Parking officers run the gauntlet

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Civil enforcement officers headbutted, ‘belly bumped’ and even run over in reported assaults in last five years.

CIVIL enforcement officers across North Devon and Torridge have come under a number of assaults in the last five years - including being run over.

Figures obtained by the Gazette also found officers had been head-butted, pushed to the ground and even ‘belly bumped’ by those unhappy at receiving a ticket.

But these physical assaults are rare compared to the torrent of verbal abuse received by officers on a daily basis.

Les Durbin, a civil enforcement officer for Torridge, said it was unlikely a day would go by without one of the team receiving verbal abuse.

“I think ‘you’re a jobsworth’ or ‘get a real job’ are some of the favourites,” he said.

“I get called all sorts of names, and one person even told me he hoped my family died of cancer.”

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Mr Durbin said he has never been physically assaulted himself but one of his colleagues was once pushed to the ground.

He said: “I think it’s the very nature of people; nobody likes to be told not to do something.

“If they’re caught doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing, they get embarrassed and it’s their way of protecting themselves.

“Enforcement officers are seen to be evil people, going around sneakily looking for cars to book.

“People have these misconceptions we have got targets or we get bonuses, which we don’t; we just get flat rate salaries and we’re just doing our job.”

In the last five years, offences reported to Torridge District Council included verbal abuse and threat of physical abuse and an officer pushed to the ground in 2009.

In 2011, one officer reported a ‘belly bump’ and having his jacket grabbed, and last year there was an ‘attempted physical assault using a motor vehicle’.

North Devon Council confirmed in 2008 an officer was head butted and in 2009 an officer was hit by a vehicle while trying to issue a ticket, causing injury to his foot.

A further offence in 2010 stated an officer was ‘attacked’ by a member of the public after their car was issued a ticket, resulting in injuries to the officer’s head and elbow.

Diana Hill, head of property and technical services at North Devon Council, said: “A civil enforcement officer works to strict rules and procedures on behalf of the council and the community to help ensure the safety of road users and the proper management of the council’s car parks.

“Although there have actually only been three physical assaults in the last five years our civil enforcement officers are subject to verbal abuse on a daily basis, this is totally unacceptable.

“If a motorist wants to dispute a penalty charge notice they must follow the procedure on the back of the notice as the civil enforcement officer is not able to waive, cancel or dismiss any specific notice.”

Councillor Phillip Collins, leader of Torridge, said: “We take the health and safety of our officers, and of our residents, very seriously and all assaults reported against any of our staff are thoroughly investigated.

“However, the majority of residents in Torridge respect and appreciate the work that our civil enforcement officers do, park sensibly and adhere to the regulations.”

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