Nick Smart, of West Yorkshire’s Police Federation, says recent publicity undermining the police service may be making people “more likely to have a go at officers” in the county.
Figures show there were 280 assaults on West Yorkshire Police officers that caused injury in the year to April 2014, compared with 241 in the same period in 2013.
According to website Police Oracle, there were 20,249 assaults on officers across the country in the same period, nearly 580 more than the previous year.
In December West Yorkshire Pc Suzanne Hudson was badly injured after being shot while attending a call in Leeds.
The number of officers injured in assaults has been dropping in recent years, despite the number of police officers falling dramatically as a result of austerity measures, but the new statistics suggest the trend may be reversing.
Mr Smart, whose organisation represents rank and file officers at Yorkshire’s biggest police force, said equipment and defence training have improved but “the threat on the streets is still there”.
He added: “We need to ensure that when officers need assistance from their colleagues they are there and that changes to shift patterns, fewer officers on the streets and reduced budget do not impede officers’ ability to provide back-up.”
Trust in the police has been damaged by controversies including the Plebgate scandal and the damning report into the Stephen Lawrence case. West Yorkshire Police has been criticised for its dealings with Jimmy Savile and the “supergrass” scandal.
Earlier this year Home Secretary Theresa May stunned the Police Federation’s national conference when she warned that a string of scandals about corruption and the conduct of the federation itself risked destroying the bedrock of British policing,
Mr Smart said: “Policing is a dangerous job, it doesn’t help with some elements of the national media and politicians undermining us in everything we do. Is that a factor in people being more likely to have a go at officers? That is something that has not been probed.
“Maybe people are feeling a little bit bolder and feeling like they can have a go at officers. We are always going to get people who don’t like us. The public don’t want to see a massive increase in CS spray and Taser usage, Verbal communication is the best but you have to have these back-ups because people won’t always respond to it.”
West Yorkshire’s temporary Deputy Chief Constable, John Robins, said: “Police officers and staff fulfil a unique role in society. Every day they put themselves at risk of assault whilst serving the public.
“One assault is one too many and that is why all officers and staff receive a high level of professional training and accreditation, in order to reduce the risk of assault and injury on duty.”