Fewer specialised officers, but more work than ever

Police on Parade 2007 - by Chris Eason via Flickr
This article was originally published on this website

26 January 2017

Roads Policing Conference 2017
PC Jayne Willets, PFEW lead on Roads Policing, opening speech

Good morning, CC Davenport, Right Honourable Andrew Jones the Transport Minister and distinguished guests and delegates. Welcome to the 11th National Police Chiefs’ Council and PFEW Roads Policing Conference 2017.

I would like to start the conference by speaking about PC Paul Briggs, a roads policing officer. To his colleagues and friends working at Merseyside Police, and on behalf of all the Federated Ranks from the Police Family right across the UK, we send our thoughts, prayers and best wishes at this saddest of times to Paul’s family, and we wish them to know that we are all thinking of them at this most difficult time. He will be greatly missed by all of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him.
The last 12 months has been a very challenging year for roads police officers across the length and breadth of England and Wales. The numbers of specialist officers has now fallen below 5,000.

Various campaigns over the past 12 months – including the summer and winter drink drive operations, several mobile phone enforcement operations, and no insurance operations – are only possible with support from our stakeholders. They provide the technology and behind-the-scenes service to enable our officers to target persistent and repeat offenders who are a menace on our roads, and pose the most risk to other road users.

I welcome the changes to legislation coming into effect on 1st March for the increased fines for mobile phone offences. However, the increase of the fine to £200 and 6 points on a driving licence will still not be a deterrent to some of the hard-core and conditioned drivers who will continue using their phones while driving. Society has become so reliant on their phones that enforcement has to go hand-in-hand with education. The legislation is still lacking for these offences, and it has not taken into account the use of phone watches. As technology is rapidly progressing, I fear our legislation is already behind the times.

Is the seizure of mobile phones or their sim cards, along with an education system the way forward, combined with fines…..I don’t know, but it’s a question worth asking.

It isn’t just the phone being used in the traditional way though – social media is almost a way of life to drivers. Those who stop at traffic lights to take ‘selfies’ or check-in their location, and the new challenge, live-streaming while driving. All this has been highlighted by Sgt Neil Dewson–Smyth [Cheshire Constabulary] and his ‘Don’t Stream and Drive’ campaign. There will be more to come from Neil later today and I urge you to get behind this campaign and spread the word.

I have completed numerous interviews in the last 12 months, and the one question I am asked to comment on the most is ‘Is using your mobile phone while driving, as socially unacceptable as drink driving?’ I say yes, it should be, but it is this attitude we need to change. We await the outcome of the latest campaign that took place, but sadly, I believe it will highlight what we know already – drivers will still take the risk to continue to use their phone when driving, causing road traffic collisions and becoming another statistic for roads deaths.

While we talk about interviews – Smoking in cars with under 18’s. It’s been one of the most common interview topics of the last year, and we are still trying to get the message across that it requires a legislation change before police will have the power to issue tickets or fines.

Pursuits and emergency drivers protection is still very high on the PFEW agenda, we have continued to push this agenda forward with the Policing Minister and CC Bangham, the NPCC lead in this area. Sgt Tim Rogers and solicitor Mark Aldred will give more of an update on this after lunch.

Finally, I would like to end on saying that we have one of the best police services in the world. Our model of policing is envied. Our roads policing officers are specialists in their fields and we cannot afford to lose any more from the front line – they are the protection on our roads from criminality, protection from ‘offenders’ who abuse and disregard speed limits, tailgate, use their phone when driving, the list goes on.

Roads policing officers in marked vehicles on our roads ARE a deterrent – they do place fear, as well as reassurance to our road users.

We have been forced to do more with fewer officers; however the thin blue line is now so thin on our roads system that we almost to the point of being invisible.


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