Number of full-time traffic police continues to fall, data indicates
The organisation says that figures supplied in answer to a parliamentary question show there were 1,437 fewer dedicated roads policing officers outside London last year than in 2010, taking the overall tally to 3,901 officers – a 27% reduction.
It added that between 2010 and 2015, there was the equivalent of more than five fewer officers each week whose responsibilities were predominantly roads policing and accident investigation. In total, 30 out of 42 forces recorded a fall in the number of roads policing officers between 2014 and 2015 – collectively accounting for 352 fewer officers.
The biggest reduction was seen for West Yorkshire, down by 91 officers, but explained by a switch to mixed speciality units.
Avon and Somerset witnessed the next biggest fall in officer numbers (34 fewer officers, a 35% drop), while Northamptonshire saw the next greatest reduction as a proportion of all dedicated roads policing officers (21 fewer officers, a 36% drop).
Just 12 forces reported increases in dedicated roads policing officers year-on-year, totalling 162 more officers, although the RAC noted these increases do not make up for the losses within other forces, leading to the overall net reduction in numbers.
Essex claimed a near-doubling of officers (up 72 to 148 officers), while Devon and Cornwall reported 31 more officers (up from 57) and Cheshire 30 more (up from 89). The remaining nine forces gained on average three dedicated officers each.
RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “We are acutely aware that the police are doing their best to manage challenging budgets and scant resource; however the sustained reduction in roads policing officers is at odds with the consistent number of serious motoring offences being committed, and the concerns already expressed by motorists around the lack of visible police presence on our roads.
“The UK has a multitude of laws governing our roads – but a reducing number of dedicated individuals out there to enforce them. Plans to increase penalties for the use of handheld mobile phones at the wheel are welcome, but risk being undermined by falling numbers of dedicated roads police officers.
“The RAC believes the motoring public deserves honesty from the Government around whether there are enough resources in place to apply the law and cut down on illegal driving behaviour, some of which undoubtedly puts innocent lives at risk.”