It seems inconceivable to most of us that anyone would wantonly attack, injure or in any other way assault a nurse, fire officer paramedic or police officer. Yet every day our emergency workers face increasing levels of violence, physical harm, and aggression.
Obviously, assaults on emergency workers are unacceptable. That is so obvious as to be trite, but for the avoidance of doubt, that is our starting point.
Figures from the East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT), South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECamb), Kent Fire & Rescue Service (KFRS) and Kent Police all show an increase of assaults on emergency workers by members of the public within the last five years.
Figures for Kent Police show that in the last three years 6,675 officers have been assaulted by members of the public in the course of their duties.
Police Officers in Maidstone district are nearly four times more likely to be assaulted than officers in the Sevenoaks district, according to figures released by Kent Police.
Earlier this month Kent Police announced it would be training 1,300 officers in the use of tasers. This was prompted by a rise in the number of county lines gangs and assaults on officers.
Deputy Chief Constable Tony Blaker said there was a correlation between the number of organised crime gangs and attacks on police officers.
He said: “In the last eight years we have seen a doubling in violent crime in Kent. We see our officers being increasingly assaulted. In the last four years assaults on officers has doubled and we are not prepared to stand by that.”
It is not just Kent Police officers though who are attacked in the course of their duties.
Staff at EKHUFT have been assaulted on more than 900 occasions between April 1st 2014 and 21st March 2019.
SECamb paramedics have been assaulted in excess of 900 times between 2013/14 and 2018/19. And finally the number of attacks of KFRS frontline staff has increased as well.
To give these figures some perspective, Kent Police officers are seven times more likely to be assaulted in the course of their duties than a member of staff at EKHUFT, a SECamb paramedic or a KFRS staff member.
Due to the circumstances Kent Police work under this is not to be unexpected. However, does it warrant training 35% of Kent Police force in the handling and using of tasers, when it is known there is a correlation between the number of organised crime gangs and attacks on police officers?
In Sept 2018 a new statute, Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act became law. The Act makes changes to offences committed against emergency workers and persons assisting emergency workers, in particular with regards to sentencing powers available to the court. In practical terms the Act has not translated to much at all emerging data shows. Emergency workers continue to be assaulted. Emerging data indicates sentences handed down by the courts do not appear to fit the crime. The law alone is not enough to protect the protectors.
We are sure there is public sympathy for emergency workers. Some of the team know from real practice the very real risks emergency workers take every day in service of those of us who cannot begin to imagine their working conditions. How often emergency workers feel disappointed in what they perceive as inadequate sentencing for violent offences committed against them. They were sold a false promise with this law. They were told it will Protect The Protectors. It doesn’t. As the figures show and the reality of what they face each day demonstrates here in Kent alone – Emergency workers deserve better.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful