Traffic police cut by 23% in past five years: RAC

12.00 | 9 February 2015 | | 7 comments

The number of police dedicated to enforcing traffic offences in England and Wales has fallen by an “alarming” 23% in the last five years which means there are now 1,279 fewer officers patrolling the road, according to the RAC.

The RAC says between 2010 and 2014, 43 police forces cut their traffic officers from a combined 5,635 to 4,356.

Devon and Cornwall Police has suffered the largest cut (76%) taking the number of traffic officers from 239 to just 57. The reductions in other forces include Essex (71%), Nottinghamshire (68%), Wiltshire (47%) and Avon and Somerset and Dorset (both 39%).

Only two forces have increased their traffic officer count in this time: Suffolk by 32% (67 officers to 88) and Warwickshire by 230% (10 to 37).

Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: “These figures make a mockery of motoring law – if there are not enough police on the road, we can introduce all the new rules we want, but those breaking them just will not get caught.

“While cameras are good at catching speeders and drivers who go through red lights, offences that relate to general poor behaviour at the wheel still rely on a police officer to enforce them.

“Our research shows that millions of motorists are frustrated with the cut in traffic police numbers and believe the chances of drivers being pulled up for breaking the law are now minimal.

“Motorists are tired of constantly seeing other drivers breaking the law and getting away with it so it is hardly surprising that they want to see a greater police presence on our roads to enforce motoring legislation more effectively, which would also act as a genuine deterrent.

“The Government should also be asking whether the reduction in traffic police is in any way connected to the recent rises in the number of deaths and injuries on our roads.”


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    In my day it was rare to see a traffic officer outside his road traffic duties. They would be out with a speed radar camera 3/4 days a week and then doing escort duties and then attending accidents – which apparently they don’t do a lot of nowadays. They were also road safety officers and trained others on motorbikes and cars and also cycling proficiency training in schools. Rarely did they join in with the beat bobbies. It was in exceptional circumstances. Times change.

    Lancs has now, this week, for the first time in its history had to reduce the establishment to under 3000 officers, from about 3750 or so. I further understand that there are to be more cuts in this next fiscal year in order to achieve budget cuts.

    Where have all the bobbies gone… long time passing.

    Bob Craven Lancs…Space is Safe Campaigner
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    Traffic officers or Roads Policing (more modern term!) are first and foremost police officers working 24/7 on response to ALL policing tasks. They are specialists in matters involving use of the roads and the front line in deterring and detaining travelling criminals. The 23% reduction is in my experience a conservative figure, chief constables on the one hand recognise the hard work they do and then say they are too specialist and cut them. The public want high profile policing for reassurance, how more high profile can they be than a traffic officer! Their arrest rate for crime is higher than the norm and detecting detering excess alcohol driving immeasurable. As for fitness mentioned, that is no different to all strands of policing, I’m 56 and could pass now! Coincidentally just been speaking to R/policing s/vision and they have ONE car covering 3 boroughs this morning, and that is tied up at a bump with no-one to attend another one.

    Olly, Lancs
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    I have commented about this situation on another topic but will re iterate it again. At the same time as the reported reduction in traffic police is mentioned (and this is only in the last 4/5 year period) they have been radically reducing Trafpol quite considerably for a number of years before this.

    The reason is two fold:
    [1]Traffic police are usually more experienced older officers and therefore cost more in terms of wages.
    [2] Due mainly to their ages they are not fit and with the riots that took place in the last decade or so a police officer has to pass fitness tests. A lot of traffic men do not want to do that or will not be able to pass such a fitness test.
    [3] No Government of any kind will do what is necessary to police this country and that is to admit their failing to law and order in that we need about 25/30,000 more officers. We probably need about 150,000 officers in total to keep up with our ever growing and diverse population.

    At a time we are losing serviced officers the government is asking to recruit some 45,000 new teachers and is willing to spend a further £100.000.000 on improving school conditions. All that was in the news this week. So much for Law and Order and safer roads.

    Bob Craven Lancs ….Space is Safe Campaigner
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    Yes, thanks for telling me it is my opinion Paul, I was aware of that. It’s based on personal experiences dealing with motorists rather than something I’ve read on a motorists’ pressure group website so yes, you could say it does represent ‘reality’.
    By the way, the ‘number on a pole’ which the traffic police can and do enforce, is actually the same ‘number on a pole’ which a speed camera enforces – it’s just as much an offence, however and by whoever it is detected, but I’m sure the editor does not want another speed camera debate.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Abiding by the rules of the road is not an optional activity depending on our ability or commitment to providing police officers.

    The license to use a motor vehicle ONLY exists within the laws set by government and that includes speed limits and traffic lights as much as driving on the left or driving whilst drunk.

    Yes we need traffic officers who are attuned to the need for and the task of compliance. And we also need a compliance environment that does automatically identify those who persist using their lumps of steel in a manner that is outside the law. Both co-exist happily in many countries with far more stringent automatic detection regimes than our own.

    Organisations who campaign against lower speeds inevitably lose all credibility when they also campaign against the mechanisms to ensure compliance.

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    That’s your opinion Hugh, for your reasons best known to yourself. Whether it really represents reality is another matter. In reality, it seems we can’t have both Trafpol and speed cameras – speed cameras don’t see the causes of accidents or detect a myriad of motoring offences – they merely enforce a number on a pole for the ‘driving by numbers mantra.’ Road safety can’t measured in 10mph increments and appropriate speed depends on the prevailing circumstances. A system that relies on the driver arriving home safely to pay the fine or speed awareness course fee has little to do with road safety.

    Paul Biggs, Staffodshire
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    The motoring public want their cake and eat it. When asked, they might well say “yes, we need more traffic police” but bleat when they themselves are stopped for ‘a minor offence’ with cries of ‘why aren’t they out there catching real criminals?’. Motorists don’t mind others being stopped for traffic offences, as long as they can be allowed their own occasional misdemeanour.

    Hugh Jones
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