Emergency services from across the South West are working together to highlight the unacceptable trend in the number of assaults on their staff whilst on duty, by launching a new campaign #Unacceptable.
As well as fellow blue light services, the campaign is being supported by Exeter City Football Club and the Exeter Chiefs who are encouraging the public to get behind the initiative by showing their support on social media.
Police, ambulance, fire and healthcare staff are regularly subjected to attacks including serious injury, verbal abuse, spitting and biting, and even sexual assault from those they are trying to help.
Based on previous twelve-month figures, by the end of this year, over 1,400 police officers from Devon & Cornwall Police, Dorset Police and Avon & Somerset Police would have been assaulted while carrying out duties to keep the peace within their local communities (491 in Devon & Cornwall Police; 214 in Dorset Police; and 701 in Avon & Somerset Police).
Avon Fire & Rescue service reported 12 assaults on their staff between January 2017 and 30 .July 2018. South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) reported 1,049 assaults on their staff between January and December 2017, which is an increase of 97 reports on the previous 12 months. Sadly, it is thought that these figures do not represent the entirety of assaults in the region, as many are never reported by the victims.
Superintendent Rhys Hughes from Avon & Somerset Police, said: “Officers put their lives on the line to keep the public safe every day and don’t join the service to be physically or emotionally abused. Emergency service colleagues regularly go to work knowing that they may be assaulted, something you wouldn’t expect in most other professions as part of your job. If you assault our officers, we will bring criminal proceedings against you, which could result in you being imprisoned.
“This year we’ve worked hard to update our internal support process where our officers have been assaulted in the line of duty. We’ve seen an increase in reporting of assaults in the months since its re-launch in the spring and anticipate our figures for the year ending March 2019 to have increased. Whilst our understanding of the scale of assaults has improved, it’s unacceptable for any of our officers to be assaulted. We are united with our blue light colleagues on this issue.”
Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Simon Shilton from Avon Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Our staff come to work every day to support our communities and they should not be experiencing any form of assault while they are doing their best to help others. Any assaults on our staff or any of our emergency colleagues is completely unacceptable, but unfortunately is becoming something they are facing more regularly. I hope that by raising awareness, we can work together to reduce it happening in the future.”
Ken Wenman, of Chief Executive SWASFT, said: “Like all our emergency services colleagues, our crews and control staff work in extremely difficult circumstances and are often under threat of attack or abuse. This is totally unacceptable and we will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that our staff are protected and those responsible for such attacks are prosecuted.
“We are very proud to be part of this important campaign and hope that together we can make a significant impact in reducing the number of assaults on our staff so that they can continue to provide an excellent service to the public without fear of attack or abuse.”
Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, said: “All our emergency service workers, the police, paramedics, nurses and firefighters deserve to be treated with respect and not face the threat of violence on a daily basis. Assaults on emergency workers on any level is unacceptable and we all need to show support and respect to those individuals who work so hard to protect us and keep us safe from harm.”
Emergency services personnel from across the region have been sharing their experiences in a video: