Big variations in the quality of roads policing across forces of England and Wales are reported in an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Services.
The DfT commissioned HMICFRS to review practices as part of a wider review into roads policing.
The inspectorate praises some forces but expresses concern about the quality of roads policing in others. Many forces police and crime plans make little or no reference to roads policing in their priorities, it says.
“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,” says HMICFRS. “To enable this, we urge the government to include roads policing within the strategic policing requirement.”
Police chiefs should ensure their forces have enough analytical capability for roads policing, and that road safety initiatives are evaluated, it says. They should also ensure that their force (or where applicable road safety partnerships), comply with the DfT’s circular 1/2007 on the use of speed and red-light cameras.
HMICFRS studied seven forces in-depth (Devon and Cornwall; Dorset; Humberside; the Metropolitan Police; Staffordshire; South Wales; and West Midlands).
It praises the Metropolitan Police and West Midlands Police, describing them as “notable exceptions”. “Strategic leaders, officers and staff were all able to demonstrate a strong commitment to roads policing and the positive effect that this had on road safety.
“Where partnerships worked well, the police and their local partners were closely aligned; an example would be the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London. Contractual and financial arrangements between them create a close working relationship, with a sharp focus on road safety.”
The mayor of London’s oversight of the Metropolitan Police and TfL facilitates their close relationship, it says.
The West Midlands Police “made a considerable investment in its analytical resources, to make sure that enough were dedicated to roads policing”.
“Its analysts were clear that their job was to focus on reducing serious collisions and reducing criminal use of the roads. Intelligence briefings included details of high-harm offenders, such as disqualified and repeat drink drivers, and the use of the road by organised crime gangs.
“This force described initiatives to target repeat offenders by plotting their regular routes to allow roads policing patrols to intervene. As a result, the force was able to show it had reduced the number of casualties on its roads and disrupted criminal activity.”
The police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands is David Jamieson, a former Labour transport minister.
“Unfortunately, in others [forces] we found incoherence, with officers deciding their own priorities with little analytical support or direction.
“Enforcement activity is often unfocused and haphazard, and its effectiveness isn’t evaluated.
“We also found examples of forces removing road policing patrols from motorways and main roads with little consultation with highways agencies.
“We found roads policing officers whose training was so inadequate they couldn’t identify and prosecute offences relating to heavy goods vehicles.”
The HMICFRS notes there is “no accredited national training programme for roads policing officers”. “The College of Policing has a range of training modules, but they aren’t mandatory, and forces have developed their own approaches. As a result, there is inconsistency in how, when, and to what level officers are trained.”
The DFT has issued a call for evidence on how roads policing could be improved in England and Wales.
Responses will inform the ongoing review of roads policing being conducted by the DfT, Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
Among the issues the DfT invites evidence on are why road casualties have remained fairly constant in recent years; the most effective interventions to reduce casualties; the role technology can play in assisting enforcement; and whether the current structure of roads policing in England and Wales, based on 43 police forces, is appropriate.
l Roads policing review: call for evidence is available at https://tinyurl.com/yddoa5fw
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