Traffic warden assault highlights risks for staff and value of cameras

Traffic warden assault highlights risks for staff and value of cameras |

An attack on a woman parking warden in Motueka has highlighted increasing risks faced by council staff, councillors have been told.

Tasman District Council regulatory services manager Adrian Humphries told the environment and regulatory committee this month that the victim in her 60s was “just doing her job” in October last year, when she was attacked from behind and beaten to the ground.

Humphries said the attack did not take place at a late hour nor in a secluded area.

“It's just that the individual who assaulted her was somebody who had issues and attacked her.”

Humphries described the incident as “sad” and said these sorts of risks were becoming more apparent everyday.

While there had been threats in the past, this was the first serious assault the team had ever had.

”The lady herself was completely stoic about it, but it doesn’t make it okay,” he said.

Motueka ward councillor Trindi Walker described the attack as “horrific”, and asked if the council went through a process of making sure nothing was needed to keep wardens safe.

Humphries said he talked to the manager of the individual about what had happened, and had offered victim support, which was declined.

“So we do support staff, in this case a contractor, who have been assaulted and look at what we can do better.”

Communications officer Tim O'Connell said he understood the warden was still working.

In an email to Stuff, Humphries said council staff were “experiencing more push back than previously, including some serious threats”.

“We’re certainly seeing throughout New Zealand more confrontation when people are facing some form of regulation or enforcement,” Humphries told councillors.

He was a “massive fan” of body cameras, and said stafff had been using them for about four years.

“The advantage of body cameras is it gives us a true record of any meeting. We've all witnessed people making claims about our staff doing stuff, but if you've got a video footage showing that what actually happened is there, it kills those arguments very quickly.

“It's also a safety issue. Most people tend to behave better if they note they’re being recorded, and all sorts of protection for the individual who's being interviewed by a staff member or visited by a staff member.”

Complaints about staff members had dropped by about 98% since they had been wearing body cameras: “because it's not a case of ‘well, he told me to do this, he said this to me’”.

“Every time I've looked at video footage, it shows that they're not actually being entirely honest. So it's a real help to us in that way.”

Unfortunately, on the three occasions staff had serious threats made against them, none of the staff had cameras on them at the time, he said.

“Had they had them on, I doubt the threats would have been made or at least we’d have had a record if they were.

Humphries advocated for the use of cameras for staff who engaged with members of the public who were “threatening and violent”.

They were also a boon in judicial proceedings.

“Obviously if we need evidence in court, the courts love video footage because the camera never lies,” he said.