Commissioner candidates need to understand policing

IT was with concern that I read the ‘would-be commissioner’ article regarding road safety and traffic law enforcement (The Hunts Post, September 26). It indicated his lack of understanding of police work in general and traffic in particular, often held by ill- or uninformed people.

It has been shown in many studies that there is a high correlation indicating that those who offend against the criminal law also offend against traffic law.

Cambridgeshire traffic officers have been responsible, on separate occasions, for detaining teams of ram-raiders, drug dealers travelling on our motorways, and a lorry-load of contraband, to mention a few of their successes. All these offenders were using our major routes and the national strategic road network where beat officers would not be and could not deal with.

There are about 250 HGVs stolen every month in the UK with loads worth more than �1billion, the vast majority of which occurs on the national strategic network, of which Cambridgeshire has one of the most important arteries, the A14, which links the Midlands and North of England with the East and South-East coastal ports and Europe. Any disruption of this route puts a stranglehold on UK plc, and it is our few roads policing officers who have the responsibility of preventing this or, should they be unable to do so, of ensuring it is cleared as soon as possible in all weather conditions.

Consideration should also be given to the trauma suffered by those who have lost a loved one in one of the fatal road traffic collisions – there were more than 30 such fatalities in the county last year, somewhat higher than the number of murders – or those who have to live with life-changing injuries because of a serious collision. Last year, there were more than 3,750 serious injury collisions most of which would have been classified as grievous bodily harm if recorded as crimes.

I am fully aware of the distress suffered by many victims of burglary, but their possessions can be replaced, unlike a limb, an eye or mental capacity.

Do the candidates for police and crime commissioner understand how much one serious road traffic collision costs the country or how much a closure of the A14 costs per hour? I would suggest they consider this and the disruption caused to the lives of residents around the route due to official diversion routes and those unofficial ones sorted by sat-navs.

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Our roads policing officers, few as they are with an establishment of fewer than 60 officers – soon to be reduced further under collaboration [with other forces] – out of a force establishment of about 1,400, have to police our roads 24/7 to prevent and detect crime as well as make travelling safer by reducing speeds, which are often in excess of 100mph on motorways and some other routes. Speed is far too frequently a major factor in collisions.

They have to act against disqualified, drink/drug drivers and those without insurance, let alone those who just drive beyond their capabilities in a dangerous or inconsiderate way.

Several HGV divers have been prosecuted recently for working beyond their hours, not having had a break for almost 24 hours and no weekly break for more than two weeks, and also over the alcohol limit.

Unlike other officers who are not on reactive duties, [roads policing officers] do not have the luxury of having time to plan breaks for refreshment, to go to the gym or shopping, and often have to travel across the county on all types of road at high speed to support colleagues or the public, which requires the highest levels of skill and concentration.

I often think that the words of Winston Churchill should be applied to our roads policing and response officers, but out of respect to the ‘few’ to whom they were intended I shall not quote him here.

There are too many people who think they know what the frontline police officer actually does or what those officers can achieve. We do not need a PCC who thinks he or she can run the show but actually is just another of those in or out of the organisation that fit this category.


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