Police in Cumbria have been coughed on, spat at or bitten in dozens of attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, figures suggest.
The Police Federation of England and Wales say the attacks show “we are living in a more violent society which needs to take a long hard look at itself”, adding that those caught should be sent to prison.
Cumbria Constabulary recorded up to 110 attacks on police officers which included coughing, spitting or biting from February to November last year.
That was up from the 86 reported during the same period in 2019.
Overall attacks against police officers in Cumbria have increased with 364 recorded from February to November last year, up from 331 in the same period in 2019.
The highest number was recorded in July when there were 58.
The figures are from a search of key words in recorded attacks on officers – meaning it was not possible to confirm every incident saw the officer assaulted in this way.
National chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said the attacks on police officers during the pandemic was “a serious issue for us all”.
He said: “Those who attack emergency workers have a complete lack of respect for anything or anybody.
Without doubt, we are living in a more violent society which needs to take a long hard look at itself.”
He added: “We need officers to have the very best protection, and there must be a strong deterrent – that deterrent should be time in prison, no ifs, no buts.
“Time and time again we see officers who have been badly assaulted, and they see their attacker being let off with little more than just a slap on the wrist.
“This is offensive and fails to give that deterrent which is so desperately needed.”
In September, the government announced plans to double the maximum jail term for criminals who assault emergency workers to two years.
Firefighters, prison officers and NHS staff are also classed as emergency workers.
Earlier this week, Cumbria Police Federation said police officers should not vilified by the public for doing their best to protect people from COVID-19.
The federation said officers were working ‘flat out’ to keep the public safe and to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.
Cumbrian officers have been subjected to negative comments as lockdown three imposes strict regulations on the freedom of movement, federation chairman Paul Williams said.
He said: “It is very disappointing to see the negative comments on how our members are policing this situation during COVID.
“They are doing a fantastic job in thankless and strenuous situations that policing has never before seen.
“They are continuously adapting to new legislation and trying their very best to keep the public safe, putting themselves at risk of harm in doing so.
“It’s an impossible situation when you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.
“The public find it easy to criticise the police because we are the public-facing body that has to physically go out there and deal with the breaches that should not be happening,” he added.
“Officers don’t enjoy having to enforce this legislation and would much rather not have to attend and deal with needless breaches.
“The rules are there for a reason, and that is clear, to save lives and stop the overloading of our NHS.”