A councillor has condemned the “toxicity” of social media spilling over into increasing numbers of physical assaults on Angus police officers.
New data has revealed 22 Angus officers were targeted between April and the end of June.
The figure is a rise of nearly 30% on the corresponding quarter in 2020 – when the country was deep in Covid-19 lockdown.
It was mirrored by a 33% upturn in common assault, with just under 300 crimes recorded in the three-month period.
Detection rates for those fell 9.5% to under 70%.
Kirriemuir councillor Julie Bell highlighted the worrying rise in police assaults as Angus scrutiny committee considered the contrasting district-wide crime picture from the height of the pandemic in 2020 to the first quarter of this year.
She said: “I’m really concerned around the common assaults and assaults on emergency workers.
“It seems to me that that kind of toxicity on social media is spilling over into people’s contact with emergency services and it is very worrying.
“None of it is acceptable.
“I also wonder how morale is in Police Scotland in relation to that,” added the SNP councillor.
“It does concern me at a time when all are stretched that people are actually making it worse for those in a job where they are helping people that they are met with abuse and violence.
“It just desperately saddens me,” she said.
Police Scotland Tayside commander Chief Superintendent Phil Davison said: “I fully support and endorse your observations.
“It should not be the case that anybody comes to their work and gets assaulted.
“From my own perspective, it is the worst of behaviour.
“It is not to be tolerated.”
He added: “In a national context there were around 7,000 assaults in the last year on police and emergency service workers.
“That’s up 18% on the five-year average and that’s a concerning pattern.
“Whilst we’ve seen an increase for Angus (in the last quarter), we remain below the five-year average.
“That is still challenging, because we shouldn’t be having any level of assaults.”
The top officer admitted: “Internally there is an effect on morale.
“It’s shocking to be assaulted at your work and that has a deep-rooted effect.
“We take the welfare and wellbeing of our staff really seriously.”
Mr Davison said that beyond national discussions around the punitive approach to offenders, he backed the extra equipment for officers which could act as a deterrent in challenging situations.
“Members will be aware of consultations around body worn video and the potential further roll-out of Taser,” he added.
“These are a couple of additional tools that would support officers and it’s proven that, for example, the use of body worn video does help to reduce instances of assault.
“These are things that I personally would certainly welcome and that I’m looking to champion from my push into the national setting.”