FIREFIGHTERS in Bradford will become the first across West Yorkshire to wear body cameras in a bid to reduce attacks on crews if a new trial is given the go-ahead next week.

The Executive Committee of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has been asked to approve the purchase of six Body Worn Video (BWV) devices, costing a total of £3,528, to be used at Bradford, Odsal, and Fairweather Green stations, along with one crew from Leeds.

Fire chiefs state that BWV could be an “independent witness” that would offer a visual deterrent to those predisposed to attacking firefighters, but the planned trial is not being supported by union groups.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) stated that the cameras would provide “worthless” recording and be like a "red rag to a bull" to attackers, with the Fire Officers Association expressing concerns over “trust in the use of the footage.”

A report due to go before the committee on Wednesday states that the four stations had been chosen for the trial due to recording “significantly higher” levels of attacks on crews over the past three years in comparison to other areas of the county.

In January, WYFRS set up an Attacks on Firefighters Working Group in response to a rise in attacks over the previous year, with a particular on and around the Bonfire Night period.

In 2016/17, crews in the Bradford district were subjected to 39 recorded attacks, up from 31 in 2015/16, an increase of 26 per cent.

Although 26 attacks were said to have involved the throwing of missiles from a distance labelled ‘unknown’, 12 were recorded as objects being thrown from less than 10m away, incidents that WYFRS hope could be captured by BWV.

The report states: “It is proposed that a limited and controlled trial of BWVs will assist WYFRS understand the benefits they offer, as well as the most effective and efficient deployment options prior to any consideration of a service-wide roll out of the technology.

“Footage from appliance-mounted cameras does not provide the service with the evidential quality images required to secure conviction of those who undertake such attacks on our staff.

“The approach to reducing these attacks is multi-faceted, and no single intervention is likely to solve the problem. Safety of our staff at operational incidents is paramount, and a trial of BWV will provide an evidence base of the success, or otherwise, of such an intervention.

“The success criteria will be a reduction of attacks on firefighters, specifically those that are within close proximity, and evidence capture of a sufficient quality to enable the assailants to be identified to support prosecutions.”

WYFRS states that before BWV could be used in a public arena, a “set of operational protocols” would need to be established.

Outlining one policy, the report states: “Where practicable, the user should make a verbal announcement to indicate that the BWV equipment is in use, this should be made using clear language such as ‘video and audio recording is taking place.’ The visual indicator that recording is being carried out can itself act as a deterrent to would-be attackers.”

As part of its research into the use of BWV, the working group states it has received positive feedback from three partner agencies - West Yorkshire Police, Bradford Council, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals - who have reported improvements in staff safety following the adoption of the technology.

The report states that in the case of the Council, approximately 75 staff in the wardens and enforcement Team have already been issued BWV, with the cameras set to be introduced to the authority’s taxi licensing officers, bailiffs, and housing and environmental health officers.

Amjad Ishaq, the Council’s environmental services and enforcement manager, said in the report that BMV had produced “an amazing effect in reducing aggression and hostility towards staff.”

WYFRS states it acknowledges that the proposed trial has proved “contentious” with representative bodies, and the FBU said that utilising BWV would only “ostracise the communities we are trying to engage in.”

David Williams, secretary of the FBU in West Yorkshire, said: “It’s blatantly obvious that it won’t work.

"You shouting at someone that you're recording them is not going to make them put down that firework or missile. If anything, it could be like waving a red rag to a bull.

“We’ve gone from discretely capturing video footage on appliances to now actively wearing cameras and declaring it.

“Most attacks against us are from a distance so this won’t make an ounce of difference.”

Mr Williams said that the union’s real concern over the trial was a further increase of recording and CCTV, which he said was already “phenomenally” overused.

Despite a reassurance that any BWV footage would only be used appropriately, he said: “We already have 560 pieces of audio recording equipment for less than 1,000 firefighters.

“Recently, a watch manager has been dismissed for something that he said.

“Being a firefighter is a fraught and anxious working environment. If you are being attacked for simply doing your job, then inappropriate language can sometimes be used.

“These recordings could see members dismissed left, right, and centre for being put in an untenable position.

“Alternatively, firefighters will not report attacks for fears of repercussions from what might have been said.

“I’ve said it time and time again, this is not a good idea and the executive should listen to the FBU and scrap it.”