Nearly 10,000 suspects of violence against emergency services, enforcement officers
Last year, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) registered over 9,900 suspects of violence against people in public duty. That includes police officers, enforcement officers, paramedics, firefighters, and civil servants, among others. The number of suspects is slightly higher than in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, when the OM registered 9,500 suspects, NOS reports.
Most incidents of violence against the emergency services involved verbal aggression, like threats or name-calling. One in three suspects used physical violence. “The number of cases is fairly constant. But the seriousness of the offenses reported has increased slightly,” Lisan Wosten, the prosecutor responsible for tackling this type of violence, told NOS.
Most of the violence was directed at police and enforcement officers, but employees of other emergency services, civil servants, housing corporation staff, healthcare workers, conductors, and referees also fell victim to aggressive civilians.
According to Wosten, many of the suspects are “notorious rioters” who seek confrontation with the authorities. But emergency services also often deal with people in a mental health crisis who threaten or attack aid workers. “There is also a group that threatened or uses violence in a personal crisis situation. Think of someone who thinks the ambulance staff isn’t hurrying enough. These are people who go wrong once.”
Last year, 58 percent of suspects were tried in court. For the rest of the cases, the OM reached a settlement with the suspect. Only 16 percent of cases were dropped, mainly due to lack of evidence.
The emergency services employers play an important role in ensuring that their staff are safe, Wosten said. “They must create a safe working climate and propagate that they will not accept it if someone touches their employees. I sometimes see that an organization has 100 reports of incidents, but only 10 were reported to the police.”
Reporting incidents to the police has an effect, Worsten said. “These cases have priority. The number of acquittals is lower, and the sentences are higher than average.”