Fit for purpose

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        Feature




                                  Fit for
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                                  purpose?




                                  If you sit in a panda
                                  car for hours on end,
                                  you may find your
                                  back is paying the
                                  price. Steve Rands,
                                  health and safety
                                  leader at the Met
                                  Federation asks if
                                  police vehicles
                                  really are fit
                                  for purpose
                                                                                                                     13
                                                                                                                  Feature


Police officers were taken off foot patrol    performance criteria need to be met.        officers who have been injured after
during the 1960s to respond to quick          But the largest proportion of police        being struck by a piece of equipment
calls for assistance in police vehicles.      vehicles have nothing additional that       that has been left loose either on the
The move was hailed by HM                     makes them any different from the rest      back seat or being unrestrained in the
Inspectorate of Constabulary in their         of the motoring public.                     boot of the estate car. Safe storage of
annual report, 1967, as ‘the biggest           The well used phrase, fit for purpose,     kit is one thing, but all too often safe
change in fundamental operational             is widely used out of context, but in       deployment of kit is overlooked.
police methods since 1829’. It described      this instance that is exactly what a         Regulations covering manual
the advent of unit beat policing              police vehicle should be. Nothing           handling say that those performing the
immortalised as ‘the panda car’.              makes a more dramatic headline than         task should, where practicable, be kept
 It is that quick response that has led to    an accident involving a police vehicle,     free from risk to their health. Over
each force interpreting just which are        but just how many times are the real        reaching into a car boot to retrieve a
the best vehicles to be used for policing     causes of the accident investigated. Just   sign or a stack of cones could cause
needs. This approach to fleet purchases       how many police collisions are              any number of back ailments.
could be the root cause of many               investigated with a view to establishing     My final and perhaps most
unforeseen health and safety issues.          whether the vehicle being used was          controversial point is that of prisoner
Back in the 1980s, the purchase options       appropriate for the role?                   transportation. It is my honest view
were pretty much limited to British            Over the years many forces have            that the only safest way to transport
Leyland. In fact, the very first police car   slashed the time allocated to driver        someone who has had their liberty
I drove was an Austin Allegro; this was       training, some have even outsourced         taken from them, is in a vehicle that
soon to be replaced by a one litre Mini       this task. However, it must be              has an area that separates the prisoner
Metro. Both of these vehicles were            understood that driver training does        from the driver or other occupants.
used for general police patrol and were       not automatically make a vehicle fit        I will stress here that I can see that
not supposed to be utilised as fast           for purpose.                                there will be circumstances when
response vehicles.                             The ideal police vehicle would be one      there is no alternative but to place a
                                              that is designed from the road, wheels      prisoner on the back seat of the car.
“The ideal police vehicle                     upwards, then and only then, in             This practice can be extremely
 would be one that is                         consultation with the users would we        dangerous leaving the driver vulnerable
 designed from the road,                      be somewhere near understanding just        if the person detained were to suddenly
                                              what a police car needs to do. It is not    become violent whilst the vehicle is
 wheels upwards, then and                     just performance that makes a police        in motion.
 only then, in consultation                   vehicle, there are many other areas to       This problem could be solved in one
 with the users would we                      be explored.                                of two ways. Firstly, force policy
                                               Driver comfort should be a primary         could state that only appropriate
 be somewhere near                            consideration. Today’s modern police        vehicles should be used for the
 understanding just what a                    officer not only wears body armour,         transportation of prisoners, or there
 police car needs to do.”                     but is also kitted out with a variety of    is the engineering solution. Part of
                                              equipment hanging from a belt               the vehicle specification at design
 It is fair to say that some 23 years later   around the waist.                           stage should take account of a screen
little appears to have changed. Around         A survey of Met officers, carried out      between the front and rear areas of
the country there are still police vehicles   in 2005 as part of the Health and           the car. In practical terms this may
being driven in a way that goes beyond        Safety Executive’s Better Backs             not be appropriate in the smaller
the capabilities for which they were          campaign, found the cockpit design          saloons preferred by most forces
intended. There have been many                of a patrol car was one of the reasons      and therefore may mean that larger
technological advances that have              cited as aiding an officer’s pain and       vehicles would need to be purchased
improved vehicle performance such as          discomfort. As longer tours of duty         to allow sufficient space.
better braking efficiencies and handling      are on the increase, this naturally          In my opinion, the only vehicle
characteristics, but the standard fitting     leads to officers being at the wheel        suitable as an emergency response
of blue lights and sirens does not            for longer periods of time, which in        police car is one that is designed
automatically turn a family saloon car        turn could be exacerbating the back         specifically for the role for which
into a police vehicle.                        pain being experienced. Whilst on           it is intended, not one that is merely
 Most police forces all have some             the subject of back pain, a key area        adapted. Consultation with the users
performance enhanced vehicles on              often overlooked is that of equipment       would go along way to assist in
their fleet for traffic duty or an armed      storage. Personally I have seen and         identifying the right tool for the job.
response unit, where certain                  dealt with a number of injuries to

				
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