Way back on the 23rd June this year, some two and a half months ago, I posted an article centred around a bike cam video excerpt I captured in the centre of Walsall. This, as I’m sure readers will recall, showed a marked west midlands police vehicle making a prohibited right-turn from the bus lane in Hatherton Road onto Lichfield Street. This wouldn’t normally have vexed me too much, but at the time, and subsequently, West Midlands Police issued press releases stating how many civilian drivers they had stopped and ticketed for the same manoeuvre. The vehicle in question clearly wasn’t in a hurry, and was not displaying blue lights or using it’s siren. The recording is shown below.
The post engendered a range of responses – mostly supportive of my view, but a few felt the police had every right to do this. At the time, I drew my concern to the attention of West Midlands Police officers on twitter, and to their press office. A great dialog was held at the time, and the press officers – Jo Hunt and Gina Lycett – have been exemplary in their care and concern for the matter.
Sadly, it took two and a half months for the press office to obtain a statement on the issue. The press office were initially told that the investigation was ongoing, then that the vehicle log was in the car and that the car was in for repair. Finally, last Friday, the 2nd of Septemper, Gina Lycett contacted me on twitter. The dialog below should be read from the bottom upwards.
I’m sure that any reader having any contact with the police will be as surprised as I am that they do not appear to keep adequate records of who is driving their vehicles. Such protestations on our behalf are always met with stern words and the fine concerned being applied anyway. I’m also saddened that officers I believe to have credibility and integrity did not own up. I expect better from them.
In recent years, West Midlands Police have improved immensely from the closed, aggressive and defensive body they once were. With the drive to community engagement and particularly social media, the force have made huge strides in meeting the public and becoming more human, compassionate and community spirited. I’m therefore sad that this incident seems to reveal that attitudes of the past still linger in the ranks.
Gina was kind enough to obtain an official statement for me for which I’m very grateful. I don’t want a witch hunt here, and want to be supportive of the police in their difficult, hard role. But they have to meet us half way – we expect to see the same standards of behaviour demonstrated from them that they enforce on us. It’s not too much to ask – after all, had the vehicle been demonstrating some urgency, I could have understood the need. As it was, they just looked lost.
The statement reads as follows:
Superintendent Keith Fraser, from Walsall police station,said: “We would reassure the people of Walsall that West Midlands Police expects the highest standards from all our officers and this clearly includes their driving behaviour.
Police officers are bound by the rules of road traffic legislation just like anyone else and they are expected to abide by them. They are afforded exemption in certain circumstances and emergencies, which may account for why police vehicles are sometimes seen parked (such as on double yellow lines) or driving through prohibited locations.
We appreciate this particular matter being brought to our attention and are looking at it and shall take action as appropriate.
In the meantime, all officers and staff who have access to the vehicle have been given formal advice about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities when driving.”
In conclusion, I’d point out the following video I posted back in August. I was pushing my bike across The Bridge in Walsall, when I came across thus officer riding her bike in a pedestrian zone. I want the kids and idiots who cycle here ticketed or at least told off – they get us all a bad name. I just can’t see this WPC having the moral authority to do that, to be honest. As I say, very sad considering the excellent work going on elsewhere in the force.