Under-attack Scottish Borders Council staff could be given body cameras

Former police chief Watson McAteer, now a councillor for Hawick and Hermitage, is supportive of the move.
Former police chief Watson McAteer, now a councillor for Hawick and Hermitage, is supportive of the move.

Scottish Borders Council workers at risk of assault and abuse from the public could soon be issued with body cameras, it has emerged.

The potential move follows a rise in the number of staff being verbally or physically attacked at council properties last year.

A council spokesperson said there was a trial last year only involving some staff at recycling centres and that no decision had yet been taken to roll the cameras out to those staff or any othes.

However, it is believed that many other incidents go unreported, and body cameras are being considered as a potential way of dealing with the problem.

A council spokesperson said: “While the vast majority of the public who attend community recycling centres in the Borders are polite and appreciative of the help provided by our site attendants, there was a rise in 2017 in the number of incidents whereby staff had been verbally and physically assaulted, from three in 2016, to seven in the first nine months of 2017.

“Our waste management team believe there have also been a number of unreported incidents and are working with staff to ensure they report any such incident.

“Body cameras have been proven to help reduce verbal and physical assaults at recycling sites elsewhere in the UK, and, as a responsible employer seeking to protect its staff, the council took the decision to go ahead with a four-week trial for attendants to wear cameras at a number of community recycling centres at the end of 2017.

“The trial was carried out at no cost to the council and signage was in place to make members of the public aware.

“The results of the trial are still being processed, and no final decision has yet been made.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer, a former police commander, is supportive of the move.

He said: “Like most, I was surprised at the level of intimidation council staff face during their daily duties, and I am supportive of the council taking all reasonable steps to safeguard their staff.

“Body cameras are a well-utilised piece of security equipment and can act as a real deterrent or provide good-quality evidence if required, so, yes, I see them as one approach to dealing with the problem.

“However, all available tools should be used, including awareness training.”