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29 January 2020
Police driver legislation, the role of the roads policing officer and safety concerns around Smart Motorways, were key topics at the Federation's 14th annual Roads Policing Conference.
Held in Kenilworth, Warwickshire on January 28-29, it began with a minute's silence for Cumbria roads officer, PC Nick Dumphreys, who was killed on duty at the weekend. PFEW National Chair John Apter told the conference that roads policing is 'essential' and not a 'nice to have' – it must not be missed out in the government's promised uplift of 20,000 more officers, he said.
Chief Constable Anthony Bangham of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) sounded a sombre note with the revelation that 1,784 people were killed on the nation’s roads in 2018 – five every day. This could be addressed by switching the focus of roads policing officers from enforcement to casualty reduction, by clamping down on the 'fatal4' – driving with no seatbelt, drink/drug driving, using a phone at the wheel and excessive speed.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse spoke, via a video address, to outline the government’s plans for a roads policing review and to pass new legislation which gives legal cover and recognition for police driver training – in future, officers involved in response or pursuits should not be held to account against the universal standard of the 'careful and competent driver'.
Delegates learned of a successful South Yorkshire Police off-road motorcycle unit which has reached out to young people and used social media to achieve a 49% reduction in antisocial behaviour. Two PCs from the same force flew a small drone in the hall (a conference first!) and explained how the kit is invaluable for tracking suspects and gathering evidence.
Derek Roberts, National Programme Lead for Operation Tutelage, gave an update on the methods being used to tackle the UK's estimated one million uninsured drivers. Cameras and IT are used to identify illegal vehicles and mail letters to registered keepers. This has a positive effect on 80% of offenders, leaving officers to focus resources on the criminal hardcore.
Frances Senior presented on behalf of the Forensic Collision Investigation Network about its work to standardise collision investigation and Inspector Paul Doyle, from City of London’s Roads Policing Unit, spoke about Project Servator – employing high-visibility policing, unmarked cars and public engagement to make London a 'hostile environment for criminals'.
PC Andrew Harper – tragically killed on duty in August last year – was given a posthumous honour at the Roads Policing Conference Awards. His wife Lissie, whom he had married just four weeks before his death, received a standing ovation as she collected the award on Andrew’s behalf. An incredible £1,167 was raised on the night for Pensions for Paws – a retired police dogs charity, nominated by Lissie.
PC Geoff Newman of Surrey's Roads Policing Unit was announced as the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Roads Policing Award. He had been office-bound after sustaining a serious back injury but used his skills and expertise to equip colleagues with high quality intelligence which resulted in major disruption to organised crime groups and county lines gangs. In addition, Sir Henry Bellingham, the former Norfolk MP, was awarded a National Chair’s commendation for his support and assistance in getting police driver protections on to the government’s legislative programme.
Smart Motorways were condemned as a 'death trap' by National Chair John Apter in press reports, published on day two of the conference. National Vice-Chair Ché Donald added his own criticism in a panel discussion on Smart Motorways, which also included Edmund King of the AA and Nicholas Lyes of the RAC. Mr King commented: "People are stuck for more than half an hour on average on a live lane just praying that a red X goes up."
Steve Noonan, deputy head of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) spoke about his organisation’s intention to play a part in reducing road casualties, through identifying and promoting best practice. Glynn Wallis-Jones from the Department for Transport launched a questionnaire to gather information for the government’s upcoming Roads Policing Review.
Finally, Insp Jeremy Mountford of Warwickshire Police announced the results of a live policing operation which had been held outside during the conference. It had targeted fatal4 offences and pulled over vehicles for no insurance, no tax, defective brakes and lights and insecure loads. An ANPR hit flagged up a vehicle with cloned license plates – it was stopped by the team, who opened the boot and recovered a number of catalytic converters. Insp Mountford declared: "It was a pretty successful op which shows what we are capable of. Warwickshire is one of the smallest forces, but we put a lot of emphasis on roads policing."