Postscript (9 May 2018): the issues discussed in this post have been superseded and are dealt with here: https://bangingonaboutbikes.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/on-how-to-report-bad-driving-online-greater-manchester-polices-operation-considerate-reporting-capability/. I’m leaving the below post as it is so we can see the development of these processes over the last couple of years.
I’ve just passed one of the most frustrating hours of my life. There was a Twitter Q&A using the hash tag #askthechief with Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of Greater Manchester Police. I and many other cycle advocates were poised to quiz him on aspects of road crime enforcement, but I don’t think any of us was prepared for what unfolded.
I started by asking a question about drivers texting at the wheel, which is a huge problem in Manchester and beyond. The reference to #OpCon relates to “Operation Considerate”, a crackdown on “anti-social cycling” that takes place each winter to appease the unthinking masses who don’t understand the lunacy of the tabloid-driven stance that cyclists are the biggest menace on the roads (and/or pavements). But I digress.
So anyway, this was my question:
No response. Realising I hadn’t used the @GMPolice handle but ony the hash tag, I had another go, this time to the following question on police priorities for the coming year:
Same point, this time with all relevant contact information. I was expecting some mealy-mouthed reply about they do what they can and balancing priorities and so on, but nothing like the dismissive, condescending and downright ignorant response that actually came:
— G M Police (@gmpolice) December 16, 2015
Let’s unpick that a little. First of all, they do some enforcement, which is good. But not as much as possible, let alone acknowledgement of it as a priority. Which is bad. But then: “have serious crime to tackle”. I.e. road crime is not considered serious. Very real risks of death or serious injury are not considered serious. The figures suggest otherwise: in the year to June 2015, 569 homicides were recorded by police. In 2014, 1,775 people were killed on the UK’s roads. So well over three times as many people die as a result of low-priority traffic offences compared to “serious crime”. Hard to see why that isn’t a priority.
And then, the icing on the cake: “Manufacturers could do more to reduce need for enforcement”. I mean, what does that actually mean? Manufacturers of what? Cars? Bikes? Phones? Children’s toys? In what way can a product replace police enforcement? And that’s not a rhetorical question. If anyone has any ideas, please comment and let me know. So I responded, pointing out the severity of road crime based on the figures cited above and asking for clarification on the manufacturer issue:
Which seemed perfectly ligitmate. I genuinely do not understand how many of the offences committed by drivers can be prevented by any kind of manufacturer intervention. Dealing with bad drivers is the police’s job. No response. At least, from the police. Plenty of bewilderment and outrage from other Twitter users:
— Simon (@muddydwarf) December 16, 2015
— Craig Newman (@boyhood_bravery) December 16, 2015
Etc. etc. So there you have it. Greater Manchester Police do not consider vehicular assault and aggression to warrant anything more than lip service. Instead they focus their limited resources on other areas. Now I’m not trying to play down the severity of burglary, mugging, rape, murder or any serious crime of that ilk, which we all know has a deeply traumatic effect on the victims. The point I am making is that the police’s priorities are skewed. One thing you end up talking about a lot when you do cycle advocacy is risk. For instance, it’s disproportionate to treat cycling and driving offences equally because cycling offences pose a much lower risk. There is no mandatory requirement to be insured on a bike because bicycles pose a much lower risk. And so on. And that’s the case here: how can the police not consider an area of policing with an annual bodycount in excess of 1,700 to be a lower priority than e.g. crimes against property? Again, not downplaying the effects of those crimes, just trying to ascertain why the patently huge issue of road crime is afforded such a low priority, and the genuine concerns of vulnerable road users dismissed, within GM Police’s system of prioritisation? As I said in another tweet, the risk of vehicular violence far outweighs the risk of any of what he appears to consider “serious crime”. If you ride a bike it’s a daily occurrence:
If he’d toed the resources line, fair enough. There’s not much you can argue with about that. But actually saying “I don’t consider your concerns serious enough to warrant substantive police input” is frankly insulting and is indicative of a dangerous and worrying complacency in policing policy around road violence.
The truly chilling realisation from the session was that we really are on our own out there with the motorised morons. The police clearly just don’t care. A truly scary state of affairs.