Blog: Change on horizon for pursuits

10 September 2017

Police vehicle

Tim Rogers, lead on police pursuits for the Police Federation of England and Wales, discusses the long struggle to better protect emergency service drivers and why it is finally coming to a head.

We have campaigned for a change in legislation around emergency response driving for seven years now.  Current legislation does not recognise professional training - the very training that enables them to do their job and keep our communities safe.
Trained professionals are being judged by the same standards as the careful and competent driver, as a member of the public in any normal driving situation.
It is an understatement to say that current exemptions designed to enable modern policing to remain effective (numbers permitting), are outdated.  The truth is some date back to the 1970’s and offer no protection for officers facing careless or dangerous driving charges. 
Trained police drivers are not being charged with excess speed or contravention of a red traffic light – instead some have faced charges of careless and dangerous driving, the result being a full on IPCC investigation with the option to have officers charged and training deemed irrelevant. 
Some incidents of course may warrant scrutiny but surely the professional training and tactics undertaken by my colleagues is either appropriate or not?   This recognition is what we have been pushing for - there needs to be some differentiation in law for emergency response drivers.
The recent spike in moped related crime is a good example of how exposed our officers are. Some serial offenders exploit this vulnerability by removing their helmets, likely believing officers will be hung out to dry should they pursue and the worst happen – with current legislation, this not beyond the realms of possibility. 
The situation where informed criminals believe that the greater the risk they take, the less likely police are to apprehend is nonsense.  If society wants trained professionals to appropriately and robustly deal with dangerous offenders then the approved tactics should never leave them in danger of prosecution.  But the flaw in legislation does just that - our appropriately trained drivers are risking their liberty and livelihood every day.
This is not helped by inexperienced investigators taking on some of the most demanding and emotionally challenging enquiries post incident- cases that would stretch even the most experienced road death SIOs (lead investigators). 
The fact is, police driver training is comprehensive and thorough - we finally have consistent standards across England and Wales. Testimony to this is the recent announcement that more than 9,000 pursuits have been successfully and safely resolved. This should give confidence to legislators that we are not asking for the earth.
Thankfully, the number of attempted prosecutions is low but the need for change urgent as ever.  We have long been championing the cause, but this is set to finally pay off with new legislation to be drafted by December.  
Groundhog Day for pursuits and response driving could be coming to an end, but in the meantime our officers and their emergency response colleagues still remain vulnerable. 

More on our pursuits campaign.