Bill Carmichael: Bite attack on Calderdale policeman a reminder of bravery of our officers

A West Yorkshire police officer had to have tetanus shot and course of antibiotics after being bitten by a man with hepatitis.
A West Yorkshire police officer had to have tetanus shot and course of antibiotics after being bitten by a man with hepatitis.

I was browsing through my social media accounts this week when I came across a horrific image that brought me up short.

It showed the bloody hand of a Calderdale police officer, PC Morgan Taylor, who like many modern officers uses Twitter to connect to members of the public.

In the accompanying text PC Taylor explained: “Got bitten last night. Only a minor injury, but still painful. Human bites are v infectious so I am on antibiotics for a week. Plus a tetanus shot.

“The man who bit me has Hep C, so need a course of hepatitis shots over the next 3 months before I get the all clear.”

I might quibble with the description “minor injury”. Let’s hope it will cause no lasting damage or injury. But such a bite is still exceeding nasty and no doubt distressing, even to a hardened police officer accustomed to the tough realities of life on the front line of law enforcement.

As it happens by coincidence a few minutes earlier I was reading a report of the Notting Hill Carnival in London where police arrested 385 people – a 23 per cent increase on last year.

Officers also seized 69 weapons, including 49 knives and a bottle of acid. Seriously what kind of person brings a bottle of acid to a street party? I think we know the answer to that

Thirty officers were injured during the “festivities”, including one who suffered a broken kneecap. Another was head-butted, two spat in the face and three, like PC Taylor, bitten.

These events prompted two thoughts – firstly the non-political one that we owe an immense debt to police officers who routinely put their lives and their health on the line every day in order to keep us safe.

I can’t imagine the stresses officers and their families endure knowing as they kiss their partners and children goodbye before heading off to work that they might not be coming home at the end of the shift and could end up in hospital - or even worse.

And this got me thinking about brave officers who have lost their lives in the course of duty, like PC Sharon Beshenivsky, murdered during an armed robbery in Bradford in 2005, or special constable Glenn Goodman, shot dead by an IRA terrorist during a routine traffic stop near Tadcaster in 1992. We should never forget their sacrifice.

The second thought is that this is a reflection of increasingly violent “Wild West Britain” where the police are struggling to maintain control of the streets.

According to the police recorded crime statistics there were 1.3 million violent crimes in the UK last year – an astonishing 21 per cent increase over 2016. There were particularly sharp rises in gun crime (up 11 per cent) and knife crime (up 22 per cent).

Politicians and the judiciary should both take a share of the blame. Whenever a judge refuses to send a violent recidivist criminal to jail, or a politician curbs ‘stop and search’ because it is not politically correct – as Theresa May did as Home Secretary – the real world consequences of increasing violence and lawlessness are felt by people like PC Taylor.

But senior police officers are also culpable. They are obsessed with the achingly trendy, but largely imaginary, category of “hate crimes” at the expense of real, actual crimes that can ruin people’s lives.

And despite constantly complaining of lack of resources, there is no shortage of manpower when it comes to investigating “offensive speech” on social media.

What we need is officers on the streets dealing with real villains, not sat in front of a screen searching for people who have been a bit rude to each other on Twitter and Facebook.

One other worrying aspect of all this is the reaction of the general public when officers are doing their jobs. For example in a burger bar in East London this week a mob attacked two officers as they tried to make an arrest.

And in Coventry when an officer was knocked off his bike, passers by filmed the incident on their phones instead of going to help.

Gladly, that wasn’t PC Taylor’s experience. He explained later that while he was subduing the man who bit him a number of people were watching. He said: “No one shouted ‘police brutality’, no one filmed it on their phones. No, they ran over to help.”

That’s the way it should be – if the police are prepared to stand up for us, we should be prepared to stand up for them.