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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Drexel: Assaults to EMS First Responders are Felonies in Pennsylvania, So Why Do Many Victims Feel They Do Not Receive Justice?

Violence toward first responders is widespread and can lead to a felony charge in Pennsylvania. Yet, new research shows that victims often feel they do not receive legal justice. A new study of victim cases and interviews with Philadelphia district attorneys offers solutions to help first responders and legal professionals participate constructively in the legal system to produce fairer outcomes.  The findings, from researchers at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), were published  in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, August 2019 issue.

The researchers conducted in-person, in-depth interviews with five Philadelphia district attorneys on 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 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,” said senior author Dr. Jennifer Taylor, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at DSPH.

The researchers came up with three solutions:

▪ Teach district attorneys (DAs), judges, and defense attorneys that violence against first responders is not an expected “part of the job” by informing them about how the violence impacts an emergency medical services (EMS) worker.

▪ Train EMS responders whom have experienced violence on how to prepare for a court appearance, in collaboration with the DA’s office, leadership from the fire department and labor union.

▪ Enact non-punitive leave policies to encourage injured EMS responders to attend court appearances.

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