Letter to Nick Herbert on police pursuits

1 February 2011

Dear Nick Herbert,

As national charities supporting families devastated by road death and injury, we are appealing to you to urgently codify ACPO guidelines on police pursuits.

On average 38 people are killed each year in crashes involving police vehicles. Many more suffer life-changing serious injuries. These crashes inflict appalling pain and suffering on the families involved, constitute a significant drain on resources (for police and other public services), and are damaging to public confidence in the police.

These deaths make up the single largest group of deaths involving police contact. Unlike other types of death involving police contact, and unlike road deaths overall, deaths in road crashes involving police have not fallen in the past decade.

The majority of these deaths take place during police pursuits.

A 2007 report by the IPCC highlighted that, while ACPO guidance provides an important framework for risk managing police pursuits, there is wide scale failure by individual forces either to follow the guidance or to fully implement it at local policy level. The report found that: many pursuits were being started without a proper risk assessment and control room authorisation; many cases displayed a failure to assess justification, with the majority of pursuits initiated for minor traffic violations or offences; about half of police drivers involved in serious and fatal pursuit crashes had not been trained to advanced level; and investigation reports on pursuit crashes were often of poor quality.

Without a decision to codify the guidance, there will continue to be an absence of agreed and consistent standards to enable urgent and essential learning in this area. Codifying the guidance would go some way to ensuring that this high risk police tactic is subject to the rigorous risk assessment and management systems needed to bring down the number of serious and fatal crashes. Crucially, it would also ensure that serious crashes are properly investigated to a high standard.

There is a precedent for successfully codifying ACPO guidance to reduce deaths involving police contact – most notably those occurring in custody. We believe that codifying the ACPO guidance on police pursuits is a vital step in preventing deaths and serious injuries involving police.

We look forward to hearing your response on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Julie Townsend                       Amy Aeron-Thomas                           Deborah Coles            
Campaigns director, Brake     Executive Director, RoadPeace         Co-director, INQUEST

Tags: police