Please dismount quite soon

The Home Office is to review the law around police pursuits, following a rise in concerns. Home office reviews are normally causes for concerns in themselves, but this one might go all right. There are very few statistics involved, so they will not have to attempt many calculations. The figures that are to hand are simple, but they are not encouraging, as they refer to increases in dangerous incidents.

Oct 4, 2017

The Home Office is to review the law around police pursuits, following a rise in concerns. Home office reviews are normally causes for concerns in themselves, but this one might go all right. There are very few statistics involved, so they will not have to attempt many calculations. The figures that are to hand are simple, but they are not encouraging, as they refer to increases in dangerous incidents. In 2016/17, 28 people died in 24 police pursuits. This figure is, at least until the Home Office gets hold of it, more than double the 13 such deaths in 2015/16. Another disturbing statistic tells us that crimes involving mopeds, scooters and motorbikes have risen by 600 per cent over the last two years. Some of these crimes are committed by riders, and some are suffered by riders, notably couriers, and they involve violent snatch thefts and acid attacks. Policing Minister Nick ‘Abs’ Hurd says: “While it is clearly vital that we protect public safety and that officers are accountable for their actions, it is also important that skilled officers have the confidence to protect the public by pursuing offenders where it is safe to do so.” Well, yes, it is. Mr Hurd’s pronouncement sounds a bit vague to me, but not to the Police Federation of England and Wales, which has hailed the review as a “significant step”. This a poor choice of words, given that foot patrols are unlikely to provide the answer. Out Texan Commissioner, desperate to get to grips with the situation before the Home Office excludes any effective solutions, has called together a workshop, which has produced a number of interesting solutions. A variation on the tried and tested use of stingers involving stringing piano wires at a height of 5ft across favoured routes gained significant support, not least from the Commissioner. It was, however, eventually rejected, partly on the grounds that we could not identify any ‘favoured routes’, and partly because the band refused to dismantle the piano. Many of these offences are committed by helmetless offenders, who believe that the police will not pursue suspected offenders with unprotected heads. The Home Office says that this is not the case, but has not outlined what awaits officers whose quarries manage to kill themselves. Many police officers seem to have formed the view that this is the case, and they will not be chasing after any exposed offenders until they get some reassurance that they will not end up alongside them in the dock. The College of Policing, never an organisation to get left out of an interesting debate, has issued one of its dreaded notes on Authorised Professional Practice (APPs) stating that pursuits should only be carried out by “pursuit-trained” drivers where “it is in the public interest to protect life, prevent or detect crime, or to apprehend an offender… Staff must discontinue a pursuit as soon as the risk becomes disproportionate to the reasons for undertaking it”. This is true, but it is, in the heat of the moment, easier said than done. The APP goes on to explain that “Motorcycle and quad bike pursuits clearly present higher risks for suspects than conventional vehicle pursuit,” and adds: “Where such vehicles are used to facilitate serious crime or used repeatedly as the mode of transport for organised crime groups then, to minimise risk to the public from criminality and to secure public confidence in policing, a pursuit may be justified.” Well, thanks for explaining the problem. Now then, what about the solution? Could somebody pass me that piano? Yours, Stitch

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