Plans for police traffic officers to work 12-hour shifts while prosecuting HGV drivers for breaching time limits have been branded as ‘gross hypocrisy’ by councillors.
The High Peak’s traffic officers are currently based at Buxton police station, but from April 2016, they will be moved to Ripley as part of a cost-cutting plan by Derbyshire police.
I think it is a very, very dangerous move.Cllr Chris Webster
The force needs to save around £26 million over the next four to five years and has been looking at ways to make savings, with the relocation plan a key part of that, Chief Superintendent Richard Oldknow told a meeting of High Peak Borough Council’s Community Select Committee on Monday night.
But council members slammed the move, particularly with the High Peak being home to some of the most dangerous roads in the country.
Cllr Chris Webster said: “At the time when there is a shift change the nearest officer will be in Ripley. From Ripley to the High Peak on an ordinary drive will take about an hour and a half and officers are going to be starting and finishing their shifts in Ripley. I think it is very, very dangerous to move these officers.”
Chief Supt Oldknow, who is head of operational support with Derbyshire police, said it was not easy to save the amount of money required without making changes: “The reality is that traffic officers work out of Buxton but that will cease in April 2016.
“The High Peak is recognised as having some of the most dangerous roads in the county and every year we provide extra officers to deal with that, trying to educate people to reduce the risks.”
Once the move is complete, officers will work 12-hour shifts, leading to major concerns from councillors about safety for those who are driving to and from Ripley as well as having to drive during their shift.
Cllr Webster said: “They drive high-powered vehicles and it is a very demanding job. Now they’ll be working 12-hour shifts plus travelling to and from Ripley. HGV drivers doing the same shifts would be in such trouble they wouldn’t be able to work for the next six months, yet it’s alright for police to do it in high-powered vehicles.
“I think it is a very, very dangerous move.”
Chief Supt Oldknow said: “The shift pattern is a 12-hour shift but there will be a late shift so there will be officers out, but I’m not going to say they will be in Buxton, Glossop or New Mills because they could be in Derby. The only time there won’t be cover is 7am because we won’t have anybody starting at 2am and working until 2pm.”
He added: “HGV drivers are covered by legislation but anybody driving a private car and wanting to drive to Devon or Cornwall, a six-hour drive, is perfectly entitled to. It is incumbent on people who are doing that to take a rest if need arises and officers will be able to take sufficient rest periods.
“There is a difference between driving patrolling and driving in pursuit, that takes far more concentration. These drivers are very highly trained and go through regular assessments to make sure their skills are maintained.
“The legislation doesn’t cover anyone unless they are a HGV driver.
Cllr Tony Ashton said: “It is gross hypocrisy for officers potentially involved in high-speed chases to be driving these sort of hours and pulling over HGV drivers.”
Members of Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council also discussed the issue at their meeting last week and have agreed to write to the Chief Constable expressing their concerns.