An investigation by the BBC has highlighted that cuts to the number of dedicated roads policing officers is linked to the failure to reduce the number of deaths on our roads, at a time when there are calls for the Isle of Wight to have a Roads Policing Unit reinstated.
According to figures from BBC Panorama, the number of police officers tasked with enforcing road laws has dropped by 15% since 2016. Figures from the 34 forces who responded to a Freedom of Information request have revealed the total number of dedicated traffic officers has fallen by 757 from 5,014 in 2016 to 4,257 today. Meanwhile, the number of people killed on the roads each year remained stable between 2010 and 2019, after going down for 3 decades.
Here on the Island, the number of dedicated RPU officers has plumetted to 0 following the scrapping of the Shanklin-based Roads Policing Unit (RPU).
It was in February 2015 – almost 7 years ago – that Island Echo exclusively revealed that the Island’s RPU was to be shelved. It took Hampshire Constabulary 7 months to confirm the merger of roads policing and armed operations, which saw just 2 RPU officers retained. However, by May 2017 those officers were also cut. Now the policing of the Island’s roads is down to normal response officers, as well as armed officers from the Joint Operations Unit.
In recent weeks there have been calls from Bob Seely MP and the Leader of the Isle of Wight Council for the Roads Policing Unit to be brought back on the Island. Their letter to the Chief Constable came after it was revealed that in 2020 the Isle of Wight had the highest rate across Great Britain and outside of London for people killed or seriously injured in road accidents.
Councillor Ian Dore has also been highlighting the issue and continues to encourage fellow councillors to take immediate action.
Zoe Wakefield, Chair of the Hampshire Police Federation, has said the figures show the impact of ‘significant cuts’ to a highly specialised area of policing. She has said:
“Sadly cuts have consequences. A decade worth of cuts to police numbers will have an impact.
“Chief Officers have had to make difficult decisions on where they cut resources. They will always have to have sufficient resources to respond to 999 calls, so other areas and departments suffer as a result.
“In Hampshire, our Roads Policing Teams have suffered significant cuts over the past decade. With the current recruitment campaign, their numbers will increase but this is a highly specialised area of policing so it will take years to regain the expertise and experience that has been lost.
“I think we have all noticed a reduction of a visible presence of the police on our roads and we have all experienced the dangerous driving by a few individuals who take advantage of this.”
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The Panorama investigation also found that nearly 50% of fixed speed cameras do not work. In response to a separate FoI request, 26 forces said that 523 of a total of 1,110 fixed speed cameras were inactive. On the Isle of Wight, all fixed speed cameras were removed in 2020 after failing to operate for years.
You can watch the full BBC Panorama episode at https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0013mvc/panorama-britains-killer-roads.
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