Study shows single crewed officers could be at greater risk

03 January 2018

Single crewing

New evidence shows that single crewing could be putting the safety of police officers at risk, following the publication of a new joint study by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) and University of Nottingham.

The study – ‘Single Crewing in English and Welsh Policing: Frequency and Associations with Violence Towards and Injuries in Officers’ canvassed the views of 11,397 officers from 43 territorial forces.

The study found officers who indicated they were often, or always single crewed had "significantly elevated odds" of being subjected to verbal insults and threats and physical attacks and injuries requiring medical attention.

PFEW lead on operational policing, Simon Kempton said the number one concern is the risk that single crewing poses to an officer’s safety as there is a greater chance of them being put in harm’s way.

He said: "An officer on their own is more likely to have to resort to a greater level of force to resolve an issue where a double crewed team might be able to use simple arm holds for example."

In the study, among officers indicating crewing was applicable to their role, 73% reported having been single crewed often or always in the preceding 12-month period.

The study found 71% of respondents reported have been verbally insulted, 55% verbally threatened and 44% the victim of an unarmed physical attack at least once per month over the preceding 12-month period.

It also said 47% reported having been attacked with a weapon at least once within the last year and 26% having suffered one or more injuries that required medical attention as a result of work-related violence in the preceding 12-month period.

Mr Kempton said single crewing affects the overall quality of service provided as some suspected criminals are not being taken to account. "For example, it is less likely that a single crewed officer will stop a suspicious vehicle full of suspects in a remote location at night because of the risk to them. And this then affects the service we can provide to the public we serve, meaning only the criminals benefit," he added.

Another area of concern for officers Mr Kempton said is around accountability and malicious complaints that are made about them: "Single crewed officers, until Body Worn Video is issued to all, are more susceptible to false complaints or allegations from those who would lie about the police in order to deflect from their own behaviour or because of simple malice."

Mr Kempton added single crewing is fundamentally a consequence of budget cuts and the lack of resources across forces. "There are times, for example when one officer is taking a protracted statement that it would be inefficient to be with a colleague. However the default position ought to be double crewing of officers engaged in patrol work for the benefit of them and of the public," he said.

The PFEW will present results of the study at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology conference from 10-12 January at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford-upon-Avon.