Traffic police numbers slashed: Brake

12.00 | 9 July 2013 | | 4 comments

The number of traffic police across the UK has reduced by 12% in five years, with some forces suffering 30-40% reductions, according to data released today (9 July) by road safety charity Brake and ‘’.

While the number of traffic police in Scotland increased by 4%, numbers were down by 31% in Wales and 13% in England. Brake and are warning that the cuts leave some parts of the country ‘dangerously short’ of frontline roads policing.

The largest cuts have been in: Bedfordshire, where roads police have been reduced by 44%; South Wales and Dyfed Powys (40%); and West Mercia and Hampshire, where reductions are more than a third.

Brake and are concerned that this will lead to forces struggling to enforce laws on drink driving, speeding and mobile phone use – and could potentially undermine the new drug driving law expected to come into force next year. The two organisations are urging the Government to make roads policing a national policing priority.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “It is desperately worrying such large cuts continue to be made to traffic policing, just as progress is being made to improve the law on deadly drug driving.

“Roads police officers do a vital job – their work is proven to save lives and prevent injuries and suffering. Cutting traffic police is a false economy, because the crashes and casualties they help to prevent inflict such devastation and are a huge drain on public services.”

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The IAM shares Brake’s concerns; road safety does not appear to be a high priority for new police commissioners, despite high public concern. What is needed urgently is joined-up Government thinking and leadership so that the benefits to the NHS can be shared among those who work on the front line of road safety.”

While admitting it also shares Brake’s concerns, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is critical of what it calls the charity’s ‘emotive rhetoric’, and a ‘money grabbing mentality’ that has replaced ‘properly trained police officers’.

A spokesperson said: “The ABD shares the concern of Brake about the reduction in traffic police, but considers that the kind of emotive rhetoric so beloved by Brake is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

“The reduction in traffic police has arisen for two reasons: some Government ‘expert’ who foolishly pronounced that traffic police were ‘elite’, and should be cut; and the ‘money-grabbing’ mentality that has replaced properly trained police officers capable of exercising discretion, with automated mugging machines.”

Contact Siobhan MacMahon at Brake on 01484 550063 for more information. Click here to read the full results broken down by police force area.


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    I don’t believe that Traffic Officers have ever “just done traffic policing”, far from it. This is an old misconception. Their record for arrests of criminals and recovery of stolen property (not just vehicles) has always been impressive. Now more than ever, criminals use the road network to travel “to work” and do their thieving, dealing and disposal in areas many miles from where they live. Evidence shows that those who disregard the criminal law are also more likely to disregard other laws e.g. insurance, MoT, drivers’ hours.

    Added to this, all our food and most other goods are carried by road. We drive millions of miles for work and leisure. This is why the role of specialist traffic officers and their work with VOSA and other agencies ensuring compliance with safety regulations etc is so important to keep our roads running as safely as possible.

    It isn’t either Traffic Officers or Policing; they are both parts of the same job. Enforcement is an essential part of the three (or four) E’s of Engineering, Education, Enforcement (and Encouragement).

    Honor Byford, Vice Chair, Road Safety GB
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    Hugh is quite right to be cautious over these figures but, hidden behind the reductions, is that traffic police, who used to just do traffic policing, have also been diverted over the years to doing more and more other duties (less time on traffic).

    On Hugh’s and ABD’s comments, speed cameras cost 6.8 £million every year just in Thames Valley alone. This inhibits economic recovery, reduces tax income and directly reduces the number of Police officers (the issue Brake have identified) along with nurses and teachers etc.

    Road safety is not starved of funds. £millions are spent on speed cameras and further £millions on 20mph limits etc. so the issue Brake highlights is “are the authorities making the best use of the resources available?”.

    To answer that question, we need far higher quality evidence of the effects of road safety interventions.

    Dave Finney, Slough
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    Percentages can look a lot worse than actual figures. According to the chart, overall there’s a drop, but some forces have increased the numbers, others more or less stayed the same. My closest Policing areas for instance: Merseyside and Cheshire show increases. “Traffic numbers ‘slashed’ ..” is an attention-grabbing headline, but not a fair representation of the situation.

    It would be more useful if Brake and ‘’ (where do they fit in by the way?) followed this up and asked the forces showing reductions or ‘slashed’ (as Brake might say) whether they felt their Roads Policing operations would be adversely affected by these reductions i.e. was it a reluctant and enforced reduction, or a conscious decision believing that their Roads Policing operations would not be compromised. Let’s not over-react to the headline.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Do the ABD actually read their own press releases? Their spokesman refers disparagingly to ‘emotive rhetoric’ used by others and then goes onto use phrases like “money grabbing mentality“ and “automatic mugging machines”.

    But back to the original story. If the traffic police are/were about spotting and prosecuting traffic offences, amongst other things, what’s wrong with easing the load by using available technology to do the same thing far more efficiently in terms of time saved and involving less risk? A fixed speed camera can detect and trigger a prosecution for speeding and a manned camera van can, in addition, record other offences – even more relevant now in the light of new fixed penalties for careless driving. Traffic cars have cameras to record offences, but why chase after offenders when the offenders can come to the stationary cameras? A more efficient use of police manpower I would have thought.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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