National review into officer and staff safety welcomed
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Following a review into the safety of our police officers and staff, we are already implementing a number of the recommendations to ensure frontline staff are protected while on duty.
The full-scale review, carried out on behalf of all forces by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), has called for safety training to be overhauled, trialling of new technology and a review of all equipment available to frontline police officers. The review was commissioned following concerns about rising assaults and violence against police officers.
In Staffordshire, officer and staff safety is paramount and we have already introduced a number of measures and tools to ensure our staff are kept safe when dealing with potentially violent situations.
As well as upgrading personal protective equipment and issuing all front line officers with Body Worn Video (BWV), officers are provided with regular safety training and personal wellbeing support.
We have already seen an 11.4%* fall in the number of assaults on our officers and staff over the past year, which can be linked to how responders are being trained to deal with conflict situations. Officers are taught de-escalation techniques for when they are called to incidents where people are angry or using drugs or alcohol or maybe suffering a mental health episode.
When it is necessary for officers to protect themselves, there is a range of personal protection equipment at their disposal, including batons, handcuffs, spit and bite guards, Pava spray and leg restraints. Officers also carry first aid kits. Special Constables have also recently been given additional protective equipment and BWV.
Training is constantly reviewed and updated and officers and staff are put through special training scenarios, including dealing with prisoners who are in custody and how to safely transport prisoners in vehicles.
Taser equipment has also been recently upgraded and we have a sufficient number of officers trained in using Taser devices to ensure it is readily available across the county whenever the need arises.
Every new recruit who joins the force undergoes rigorous personal safety training, which they continue to carry out, depending on their role, throughout their service. This includes fitness and safety training, first aid and public order training.
We are also leading the way into supporting officers and staff with their mental health and wellbeing. We introduced a seven-step plan, which ensures that when a member of staff is assaulted in the line of duty they are given the best care available to them. Frontline and custody staff are trained in how to spot and deal with anxiety and other mental health issues.
Staff who have been involved in serious or traumatic incidents are also offered Trauma Risk Incident Management (TRiM) which are formal debriefs to ensure welfare is supported.
Assistant Chief Constable Justin Bibby said: “Officers and staff should never be assaulted but if it does happen we work to make sure they have the proper protection and support they need.
"We also recognise that the uniquely challenging work of police officers and staff can, in some cases, impact on their personal wellbeing and mental health. We have worked hard over the past few years to change how psychological illness is viewed, breaking down the stigma around mental health in the workforce. This has resulted in more people feeling that they can speak out about their mental health issues, in the knowledge that they will be provided with the right support, which is great news.
"We take our duty of care to all employees very seriously. The force has been proactive in how it responds to the increase in mental health issues including investing heavily in Occupational Health and bringing specialist training in house, especially for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Training at all levels now emphasises the importance of individuals looking after their own mental health as well as those in their teams.
"Officers and staff have more confidence in coming forward knowing that their illness will be taken seriously and that they will be supported in their recovery."
The review, which hears from officers about their experiences, will also investigate the response from the criminal justice system and extent to which it is providing a sufficient deterrent.
Sergeant Phil Jones, Chair of Staffordshire Police Federation said: “The reduction in the number of assaults on my colleagues is very welcome. However, sadly this is not reflected across the country. The force has recently upgraded to the X2 Taser, is in the process of purchasing new body armour and Tac Vests and is continually reviewing how it delivers quality training to all officers. The Federation shall continue to work with the force to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our members is at the forefront of what we do.”
*as at March 2020.