With an input from the police minister and discussions involving a wide range of experts, the Police Federation’s Virtual Roads Policing Conference 2021 proved to offer something for anyone with an interest in the future direction of policing our roads.
We have provided summaries of all sessions for members and you can also listen to all or some of the day’s discussions by visiting the Roads Policing Conference page on the national Police Federation website.
Police minister praises roads policing units
The minister for crime and policing has called roads policing units “key members of the crime-fighting team” as he thanked officers for the work they do during the opening of this year’s Roads Policing Conference.
Kit Malthouse praised officers for their work throughout the pandemic, during the ministerial addresses at the virtual event, attended by more than 600 specialists across the country.
Commenting on the past 18 months, the minister said roads policing teams, alongside the rest of UK policing, have “come up smelling of roses”.
“Usually, we ask you to stand between us and criminals and standing between us and a disease was a new experience,” he said, “Your skills and expertise have been put to the test. I would like to thank you for the work you all do.
“While it had its tensions and its moments, British policing, and roads policing in particular came out of it extremely well and in better shape than it went in terms of the affections of the public. It was a fantastic job and I thank you all.”
Forecasting his agenda for the next few years, Mr Malthouse highlighted two critical areas of focus, continuing to put a stop to county lines and the compliant vehicle initiative.
“County lines have to be stopped,” he said, “We are making good progress and you have played a critical part in that.
“As we tighten our grip on the rail network, we will see those people transfer onto the roads and motorways. Your ability to cut these lines on the road network is critical.
“It’s time to really put our foot on the accelerator and in the next few years, see an end to county lines.”
Referring to the compliant vehicle initiative, Mr Malthouse said that cleaning up compliance on the road is critical in getting to those who the police really should be intercepting.
“We need to ensure our roads are nice and tidy, so the real villains can be intercepted,” he told delegates.
Mr Malthouse ended by praising roads policing officers, saying: “You are critical partners in the fight for organised crime. You are absolute key members of the crime-fighting team.”
“You need a pay rise”
Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow minister for policing, has spoken out about the recent pay freeze during the ministerial address to online attendees at this year’s Roads Policing Conference.
Criticising the Government’s decision to freeze the pay of officers earning more than £24,000, Ms Jones said she was “ashamed” of that action, before pledging her commitment in getting officers the rise they deserved.
“I am ashamed you have been offered a pay freeze – you need a pay rise. I also know the process of not getting vaccines was really painful. I am sorry that was not done for you.
“A pay freeze is in effect a pay cut, due to things like inflation,” she said, “It’s not acceptable.”
Ms Jones also paid tribute to the fantastic work done on the roads during the pandemic, saying: “I want to thank all road police officers for the work that you do. It’s an incredibly important job and the cuts to your numbers have had a significant impact. We will be holding the Government’s feet to the fire over this.”
She also discussed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the proposed changes to legislation which would create a new standard for road officers to be judged in a court setting.
“The legislation isn’t quite there yet,” she said, “And I don’t feel protection is in place for officers and their mental health.”
IOPC support for amendment to new bill
Support for an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to better protect police drivers has been voiced by a director at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Steve Noonan from the IOPC’s directorate of major investigations, was speaking at the Federation’s virtual Roads Policing Conference during a panel session called “Steering Change for Police Drivers”.
Steve said the IOPC found itself in the unusual position of being on the same page as the Federation.
“Police officers should be able to respond to emergencies without fear that they are going to face unfair consequences,” he said.
“We remain concerned that the current draft of the legislation may only partially achieve the policy’s objective and may have some perverse results.
“We would like to reach the position where police drivers have the confidence to do the difficult job that we ask them to do which is also balanced alongside public safety.”
He stressed that they did not want to be left in a position where there was ambiguity over which cases are referred to the IOPC and that there was an opportunity within the legislation to remove that ambiguity.
Earlier in the session, Tim Rogers, deputy secretary at West Midlands Police Federation and national Federation lead on pursuits and driver training, thanked all partners who had made the Federation’s campaign for legislative change a reality.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, he said, made the changes required a reality but outlined that it needed to be amended to allow drivers to act instinctively.
The bill meant police drivers would no longer be judged by the standards of the careful and competent driver but by the standards of a competent police drivers who had undertaken the same level of training.
This, he pointed out, still left them at risk of prosecution since it was clearly not possible to train officers for every situation that they may come across and therefore they would inevitably act outside of their training and force policy.
“The Federation is concerned about situations in which police drivers are required to act instinctively and find themselves in a situation which might not have been the subject of policy or teaching and officers have elected to drive outside of training, and we have all done this for the right reasons, to keep the public safe, means that that driver has potentially and consciously decided to perform a manoeuvre that’s not been tested or approved so embarking untrained on an untested manoeuvre is likely of itself to fall within this new definition of careless or dangerous driving,” Tim explained, “And, without amendment, the new legislation which is intended to allow officers to assist the public in the many and varied situations that they face could either leave them either reliant once more on the goodwill of the CPS and the IOPC to avoid prosecution.”
The wording of the bill needed to be “tweaked”, said Tim, a move that had gained cross-party support.
Tim’s arguments were supported by barrister Mark Aldred who said it was hugely important that the Government got the legislation right so that police officers had the tools they needed to do their job and protect the public.
The bill is currently being considered in the House of Lords and the Federation is hoping it will be remitted back to the House of Commons for amendment.
Other speakers during the session included Terry Woods, Deputy Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police and former driving lead on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and Tracey Catling from the Police Powers Unit at the Home Office.
A poll of delegates revealed that 92 per cent felt the law should change to take into account the need for professionally trained police drivers to react instinctively to the incidents they are dealing with, even if these fall outside their training.
And 87 per cent felt driving outside training and policy could mean officers are automatically judged to have not been careful.
Call for consistent training standards
The roads policing learning forum should be reintroduced to help bring consistency standards across the country, according to College of Policing adviser Michael Collins.Michael, who is retiring after almost 42 years’ service, said standards of training for roads officers varied greatly from force to force with some offering no specialist training at all.
He told the roads policing conference: “Some forces have been incredibly good at training officers and some not so good.
“I hate to say it but some forces have even given no training to roads police officers.”
Looking ahead, Michael listed the key aims of the College of Policing in respect of roads policing.
- Create a re-invigorated roads policing learning forum to develop and maintain currency of the learning required within the Roads policing curriculum
- Continue with the programme of professionalising the serious collision investigation role to compliment the role of forensic collision investigation.
- Complete standardisation of police driver training
- Standardise SME practices when commenting on police driving incidents through training
- Develop and enhance the quality assurance of police driver training with the ultimate aim of creating an Inspectorate of Police Driving Establishments.
Michael told the conference: “I want to get that national roads policing forum back up and running.
“If everyone joins in and has their say, that is when you can share ideas, that is when you can get across what the minimum standards should be and agree what you all want to do nationally.“And that way you will also get a standard of what is being delivered across forces while still retaining an ability to deal with local issues.”
Michael was hosting a conference session entitled ‘Driving Change: Providing the tools and guidance to support officers and their career development,’ which was sponsored by the College of Policing and focussed on accessing roads policing role profiles and looking at the requirements for each.
He outlined the College Learn system and advised those who were interested in developing their skills to register on its training portal.
The college’s learning facility – the benchmark system for Roads training – has been designed as an introduction to the Roads Policing Programme, so forces can develop their own individual training programmes and train officers to a minimum national standard.
The session ended with Police Federation roads policing lead Gemma Fox paying tribute to Michael for his lengthy service – most of it in roads policing.
She told him: “It is only right on your last working day we celebrate your career. We thank you for your service. Enjoy your retirement and thank you for your contribution.”
Award for Scott
A North Wales officer who was instrumental in setting up a dedicated Special Constable Road Safety Unit, has been honoured with an Outstanding Contribution to Roads Policing Award.
Scott Martin, fatal enquiry officer within North Wales RPU, received his award during the Federation’s Roads Policing Conference 2021.
In addition to his day-to-day role, Scott identified that roads policing knowledge within divisions was lacking and devised a training package which he now delivers in person to every new cohort of new constables.
He then set about putting plans in place to see a dedicated Special Constable Road Safety Unit introduced in the western side of North Wales.
This involved speaking with senior officers within the special constabulary to select potential candidates for the role, which sits within the unit.
Scott also took on the training of the officers, as well as arranging for suitable vehicles for them to use. He was presented with his award by North Wales Police Federation secretary and treasurer Mark Jones.
Programme launched to better support officers with trauma
An intervention programme has been launched to better support officers across the country after they attend traumatic incidents.
Representatives from Oscar Kilo, known as the National Police Wellbeing Service, spoke at this year’s virtual Roads Policing Conference.
They explained that the initiative came after a national wellbeing survey revealed that different forces deliver varying standards of support for officers.
In response, Oscar Kilo is now helping to raise standards of occupational health across forces countrywide.
Inspector Neil Collinson said: “Our attendance at traumatic events is almost routine now and without appropriate support, long-term exposure can lead to negative effects on wellbeing. We want to make sure the right support is in place for officers and recognise this is a real issue.”
Working with Public Health England, it launched the Emergency Services Trauma Intervention Programme (ESTIMP) in April this year. The programme focuses on early intervention.
The service was first piloted in Thames Valley Police and was rolled out more widely after its success.
Oscar Kilo is also delivering a psychological risk management programme to coincide with this to help forces reduce the risk of psychological ill-health within the workforce.
Liz Eades, Oscar Kilo occupational health adviser, said: “We know policing is a demanding job. I don’t think you can be a police officer and not expect to have some psychological detriment, so we have to manage officers’ health and monitor that.”
The programme has helped forces identify officers who are struggling with their mental health due to issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and burn-out. In turn, they can then improve the mental health support they offer to officers by benchmarking.
Through the assessments they have also been able to pinpoint higher-risk groups such as serious collision investigators.
‘Roads policing: an essential part of the police service’
Roads policing is an essential part of the police service and needs proper investment in people, according to Police Federation national chair John Apter.John was speaking during a question and answer session on the future of roads policing which also heard from Sussex Chief Constable Jo Shiner, who is the roads policing lead for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), and Alison Hernandez, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ lead for road safety.
He told delegates at the virtual Roads Policing Conference 2021 that roads policing involved much more than many members of the public and many parts of the mainstream media might recognise.
He said: “I think some people still think it’s just about speed enforcement, as important as that is, but it is so much more than that.“I compare our roads to a neighbourhood. So whether that’s a motorway, an A-road or a side road in a city or town.
“The roads are a neighbourhood, so why is that style of neighbourhood policing – where we are tackling the travelling criminals, the dangerous vehicles, the anti-social use of vehicles, the drink and drug drivers – any different from any other.
“We need specialist officers to do that so it is about priorities. I have always said that you invest in people. You want dedicated, fully-trained roads policing officers who are intrusive, challenging and tackling the travelling criminals – they are getting them disqualified, they are finding other offences and working alongside those in investigation and response.
“If you want to tackle all of that and more, invest in your roads policing and you will get the results that you need.
“The sad thing is for some forces, certainly during austerity, roads policing was seen as nice to have rather than as essential but roads policing is an essential – it works hand-in-hand with response, with investigations, with other specialist departments so I would want to see an investment in people to get the results we want to see.”
Alison Hernandez stressed the importance of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners in roads policing and said she was determined to see road deaths slashed by 50 per cent in 10 years’ time and reduced to zero by 2041.
She told the conference: “In the last term of office, about 50 per cent of PCCs put road safety as a priority as part of their crime plan. This sets the priorities for the chief constable in the force, and that’s a really important standard to set.
“Once you have this in the plan, it is a really pivotal piece of priority setting which will help and support roads policing officers.”
CC Shiner said that in 2020 there were 3,745 fewer fatalities than compared to 1990 but acknowledged that was largely down to Covid and lockdown.
She said: “We don’t want to have to rely on having to lockdown roads to save lives.”
‘Review offers chance to fix big problems’
The Roads Policing Review is a “once in a generation opportunity to fix some of the big strategic problems” says the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on the Roads Policing Review, Assistant Chief Constable and Chief Officer at the Department for Transport, Steve Barry.
Steve spoke as part of this year’s Road Policing Virtual Conference 2021, reassuring attendees that “the Government is listening” to the serious issues raised by the Police Federation of England and Wales and its members, as it prepares to publish its response.
His comments came two years after the Department for Transport launched a review into roads policing as the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads was failing to decline.
Last year 1,472 people were killed on the roads and 22,014 were seriously injured.
“The reality was, the state of road policing at the time was not great, in terms of capacity, in terms of capability, in terms of prioritisation and resource. There was definitely a lot of room for improvement,” said Steve.
“What we are aiming for is a safe, secure, efficient and socially responsible roads and motorway network.
“The review provided a once in a generation opportunity to fix the problems suffered by roads policing in recent years. Whether it’s funding, political will, a cross-government approach or a singular decision. This is the right time to be doing this.
“We have the attention of Government and they are listening.”
Steve also said that the key stakeholders have all bought into the review and want to make a difference at a strategic level.
The Government is now looking to launch a cross-government strategic roads policing framework, which will lay out the strategy to improve the service using the findings of the Roads Policing Review which are to be published soon.
More tests and levelled enforcement needed across the UK to tackle drug driving
A panel of key stakeholders agreed that a different approach must be taken to tackle drug-driving more effectively and efficiently.
The CPD-approved session “Safer roads – drug driving”, featured input from forensic toxicologist Dr Simon Elliott, David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, Professor Max Cameron from Monash University Accident Research Centre, Australia, Professor Kim Wolff from King’s College, London, and David Snelling, policy team Leader at the Department for Transport (DfT).
David opened the session by highlighting some key road safety issues, stating that nearly half of drug-drive offences are by people reoffending.
He continued: “We may be catching people but we’re not preventing them from reoffending. We want enforcement to be levelled up across the UK.”
David explained that drug-related fatalities have increased over time, but added: “There are about 250 drink-drive casualties every year – what we don’t know yet is the same for drugs.
“It is still an issue to know just how much the incidents of drug-driving are growing. We still don’t have a good indication just how much impact this is having on death and injury. It’s certainly worrying.
“What we are lacking is data from the number of roadside tests. There appear to be forces which are not doing the same levels of enforcement, and we would encourage a levelling up.”
Professor Wolff, who is investigating synthetic oral fluid for evidential drug-driving offences, said she was very interested in alternative matrices for evidential testing in different populations.
She continued, echoing David’s comments surrounding reoffending, adding: “Repeat offenders seem to be a big concern.”
Prof Wolff also added that she believes there should be a similar high-risk offender scheme for those who drug-drive, as those who drink-drive – something she is working very closely with the DfT on.
Dr Elliott explained how legislation changes in the last six years have seen “a sea change in how forensic toxicology has been used within policing”.
He added: “This is to the extent that 80 per cent of all forensic toxicology requests are in relation to roads policing, and that includes drugs and alcohol.
“Of this, 80 per cent of all of submissions are specifically related to drugs. Nearly three quarters of all cases where drugs are detected involve cannabis or cocaine.
“If you put that into context, our entire forensic toxicology system is really dealing with two drugs – cannabis and cocaine.
“But is that actually what is happening? Or is that because road-side tests only test for cannabis and cocaine?”
Roads policing lead calls for more support for new recruits
Roads policing should be viewed as an exciting prospect for new recruits starting out on their careers, the conference heard. The day-long virtual covered a wide range of topics and concluded with a call for more to be done to end stereotypical views on roads policing to make it more appealing to rookies.
Police Federation roads policing lead Gemma Fox told delegates at the closing session she thought more should be done to support new officers pursuing a role in roads policing.
She said: “I think for a long time we’ve focused on the core elements of training and the law side of things. Let’s show a bit of passion and show our new recruits coming through early on the other aspects of roads.
“There is acquisitive crime, organised crime gangs, different kinds of units such as ANPR that are targeting real specific crime types and trends and supporting neighbourhood policing.
“Let us show them it is not just some of the stereotypical views held for a long time about roads policing.
“Our new officers are the future and will be delivering roads policing in 5, 10 or 15 years to come.”
The final session of the day, a round-table discussion entitled Accelerating Change, heard from a number of speakers with an interest roads policing.
Tim Rogers, Police Federation national driver training and pursuits lead, told the event a lack of funding meant only limited progress could be made and urged police chiefs and police and crime commissioners to put more pressure on the Government.
He said: “The Government is making noise about supporting police through the 20,000 uplift – but there is no guarantee this reinvestment will go into roads policing.
“I would like to see people putting their money where their mouth is.
“Many years ago, there was a time where the roads policing budget was protected. I question whether or not we need to go back to a time where that budget is protected so chiefs don’t have a choice where to spend it.”
Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, who represents the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on the Roads Policing Review, praised the Police Federation for its commitment to roads policing.
He told delegates: “The Police Federation needs to take a huge amount of credit for keeping roads policing on the radar over the last 10 years.
“It’s really, really valuable and generates that noise with the Government and they are starting to listen.
“I am incredibly optimistic, and we are definitely making progress.”
NPCC roads policing strategic business manager Dean Hatton said he was optimistic that proposals were now being acted upon.
He said: “We all want to pull in the same direction, and I think that is what is happening for the first time.
“I am really confident we will start to see some progress over the next 3 to 12 months. I think the future is bright for roads policing.”