Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Use of tights to cover unmarked police car emergency lights prompts introduction of national policy

National guidance will be developed to standardise the practice of covering emergency blue lights on unmarked police cars following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.

 Our recommendations to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) follow an investigationinto the covering of lights with nylon tights on an unmarked police car which was involved in 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 covers according to both the collision investigator and through tests carried out by a technical expert. 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.

 Our investigation, which consulted the National Association of Police Fleet Managers, identified that there is no national standardisation for covering lights and, as a result, a number of police forces are using various methods including nylon tights.

 Modifications are being made without any form of scientific testing to examine the effect of any coverings on the level of brightness when the emergency lights are turned on.

 Director for Wales Catrin Evans said: “When police forces attempt to make unmarked police cars less visible, they need to adopt a standardised approach.

 “Any modifications made ought to be tested and approved by experts rather than using ad hoc solutions that may not be the safest method. For the safety of police drivers and the public alike, testing would also help make sure that any coverings do not significantly limit the visibility of the emergency blue lights when turned on.

 “I’m pleased to see the NPCC has recognised the need to develop this national guidance and has commissioned a working group to produce the new policy.”

 NWP professional standards department became aware of concerns surrounding the collision in February 2017, a year after the incident, and made a voluntary referral that month. Our investigation concluded in December 2017 since when we have consulted with the NPCC on our national recommendations.

 We found no case to answer for the officers involved in covering the grille lights with nylon tights due to the lack of any national policy or guidance. No members of the public were harmed in the collision.


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