Police cars scheme backfires after officer is hurt in crash

A YORKSHIRE officer has been off work for a month injured after a car crashed into the back of her marked vehicle, throwing her over the bonnet, when she stopped to help a stranded motorist on a dual carriageway.

Shaun Wright

The incident in Rotherham, which left the officer with suspected ligament damage, has prompted criticism of the decision to brand dozens of previously unmarked South Yorkshire Police vehicles with police livery.

Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright announced the scheme in March alongside plans to improve standards of dress among CID detectives and produce more signage for the force’s estate to make it more visible in the community.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The changes to 70 vehicles has come under fire from South Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which says those driving them may feel obliged to stop if a member of the public flags them down to deal with an incident for fear of receiving a complaint.

Chairman Neil Bowles said the newly-marked vehicles, which do not have any patrol equipment or blue lights, could present a safety hazard for emergency crews who stop and deal with an incident.

He said the road traffic collision last month involving a uniformed police constable, who is attached to a squad dealing with prisoners, had forced him to raise the issue with the force’s health and safety officer. The woman, who had not been on patrol for many years, pulled over after spotting a car that had broken down in a 40mph dual carriageway.

She put her hazard lights on and approached the vehicle but another car collided with hers and shunted it forward, forcing the officer over the bonnet and onto the ground. She remains off work a month later with suspected ligament damage.

Mr Bowles said officers who were not trained in the use of force or personal safety were at risk in marked cars.

He said: “These cars have no extra equipment and the issue is that if you are driving around in a half-liveried car and a member of the public flags you down, the perception is you have to stop otherwise there will be a complaint.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed in March the scheme would involve 70 unmarked police vehicles being given South Yorkshire Police crests and the word “police”, meaning 500 of the force’s 750-strong fleet will be marked up. The force also plans to overhaul signage, with new signs created at more than 40 buildings across the county to match that at its new HQ in Sheffield.

Another element of the scheme will see police constables and sergeants attached to CID units asked to return to uniform, while detectives will be made more identifiable as police officers.

Mr Bowles said: “The whole idea of CID is to have plain clothed detectives and officers. It is not only endangering staff, it is just fooling the public into thinking that there are more officers then we actually have.”

Mr Wright said in March he wanted to “ensure the highest visibility for the Police in South Yorkshire, and one way of ensuring this is to make use of those existing resources that aren’t being used”.

Speaking about the recent accident, the commissioner said he expressed his “sincere sympathies” to the officer involved, adding: “Any such incident must be very distressing for both the officer and their family.

“My thoughts go out to the officer injured. This incident was an ill-fated set of circumstances and it was unfortunate that a further vehicle travelling along the road is believed to have collided with the marked police vehicle causing injury the officer.

“One of my top priorities is to make the police more visible on the streets of South Yorkshire and to do this I have asked South Yorkshire Police to badge up police vehicles and put more warranted officers back into uniform.

“This police vehicle was being driven by a warranted uniformed officer who chose to stop at the incident on request. It is understood they took every safety measure required at the scene.”

Last month Mr Wright criticised South Yorkshire Police for its poor performance on a number of key crime targets.