NEW figures revealing the number of assaults on the police in Fife are the “tip of the iceberg” according to the Scottish Police Federation.

Officers have been attacked 281 times in the Kingdom since the formation of the national force in June 2013. There were 45 incidents in 2016-17, 63 in 2017-18 and 55 in 2018-19.

Andy Malcolm, chair of the east area at the Scottish Police Federation, said: “We believe these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. I would suggest that there is a massive underreporting of assaults and violence towards police.

“This could be because of the way that officers are conditioned but also because they have no faith in the justice system. It might first go down as an assault then it’s liable to be changed to a resisting arrest charge. The number of duty forms submitted when an incident takes place also don’t match these assault numbers.

“Violence is ever increasing for a variety of reasons – mainly because people are taking substances and alcohol and these factor different risks more than they used to.

“As a consequence, there is more violence, even in the last five years things have changed. Officers are there to serve and put themselves at risk every day. The mental impact of that takes its toll and what we have is officers suffering mental health issues because they are subject to all these violent incidents all the time.

“And it’s not just an issue officers face, it’s also their families and partners. We’ve had officers pensioned out of the job because of assaults.

“For example, if you’re spat on you get a tetanus injection but then for the next six months you are subject to tests – it does take its toll.”

Over the years there have been a number of measures introduced to help police such as improved handcuffs, batons and PAVA spray, but the Scottish Police Federation believe protection should be increased.

“We believe protection should be reviewed and the wider deployment of Tasers should be considered,” Andy added.

“Most members of the public don’t go walking down the street and punch an officer. Police are sent to deal with a problem, they rightly step in and then they become the victim of an assault. Courts and the justice system need to recognise the impact assaults have on both officers and the community.

“Sentences should be appropriate to the assault – if an officer is off for six months then that should be reflected, both in the impact on that officer and the cost to the community because that is one more officer not able to serve them. There should also be more officers on the frontline.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Attacks against our police force are despicable and the perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. No-one should be the victim of abuse or violence while at work.

“The Police and Fire Reform Act enables penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both, to be imposed following conviction for offences against emergency services staff, including hindering or obstructing them.”