Does the judicial system give justice to assaulted EMS first responders?

August 16, 2019

PHILADELPHIA - Violence toward first responders is widespread and can face a felony charge in Pennsylvania, yet new research shows that victims often feel they do not receive legal justice. Now a study of victim cases and interviews with district attorneys in Philadelphia offers three solutions to help educate first responders and legal professionals to participate constructively in the legal system intended to prevent incidents from occurring and deliver justice. The findings, from researchers at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, are published today in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

The Drexel team conducted in-person, in-depth interviews of five Philadelphia district attorneys on specific cases of first responders attacked on the job. The team sought to learn about job demands and pressure experienced by the DAs, how they prosecute these types of cases and their experiences with perpetrators of the assaults.

"This study uncovers a tension between society's desire to turn perpetrators of crimes into productive citizens and providing justice to victims," said senior author Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS, an associate professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health. "This study listened to those who have prosecuted these cases to come up with practical, scalable solutions that respect all stakeholders and improve how the system serves injured first responders."

In interviews, DAs shared factors that can prevent an assault from ending in a felony charge, such as prosecutorial merit. For example, DAs reported that cases can "fall out" at the preliminary hearing due to lack of evidence or because a municipal court judge says the case is not "serious enough to go to the Court of Common Pleas for a felony trial," as one DA noted. Respondents also said it may be difficult to prove intent - that the offender had a mens rea, or guilty mind.

Compounding the problem, victims may have very limited involvement with the court process, because of physical or emotional pain, not being able to afford taking leave from work, among other reasons.

DAs also discussed what factors they perceive could influence a judge's sentencing decision, including concern for the future well-being of the defendant, the view that violence is an acceptable "part of the job" of a first responder and the belief that the justice system is more focused on rehabilitating the offender than the victim.

Using this feedback, the researchers came up with three solutions:"EMS providers are often among the first on the scene to respond to fires, crimes, and a range of other disasters, and can face spitting, biting, verbal abuse and sometimes even stabbings or shootings," said Taylor, who is also director and principal investigator of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST), established at Drexel to collect and analyze data for the United States Fire and Rescue Service. "This paper unveils simple steps to address the frustration and dissatisfaction of assaulted first responders."

Previous studies report that the majority -- some suggesting up to 90 percent -- of EMS first responders have been verbally or physically attacked at least once during their career. In addition to the effects of the attacks, such incidents result in lost productivity and stress that can impair the EMS worker's ability to perform their job. A 2016 study by the Drexel team illuminated concerns shared by victims about the legal system.
-end-
The authors of the study were funded to conduct this research by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (Research & Development).

In addition to Taylor, additional authors on the research include Jasmine Y. Wright MPH, Andrea L. Davis MPH, CPH, and Sherry Brandt?Rauf, MPhil, JD, all from Drexel.

Drexel University

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.