Occupational violence against firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) workers is widespread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 3,500 EMS workers received hospital treatment in 2017 for injuries resulting from work-related violence.
The U.S. Fire Administration documented the causes of violence to firefighters and first responders in the 2017 guide, Mitigation of Occupational Violence to Firefighters and EMS Responders PDF 2.5 MB. More than half and sometimes as many as 93% of EMS responders reported that they had experienced verbal or physical violence at least once in their careers.
Another study in 2016 PDF 401 KB that captured interviews and focus groups with first responders injured in assaults found that many believed their attackers do not face real consequences in the judicial system for their actions. Even where state statutes define EMS as belonging to a “protected class” and assaults are subsequently charged as a felony, convictions are rare.
Seeking to explore the theme of first responder dissatisfaction with the prosecutorial process, a group of researchers looked at how first responder assault cases that come before the Philadelphia District Attorney's office are processed. Pennsylvania has a felonious assault statute to address such violence.
Research findings: common hindrances to prosecution
- Educate judges and attorneys that violence against first responders is not part of the job or something they signed up for. Explain how the violence has impacted the individual physically and psychologically.
- Develop education and training to prepare assaulted responders for their court appearances. The district attorney's office, fire department management, and labor unions need to collaborate to make this happen.
- Have a leave policy that supports the injured responder and makes it less difficult to prepare for and make multiple court appearances.
Summary information for this article was provided by the NETC Library. Read the research paper.
Wright, J., Davis, A., Brandt-Rauf, S., Taylor, J. (2019). “Felony assault should stick:” assaulted EMS responders' frustration and dissatisfaction with the legal system. American Journal of Industrial Medicine: 16 August 2019.