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Hertfordshire police warning following incidents of officers and staff being racially abused or assaulted

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A police officer based in East Herts was racially abused three times and assaulted twice in 2021, Hertfordshire Constabulary revealed on Monday (Jan 17).

The officer concerned, who has been with the force for less than two years, is one of a number of such cases – and the force has issued a strong warning to people who think it is acceptable to racially abuse or assault its officers and staff.

“Our officers work hard on the front line, often in very challenging circumstances where they are expected to prioritise public safety above their own,” said Assistant Chief Constable Matt Nicholls, the force's lead for equality, diversity and inclusion.

“To have to contend with racial abuse on a regular basis is completely unacceptable. We will not hesitate to take immediate action against anyone who behaves in this manner and will always prosecute wherever possible."

He said that many of the victims of abused are relatively young and joined the police to represent their communities as well as to protect the public.

"They're being assaulted and abused just for doing their job and this type of behaviour will not be tolerated," said ACC Nicholls. "To racially abuse or assault anyone is a crime and that includes police officers.”

Other abuse that Herts police officers have been subjected to includes:

  • An officer based in St Albans was assaulted and/or racially abused 15 times in 2019 and 2020;
  • A Royston-based officer was patrolling his beat in 2020 when a motorist driving by shouted racial abuse at him;
  • In March 2021, an officer based in Broxbourne was punched three times while arresting a man who was racially abusing him at the time.

One of the abused officers said: “I was on routine patrol in my local neighbourhood area, trying to support my community and deal with local issues reported by members of the public, when I was verbally abused.

"The incident left me feeling sad and confused as to why, in this day and age, a small proportion of people feel it’s acceptable to racially abuse anyone. This is completely unacceptable.

"As officers we do not and should not come to work and experience abuse based on the colour of our skin or other protected characteristics.”

ACC Nicholls added: “We take all allegations of racial abuse very seriously, as it is never acceptable, regardless of a person’s profession.

"We work very hard in Hertfordshire to encourage people to report race/hate crime and have specialist hate crime officers in post to facilitate this and offer specialist support. We offer our own staff the same service. No one should be targeted, and these offences should not go unreported, regardless of how big or small the incident may be.

“If you racially abuse or assault any police officer or member of police staff it will be logged as a crime and investigated accordingly. You could end up with a criminal record or even serving a prison sentence.”

You can report information online at herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in the force communications room via web chat at herts.police.uk/contact or call non-emergency number 101. If you wish to speak to a specially trained hate crime officer, please request this when contacting the force. You can also report hate crime at third-party reporting centres around the county. For more information about this, visit hertsagainsthate.org.

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