ESSEX’S chief constable has slammed “disgusting” attacks on his officers - including one by a “baying mob” - as the toll of assaults reaches nearly 600 so far this year.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that from January this year to date, 588 officers have been attacked in Essex - and 138 were victims more than once.

In 2020, a total of 868 officers were assaulted while on duty and in 2019 a total of 774 attacks on officers took place.

Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington says officers have been punched, kicked and even run over while trying to apprehend criminals and keep the public safe.

He said: “Since I became Chief Constable of Essex Police in 2018, I have seen some of my officers stabbed, doused in petrol with a baying mob calling for them to be set on fire, run over, kicked, stamped on, punched, spat at, threatened, I could go on.

“In Essex, while the number of offences is higher than the actual number of officers assaulted - many offences may occur and be recorded during one incident - the number of individual officers being attacked is nonetheless disgusting and unacceptable.”

He added: “The pandemic has created a policing challenge like no other. Officers have had to enforce legislation, the like of which we have never seen before. It has been challenging for us all.”

The “baying mob” incident saw Justin Jackson throw petrol over police officers at the Somercotes estate in Laindon on May 5, 2019.

Two officers were hospitalised after ingesting the noxious liquid, but all eight were supported by passers-by.

Jackson, aged 28 at the time, was jailed for three years and nine months.

In April this year, 30-year-old illegal immigrant Edmund Protopapa spat on a police office who was looking after him in Southend Hospital.

Robert Hudson, 58, of Purcell Close, Laindon, also spat on a police officer in Basildon in August last year and also bit the officer in the leg, causing him pain and anxiety in the following days.

At Basildon Crown Court this week, Jerome Clarke was sentenced for punching and shoving police officers who tried to arrest him in Southend on February 28 last year.

Tony Cox, Tory leader of the opposition in Southend, said : “We’ve just seen bad behaviour. It’s the downside to the lockdowns we have seen over the past year.

“Whilst deeply unpleasant, the attacks on police officers, I just think people’s behaviour has seen a downward spiral as a catastrophic consequence of lockdowns.

“We can just see minor, mundane disagreements turning violent.

“People can’t see friends and release their emotions.”