OFFICER safety is being jeopardised due to a policy which forces police to patrol on their own.

Craig O'Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, has warned staff are paying the price for the single-crew scheme.

Recent figures showed 182 officers were assaulted between October and December last year. More than 50 cases involved threatening behaviour with weapons and 72 officers were spat at.

The chairman said: “In our force, we have seen we have far more officers assaulted when they are single crewed than when they are double crewed. They are at greater risk when they are working alone and that is a very real health and safety concern for me.

“If you look at the Thames Valley, you have a large geographical command and we are single crewing a lot of officers, so they are being put at risk.

"If your nearest backup is 25 minutes away, is that an acceptable risk, putting an officer single crewed. I don’t think so.

“It is a long time when you are getting a pasting off a criminal. It is unacceptable in my book and it is time for commanders locally to recognise that fact. The safety of my members is paramount.”

A national survey from the Police Federation of England and Wales found that 73 per cent of officers were single crewed 'often or always' in the past 12 month.

Seven in 10 officers were verbally assaulted, more than half were verbally threatened and two in five became the victim of an unarmed physical attack at least once per month.

Steve Hockin, head of Local Policing and Resilience, added: “We have not changed our working practises. Our default position has always been to single crew, with double crewing after dark if appropriate, or where there is an assessed risk that justifies double crewing.

"Any assault on police officers, staff or volunteers is unacceptable and officer safety is a paramount concern – both their physical and mental wellbeing.

"Thames Valley Police has recently approved an extension in its personal safety training and agreed to increase the use of TASER.”