Western Cape considers body cams for protection of EMS personnel
Cape Town - With 45 emergency medical services (EMS) crews being attacked in the province since the start of the year, the Department of Health is looking into acquiring body cameras for the safety of their members.
EMS spokesperson Deanna Bessick said there has been a concerning increase in attacks on EMS officials compared to last year, when a total of 30 incidents were recorded.
The department has commenced a tender process for 1 000 body cameras, with GPS and a panic alert, and they are now waiting on the completion of the procurement process, Bessick said.
“The application is a response to the ongoing attacks on EMS personnel.
The procurement of suitable body-cams is an action on the EMS safety plan, within the technology focus section.
“The intention is to equip all EMS personnel and the roll out will commence with areas most at risk.
“The body cams will assist with suspect identification, to assist the SAPS in criminal investigations, as the plan is to stream real-time video to the cloud,” Bessick said.
“These attacks cause physical and psychological harm to staff and demoralise them. Staff are left severely traumatised and fearing for their lives while doing their jobs.
“This then compromises on-scene care, takes emergency vehicles out of service, and increases response times. It also breaks down trust between communities and EMS personnel.”
Bessick said of the 45 attacks, two cases are being heard in court.
“We have had previous convictions. A few years ago, two suspects were sentenced to 12 years each. Most of the cases are closed as … they do not have a lead to follow up on.”
Peter Croft, of StarBase Telecoms, a company that specialises in body cams, said there was interest among law enforcement in South Africa to try the technology.
“We import body cams and have been doing so for a few years, and we expected it to take off nicely.
“The cameras are useful in that they tell us exactly what happened, unlike an eyewitness that might say what they think they saw.
“The main interest is in the security industry and they are used by law enforcement across the world.
“In America they are big among the police force and it helps that the government backs and funds it,” Croft added.