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UK Road Sense, Dorset Way / A3049 50 limit






The full and true horror of Policing of Road Safety in Dorset

 

Introduction

 

This will be presented as a formal complaint against Dorset Police.

 

My interest in this has arisen from my profession (senior engineer) in which I have to be constantly aware of industrial safety issues, policies and procedures as the machines I design for the world market could (if they malfunction) injure or even kill operators. If someone came to me with a safety issue and I ignored it, I would be immediately removed from this responsibility, no matter how ridiculous the issue might seem or how much of a nuisance the person reporting it might be. I don't even want to think about what would happen if after ignoring an issue, it was a factor in a death, let alone if I continued to ignore it after that death, if my organisation was irresponsible enough to allow me to continue.

 

This would look pretty bad to anyone but it is exactly what Dorset Police have done. Although this happened only last year, it was only a matter of when, not if, an organisation interfering with traffic on such a large scale with clearly the wrong motivations and methods was going to contribute to a death - and there is at least one other death probably due to speed camera distraction that we know about recently in Dorset http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/8838905.Bournemouth_inquest_hears_biker_was_killed_trying_to_overtake_van/. Perhaps this happens more than we know and unless things change it is only a matter of when, not if, it will happen again.

 

I do not support illegal driving and neither am I against reasonable and proportionate enforcement efforts of any kind, what does concern me is fundamental principles of competence, safety and ethics such as:

-          Enforcements have negative effects. Are these properly considered so that we can be confident that enforcements do not cause more accidents than they prevent?  http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/neg.aspx

-          Not all driving problems can be targeted all the time. Are resources best used to reduce accident injury and death, or to make the most money? 

-     If the authorities tell us their only concern is saving life then their activities must be and be seen to be doing only this. If they want to make money and this is effecting policy, they must be transparent about this. If they followed this basic honest principle there would be much less conflict.

-          Are results properly and independently evaluated in order to establish if what is being done is the best solution and to make it so if not?

-          Are the financial motivations under control so that they do not interfere with road safety decision making? Is it right that those whose jobs could depend on continuation of these partnerships, which in turn depends on availability of finance, make decisions on types of enforcements that can not only take or save life but also make £ millions, or not? Are these obvious interests recognised and declared?

-     The chosen operations are clearly highly profitable. The money is made by removing "offenders" from the proper legal process in return for payments (and enforced 'education').  Is this perverting the course of justice?  

-          Are the objectives mentioned consistent with the activities of Dorset Police?

-     Are laws and speed limits determined by proper scientific methods to best target what is unsafe and not target what is safe and reasonable, or are they used to "manufacture" large volumes of "offences" from behavior that any normal observer would consider is entirely normal and safe, to make loads of money?

-     Are councils using the right methods in their decisions on road safety, spend on engineering "improvements", changes in speed limits, etc? Absolutely not: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog97.aspx

      

 

Over a period of 8 years of looking at road policing in Dorset I have found that consideration of important factors such as those above are not only ignored, consideration is actively rejected. Any organisation actively rejecting anything from anyone is not fit to be in any kind of safety work involving life and death decisions. Far worse, the reason seems to be unsurprisingly, the money. I would not say something as serious as this unless I had very good reason, so I will explain.

 

I am far from the only one with these concerns, in most online news items concerning Dorset Road Safe (and other such organisations around the country) there is an overwhelming majority of the view that the road policing industry has become an easy way for a few to make an easy living and build empires. When we start looking at the fuel behind all this, the MONEY, we see respectable public figures such as Annette Brooke MP deeply concerned about the lack of transparency but as unable as anyone else to get any proper answers out of Dorset Police http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog70.aspx. Concerned and informed individuals have consistently provided proper thought out cases backed up by common sense, proper logic and solid evidence, those who may benefit personally from the current policing methods avoid communication at all cost and never produce meaningful or credible response, analysis or justifications for their positions.

 

Despite the British public being very reserved, tolerant and somewhat apathetic I have received more than a thousand emails from drivers who are typically mature and with impeccable driving records of 20,30, or more years who have only come into conflict with speed limits in recent years as they have become set so ridiculously far below natural safe speeds for the road, such as where a motorcyclist was killed which has a 50 limit but an 85th %ile speed of 65, clearly an indication that the real problem here is the inappropriately low speed limit, and therefore one of DRS’s favorite mobile camera locations: http://www.dorsetroadsafe.org.uk/images/stories/foi_mobile_camera_sites_july_2011/microsoft_word_-_m_a338_wessex_way_cooper_dean.pdf

 

 

 

Adverse effects

 

Taking for example the death of a motorcyclist last year in Dorset, we have a situation where:

-          We have evidence that prior to the event Dorset Road Safe had been made aware of the dangers of speed cameras: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog65.aspx (of course they should have known about this anyway)

-          We have evidence that even after this horrific accident DRS actively refused to talk to camera operators about the erratic driving caused by cameras that they must see all the time, and that any suggestion of negative effects is purely speculation: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog58.aspx

-          And that they would not change anything: http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/9216128.Spur_Road_motorcyclist_death__Dorset_Road_Safe_responds_to_inquest/

 


Any individual or organisation which, by its actions causes death or injury to others, is potentially liable to charges of manslaughter or corporate manslaughter (the latter, incidentally, applying just as much to public bodies as the private companies.) Any such organisation that, having been made aware of such a possibility, refuses to investigate further and take appropriate action compounds that felony. It is perfectly clear that at least one and probably at least two motorcyclists have died recently in Dorset as a direct result of the presence of a speed camera. It it also inevitable that camera operators must see every day many examples of sudden braking or other dangerous driving triggered by sight of their cameras. This MUST be investigated, not swept under the carpet and most certainly not when the apparent main reasons are to save face, keep the money coming in and jobs secure.

 

It is possible that a proper risk assessment could estimate that enforcements will occasionally result in accidents, injuries, and deaths, but that the benefits outweigh the problems. But while DRS (and by the way many other supporters of this kind of policing such as RoadSafe) so vigorously refuse to recognise or consider the negative effects, let alone seek to quantify them, it is clear that a proper risk assessment has never been carried out by DRS.  

 

There could not be a clearer breach of statutory Duty of Care.

 

 

 

There have been moments of hope during the 8 years. There are at least 2 good guys in Dorset Police. A year or so ago, I had a number of helpful and constructive discussions with Adrian Whiting while he was chair of the Dorset Strategic Road Safety Partnership (DSRSP). Sadly, before this could go anywhere he was replaced by Mike Glanville. I politely introduced myself to Mr Glanville hoping to continue, he ignored this and all subsequent messages from me and is now doing his best to shut down all communications between DRS / Police and me. The points I raise clearly need proper consideration and response. Why would he be doing this if his actions and aims were professional and ethical?

 

More recently, I met with Colin Searle (Chief Superintendent), after an hour of discussion he could see that what I was saying was important enough that I should be allowed to contribute to DSRSP meetings. This was of course subsequently refused and Colin has been silent since. I am not sure if he has been silenced or if he has been off sick, my apologies and best wishes to you Colin if it is the latter and of course I have much more to discuss with you when you have another hour or so.

 

Adrian and Colin have shown qualities that I would expect of any member of the police – an ability to listen to and properly consider facts and seek actions based on their merits with no real concern for how popular those actions may be – only what is clearly right and wrong. It is truly sad to say that these qualities seem to be totally lacking in a large number of key individuals in Dorset Police and other authorities, and the fact that such qualities seem to be actively suppressed is an indication of just how bad things have become.

 

Although there are many issues I need only 2 more to back up my earlier statement.

 

Performance of Dorset Road Safe in reducing killed and seriously injured counts.

 

This is how Dorset Road Safe sees it, taken from it’s Prince Michael award submission:

 

Outcomes

 

Dorset County Council’s latest provisional rolling annual average KSI figures reveal a remarkable turnaround in performance with a 23% reduction in KSI’s and a 57% reduction in fatals being recorded compared to the 12 month pre-intervention period in 2009.”

 

So a 23% reduction in KSIs, and 57% reduction in fatals – wow – and all down to the “no excuse intervention” – no wonder they won the award.

 

But here are some of the things they did not mention in their award submission:

-     in several previous years Dorset was one of the worst performing councils. It’s inevitable that over time the differences in performance between areas will level off – some reduction is due probably to Dorset being one of the worst in earlier years

-          the “no excuse” period has coincided with a period of deep recession. The correlation between recession, traffic and road deaths is remarkable. See the chart in this article http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog96.aspx

-          the above link also includes the most pathetic support I could have imagined (from Adrian Walsh of RoadSafe) which was all that happened when I raised questions about the Prince Michael award.

-     We are in a long term period of downward accident trend due to all kinds of things like better engineering, rocketing costs particularly for younger drivers, etc.

-     No comparison has been made with national figures, other counties, etc.

-     Deaths increased by 17% in the second year of the operation and DRS contributed to at least one of them

 

I wonder if they would have been awarded if they had been honest about these things?

 

In reality I expect that “no excuse” has had some positive overall effect. I had been asking for a police presence for years and I welcomed it when it started (see the comment on http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/Default.aspx, 18th Jan 2010), as anything would be better than just yellow boxes. Just imagine how much better it would be though if it seriously attempted to deal with dangerous driving, rather than getting as many people as possible on to courses at huge financial profit, and if it properly recognised and minimised the negative effects.

 

But to give the impression that “no excuse” project has caused the entire 23% reduction in KSIs and 57% reduction in fatals when there are clearly many other factors involved, in order to gain an award, is typical of Dorset Road Safe – unscientific, unprofessional, biased, incorrect, and self-interested.

 

Financial integrity / transparency

 

The concern of many has always been that enforcements are about making money and preserving jobs, not road safety. So whatever else, if the financial motivations are understood and controlled, if the (course) costs proportionate, and if the details of the spend are transparent and clearly reasonable, the argument that the police don’t care about safety, they just want our money, has little credibility.

 

Unfortunately, the financial motivations are out of control, the costs extortionate and rocketing, the details of spend fiercely guarded and what information we do have does not look reasonable at all. By these actions Dorset Police have ensured that the concerns about them just making money (and therefore not saving as many lives as they should be) are fully justified.

 

In April 2011, having heard from the DFT that local authorities should not profit from courses, I asked by FOI what the costs of provision of the driver awareness courses were and what makes this up. The answer came in a DPA report on the 23rd June. This indicated the cost of provision was £813,000. But there was no answer about where this money goes and Dorset Police FOI then refused to even communicate about this until forced to by the information commissioner some 7 months later. The response was pitiful in detail but it did indicate why they seemed so reluctant to provide it, it included the following items (budget for 2011/12):

 

-£522,000 on staffing - Even if there are 100 attendees per session (I believe there are 2 sessions per day of about 50 max), 10 staff at £52K would be 1 staff for each 10 attendees, clearly totally excessive.

-£153,000 on premises  - the premises are already public property, surely?

-£71,000 on IS charges - that would pay for 142 new laptops!!! Every year???

-£548,000 “contribution to Dorset Road Safe” - This is NOT a cost of course provision.

-£60,000 “Force back office services” - whatever they are

-£40,000 “SEES Command” - whatever that is.

 

It’s hardly surprising that I got back to them asking for more detail, staff numbers, duties, salaries, what actual payments are made for premises, etc etc.

 

This is our money, it belongs to the public, taking it off us in the way they do is bad enough but they must use it properly and be transparent about where it goes, and if they are not transparent it’s difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the money is not being used properly. Neither am I comforted by such vague statements as "it's reinvested to do more (road 'safety')" - that still does not mean it's being wisely spent. I'm sure there are many criminals who "reinvest their profits to do more".

 

I did not expect that a further breakdown on these costs was going to look good for Dorset Police and I was expecting some more strong resistance. It came. Dorset Police FOI firstly refused to provide the information because it would take too much work to find it! I pointed out that if it needed any work at all to provide adequate detail of where sums of more than £ 1 million were going, this was proof that my concerns about lack of financial care / integrity were fully justified. It then failed to produce the information requested or any response whatsoever.

 

This was clearly worthy of a complaint, and when I raised it, I received a letter from Mike Glanville, the only communication I have ever had from him. It said that he had instructed all FOI staff to ignore all current and future requests from me and all emails. And this when the Chief Superintendent was of the opinion that I should be in the DSRSP meetings. 

 

Mike Glanville has therefore clearly demonstrated that Dorset Police really do have something to hide and will go to any lengths to do so. Mike Glanville has important responsibilities, both Chair of the DSRSP and also assistant chief of Dorset Police, but has demonstrated behavior entirely inappropriate for someone in these positions.

 

There are many other issues but these are enough to demonstrate without doubt unacceptable, unprofessional, dangerous behavior and irresponsible accounting / handling of public money / financial motivations, one of the many inevitable unfortunate effects being more killed and seriously injured on Dorset’s roads than there would be if Dorset Police had their minds on what they should – public safety – rather than making money.

 

Dorset Police must take immediate and serious steps to put this right and must ensure that the key positions in road safety are held by those with the correct temperament, motivation, knowledge and experience for the job.