30 January 2020
The extra funding being ploughed into the police service provides an opportunity to raise the profile of roads policing, according to Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods, the new police driver training lead on the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
DCC Woods was a member of a panel considering the role of roads policing officers on Tuesday, the opening day of this year’s two-day Police Federation roads policing conference in Kenilworth.
He told officers 2020 was a key year for roads policing: “I think we have a real opportunity, with the uplift, to raise the profile of roads policing and to use this extra funding to get our agenda further.”
Fellow panellist Dr Helen Wells from Keele University added: “The tide really has turned. From my perspective, now is the time to push the academic agenda of roads policing - how fantastic would it be to enthuse criminology students to do their third-year project on roads policing?”
However, the opportunities presented by the uplift could also pose new problems, Michael Collins from the College of Policing who was also on the panel, told the conference. He drew attention to the problem of accreditation given the intricate and specific specialties of roads policing that make it unsuitable for the Professionalising Investigative Process courses.
Simon Hill from the Police Federation added to the debate by saying: “There is no single definition of what constitutes a roads policing officer. What is needed is a single definition with clear criteria that you can take to a force and ask, ‘do you have this?’ I think it’s important that there is some accreditation system that allows officers to gain recognition for their hard work and their dedication.”
Answering a question from a delegate about possible rewards for roads policing units and officers, Mr Collins said: “I think that most roads officers don’t want rewards. Rewards are for tomorrow. We want recognition.”
In the opening session of conference, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, the roads policing lead for the NPCC, argued preventing loss of life should be the top priority of roads policing officers.
He warned that road fatalities, which fell in the first half of the last decade, had stabilised and started to increase again, with 1,784 recorded in 2018 – almost five a day - and figures for this year showing signs of following the upward trend.
“We need to ask questions about what we can do better if we are truly committed to reducing the totally unacceptable rate of deaths on our roads,” Mr Bangham said, “Twice as many people die on our roads than through knife crime and yet you hear so much about that every day – you can pass through the papers and not read about the deaths on our roads. Something has to change.”
He said he was disappointed that forces could be visited by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services without being asked questions about roads policing.
Responding to a question from delegates, Mr Bangham spoke about the difficulty in getting the NPCC to focus on roads policing, due to the many competing priorities, but said the issue has got ‘air-time’ at last. This, he said, offers a possibility for roads policing to be viewed more strategically by leaders in future, rather than seen as a local issue.