Body Worn Video’s Role in ‘Protecting the Protector’
The Police Federation have launched a campaign to protect police officers on the front line.
Their most recent study, February 2017, found the ‘horrific’ extent of assault on police officers. They claim that estimations based on their welfare survey data suggest an excess of 2 million unarmed physical attacks on officers over a 12 month period, and over 300,000 assaults using a deadly weapon in the same period.
Steve White, PFEW Chair, said: "2.4 million is beyond anyone’s expectations and totally unacceptable. Officers are out there doing a job in extremely difficult circumstances - this brings a whole new dimension to the very real dangers they are facing.”
One example of assault using a deadly weapon occurred in Cambridgeshire, in March 2014. PC Pete Moulton and PC Janine Hagger were called by the family of a mentally ill man who had attacked his mother and fled the scene. When PC Moulton and PC Hagger confronted the man, he lunged at PC Moulton and inflicted a 6cm wound to the officer’s face and neck area and bit him. PC Hagger was punched, kicked and cut on the hand by the knife, as she attempted to retrieve it from the man.
The man used a variety of objects to attack the officers, including a garden fork, a handsaw and shears.
Oz Merrygold, secretary, Cambridgeshire Police Federation, said: “This was a particularly violent incident, in which a man had quite incredible strength and overcame spray, batons and two officers.”
Luckily, the officers survived the attack and could continue their police duties.
However, the outcomes of such brutal attacks are not always as fortunate. A former officer of Avon and Somerset Police, PC Simon Mudge, faced a violent attack by four burglary suspects in a car park. He was beaten unconscious, suffered a broken jaw and broken ribs, and was left for dead.
His attackers were sentenced to two years on probation and 200 hours of community service.
Following this incident, PC Mudge was hit over the head with a bottle at an event near Bristol while on duty. He was kicked by the crowd and had to be dragged to safety by his colleagues. Again, the offenders received community orders.
He had also faced abuse when a suspect spat in his face, when a drug addict bit his thumb, and when the family of a man who was found deceased, turned violent against him.
Simon Mudge was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), just two years after joining the force.
He said: “I am a robust person but it had started to get to me. I woke up one day and couldn’t put my uniform on. I went long term sick and saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed complex PTSD.
“It wasn’t easy to resign because I loved doing the job and thought I was good at it, but the only way I could get better was to leave.”
As a result, the new Police Federation campaign focuses on changing the legislation surrounding assault on an officer, in a call for tougher sentences for offenders and justice for officers. The campaign also focuses on a higher level of training and access to equipment to help to protect officers - such as body worn video - as well as increased accurate data on police assaults and improved welfare support.
Vice Chair, Calum Macleod, said: "Police officers face extraordinary situations and risks every day and these can often happen in the blink of an eye. Quite simply an assault on a police officer or any other emergency worker is abhorrent and should never be seen as a part of the role they perform for the public.
"We are not satisfied that the legal system treats these matters with the severity they deserve and are calling for a holistic review of sentencing guidelines and legislative changes to protect our officers and those other public servants who daily work for the benefit of the communities they serve."
A study conducted by the University of Portsmouth, called Operation Hyperion, found that assaults on police went down by a third, and found that public order and assault crimes dropped by 18%.
With the support of body worn video, officers can deter offenders and de-escalate situations that could become violent.
In the case that the situation does escalate and an officer is attacked, body worn video can record and store footage of the assault for evidential purposes, which could, in turn, lead to the just criminal conviction of the offender(s).
Such was the case in Hampshire in 2015, where a man violently attacked Sergeant Kerry Lawrence. Her ordeal was captured on her Reveal body camera, and the footage was shared using DEMS, and consequently used in court to convict the man, named Craig Radbourne.
Radbourne, who had no history of violence, was sentenced to 36 months in prison, with half to be served on licence.
Simon Clark, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in Wessex said: "Any assault on a public servant during the course of their duty is a substantially aggravating factor when considering sentence and this was drawn to the attention of the Court."
Body worn video is contributing to making jobs on the frontline of policing safer and fairer, providing evidence against offenders and justice for officers.