There is an “epidemic of violence” against police officers, EuroCOP representatives warned members of the EU Law Enforcement working party at Brussels this week.
Violence has worsened due to COVID-19, lockdowns and the financial crisis, the working party was told. This is a significant problem and needs to be tackled; the group suggested Eurostat should develop a EU-wide record of police violence incidents to make it easier to find cross-border approaches.
The EuroCOP delegation of Calum Steele, Jonne Rinne, Unn Alma Skatvold and Nigel Dennis travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels to present their findings.
They also talked about the impact of climate change on policing in Europe, and how there needed to be a more comprehensive, holistic EU policy. Specifically, they said there was a pressing need for the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to be given a mandate to tackle green crime.
The full EuroCOP positioning on these topics can be found below.
On the epidemic of violence against police officers:
Explain that this is a growing problem across Europe, has worsened due to COVID-19, lockdowns and the financial crisis. Stress that the absence of an EU-wide record of police violence incidents (and the inaction of Eurostat) is a significant problem that must be addressed.
II. The impact of climate change on policing in Europe, and the need for more comprehensive, holistic EU policy in tackling green crime. Specifically, the pressing need for the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to be given a mandate to tackle green crime.
• Note that EuroCOP had been highly vocal, through correspondences with Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johanssone and with the European Parliament, in calling for a EU operation to document evidence of war crimes committed during the conflict in Ukraine.
• On this point, EuroCOP was pleased to see the Commission launched a €7.5 million fund to build investigation capacity in terms of large data collection on missing and disappeared persons. The measure
the Commission introduced to empower Eurojust to collect, preserve and share evidence on war crimes will prove to be extremely important in holding war criminals to account, now and in the future.
Regarding the epidemic of violence against police officers:
EuroCOP is very concerned about the growing epidemic of violence against police officers. It is a growing problem across the EU and EEA, and numbers of incidents are increasing.
• For instance, the number of reported incidents has tripled since 2004 in Norway. In a Norwegian police survey conducted in 2021, 10% of police personnel have stated that they have been a victim of violence while conducting their duties in the last 12 months and 18.5% say they have received threats of violence.
• We have for a very long time been calling for a European parliamentary debate on the issue. This worsening situation has been routinely ignored at an EU-level and this is a deplorable situation for our colleagues, who are society’s front-line protectors – and have borne the brunt of civil unrest associated with recent COVID lockdown protests, and through enforcing said lockdowns. Moreover, ad-hoc incidents of violence against our colleagues are growing in number.
• Something which we think is an urgent priority for the EU to develop and implement is an EU/EEA-wide central repository of incidents of violence against police officers.
• Such a repository could potentially be developed through Eurostat. When we have posited such an approach to Eurostat, they have not really taken any action.
• Such data is gathered in the United States under the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Data Collection by the FBI.
• The FBI collects all assaults on police officers, with data on the type of assault (violent/psychological/online abuse); what kind of weapons were used; under what circumstances; at what times, etc. Based on the statistical data, they adapt the training that officers receive periodically. For example, if the majority of assaults/injuries/deaths are caused by knife attacks on officers at night, the self-defence training specifically focusses on combatting this type of situation.
• Without such an EU-wide repository, it is extremely hard to develop cross-border approaches to solving the problem of assaults on our officers. With the increased levels of abuse against our officers not just in the field, but also online – with cyber and psychological threats increasing in numbers – the problem is becoming multidimensional. We urge the EU to act now.