I was out with the police again recently for another of the trial shifts working alongside the Durham Constabulary in the town centre of Darlington. It was a pretty run of the mill night apart from a little side step visit that we made on our rounds which really made me think about a couple of things….
A few hours into our shift, we came into contact with a crime being flagged up by the CCTV operators. We responded to the ongoing crime and soon after 2 males were in custody in the cage behind where I sit. That in itself was interesting, but what really sparked an interest was when I was taken to the CCTV control room to have a look around and see how the whole thing ran.
First thing I was surprised about was that there was only 2 staff in the main room, watching a bank of over 20 monitors which constantly cycled through a total of 140 CCTV cameras in Darlington and the surrounding areas. I was immediately mesmerized by the feeling of ‘control’, of being able to watch whatever we wanted to and look wherever we wanted to.
People were going on their way, minding their own business and enjoying their night out. I watched people dancing down the street, standing having their cigarettes, huddled together outside of the nightclub front door. I saw a number of the other police officers patrolling around the town centre, constantly aware of where the CCTV cameras are and routinely asking the operators to keep an eye on this group or that as they walk past and spot something a little suspicious, but not illegal.
I am amazed that these two chaps can keep an eye on so many things at once, but I guess that they have a keenly developed peripheral vision and they can spot things out of the corner of their eyes, then bring it up on the main screen on their desk.
After a little while, they pulled up a video that one of the officers I was with was asking about. This was from an assault in an adjacent town centre from a little while ago. As it was replayed, I stood transfixed to the spot as I watched an apparently innocent young man, get assaulted by a group of 4 other males in a quiet, almost deserted town street.
It was truly shocking to see this happen. The violence in the attack was horrific, and to see one human stamp on another humans head is something that I don’t wish to see again.
As the attack finished, the victim lay unconscious on the road while the CCTV operator panned and tracked the camera between trying to keep up with were the assailants were heading, then flicking back to check on the victim. He told me that whilst this was going on, he would have been coordinating the police response and also requesting the ambulance and directing them and the police to the location of the victim.
Over the next 30 seconds to a minute, the victim lay unconscious on the road. I could feel my heart start to race, and I was wondering if he was ok, and where the help was. I was shocked to see two passers by just keep on walking on the other side of the street, even though we could see that they had seen him lying there on the ground.
All of a sudden, he lifted his head then slowly brought himself to his feet. He was obviously dazed and concussed, but he just seemed to dust himself off and start off on his way home again.
Within the next 60 seconds the police arrived and directed him to a seat where they kept him till the ambulance arrived and took over care.
This is the bit that really got me thinking though.
I have arrived on scene to many, many assaults in my ambulance career. One of the first and most routine of questions that they patient and their friends are asked is
“Did you/he loose consciousness at any time? Were you/was he knocked out?”
The answer normally is one of the deciding factors if someone needs to attend an A&E department or not, and to be honest it is usually asked as part of the normal run of questions without much of a thought of the forces that have been involved in the assault itself.
It is very easy to turn up on scene to see someone with some bruising and swelling to their head and face and routinely treat it as a fairly minor injury. Yes, of course they will get the required level of care and treatment, but do we really acknowledge the significance of what has happened to them?
After seeing that CCTV clip, personally, I can say that I have not.
Why did it shock me to see the victim getting assaulted like that? Surely I should be aware of what happens and understand how someone has received their injuries that I am tending too, right?
I have realised that I have become a little too comfortable with looking after the victim of an assault. That’s not to say that I have any areas of my practice to change, as I don’t believe that is the case.
I do however, need to re-acquaint myself with the seriousness of some assaults and remind myself that just because the patient is up and about and orientated when I assess them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been a minor assault.
The human body is an amazing thing……
But it has its limits, and that is where we come in.