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23 July 2020
Cuts to roads policing budgets leading to a drop in the number of dedicated roads policing officers have been blamed for a gradual increase in road deaths after more than 30 years of steadily declining fatalities.
A new report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) called “Roads Policing: not optional” highlights the fact that £120 million cuts to roads policing budgets between 2013 and 2019 were reflected in a ‘substantial decrease’ in police enforcement activity in particular the targeting of the Fatal Four of drink and drug driving, not wearing seatbelts, excess speed and driving while distracted, for example, by using mobile phones.
It found roads policing in some forces was inadequate, that often capability and capacity did not meet demand and that a lack of co-ordination hindered effective engagement with partners and the public. It also called for roads policing to be standardised and accredited, as one of 13 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of roads policing in England and Wales, and also urged the Government to include roads policing within the Strategic Policing Requirement.
“Sadly, this report does not come as any great surprise to me at all,” says Tim Rogers, deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation and response driving lead for the Police Federation nationally, “The inspectors’ views echo what we have been saying for some time. Roads policing has been allowed to slip down the list of priorities. It has been under-funded meaning that it has become under-resourced and people have been paying for that with their lives.
“I am not sure what it is going to take for the Government, chief officers and Police and Crime Commissioners to realise what a critical role roads policing officers play in helping ensure that people can use our roads safely. Between 2015 and 2018, an average of just over 1,600 people lost their lives each year on our roads network and many more were seriously injured. That should be impactive enough in itself to make police leaders decide to take action.
“This report is putting the blame for these figures squarely down to cuts to funding and an apparent decline in the priority given to roads policing. So will this be sufficient to prompt a reinvestment in roads policing? I really hope so. We need chief officers and Police and Crime Commissioners to act on the recommendations in this report to halt the steady increase in deaths on our roads and also tackle the criminal elements making use of our roads network.”
Tim acknowledged that West Midlands Police was one of only two of the seven inspected – the other being the Met – where HMICFRS praised strategic leaders, officers and staff for demonstrating a strong commitment to roads policing and the positive effect this had on road safety but called on the Force to properly analyse its commitment to roads policing and continue to further improve. The other forces inspected were Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Humberside, Staffordshire and South Wales.
Only 19 of the 43 forces in England and Wales listed roads policing or road safety as a priority in their police and crime plans.
The report concluded: “There is a clear, and pressing, need for government, Police and Crime Commissioners, chief officers, and the College of Policing to recognise the importance of roads policing in reducing death on the roads.”
More details will appear in the next edition of our Federation magazine.