A growing number of officers have been punched, kicked, bitten, spat at and coughed on since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
Some people claiming to have the virus have threatened to infect officers and their families.
Today a senior police officer said that the rise in the number of attacks on officers and other emergency workers since the lockdown started was “sickening”.
The number of assaults totalled 169 in the first four weeks of the lockdown and the figure for April was 39 per cent higher than the same period a year ago.
Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said that a growing number of the attacks were linked to the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
She said that last weekend eight police officers and a PCSO (police community support officer) across Sussex reported assaults.
They included a man from Brighton who said that he had covid-19 and coughed in a police officer’s face when he was arrested for having cocaine.
In two other incidents in Brighton officers were kicked, grabbed, spat at and racially abused.
Another officer was bitten on the finger by a man fined for being out during the lockdown in Littlehampton.
The deputy chief constable said: “It is absolutely sickening that police officers, staff and other emergency workers, putting themselves in harm’s way every day to help others, are being faced with violence and the threat of contamination.
“I have spoken to a number of injured officers over the past month and know how traumatising this is – both for the officers and their families, worried about the consequences.
“I have no doubt the vast majority of people will be equally appalled and agree that anyone putting public service workers in harm’s way during this crisis, or indeed at any time, deserve the harshest of sentences.”
Sussex Police said: “In Sussex, 122 assaults against police officers were recorded between (Monday) 23 March and (Tuesday) 28 April, an increase of 58 per cent compared with the same period last year.”
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I’m appalled that the women and men on the front line of this crisis are being threatened with the virus that they are working so hard every day to protect us against.
“Let me be clear, coughing or spitting at an emergency worker and claiming to have covid-19 will not be treated as some sort of practical joke. It is a crime and you will face harsh consequences.
“While most people are behaving responsibly to help our emergency services, a few individuals are continuing to act selfishly.
“In many ways this pandemic has already brought out the very best in our communities but where it brings out the worst, offenders will be swiftly brought to justice.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that such behaviour could constitute common assault and attacks on emergency workers specifically were punishable by up to two years in prison.
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