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 Dorset Police, Devon & Cornwall Police and Avon & Somerset Police would have been assaulted while carrying out duties to keep the peace within their local communities (214 in Dorset Police; 491 in Devon & Cornwall Police; and 701 in Avon & Somerset Police).
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. Bournemouth NHS saw 236 assaults during this time. Sadly, however, it is thought that these figures do not represent the entirety of assaults, as many are never reported by the victims.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Davies on behalf of Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police said: “Our officers and staff, along with other emergency services colleagues, demonstrate commitment, courage and dedication on a daily basis. They signed up to helping and protecting the public, not coming into work each day with the risk of being assaulted. The impact this can have on them, their colleagues and their families can have lasting effects long after physical scars have healed.
“Together, the emergency services want to ensure our personnel can deliver the best possible service to our communities; but in order to do this we need injury-free and healthy work forces. We will not tolerate assaults on our emergency services and will seek to bring criminal proceedings against offenders. I welcome the new law to double the maximum sentence from six months to 12 months for assaulting an emergency services worker.”
Emergency services personnel from across the region have been sharing their experiences in a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwi0QE3agzE
Campaign goal – #Goal999
The goal of the campaign is to keep emergency services personnel safe by raising public awareness and reducing the number of assaults while on duty.
In support of this, and with the backing of the Exeter Chiefs and Exeter City Football Club, the #Goal999 social media challenge encourages supporters and members of the public to post photographs or videos of their most creative goal, using the hashtags #Goal999 and #Unacceptable. When they post their entry, they can nominate friends and family to share their goals too.
Goals don’t have to be sport-based, they can include anything positive; whether that be climbing a mountain, painting a landscape or growing vegetables. The winner of the ‘most creative’ goal could scoop an early Christmas present in the form of a signed shirt by the Exeter Chiefs or Exeter City Football Club.
Please get involved and show your support by posting your photos or videos to Twitter with the hashtag #Unacceptable or on the Facebook page UnacceptableNotPartOfTheJob. Full details are given on www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/unacceptable or www.dorset.police.uk/unacceptable. Also featured are videos of case studies from the police and other agencies.
Julian Tagg, Chairman of Exeter City Football Club, said: “Exeter City Football Club and CITY Community Trust are proud to stand alongside all emergency services, across the south west, in their aim to reduce the number of assaults against our emergency services. We are incredibly reliant on the emergency services and the role they play in making match days at St James Park a safe and secure place. Only recently we have seen incredible and efficient work carried out on a match day after a supporter was sadly taken ill during the game.
“It is sad to see that abuse to our emergency services has risen in recent years, which is why we at Exeter City and CITY Community Trust are backing the #Unacceptable campaign.
“It is important that, alongside the Exeter Chiefs, we stand united in support of emergency services and remind everyone that they are here to aid us in a variety of ways. We hope that this campaign will raise awareness of the excellent work that the police, fire and rescue, ambulance and the health service do, and ensure that they are treated with respect when going about their duties.”
Tony Rowe OBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of Exeter Chiefs Rugby, said: “Every day our emergency services put themselves at the forefront of so much for our local communities. However, what is not acceptable is for those service personnel to then be submitted to assault or abuse whilst carrying out their duties.
“As a club we are fully support of the #Unacceptable campaign, which we believe will not only bring these issues into the minds of the public, but will help to make a real difference to those who continue to serve us so well.”
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.”
BJ Waltho, Associate Director of Operations at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are proud to support the #Unacceptable campaign. The uniqueness of this campaign is that it combines the NHS with all blue light partners in the South West to achieve its aims and objectives. #unacceptable will pay a vital role in raising awareness of the impact violence and aggression has on those who respond to and deal with incidents and their right to do so without fear of abuse and injury.”
Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “I give my whole-hearted support to the #Unacceptable campaign. The ‘need’ to have legislation in place to protect those who work so hard to protect us is sad, but it’s a shocking reality that assaults on blue light staff are increasing, so I am delighted that there is now legislation in place that will serve to protect them. There is never an excuse for abusing police officers or any other member of the emergency services. They do a difficult job, often in very challenging circumstances. Verbal and physical abuse against any member of staff is completely and totally unacceptable.”
Sir Oliver Letwin, MP forWest Dorset, said: “The emergency services put themselves at considerable risk and do an amazing job on behalf of all the rest of us. The least we owe them is to respect their right to go about their business without fearing assault. I strongly back this campaign.”