PCCs are elected to hold Chief Constable to account, set the Budget and council tax precept, decide Policing priorities for our area and commission services for victims of crime. But we also need to make sure that the Police have the powers they need to get the job done and support changes in the law when it is appropriate to do so, so that they aren’t unreasonably penalised for doing their job. There are many checks and balances in place in Policing, but sometimes there are consequences, unintended or otherwise, that inhibit Officers.
A ten minute rule Bill being introduced in Parliament tomorrow by Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, will address one of these imbalances. Too many highly-professional emergency response drivers across the country have found themselves accused of driving carelessly or dangerously when they have simply been carrying out their duties.
This includes by over taking, ignoring traffic signals or causing others to drive dangerously during pursuits of suspects. In some circumstances, they have been in trouble even if there were no complaints made and no one harmed.
Emergency response drivers currently find themselves judged by the standards of a careful and competent driver, with no recognition given to the trained standards and driver tactics to which they have been trained under College of Policing guidance.
Sir Henry’s Bill would ensure that police drivers engaged in trained driver tactics would have the appropriate protection in law. Specifically, the Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill would seek to change the law by introducing an exemption for police and other emergency service workers from the relevant parts Road Traffic Act in the course of their duty.
His Bill is not designed to enable irresponsible driving, only to apply a degree of common sense and pragmatism so that investigations into any incidents can be dealt with expeditiously and officers are allowed to go back to work as quickly as possible.
I hope that his Bill gets the support of Ministers and the House of Commons, as it is a fair and reasonable way of giving Officers the protections they need to do their job, whilst ensuring that other checks and balances remain in place.