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UK EMS providers begin using body-worn cameras to deter assaults

The London Ambulance Service rolled out a trial program to equip providers with cameras that can be turned on when a patient becomes aggressive

london ambulance service body worn cameras assault deterrance

Photo/London Ambulance Service

By Laura French

UNITED KINGDOM — British EMS providers in London will begin wearing body cameras as part of a new trial program aimed at deterring assaults.

The London Ambulance Service announced Tuesday that crews from four ambulance stations across the city will begin wearing the cameras as part of the first phase of the trial. The service is using Motorola Solutions VB400 cameras and accompanying evidence management software for the trial, according to a press release.

Emergency Ambulance Crew EMT Gary Watson, 33, who was assaulted by an intoxicated patient in 2018, will be among the first providers to begin wearing the cameras on duty. Watson suffered serious injuries to his face, throat and neck, as well as a torn ligament, in the attack that also left two other medics injured.

“We need these cameras. We get up every day to help people, not to be severely beaten,” Watson said in a statement. “Wearing these cameras should act as a deterrent and if it doesn’t then at least there will be evidence which will hopefully mean tougher sentences for criminals.”

The man who attacked Watson was found guilty but only given a suspended sentence. According to the London Ambulance Service, there have been more than 500 assaults on EMS providers between April 2020 and January 2021, and at least 31 assaults involving weapons. Officials noted that many assaults go unreported.

The body-worn camera trial is part of the London Ambulance Service’s #NotPartoftheJob campaign, which also included the recruitment of two violence reduction officers to help protect EMS providers.

“We are working closely with the police to help support staff and volunteers when they have been assaulted or abused,” said Violence Reduction Officer Louise Murray in a statement. “Any video footage recorded on our cameras can be used as evidence and in turn we hope it will help secure more prosecutions.”

Under a recently-passed law, anyone found guilty of attacking London’s emergency services staff or volunteers can face a jail term of up to 12 months, or a prison term of up to two years for more serious assaults.

“Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened at work – particularly our crews and call handlers who continue to make huge sacrifices to care for patients and have never worked harder,” said London Ambulance Service Chief Executive Garrett Emmerson, in a statement. “Looking after our people, keeping them safe and supporting their wellbeing is our top priority. It is shameful that our staff and volunteers can be abused while caring for others and we will always push for the prosecution of anyone who attacks them.”

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