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  1. ITV Report

Police officers quitting as assaults rise across the West Country

PC Lesley Ball (left), of Avon & Somerset Police, and PC Sofia Finlow, of Devon & Cornwall Police. Credit: ITV News West Country

Police officers in Avon & Somerset are quitting their jobs on frontline patrol following a 40 per cent increase in assaults on them in the past year.

Senior officers are calling for greater protection for those dealing with violent offenders after more than 550 attacks - four times the number five years ago.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh has told ITV News he believes sentences for offenders are too soft.

Assaults on police officers across the region are up Credit: ITV News West Country

Meanwhile, the Police Federation in Devon & Cornwall is calling for all officers to be armed with high-powered tasers after assaults on police jumped from 521 in 2016 to an unprecedented 822 last year - some 30% of the workforce.

Police Federation Chair Andy Berry Credit: ITV News West Country

Every frontline officer who wants to carry a taser should be able to carry a taser. Simple as.

It's clearly been shown time and time again to be a really effective way of dealing with a violent person with a minimum amount of force.

– Police Federation Chair Andy Berry

Assaults on Avon and Somerset Police officers:

  • 2014-15 - 133
  • 2017-18 - 395
  • 2018-19 - 566

PC Lesley Ball was assaulted while arresting a man in Bath city centre. She was spat at full in the face and kicked in her jaw.

She says it led her to step away from patrols to join CID.

PC Lesley Ball Credit: ITV News West Country

It was horrific. Being spat at is entirely degrading.

I don't want to put my family through that. It wasn't worth it for me. A lot of officers don't feel safe any more coming into work.

These things are happening and happening daily.

– PC Lesley Ball, Avon & Somerset Police

Avon & Somerset Police Federation Chair, Andy Roebuck, added: "I've got officers when I go to briefings who openly tell me they're discussing which of them is going to be assaulted.

"At times, the outcomes (in court sentencing) aren't matching the crimes."

Police officers say they no longer feel safe Credit: ITV News West Country

Assaults on Gloucestershire Constabulary officers:

  • 2014-15- 57
  • 2018-19 - 207

Assaults on Wiltshire Police officers:

  • 2016-17 - 55
  • 2017-18 - 103