Road traffic police cuts ‘could be behind more fatalities’

25 July 2017

Budget cuts over the years have led to significantly less roads policing officers – and a more dangerous environment – warns the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

As new figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) released today reveal an increase in police pursuit-related incidents, Tim Rogers, PFEW’s pursuits lead, said: “While the report makes interesting reading, it doesn’t quite clarify the reasons why. Every death is a tragedy and police officers work very hard to minimise risk in everything they do. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the vast majority of offenders being pursued.

“The standard of police driver training imposed across the country is the most consistent it has ever been. Pursuit situations as with any proactive approved police tactic, creates a risk. This is managed by way of extensive training and, when the need arises, scrutiny, to give the public confidence that the police are doing the job they are expected using the training they are provided.  That said, the number of operational roads policing officers has significantly dropped over the years.

“Since 2000, the number of roads policing officers has almost halved, with less than 4,000 now working across England and Wales. This means pursuits can cover a much wider geographical area and take longer to contain because the numbers of specially-trained backup officers are dwindling. Unfortunately this could mean a higher proportion of fatalities or serious injuries although the IPCC report urges caution in making year-on-year comparisons and we would have to make a much more detailed examination of the findings to comment further.”

The IPCC report into deaths during or following police contact found that in the year ending March 2017 there were 24 police pursuit-related incidents in which 28 people died. There were 13 fatalities the previous year.

The report also revealed that there were six fatal police shootings over the same period, up from three the previous year.  Che Donald, firearms lead, said: “Every death following police contact is a tragedy for all concerned. It is one of the most traumatic and harrowing of all experiences within policing; particularly as police officers see one of their primary duties as the protection of life.

“Firearms officers in this country are the best trained and most restrained anywhere in the world. Authorised Professional Practice (APP), as provided by the College of Policing, sets out the framework for deployment of firearms in policing, which is regularly updated, however every policing operation is different. Whenever a firearm is discharged and it results in a fatality, there is rightly a full and proper independent investigation into the circumstances which led to lethal force being used.

“While the number of fatal police shootings has risen this year, it is important to note that this is in the context of many thousands of authorised firearms operations - 14,700 in 2015/16 (latest available figures).  The deaths happened across six forces, and one was terrorism-related.  As the IPCC has confirmed, investigations into three of the 2016/17 incidents are complete and, as in the great majority of firearms investigations, they have found no indication of misconduct by any firearms officer.”