LONDON — A British police officer is in critical condition after being stabbed in the head and body with a machete in what police described as a “sudden and brutal” attack in London.
During the struggle, the officer used his Taser to subdue the suspect, who is in his 50s, authorities said.
The attack comes as British authorities are grappling with a sharp rise in knife crime over the last five years.
“This sickening attack on a serving police officer is utterly appalling,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. “The men and women who serve in our police force in London are the best in the world, and their courage and dedication is inspiring.”
Around midnight Thursday, a police car patrolling streets in the capital’s east signaled for a white van to pull over for a routine insurance check. It didn’t initially but stopped a short while later, police said.
When officers approached the van driver, he attacked the uniformed police officer with a machete before the officer drew and deployed his Taser, police said. In Britain, only a handful of elite, specially trained officers carry guns.
“The male officer was stabbed a number of times but managed to draw his Taser and used it to subdue the suspect and protect himself from further harm,” the London Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Police said they were not treating the incident as terrorism-related.
The injured officer, who is in his 30s, was taken to a London hospital, while a second officer arrested the suspect at the scene. The incident was captured on the officers’ body cameras.
Inspector Julia James described the attack as “sudden and brutal.”
“What began as a routine vehicle stop has transformed very quickly and unexpectedly into an unprovoked attack with a weapon,” she said.
She praised the officer’s bravery and resilience in subduing the suspect despite the injuries the officer sustained in the attack.
“Events such as this highlight the courageous work that police do every day, sometimes having to confront violent and dangerous individuals, who are determined to do them harm,” James said.
Khan, the London mayor and a frequent Twitter foe of President Trump, has seen his popularity take a hit as knife crime has gone up. Last year, he announced that the city was creating a violence-reduction unit modeled on the approach in Glasgow, where homicide rates have dropped dramatically over the past decade.
Knife crime has increased 80 percent over the last five years in England and Wales, according to Britain’s Home Office. New figures published Thursday by the BBC show a rise in the number of women involved in knife-possession offenses over that same period.