Weaponising COVID:19 – a view from the blue line

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Cumbria

In Collaboration With

Cumbria Constabulary Research Hub Group

Principal Researcher

Rob Ewin; Dr Nicoletta Policek

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

April 2020

Research Context

Aim: Assess the effects of the use of COVID-19 as a weapon against police practitioners.

A collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant an extraordinary scaling-up in police powers and presence in response to the virus’ spread. To halt the virus’ spread the imposition of physical distancing rules has resulted in instances when police officers and police staff have been assaulted by people claiming to have COVID-19 and that this is an aggravating factor to the assault. This study seeks to understand the use of COVID-19 as a weapon against police officers and police staff: that is when a person claims to have the disease and spits, assaults, coughs or comes within the personal space of a police officer/staff in the exercise of their duty.


  1. Report on crime or incident aggravated by COVID-19 occurrence using FOI data

  2. Report on wellbeing of police officers and police staff during COVID-19 operations and deployments through a survey

  3. Provide recommendations for police wellbeing and sentencing impact for aggravated COVID-19 crimes or incidents.

Research Methodology


  1. FOI data requests and statistical data covering occurrence and outcome. 

  2. Electronic survey of Police Officer and staff practitioners.
    The survey was made live on 24th April and can be accessed here.

Analytic Strategy:

  1. Simple statistical reporting;

  2. Thematic analysis.

The data collection method is an electronic survey. This prevents direct contact allowing anonymity and also allows easy and simple use. The accounts of practitioners will be presented and analysed against the FOI data forming a mixed-method design. This provides a strong basis for the findings. The rationale for this is to provide and maximise use across a social media and e-mail network. The quantitative data will be reported using graphs and charts and simple percentage presentations. Thematic analysis will be used to code and find trends within qualitative responses within survey data. These are both well tested and respected analytical methods for this type of data.

Interim reports and publications

​None Currently Available.

Similarly related literature:

  1. HIV related assaulting of police personnel.

  2. Intentional blood born hypodermic stabbing.

  3. Spitting as a mechanism of assaulting Police.

  4. Knowingly transfer a deadly disease through intentional act during police contact.

  5. Police occupational health and wellbeing.

Reporting for this study:

  1. Journal/original research.

  2. Social media.

  3. Webinars and conferences.

  4. Police force guidance document for ‘disease weaponised’ crimes or incidents.

  5. National Police Library

Date due for completion

March 2021
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