Newcastle Herald: Assaults against emergency service workers in Hunter make it a bad start to 2021, Police Association of NSW says

The number of cases of violence towards police and other emergency service workers – particularly in the Hunter – has made it a bad start to 2021, the state’s police union says.

There have been at least 22 cases of assaults or threatening behaviour towards frontline emergency responders which have led to arrests in NSW so far this year – eight of those made public have occurred in the Hunter-Central Coast area.

Incidents have ranged from police being bitten and hit to paramedics being verbally abused, shoved and their vehicles damaged.

Police Association of NSW Hunter representative Sergeant Ian Allwood said any assault on a police officer was a concern for the community.

Sergeant Allwood said the number of incidents in the NSW Police Northern Region, which stretches from the Hawkesbury River to the Queensland border, was “disturbing and disproportionately high when looking across the state of NSW as a whole”.

“Police work is no ordinary job. There is an aspect of the policing profession where the risk of being assaulted in the course of a shift is real and present because of the types of often volatile and unpredictable situations we are called on to confront and deal with in order to protect the community,” he said.

“A large part of the role of the Police Association is about being there for our members, alongside their workmates, after an assault.

“Two aspects that are often underestimated are impacts of injuries that are sustained and also the ripple effect on families and friends.”

Six of the incidents in this region’s latest run of attacks came in a two-week period up to last Thursday.

On the morning of February 11, a highway patrol officer suffered facial lacerations and a possible fractured wrist during the arrest of a man who had first refused to stop for police at Murrays Beach.

Then, a 20-year-old man was charged after he allegedly punched a female officer and pulled her hair at Hillsborough on the night of February 15.

In the early hours of February 18, a man was charged after he allegedly smashed the window of a police vehicle with a beer bottle when officers arrived on scene after reports of a brawl at a Muswellbrook home.

Later that day, a male officer was allegedly punched in the face and chest when he stopped a motorcycle rider on an unregistered bike on the New England Highway at East Maitland about 5pm.

A male senior constable was allegedly punched in the face by a 25-year-old man while responding to a reported domestic dispute at Windale on the evening of February 21.

Most recently, last Thursday night, paramedics were verbally abused by a man they were treating for an injured shoulder at Cardiff – the man allegedly shoving paramedics and damaged the ambulance vehicle as they drove away.

The NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety handed down its report on assaults against police in November.

It made 15 recommendations aimed at reducing the risk of attacks and supporting those who are assaulted in the line of duty.

The NSW government will table its response to the report in May.

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