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Single-crewed traffic officers are driving too many miles, say experts


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Multi-tasking, miles covered and heightened exposure to trauma are putting single-crewed road officers at risk.


Date - 3rd February 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

Single-crewed roads officers are expected to do an “impossible job”, according to members of a panel on the role of road officers at the Police Federation Roads Policing Conference in Kenilworth last Tuesday (28th September).

Simon Hill, a roads policing inspector at Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary, said he thought there was a “considerable degree of vulnerability” for single-crewed road officers.

Insp Hill said: “In my local force area, which is the tri-area of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, it is quite feasible to do a 60 mile blue light run to deal with an incident to then turn around and do another 60 mile blue light run to deal with another incident.”

He said he was not aware of any monitoring of how many miles an officer does during a shift.

“It begs belief that we are lecturing people about road safety and yet roads policing officers are expected to do hundreds of miles in response mode in a two tonne 150-miles-an-hour vehicle and that’s safe?

“I just think that’s wrong.”

Ché Donald, Vice-chair of the Police Federation and panel host said road officers were more likely to suffer from complex PTSD and PTSD due to their exposure to repeated incidents of trauma. He also said that Cambridge University conducted a survey called ‘The Job, The Life’ which showed 20 per cent of officers displayed signs of PTSD and over two thirds of those suffering were unaware.

Speaking at the same event, John Apter, Chair of Police Federation and former roads officer, said traffic officers see “too many things that people shouldn’t have to” and that he still has nightmares about incidents he attended.

Insp Hill said: “If you have a crewmate you have someone to sound off against if you’ve seen something that’s troubled you you’ve got someone to offload to and vent.

“This can help with supressing and relieving anxieties and stresses that you encounter on a day-today basis. If you’re single crewed where do you go with those frustrations? Nowhere.

“They fester and become problematic.”

He also said that with a second officer in the car there was no one to say “you’ve seen one too many horrors today” or “you need to calm down a bit” and offer to drive instead.

The panel also discussed the dangers of an officer dealing with cognitive distractions while driving because they are single-crewed.  

Dr Helen Wells, a criminology lecturer at Keele University who specialises in Road Policing, was also on the panel.

She said: “Our research shows people can’t multitask.”

She said expecting an officer to speak on a radio, listen for ANPR notifications, visualise the incident they are on the way to and reflect on the one they’ve just come from all at once goes against advice given to the public.

“I think we’re asking people to do an impossible job.”

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