90 days from today is Tue, 28 February 2023
19 January 2022
Cuts to the number of dedicated traffic officers has been linked to a failure to reduce road deaths in the past decade, a new investigation has found.
According to figures from BBC Panorama, the number of police officers tasked with enforcing road laws has dropped by 15% since 2016.
Figures from 34 forces who responded to a Freedom of Information request showed the total number of dedicated traffic officers fell from 5,014 in 2016 to 4,257 currently.
Meanwhile, the number of people killed on the roads each year remained stable between 2010 and 2019, after going down for three decades.
Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chair Andy Berry said the figures showed “the legacy of the austerity cuts foisted on policing”.
He said: “Roads policing officers from all over Devon and Cornwall won’t be surprised by the Panorama documentary this evening as they have been raising their concerns for years.
“In Devon and Cornwall at the start of the last decade, we had somewhere around 125 dedicated roads policing officers and now we are somewhere less than half that figure. In that period, according to Government statistics, there has been a growth of five million more vehicles on the roads.
“This is the legacy of the austerity cuts foisted on policing at the time. No doubt the senior managers within our force will want to paint a more positive picture and talk about road crime teams and dedicated serious collision investigation teams, which have been created and undertake the work that would have been done by the traffic units of old. But the public aren’t daft and they know that they rarely see ‘traffic cops’ anymore.
“My colleagues in roads policing are deeply frustrated too. They become roads policing officers because they want to keep the roads in our two counties safe. But there are too few of them, they don’t have enough cars, they don’t get the training they need and they spend too much time having to support other policing functions which are equally stretched.
“This means that proactive work to target drink or drugged drivers, mobile phone users and accident blackspots is limited.
“Is it any wonder that the death rate is not falling, which of course not only deeply affects the families involved and our local communities but also the police officers dealing with that tragedy on a much too frequent basis.
“The Government will point towards the 20,000 uplift in police officers. These are gratefully received but will only take us back to where we were – and those joining now are many years away from completion of even their basic training, let alone gaining the skills expected of a roads policing officer.
“Fundamentally, even with the £1.1 billion spend announced by the Government, policing in England and Wales is underfunded, it is literally creaking. Areas like Devon and Cornwall fare even worse in the national carve up of money.”
The Panorama investigation also found that nearly 50% of fixed speed cameras do not work.
In response to a separate FoI request, 26 forces said that 523 of a total of 1,110 fixed speed cameras were inactive.
In some areas, including North Yorkshire, Durham and Northamptonshire, no cameras were active.