Cuts are curtailing the role of specialist officers

18 October 2018

John Apter

PFEW Chair John Apter

Government cuts have resulted in Roads Policing Officers being unable to focus on keeping road-users safe because they are increasingly being used to plug the gaps in emergency response teams as demand continues to outstrip capacity.

That is the message from the Chair of the Police Federation John Apter as he takes part in an ITV Tonight special entitled “Driving: The True Cost”.

The programme, which looks at the issue of road safety, speeding and questions where the money raised by speed cameras is spent, will be aired at 7.30pm on ITV1 tonight (18 October).

Mr Apter, who was a roads policing officer for more than 10 years, said: “Since 2010 we have lost almost 22,000 police officers in England and Wales as a result the number of dedicated roads policing officers has reduced by a third. At the same time crime of all types is rising putting a huge stain on all officers.

"Policing as a service is having to focus on responding to the most pressing emergency calls meaning that some proactive roles are suffering,” he said.

“Roads policing officers are a good example of this. These specialist officers sometime feel frustrated as more and more they are being used to assist with more routine aspects of policing. Of course they step up and go where the public need them because first and foremost they are police officers and they want to help people - but it does have consequences.

He continued:  “The effect is that it takes them away from their dedicated role which prevents them dealing with criminality on the roads, reducing road deaths, dealing with road casualties and policing the ‘Fatal Four’ of drink and drug driving, speeding, not wearing seatbelts and those who use mobile devices while driving which are all key in helping keep people safe.”

According to figures quoted in the programme 9/10 speeding offences are recorded by speed cameras as opposed to police officers, but they question if this method of ‘catching’ drivers is actually having any real effect on road safety.

Mr Apter explained that tools such as speed cameras should never be used in place of specially trained officers citing examples of where officers’ experience and ‘policing intuition’ had led to serious criminals been captured after seemingly ‘routine’ traffic stops.

Defence lawyer Nick Freeman – who has been nicknamed ‘Mr Loophole’ after working on a number of high-profile cases – agrees.

He said: “All forms of bad driving are not detected now. We need to have police back on the roads so that they can observe, they will be a deterrent and they also would have a discretion.”

The 30 minute programme, presented by Fiona Foster, also looks at the new ways police forces are empowering the public to assist in dealing with bad driving.

It features a scheme introduced by West Mercia Police where ‘Dash-cam’ owners can upload footage of dangerous drivers which is then reviewed by police officers who can take action if required; which is now being adopted across the country.

* Driving: The True Cost will be on ITV1 on Thursday 18 October at 7.30pm.