Emergency services join forces to say ‘Don’t Cross the Line’

(From L-R) Chief Constable Lee Freeman; Sue Cousland, Lincolnshire Divisional Manager; Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell; and Paul Mudd, Divisional Commander for Yorkshire Ambulance.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, Humberside Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and Yorkshire Ambulance Service have launched their ‘Don’t Cross the Line’ campaign, which aims to reduce the number of attacks on emergency services workers.

During the period of April 2018 to March 2019, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service reported a total of 17 attacks. Of these, 11 were attacks against firefighters. Of the total number of attacks, four of these involved physical abuse, and nine involved objects being thrown at workers or vehicles. Objects include bricks and glass bottles and physical abuse includes punching and being spat at.

During the same period, East Midlands Ambulance Service reported 168 attacks in Lincolnshire alone, and stated 100 of these attacks were physical abuse from a patient aimed towards a staff member.

From January 2018 to December 2019, 999 Humberside Police officers were assaulted in the line of duty. This includes 265 between January 2018 and December 2018 and 734 between January 2019 to December 2019. They have been punched, kicked, spat at, verbally abused and bitten, suffering bruising, cuts, swelling and even broken bones.

Chris Blacksell, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said, “Attacks against our service staff should never be accepted as part of the job; one attack is too many. Our main aim with the Don’t Cross the Line campaign is to gather the support from members of our local community to prevent further attacks from happening. We operate a zero tolerance approach to attacks on emergency services staff.”

Sue Cousland, Lincolnshire Divisional Manager for East Midlands Ambulance Service, said, “We are very supportive of this campaign as it will help challenge some of the unfortunate and unacceptable behaviour faced by our crews on a daily basis.

“All of our frontline clinicians and staff who deal with the public either out on the road or in our control centre, chose a career with the ambulance service as they want to make a positive difference in their communities. It is a very sad reflection that our staff often encounter verbal and physical abuse when they are just trying to do their job. I am proud that the team, despite experiencing some of these challenges, continue to demonstrate a high level of resilience and professionalism and we need to ensure they are fully supported by campaigns such as this.”

Paul Mudd, Divisional Commander of A&E Operations in East and North Yorkshire at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said, “Verbal and physical abuse against any member of NHS or emergency services staff is completely unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to address this. These staff are highly trained professionals who are there to help those in need and deserve respect from everyone.

“We’re delighted to support the Don’t Cross the Line campaign with our emergency service colleagues which we hope will raise the profile of unacceptable abuse and aggressive behaviour against staff and encourage all communities to protect their protectors.”

Chief Constable Lee Freeman, Humberside Police, said, “Whilst we are the police and we do expect to run towards danger, it is not acceptable that we – or any of our colleagues in the other emergency services – experience violence whilst doing our job, and we must take a stand against this.

“The levels of violence we’re experiencing can at times be extremely serious, and the personal impact on those assaulted should not be underestimated.

“Police officers and staff are all real people with families. Every one of those injured is a mother, father, son, daughter or grandparent. They are victims of crime the same as anyone is, and their physical and mental wellbeing is affected by such experiences. I have to protect my officers and staff, and every bit of support available will be given to anyone who is assaulted at work.”

Emergency services staff who have suffered such intolerable abuse often suffer flashbacks or stress directly attributed to the incident and as such may require time off work. As part of the Don’t Cross the Line campaign, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service will release footage showing such an attack, available across its social media channels.

The campaign fully supports the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, which sees a jail term of 12 months being handed to those who assault emergency services workers.