A necessary evil.

With growing austerity police forces across the country are looking at ways to save money.  Quite rightly my own branch of policing has come under the spotlight.  Sadly, some forces have drastically reduced or even chopped their road policing units.  However, every force in this country is required to reduce KSI’s (killed or seriously injured collisions.)  We are seen by many as a necessary evil, to be tolerated, some would even say a luxury.

Does the road policing unit fight crime as the public perceive it? Well yes we do. It’s ourselves that TPAC (tactical pursuit and containment) a vehicle that fails to stop because the occupants are wanted for murder, burglary or under surveillance. Some of the most notable arrests have come as a result of the road policing unit. No one else does what we do. Yet we do so much more and our primary role is to keep the roads that you travel up and down every day safe.

I understand the general negative view of RPU. I believe that it is this. When someone is prosecuted for instance burglary, assault, damage, etc is is generally assumed that the defendant is a bad person. Otherwise why else would they commit that crime. It’s malicious on their part that in turn produces the crime. Every member of the public has no qualms in seeing that person convicted and receiving their just deserves.

I now bring you onto traffic offences and what we concentrate on as called the fatal four. Seat belts, speeding, mobile phones and drink drivers. Arguably at least for the first three, perfectly respectably law abiding citizens are capable of committing those offences and in the majority do. So we as road policing officers are in the invidious position of reporting normally respectable members of the public for criminal offences. Clearly this does not sit well with them and often causes the response ” Shouldn’t you be catching proper criminals?”. Well actually we do that also.

But what is a proper criminal? Well let me answer a question with a question. Would you rather I ring your door bell telling you you have been the victim of a burglary or tell you the news that your beloved daughter has died in a road collision?

You see more people die or are seriously injured on the roads than are assaulted or murdered. Yet the outcome for those poor unfortunate families is the same. Their loved one is either hurt or won’t becoming home tonight. As road policing officers, we are specialists in investigating serious and fatal collisions. We get to the truth and leave no stone unturned, just as CID investigate a murder. In fact we treat each road death as an unlawful killing until we are satisfied it is not.  Perhaps you will forgive us then when we have to shut for the road for several hours whilst we forensically examine the scene.

But going back to the gripes of the general public. I also detest roadside camera’s for they create zones of legality. They replaced the road policing officer who with their mark one eye ball spotted numerous offences other than excess speed. A case in point the other day where a HGV was stopped for a minor moving traffic offence only to discover a suspension bolt had worked loose and sheared away the inner wall of a rear tyre. The drivers life and that if other road users were in imminent danger. No speed camera would have picked that up!  Mobile phones are the Bain of my life and often a motorist refuses to accept that whilst the act of using their phone may seem trivial, the consequences can be literally fatal.  Another example; a HGV driver was texting on his phone which prevented him from concentrating on the road ahead.  As a result he collided with another HGV which then in turn collided with another two.  The motorway was shut for four hours whilst specialist lifting gear had to be brought in to right the loads and clear the carriageway of debris.  I know this happened because I was first at the scene and on being relieved to go home I became a victim of my own road block.  It also costs the country approximately £1,ooo,ooo an hour in lost revenue to close a motorway.

Another argument I give to my colleagues for having specialised road policing unit officers is the look of relief on there face’s when we arrive at the scene of a serious or fatal collision. We’re good at what we do and do it well.

The road policing unit has every bit of an important part to play within the policing family as do CID, PSU, etc.  To suggest otherwise would be fool hardy.

Here are  some comments from the public and police officers in the build up to this blog.

“Look forward to reading it. I love my RPU & CIU colleagues. They do an amazing job :-) “

“Not enough of it, NWMPG should 4 times the size :) Same goes for CMPG”

“I’m amazed how few of ‘us’ there are too.”

“The curse of my life! Need to do a medic course to recognise “serious” injury. Should be privatised! Just an opinion.”

“mmm roads policing isn’t that done by the elite knights of the rd HATO’s & a handfull of pointless traffic CSO’s?

“Horses for courses. Their line of work bores me to tears, and I can’t drive, but we do need them.”

“*IF* RPU cuts KSI, then arguably more important than failure management (CID). I say that as an ex-detective, with regret.”

“defo necessary with all the loons out there! People don’t like them only because they get caught doing what they shouldn’t xx”

“Get rid of Road Policing units? They are the only things between the normal and complete chaos.”

“Let us say, a trucker decides not to stop for VOSA, who will stop trucker barrelling down M/way at 90 MPH ?”

“No RPU, everyone can touch well as fast as vehicle can go, anti-social driving becomes the norm.”

“no way! Simple as! Xx”

“It’s everything. The presence. The skills (as per your fts truck). The KSI work. Unfortunately the enforcement.”

If can prove they reduce deaths, there really isn’t an argument to reduce them is there ?


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