A retired senior police officer whose son died in a collision has criticised Sussex Police leaders for their “disgraceful” abstention of responsibility on road safety.
Alan Wingrove, of Sovereign Harbour, has written to the Herald after the paper reported Chief Constable Giles York saying he was “quite tired” of the number of fatal road collisions.
Mr Wingrove said, “Whilst Mr York’s comment of being ‘quite tired’ of the number of people being killed and seriously injured may just have been ill-advised, it is still offensive to those who have lost loved ones as a result of a road traffic crash.
“I’m so sorry he is ‘quite tired’. So am I. I’m tired of these so-called ‘leaders’ of the police service being quick to gain credit for any small improvements, whilst dismissing increases in crime and the failings of their service.
“An abdication of responsibility that is beyond disgraceful.”
Mr Wingrove lost his 22-year-old son, Adam, in a car accident in 2013, and has since made voluntary presentations to police Family Liason Officers (FLOs) around the country.
He said the frontline officers were “fantastic and desperately trying to provide a level of service” but the pressures staff were under was evident and this made it become a process.
He said, “I have been shocked at the true state of reduced policing, which the public are generally unaware of.
“Now, Giles York says he has had meetings with the Fire and Rescue Service, who have ‘a strong mandate to make our roads safer’.
“Nothing to do with the Police Service then, Mr York?”
Mr Wingrove also criticised Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne for cuts to the service and mismanagement in making these savings.
He said, “On Ms Bourne’s website she says she has a ‘small team’ to support her.
“Actually a team of 20 and just the three publicised salaries are £254,050 – that would pay for 10 police officers – and that is without her £85,000 wages and the salaries of the other 17 members of her ‘small team’.
“At the same time, she’s consulting about a £5 increase in the precept on our Council Tax?”
He added that the 26 per cent reduction in PCSO sickness, which Ms Bourne called ‘phenomenal’, is in fact due to reduced numbers of staff.
Chief Constable Giles York said, “I am so sorry if my choice of words may have appeared clumsy and caused offence to anyone who has been in the desperately sad position of losing a loved one anywhere on the roads. That was never my intention.
“However, far from abrogating my responsibilities to protect the road users of Sussex, I was trying to put across how determined and energised I am in taking a personal interest in supporting the work Sussex Police’s Roads Policing officers do to reduce casualties and encouraging others to share that determination.
“This includes galvanising our efforts with the fire service, in meeting with their chiefs, and also maximising the contribution from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.
“Everyone, including our emergency service colleagues, other partners and the general public, can do their bit in making anti-social driving completely unacceptable.
“We are having to work with smaller budgets and fewer people. However, this does not mean that our service will be any less professional and while difficult decisions have to be made, I remain committed to protecting the people of Sussex, prioritising the most vulnerable.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commisioner Katy Bourne said, “I was terribly saddened to hear of the tragic circumstances in which Mr Wingrove’s son died.
“I think he should be applauded for his former service to the public, both as a former officer and for his continuing mission to improve police services.
“Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were introduced as the most significant reform of policing for a generation, designed to hold police forces to account and engage local communities more directly in the policing priorities for their area. PCCs are also responsible for setting the police budget.
“In November and December I asked people in Sussex if they wanted to pay an additional £5 per year to invest in more than 100 more officers and specialist staff.
“Nearly 80 per cent of the 4,500 people who responded to our consultation said they were willing to pay £5 or more to strengthen local policing.
“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has shown that the costs of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office are the sixth lowest in England and Wales at £2.90 per head of population. (www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/sussex-2016-value-for-money-profile.pdf).
“HMIC’s 2016 Value for Money Profiles report, published last November, shows that Sussex Police is good value, with 71 per cent of its workforce on the operational frontline, which is just above the average of 70.6 per cent, despite the policing element of council tax in Sussex being the fifth lowest in England and Wales.
“Sussex Police’s Local Policing Programme is the Chief Constable’s plan to modernise policing and use all available resources to tackle crime effectively.
“I constantly monitor and challenge how the programme is being implemented in my monthly Performance and Accountability Meetings with the Chief Constable which the public can see webcast live.
“Over the coming months – on behalf of the public – I will be looking for evidence of the impact of the extra police officers and staff on local policing results and public confidence.”
Mr Wingrove’s comments were made in response to an Eastbourne Herald article by Joshua Powling, published on Friday, February 3, on page 22.