West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns Williamson on why he supports the More than a Uniform campaign

AN attack on emergency workers is something that is hard to fathom.

The thought that those who work to protect you and nurse you back to health are being spat at, punched, pulled and abused daily is something any right-minded member of society would baulk at.

But that is the reality for many police officers, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, prison officers, those working in search and rescue, and anyone else working to keep us safe. To find they are running towards danger, only to be abused, is something I strongly condemn and is why I support West Yorkshire’s Fire and Rescue Service campaign, More than a Uniform.

The campaign is delivering a zero tolerance message in the run-up to Bonfire Night, trying to ensure that we see the person behind the uniform. The Police Federation’s campaign Protect the Protectors delivers a similar message.

We need to collectively ensure that there is awareness of what is happening to our emergency workers and ensure that people, in some instances children, understand the consequences of such actions. We are working with partners including schools and local authorities with the awareness-raising campaign so people understand there is a person behind the uniform and they are there to keep you safe - not to be the focus of attacks and abuse.

As chairman of the Tri-Services (Police, Fire & Ambulance) Collaboration Board, I know the incredible job that emergency workers do running towards danger as they try to keep our communities safe and feeling safe.I raised this issue at a previous board meeting around attacks on police officers and firefighters and we will look to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the next board in November between West Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Fire Service.

In Parliament this month the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill had its second reading and it is hoped the Bill will get on the statute book by next year if the Government chooses. The Bill would make it an aggravated offence to assault emergency service workers. It calls for tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers, increasing the maximum sentence for common assault from six months to a year if staff are attacked while on duty.

It would also force anyone who bites, spits at or attacks an emergency service worker to undergo blood and/or saliva tests.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch was instrumental in bringing this Bill to Parliament following her own experience being out with the police and witnessing a volatile situation. I applaud her for raising awareness and bringing action to try and stop it.

The debate outlined Home Office figures of 24,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales in 2016-17. This is unacceptable and is why I wholeheartedly support this Bill.

As MP Tracy Brabin mentioned in the Second Reading of the Bill, I fully support that PCSOs who find themselves in challenging situations, are also included in the Bill. PCSOs are a vital part of community policing and should have the same protections as all emergency workers.

To hear from MPs about incidents in their constituencies of officers attacked while trying to keep communities safe is harrowing. One police officer's wife tells his children he has fallen over a bin chasing someone because she doesn’t want them worrying about how he sustained his injuries. Just days ago firefighters in Bradford had fireworks thrown at them attending a fire in the open. A firework hit a firefighter in the stomach. Firefighters are now attending incidents in this area with a police escort. How can this be the reality our emergency workers face?

Along with the West Yorkshire Fire Authority and many MPs, I know the importance of this Emergency Workers Bill is to strengthen legislation in order to deliver tougher penalties for attacks on emergency service personnel.

There has to be a deterrent and I fully support the zero tolerance message. Those thinking of committing these despicable attacks need to know the consequences and consider the recklessness of their actions and that they will rightly face prosecution.

This Bonfire Night, I urge people to stop and think about what emergency workers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics do to keep us all safe. How they run towards danger when the first instinct is to run away from it and how they save lives every single day.

And how we owe them so much and protecting them from harm has to be our priority.