90 days from today is Thu, 14 February 2019
23 August 2018
West Midlands Police Federation’s deputy secretary Tim Rogers has welcomed a statement from the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) in support of better legal protection for police response drivers.
Tim, the Federation’s national driver training and pursuits lead, has spearheaded a campaign to ensure that police drivers, driving in accordance with their training and experience, do not find themselves facing court or misconduct proceedings when responding to emergencies or pursuing suspects.
“It is positive that the IOPC supports the intent that police officers who are appropriately trained and authorised should be able to pursue suspects or respond to emergencies without fear of prosecution or disciplinary action. It is unacceptable to have officers trained to drive in a way that exposes them to prosecution merely for doing the job the public expect of them,” says Tim.
“This is an issue we have been campaigning on now for several years and, although it is a positive step that the Government has finally agreed that a legislation change is required, it must now act quickly to prevent more officers suffering unnecessary and often mendacious prosecutions. We look forward to working with Parliament to shape what that legislation looks like.
“It is crucial we protect the people who protect us and give them the confidence to be able to do their jobs and keep the public safe.”
Under existing laws, an officer can face prosecution whenever they are engaged in an emergency response drive or a pursuit. In some cases, they have been held liable for accidents and injuries caused by fleeing criminals.
This is because the law holds police to the same standard as a regular motorist, with no regard to their high level of training or experience. The Home Office is proposing to address this by establishing a new driving standard – a careful and competent police driver.
IOPC deputy director general Ian Todd has now said: “Police drivers need to pursue suspects and respond quickly to emergency calls as part of their duty – and that’s what the public want them to do. So, it’s right that their training and skills are properly recognised in law.”
The IOPC said it agrees with proposals to change the driving standard to that of a ‘careful and competent police driver’ and would like the legislation to specifically state that this is a police driver ‘trained to the relevant appropriate standard.’ This separate standard will allow investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service to take account of a driver’s higher level of training and skill. It will also reinforce the importance of police drivers receiving high quality training.
The police watchdog also supports a review of emergency services exemptions from certain aspects of road safety law, with the caveat that it should seek to avoid ‘unintended consequences’ for public safety and should not undermine the ability of the IOPC to hold the police to account.
Tim has worked with backbench MP Sir Henry Bellingham whose Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill is awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons subject to the Government introducing its own bill.
Response officers, including West Midlands PC Vaughan Lowe, Merseyside’s James Ellerton and Hampshire’s James Holden have all spoken about the stress and strains of being subject to lengthy investigations and misconduct hearings.