A police officer has been punched twice in the back of the head trying to break up a large group of youths in Melbourne’s outer west.
Four people were arrested after police responded to a group gathered on an oval in Long Tree Drive in Harkness on Tuesday afternoon.
A police spokesman said the group of about 50 youths were allegedly throwing bottles around when police arrived about 5pm.
He alleged one officer was spat at when police attempted to move the youths on with a warning for breaching the chief health officer’s restrictions.
“As police attempted to arrest a man, they were set upon by about five to 10 other people and an officer was punched twice to the back of the head,” the spokesman said.
Three police officers were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Police arrested three men and a woman as the rest of the crowd left.
The youths were taken into custody and interviewed overnight.
A 17-year-old boy has since been charged with assaulting police and affray and was remanded to face a children’s court.
Three others – a Harkness woman, 25, and two Brookfield men, aged 23 and 18 – have been released and expected to be charged on summons with hindering police and coronavirus-related breaches.
There has been a rise in violence against police recently, highlighted by several ugly clashes at anti-lockdown protests across the city, including an officer having his nose broken and a police horse being kicked.
Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson said he had noticed a “really sharp increase” in recent weeks in the use of force against Victoria Police members.
He said there were three gun grabs last week where members of the public police had been interacting with had tried to take the firearm off an officer.
He said a policewoman had also been knocked unconscious last week, and there had been four incidents where police were confronted with knives, batons or bars.
“We are noticing a particular escalation in violence against police,” Mr Paterson said.
“It’s certainly something we are conscious of, and the safety of our members going about their duties protecting all of the Victorian community is something that’s very important to us.
“Our members do not come to work wanting to use force against anyone. We want all of our members to be going home safely.”
A senior constable who stomped on Timothy Atkins’ head during an arrest in Epping on Sunday has also been stood down with pay, while the officer who bumped into him with a police car has had his authority to drive a police vehicle suspended.
New video has shown police driving at a man just before officers appeared to stomp on his head during an arrest on Sunday afternoon in Epping.
Both incidents are now under investigation by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, which has the ability to bring criminal charges.
Mr Paterson said stomping on Mr Atkins head was “an inappropriate use of force”.
Anyone with information on the Harkness incident has been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Originally published as Bottle-throwing youths attack cop