of the greatest protectors of our freedoms who has ever lived.
‘It is not for mobs to tear down statues and cause criminal damage in our streets and it is not acceptable for thugs to racially abuse black police officers for doing their jobs.
‘The criminals responsible for these unlawful and reckless acts are betraying the very cause that they purport to serve.’
Ms Patel visited police horses in Lewisham yesterday.
The horses had been deployed as police officers across the capital responded to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Following the visit, Ms Patel tweeted: ‘Today I met Rupert, a (Metropolitan Police) who worked last weekend during the protests.
‘I also spoke to the family of the officer who was badly injured after falling from her horse. She is thankfully doing well. Proud to stand with these brave men and women.’
The two men arrested in Hackney remained in custody this morning. Anyone with information is asked to call police via 101 quoting reference Cad 4315/10Jun.