Top cops Graham Ashton and Wayne Gatt warn about the lack of respect for Victoria Police

Published by the Herald Sun on May 24, 2019
Related coverage: PUNCHED, KICKED, BASHED: The attacks were brutal, but injured officers say weak sentences hurt almost as much

Victoria’s top cop and the police union boss have united to battle the appalling lack of respect being shown to their frontline troops.

More than 3000 Victoria Police officers are attacked each year, with a spike in gang bashings and car rammings, police figures reveal.

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and Police Association ­secretary Wayne Gatt are today ­joining with the Herald Sun to launch the Respect The Badge campaign.

“Nobody goes to work expecting to be hit, kicked, spat on and sworn at,” Mr Ashton said yesterday.

“But those things — and worse — are happening all too frequently to police officers.”

Sergeant Gatt said the judiciary was not doing enough to deter ­attacks on police.

Judges and ­magistrates were instead contributing to the lack of respect for the blue ­uniform by handing out lenient ­sentences, he added.

Both men also issued passionate appeals to parents to do all they could to instil respect for police in their children from an early age.

Mr Ashton believes more young people in particular are prepared to resort to harming police because they have been desensitised to ­violence through exposure to graphic video games and TV.

“We are very grateful to the Herald Sun for highlighting this lack-of-respect issue because its reach within the community is ­significant,” Mr Ashton said.

“An attack on any police officer is an attack on society and the wellbeing of society. It is an attack on the ­community.”

Mr Ashton and Sgt Gatt singled out the rapid growth in the number of incidents where offenders used cars as a weapon against police.

“The ramming of police cars with vehicles starkly epitomises the brutal lengths offenders are now prepared to go to,” Sgt Gatt said.

“This is not a tussle in the street. This is using a car as a weapon in a way that, at best, can injure and, at worst, could kill. That’s more than a lack of respect for police — it is at times hatred of us, and it is a ­significant problem.”

Mr Ashton said his officers had reported an increase in the number of gang attacks on police.

“The behaviour in crowds is something I want to highlight,” he said.

“What we are seeing is when people get ­together in larger groups, their behaviour deteriorates.

“People who might behave respectfully in a one-on-one situation with police can change when there are 20 or 30 people around them.”

There was a shocking ­example of that group behaviour this year when the term “ragdolling” became widely known, after a thug was ­accused of repeatedly smashing the head of a fallen officer into the road.

Two ­officers had ­responded to a routine call for help for a vulnerable person who had been assaulted.

The officers made an ­arrest and were then allegedly attacked by an angry mob.

Both left the scene in an ambulance.

“Both members are on the long road to recovery … one is still not well enough to return to work yet,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

“Management continues to monitor both these ­members.”

The Andrews Government introduced legislation last September that requires magistrates and judges to jail offenders who injure emergency workers for a mandatory minimum of six months.

“We expect the first few cases to start rolling through within weeks,” Sgt Gatt said.

“What we want to see now is what the outcomes are.”