The Environment Agency has confirmed that the enforcement officers across the country are being trained to use body worn cameras following a successful pilot of the technology in the north east of England.
The agency piloted the use of body worn cameras in the north east of England last year, to be worn when the agency’s officers visit poor performing or illegal waste sites, during fisheries and navigation patrols and during incident response, such as floods.
Following the pilot scheme, it was announced in March that body worn video cameras will be rolled out to all waste enforcement officers.
The move comes amid a growing number of abusive incidents during site inspections, and the EA has since confirmed that operational instructions for the use of body-worn cameras by enforcement officers have been developed, with kit purchased for all areas.
The EA, which is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has confirmed that it is still in the early stages of training officers in the use of the equipment but some are already using the kit, particularly in the northeast where the trial took place.
The update on the rollout comes after a north east man has been fined after he assaulted and threatened an Environment Agency officer investigating a pollution incident.
John Aaron Laing was ordered to pay almost £4,000 after assaulting an Environment Agency officer investigating a pollution incident and threatening to burn down his house.
In a statement on the case, the EA said two Environment Agency officers investigating a suspected pollution incident at Cornhill-on-Tweed drove to New Heaton Farm, owned by Laing, to take samples from a surface water ditch on the land.
One of them went back to the car to collect some equipment, and at this point Laing arrived on site, and walked up to and into the Environment Agency officer, was very hostile and threatening, continuously bumping into his chest. The officer explained they were investigating a pollution incident. Laing demanded to know who had reported him and the officer replied that he didn’t know.
Laing then said he would “finish” the officer, find out where he lived, burn his house down and kill his family. He kept walking into the officer as they walked towards the road, and raising his hand as if he was going to punch him, and kept inviting the officer to strike him first.
During a police interview, Laing agreed he had spoken to the officer, disputed there was any pollution problem and asked the officer to leave only for health and safety reasons because of cattle on the farm. Laing accepted he had been stern but said the officer started pointing and trying to provoke him.
During the trial, Laing repeated these claims and said that the officer had made up his account. However, the court rejected Laing’s version of events, stating that it contained significant contradictions.
Paul Whitehill, an enforcement team leader for the EA in the north east, said that the safety of officers is paramount and the agency would always take action against people who assault them or are threatening and abusive.
“Our officers are doing an important job to protect the environment and investigate anything which impacts on the quality of our rivers and they shouldn’t have to put up with any kind of abusive or threatening behaviour during the course of their work,” he said.
“The officers were taking water quality samples after reports that a watercourse was impacted by slurry pollution and this is all part of enquiries to establish a potential source for the pollution so it can be stopped and prevented in future.”