Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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IOPC updates Federation roads policing conference

With deaths from police-related traffic incidents rising, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) yesterday (29 January) shared learning and our work to boost in-house expertise at the Police Federation of England and Wales annual Roads Policing Conference.

IOPC Roads Policing Strategic and Technical leads, Steve Noonan and Gary Wright, delivered a presentation to delegates at the two-day event, and took part in a panel discussion on pursuits.

The presentation focused on why police-related road traffic incidents (RTIs) are a key focus for the IOPC, and how the IOPC is working with forces to improve policing practice through learning from its investigations.

There were 42 fatalities from RTIs involving the police across England and Wales in 2018-19, which was an increase of 13 on the previous year and the highest figure in the past decade. Of that figure 30 of the deaths were from pursuit-related incidents, up by 13 from 20017-18.

IOPC lead Steve Noonan yesterday said:

“An increasing number of people are being killed in police-related RTIs. With the benefit of data from cases across England and Wales, we want to identify key learning and work with police to make improvements so the public can have confidence, but also so police have appropriate guidance and training.

“It’s all about striking a balance between public safety from the perspective of police proactively dealing with crime while ensuring the safety of road users and pedestrians.” 

As part of a wider move to specialise in thematic areas of concern the IOPC is developing technical advisers to build on their knowledge of roads policing issues and achieve a more consistent approach to RTI investigations. There are currently eight advisers with at least one in each of the IOPC’s six offices across England and Wales.

They receive training internally and have been given the opportunity to sit alongside police drivers receiving specific training. For example, they can attend police Tactical Pursuit and Containment courses and visit force control rooms to see how incidents are managed live. Their role involves advising RTI investigation leads on issues and potential areas for learning as well accessing technical assistance in cases where input from an external expert may be appropriate.

Technical advisers have also been visiting forces locally to help improve policing practice by discussing their experiences and learning from IOPC investigations.

The IOPC’s presentation also focused on recent national learning recommendations from IOPC cases accepted by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). Examples include police using ‘life hammers’ to rescue people trapped in cars immediately after a RTI, and recommendations informing the use of tactical contact when pursuing motorcycles.

Tactical contact is used by appropriately trained police drivers to end a pursuit by making deliberate contact with mopeds ridden by suspected criminals.

The updated NPCC guidance acknowledges tactical contact as a legitimate use of force for appropriately trained police drivers, where authorised, but seeks to better support police officers in carrying out their assessment of the situation and risks posed. The guidance covers issues like use of alternative tactics, weighing up the severity of the suspected offence and the likelihood of causing injury to the riders, others and themselves. It also reinforces that use of the tactic must be authorised.

The IOPC’s overarching proposals were informed by learning from five investigations involving tactical contact with two-wheeled vehicles. These highlighted risks to police, riders and the public because of a policy gap around use of the tactic.

The NPCC also previously agreed to an IOPC recommendation to develop national guidance to standardise the practice of covering emergency blue lights on unmarked police cars, following a collision in North Wales.

A North Wales Police (NWP) officer, who was driving the police BMW, was seriously injured as his car collided with an HGV in a lay-by. He had attempted to avoid a light goods vehicle which had moved into his lane on a dual carriageway.

The collision investigation, carried out by NWP, found that the emergency lighting in the front grille of the BMW had been covered with tights to help prevent members of the public identifying it as a police car when the lights were not in use.  It was found that there was a significant reduction in the light output with the nylon.

It was also recorded that the nylon covers could not be ruled out as a contributory factor to the collision as they made it extremely difficult for the driver of the light goods vehicle to identify the vehicle behind them as a police car responding to an incident.


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