Police assault outrage

Latrobe Acting Inspector Peter Watson has called for an end to violent attacks on police. photograph hayley mills

Latrobe Acting Inspector Peter Watson has called for an end to violent attacks on police. photograph hayley mills

Latrobe’s Acting Inspector has called for tougher penalties to deter people from using police as "punching bags" after two officers were allegedly assaulted in separate incidents at the weekend.

A female constable received a cut to her lip on Saturday night during an arrest of a person at a house on McMillan Street, Morwell while less than 24 hours later an acting sergeant's finger was dislocated while arresting a woman at Moe Railway Station.

The woman officer was checked at the scene by paramedics but not hospitalised while the acting sergeant was treated at Latrobe Regional Hospital.

While police declined to reveal how many police officers have been assaulted in the Latrobe Valley in the past 12 months, Latrobe Acting Inspector Peter Watson said officers had received a range of serious injuries during arrests.

He said a "high representation" of people who attacked police were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and he estimated one police officer was assaulted in the Latrobe Valley on average each week.

"[Injuries] have varied from scratches and bruises, we've had dislocated fingers, soft tissue injuries and often it's not just the physical trauma but the mental trauma which impacts their capacity to work," Acting Inspector Watson said.

"We need to get the message across that police aren't punching bags.

"It often happens when people are resisting, so kicking, punching. We've had police cars rammed so it's an assault on police. Those sorts of things are the most common."

According to Acting Inspector Watson, assaults on officers had dropped by 50 per cent in the past 12 months but not enough was being done to deter people from targeting emergency service workers.

"I think in certain circumstances where people are under the influence of drugs or those who have a mental episode, I don't think that any deterrence or penalty is actually going to [stop] them," he said.

"We really need to get to the root of the problem which is the drug-taking and the mental care of the person. If we can reduce the amount of people taking drugs in the area then obviously we're reducing that risk of assault on police."

Minister for Police Lisa Neville said new laws to protect emergency workers - including police, paramedics, doctors and nurses delivering or supporting emergency care, firefighters and prison officers - were addressing the issue and deterring assaults on workers.

"This legislation sends the strongest possible message that its unacceptable to assault and injure a police officer, and if you do you can expect to go to jail," Ms Neville said in a statement.

Legislation introduced into Parliament last month meant assaulting an emergency service worker was a category one offence under the Sentencing Act 1991 and offenders found guilty would receive a mandatory jail term.

A spokesman for The Police Association of Victoria said attacks on officers had serious and lasting physical and psychological impacts and were an attack on the community.

"We all know that police work can be inherently dangerous but that should never mean that our welfare is compromised or held in less regard," the spokesman said.

"The confrontational nature of our job should never be used to mitigate the culpability of offenders who assault or injure our members."

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