Police and other emergency services are coming together to condemn assaults on emergency service workers after an increase in incidents during the lockdown months and beyond.
Cleveland Police, Cleveland Fire Brigade and North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) have all seen a rise in assaults on workers from March through to May this year.
Police saw assaults on officer’s rise from 41 in March to 49 in April and then 61 in May, an increase of 75% compared to 2019. Some of these assaults saw officers physically injured and not being able to carry out their duties.
In one reported incident, on Friday 10th July, as an officer was at a property in Middlesbrough to take a statement, it is alleged that a woman, aged in her forties, entered the room with a knife and attempted to stab the officer in the head and neck area. Fortunately, he was able to block the alleged attack and was not injured, however, two colleagues were reportedly kicked by the woman as she was taken into police custody. The woman was charged and appeared at Teesside Magistrates Court on Saturday 11th July.
Cleveland Fire Brigade also saw 13 incidents during March, April and May, including a tree trunk thrown through the windscreen of a fire engine and bricks aimed at crews as they tackled a garden fire that threatened to spread to other properties.
North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) staff based in Cleveland reported at least 27 incidents during March, April, May and June.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Graham, from Cleveland Police, said: “It is entirely unacceptable that any emergency service workers have to put up with being assaulted when they go to work and put their lives on the line to protect others. For every officer injured, that’s someone else that they may not be able to protect and this could have a detrimental impact on our local communities.
“We have seen incidents where officers have been spat at, bitten, punched and kicked. It will not be tolerated and anyone who thinks it is okay to assault any emergency service workers in this way will be put before the courts wherever possible.
“Any consideration given to increasing the jail term for those who commit such acts, as mentioned by the Home Secretary earlier this week, would be wholly welcomed by myself, and I am sure by my colleagues across the Force and the policing service.”
Assistant Chief Fire Officer and Director of Community Protection Carl Boasman said: “It’s completely unacceptable for emergency service workers to be subject to violence, aggression or acts of vandalism whilst protecting the public. Our firefighters, along with our colleagues in other emergency services do a fantastic job in protecting the local community and saving lives. The fact that our job is made even more difficult by the thoughtless actions of a minority is hard to believe and will not be tolerated. Such violence puts firefighters at risk of injury or even worse and can also stop them from attending an emergency where lives may be at risk.
“In extreme circumstance a vehicle can be taken out of action and will not be available for emergency calls. Our vehicles are fitted with CCTV cameras and staff are equipped with body cams. Violence and aggression towards our staff is not acceptable and we will work with the police to identify anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to behave in this way.”
Deputy Chief Executive at NEAS, Paul Liversidge said: “Just last weekend three of our own crews were subject to appalling and despicable attacks when they responded to 999 calls for help; in one case because a man was considered to have an immediate threat to his life and needed urgent medical care.
“We are seeing an increasing and very worrying trend of violence towards ambulance crews and other healthcare professionals. The NHS and NEAS has been under an enormous amount of pressure and strain dealing with coronavirus for the last four months. Our crews and staff are tired and I am concerned for the longer-term implications of this pandemic on their mental health.
“For our staff to have been put under such increasing pressure because of an increase in drink and drug related calls has become a real concern. We are still dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, which the sensible majority is helping the NHS to tackle.
“But the acts of a foolish minority have now spilled over to violence and these people need to be swiftly and appropriately dealt with so that they do not put any others of my staff in any danger. We will now be looking for the support of the courts to keep our staff safe while they are at work.”