Environment Agency enforcement staff get body cameras to tackle assaults
Agency is the second government enforcement arm to trial cameras for protection this month
Responses to incidents such as floods could see Environment Agency staff wear body cameras Photo: PA
The Environment Agency is trialling the use of body cameras in a bid to tackle the anti-social behaviour and assaults faced by staff.
Then agency yesterday announced the pilot scheme for its enforcement officers in the North East of England. Cameras will be worn when the agency’s officers visit poor performing or illegal waste sites, during fisheries and navigation patrols and even during incident response, such as floods.
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The launch of the pilot scheme comes after Environment Agency employee, Paul Whitehill, an ex-police officer, was threatened with violence when he and a fellow colleague attended an illegal waste site on a routine visit.
Having used the cameras in the police, Whitehall suggested the EA could also use them in order to cut the number of incidents. According to the agency, it has successfully prosecuted 59 cases of obstruction, hostility or threatening behaviour towards staff since 2001, including 22 in the North East.
Early responses from officers report that wearing the cameras has prevented threatening situations from escalating, it added.
Rachael Caldwell from the agency’s waste and enforcement department said staff safety was paramount. “They are well trained in dealing with hostile situations and we take any threat against them very seriously. But our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place,” she said.
“Officers will only switch the cameras on if and when they enter a hostile situation. That could be a site where they have experienced aggressive behaviour in the past, or an unknown quantity where hostility may be anticipated, such as on a remote river bank.”
If the scheme is successful, the body cameras could be rolled out to Environment Agency teams across the country.
The move makes the EA the second Whitehall agency to say it will pilot the use of body cameras this month. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency announced plans for a similar trial of cameras after a 50% increase in the number of incidents of verbal and physical abuse faced by staff between April 2016 and March 2017.
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