FIREARMS and knives have been used on police officers in custody it has been revealed, as shock new figures lay bare the “daily dangers” police face.

The incidents are part of a wider trend, which has seen the number of assaults on officers in custody almost quadruple, from 61 incidents in 2016 to 225 in 2020.

In 2020 an officer was attacked with a knife, and in 2018 there were two attacks on police by people using firearms in custody.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents police officers, said: “The shocking statistics highlight the daily dangers our brave colleagues sadly face from criminals.

“In an ideal world no person that is being taken into custody should be in possession of a weapon.

“Sometimes though, on occasions, the situation and circumstances don’t allow for as thorough a search as you would like and there are also restrictions on how far we can search someone in a public place, some of the people we deal with conceal weapons illicitly upon their person.”

Assaults on officers during their duty have also risen sharply in recent years.

According to Home Office statistics, in 2017/18 there were 756 assaults on Essex Police officers, doubling to 1,411 in 2020-21.

Across England and Wales the figure rose from 26,295 to 36,969 in the same period.

The Police Federation spokesman added: “We must also remember that behind ever assault number is a human being - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and partners, and sons and daughters.”

A number of people have been sentenced after attacking police officers in south Essex.

Last September Alexander Cogan, 35, of Hartington Road, Southend was handed a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for one year, after attacking an officer in Southend High Street.

Former Southend police chief Mick Thwaites told the Echo that he believes anyone prepared to attack an officer whilst in custody would do so anywhere, to anyone.

The 66-year-old said: “Police were the most respected people in authority at one time.

“It is totally unacceptable, and it shows people in society are prepared to attack those who are working to protect and help our communities.

“The courts should be sending out a strong message, but the courts and laws have eroded to where people are immune to incidents like minor assaults.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Our officers, staff and volunteers work tirelessly and selflessly, to protect and serve the people of Essex.

“We are proud of all our officers and staff, and the fantastic work they do to keep our communities safe, catch criminals and bring them to justice.

“But sadly, at times policing is a difficult and dangerous job and on occasions, they are required to put themselves at risk in order to protect the public.”

“None of our officers should have to put up with being assaulted at work - whether that’s being spat at, hit, or driven at. We cannot underestimate the impact that these actions have on our officers and volunteers, whether they’re physical or psychological.

“Any assault, whether resulting in injury or not, is completely unacceptable. Anyone responsible for assaulting a member of our staff can expect to be arrested and brought to justice.”