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The use of single-crewing is increasing among UK forces and the fallout can be devastating for officers, forces and public safety, say Police Federation representatives. However, following a successful pilot one force has banned it.


Date - 17th January 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

The Police Federation’s Demand, Capacity and Welfare survey 2019 states that 76% of frontline officers say they are often or always single-crewed.

Simon Kempton, Police Federation’s operational policing lead, said that if the response was narrowed down to just those services on response policing, it would be almost 100%.

He states that this a direct result of force budget cuts.

He said: “Nowadays a nightclub in a decent sized town is likely to have more security staff than there are officers on patrol that night.”

Mr Kempton joined Dorset Police in 2000 and has worked on uniform response, neighbourhood policing, covert teams, counter terrorism and is now a full time Fed representative on the national board.

He said: “Single-crewing has become the default and it shouldn’t be.”

He explained that roads policing is often single-crewed, and that officers have to respond to fairly “unique challenges and traumatic scenarios almost beyond imagination” such as traffic collisions where “you really need another pair of hands to deal with the victims, offenders, suspects, scene preservation, injuries and bodies”.

Mr Kempton spoke of the huge sense of responsibility felt by lone officers:

“More now than ever before we’re reviewing cases years later and judging how somebody performed under huge stress who had half a dozen equally important things to do at once. And if they had chosen to do A first instead of B and in hindsight that was the wrong decision, it’s possible to receive a penalty through the courts.”

Mr Kempton said officers are starting to do their job in a different way because they perceive the threat to them to be so high when they are alone. He said this was especially in a rural areas where there members of the public are not around making officers “completely isolated”.

He said: “Hand on heart, if I was single crewed and I was in rural north Dorset at 4am and I see a car with four people in it who I suspect of criminality and I know my nearest back up is half an hour away, I’m less likely to stop that car. I’m not just going to look the other way, I’ll keep an eye on it but until I know my back up is on its way that’s all I’ll do.

“Being an officer often puts you in dangerous situations which is what I’m signed up for and I’m proud of that aspect of my work. But I’ve got a family and a daughter. I’m very aware that I’m on my own and that builds into the way I do my job.”

Kempton explained what a difference a second officer makes when you’re being assaulted: “One time when I was grappling with this bloke my colleague was able to get to the radio and call for help and then assist me. If it wasn’t for her I would’ve been left in a ditch because I couldn’t have got my hands on the radio.”

Mr Kempton said he had been assaulted often whilst single-crewing, including an incident when he was arresting a shop-lifter in Pool town centre.

“He and a load of his mates surrounded me. I’d already radioed in that I was about to talk to him so my colleague was drifting towards us. I spent four or five minutes getting punched, kicked and pushed around while I only had one hand because there was no way I was letting the suspect go with the other.

“The world’s changed. When I joined the job while it was still dangerous people were less likely to seriously assault a police officer.

“The one thing the government can do is increase officer numbers because right now we have far too few to cover the job. If we get those officers back every chief constable can support their colleagues by rolling back single-crewing.”

Another criticism of single-crewing is the impact it can have on an officer’s mental health because they don’t have someone with them to discuss any negative experiences from their shift.

Mr Kempton said: “If you’ve got your mates there with you it’s a really good coping mechanism. After the first time I had a gun pointed towards me we all sat down at the end of the shift and spoke about it and afterwards I had no negative effects but had I gone through something like that without the opportunity to have a conversation afterwards it would’ve been different.”

“The most serious short term impact is going to be physical danger, an injury is something very clear and visible. But the impact of experiencing near misses or witnessing traumatic events builds up over time.”

Mr Kempton said the issue of lone policing was one that “feeds itself”.

He said: “If you look at old statistics around absenteeism the biggest cause use to be muscular skeletal which meant you’d done your back in. Now the number one reason is psychological illness. Going alone to all those traumatic events without anyone there by their side is a factor. We’re duty bound to look at it financially as well as at the morality.”

Northamptonshire Police approached the matter in terms of policing efficiency last year and piloted a double vs single crewing policy for all shifts April 1st to August 1st.

Nick Adderley, Chief Constable for Northamptonshire, said in a July tweet that “early results appear to show that double crewing is more productive and better for wellbeing”.

CC Adderley's Northamptonshire force now has mandatory double crewing following a successful pilot 

The final conclusion showed that double instead of single-crewing halved the average length of time it took officers to attend to an incident. In a month, the double-crew team, who attended 597 incidents, were able to attend 270 more incidents than the single-crew team, who attended 320.

Sergeant Steve Roffe, who thought of the idea for the pilot, called single-crewing a part of “old fashioned ways of working”.

He said: “After being in the job for 14 years I got fed up of single crewing always being pushed to cover more jobs.” He suggested the idea to CC Adderley, who he described as “very supportive”. CC Adderley approved the pilot and it went ahead.

Sgt Roffe explained how officers were more productive when they had a “second pair of hands” there to man the laptop and creating an “office on wheels with no need to go back to the station”.

He also said double-crewing makes the police look more efficient to the community if, for example, a lone-officer is called do a domestic abuse incident and then needs to call for more back up after they are unable to deal with the incident alone.

He said: “You could end up with a cul de sac with four cars in it when you only needed one which would’ve created a better visible presence.”

Sgt Roffe said that welfare was at the heart of everything he does as a sergeant, and that double-crewing allows officers to bounce ideas off one another and see different ways of working, unites the team and gives them a morale boost.

Sgt Roffe said it had made a “massive difference to how the senior leadership support you”.

Now all of Northamptonshire officers are double-crewed all the time.

A spokesperson for the Police Federation said:  “When officers work alone they are undoubtedly exposed to increased risk - for them and the public, not to mention the detrimental effect on their overall health and wellbeing.

“It’s quite simple – policing is dangerous in every sense, and whilst single-crewing may work for some forces and certain types of enquiries, it is not acceptable the majority of the time.”

PeopleSafe, a lone worker safety brand, said in a statement: “Police work is inherently dangerous, dealing with individuals and groups that are breaking the law. Having to face this alone can have serious physical and psychological consequences.

“Giving officers access to a service that can discreetly record audio and be listened to by a professionally trained Controller would provide them with a greater sense of security that they can get help if a situation escalates and deteriorates.”

View On Police Oracle

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I think there's an argument for both. Our patrol officers are, for the most part, single crewed for the day shifts and mostly double-crewed at night.

It's a flexible arrangement though, and if a call requires two people then one car waits for the other. If it's fairly straightforward there's no need for two people to attend.

Also, backup is never too far away, so doing traffic stops on your own isn't so risky (everyone is armed too, so that helps).

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I do the crewing for me team and we are generally a significant distance from help and there are very few of us anyway. I mainly double crew for officers safety, and efficiency be dammed. 

But we are flexible and go where the work is. They know to wait for backup, but there is always the relentless pressure to get to that job. Once we are there, it's not an emergency call any more. Everyone can relax again, accept the officer at the job. 


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I am single crewed 90% of the time in daylight hours and about half the time after dark.  What do you do when there are three of you on, or 4 and one is ten miles away using the only system that will play CCTV or on poo watch in custody, or on interview etc...?  On New Year's Eve I was single crewed on nights and covered 140 miles on rural patrol, pulling cars with lights out and waiting for the radio to go.  Thankfully we had a Q one.  Similarly when you have a small shift, each of whom are carrying double digit crimes then single crewing is  the only way you can get out to see people while the others crack on in the nick.  It isn't great but there we are.  Life is reality and sometimes the reality is a single crewed car, 15 miles away on country roads coming across something or being the nearest car to a call.

I visit Northampton regularly and see their cars, they have been double crewed for ages and it is no surprise that their Chief has now mandated it.  He is a truly visionary leader.

Edited by MajorDisaster
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 23/01/2020 at 20:59, MajorDisaster said:

I visit Northampton regularly and see their cars, they have been double crewed for ages and it is no surprise that their Chief has now mandated it.  He is a truly visionary leader.

Words of wisdom!


to be honest I do see the benefits of single crewing officers, gives us opportunity to carry enquirers for the average of 10 crimes carried per officers which however becomes impossible when you balance on 50+ live logs on the screen...

long story short 9 out of 10 you end up picking up logs/more crime and going to code 1's anyway and your stat 7/8 only lasts about an hour into the shift 

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As I mostly work NHP stuff these days I like being single crewed.  Means I work at a good pace without someone slowing me down (I usually have a trainee SC with me these days).  I did Mad Friday on my own in a van from about 11pm, and I was way more use there than having 2 of us stuck together.  I sometimes get a van now and spend the evening just transporting for the cars.

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