Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service introduces Body Worn Cameras

From Monday October 21st, body worn cameras are being introduced across Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

Although the Service previously conducted a pilot scheme, this is the first time that body worn cameras will be issued to all stations. They will be worn during incidents by the officer in charge to further support firefighter safety.

Since 2017, TWFRs has seen a 7% increase in attacks and abuse towards its firefighters. Only recently one of its fire engines was damaged when a man threw a missile at it, and earlier in the year crews were abused in Hetton-le-Hole and Saltwell Park.

TWFRS Group Manager Tony Markwell, Head of Operations commented:

“Abuse and attacks on our firefighters is reprehensible and as a Service and responsible employer we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our crews. As well as a potential deterrent effect, we also believe that appropriate body worn camera footage will help to support a successful prosecution.

This will additionally send a clear signal to anyone who attacks our firefighters that we will pass on all evidence to Northumbria Police so that they can pursue the perpetrators.”

Sanctions against those who attack or abuse emergency service workers have recently been increased following the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act receiving Royal Assent in September 2018. It created a new aggravated offence of an assault against a member of the emergency services and doubles the maximum sentence for these acts from six to 12 months.

Tony continued:

“We will take all necessary steps to ensure passers-by and those involved in the incident are aware that we are using body worn cameras, including clearly stating that “Video and Audio recording is taking place.” However, we believe that our community will support these measures as an effective means to protect our firefighters when they are trying to protect them, their homes and businesses.”

TWFRS Crew Manager Natalie Mortimer wearing a body worn camera

TWFRS is aiming to get the cameras embedded into the Service in time for the Bonfire Period when attacks against crews and service vehicles tend to be at their highest. Each fire appliance will have two cameras, and they will also be available for other functions, for example for fire investigations.