The stabbing of a police officer on Princes Street feels like an extraordinary turn of events. But in reality there is one thing – and one thing only – that makes yesterday’s events truly remarkable – and that is where they took place.
It is hard for most of us who do not face danger in our day-to-day lives to imagine what it is like to be confronted by someone waving a knife. Sadly, confronting physical danger is part and parcel of working life for our police officers. A staggering 5000 assaults on police officers are reported every year in Scotland.
The reality is that attacks on police officers are taking place every day – on average once every half hoiur – but most take place at times and places where most of us never see them.
It is highly unusual for a police officer to be stabbed in Princes Street in the middle of the evening rush hour as many of us are heading home from work or a day at the shops.
But the scenario is all too familiar to officers who are forced to accept this kind of violence as part and parcel of the job.
The thoughts of everyone in the Capital will be with the injured officer and his family today. We are all in awe of his courage and wish him a speedy recovery.
The debate about the role of armed officers in policing our streets will continue to rage for some time. There are those, of course, who argue that routinely arming officers can actually escalate the use of weapons in our communities. If police officers carry guns, then are criminals more likely to carry them too and to use them when they find themselves in a corner? It is a conundrum that is not easily answered.
What we must not forget in this debate is the dangers that our police officers face every day as they carry out their duties. For that they deserve the best possible protection. The question is how do we best offer that.