More than 1,000 assaults on police staff in the past year involved spitting and coughing or were otherwise linked to coronavirus, analysis suggests.
Of those, 150 were recorded in the North East division – ranking it the third highest from the data available, behind Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.
Assaults on police officers and workers increased across the country by 6.3% in 2020-21 compared to the previous year, with 6,942 attacks recorded, said Police Scotland.
Of these, 1,087 were linked to coronavirus after analysts searched for case keywords including “spit”, “cough” and “Covid”, the force said.
In the North East division, a total of 654 assaults were recorded over the last 12 months – with a 150 of those linked to coronavirus.
Argyll and West Dunbartsonshire recorded 219 assaults, of which 31 were Covid related.
However, data was not available for Highlands and Islands, Tayside, Edinburgh or Lothian and Borders.
Violence “will not be tolerated”
Reported assaults were up 18% on the five-year average, “continuing a long-term trend of increasing assaults against the police”, a Police Scotland statement said.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff stepped forward to help combat the spread of the virus, conducting in excess of 120,000 interactions with members of the public to explain rapidly changing guidance, encourage everyone to do the right thing and enforce the law where required.
“Officers and staff work with dedication and a commitment to helping people and violence and abuse against them is utterly deplorable and unacceptable.
“It is not simply part of the job and will not be tolerated.”
The figures, provided by Police Scotland, come just two months after Chief Superintendent George Macdonald, area commander for North East, hit out at the “mindless violence” his officers were being subjected to.
He suggested the increase could be a result of the public lashing out in frustration at Covid rules.
Bodycam video cameras roll-out
The force said it has undertaken extra safety training in the past year introducing new techniques and de-escalation tactics to combat the mounting levels of violence and abuse against officers.
Ms Taylor called it a “concerning trend”, adding it “causes physical and psychological harm to dedicated public servants”.
She said: “There is also a cost to the public purse through days lost to ill health or personal injury claims.
“We will continue to work to better understand how we prevent violence and abuse against officers and staff, what impact it has on our colleagues, and how we can better support them to do their job.”
The force also said all armed officers will now be equipped with body-worn video cameras, after nearly 9,000 people said in a survey it would increase trust and confidence in policing.
This summer, another consultation on body-mounted cameras for more officers and staff across Scotland will be launched.
In addition, the force said more officers will be supported and trained in how to use Tasers.