Birmingham & Black Country

Police cars with no sirens risk response times, federation says

West Midlands Police car Image copyright PA
Image caption West Midlands Police said only cars with sirens can break the speed limit

Police cars with no sirens are being used for emergency responses, delaying officers and potentially preventing arrests, the Police Federation says.

West Midlands Police has a fleet of 109 Vauxhall Corsa cars intended for neighbourhood policing.

The federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the vehicles had been used for more than 100 urgent calls in the past 12 months.

The West Midlands force said the Corsas were "not intended for response work".

'Frustrating'

The federation's health and safety official Pete Harkness said: "Officers are ordered to drive the Corsa at patrol speed and obey the rules of the road.

"But the absence of a siren means they often cannot get traffic to move out of their way and this, in turn, can delay them getting to an emergency situation.

"This is very frustrating for the officers and they feel they are letting the public down by not getting to them as quickly as possible in a crisis situation."


Examples of delays

  • In a potential kidnap call, officers could only use blue lights and had to take their time travelling through a built-up area. One officer told the federation: "I hope someone can see the sense in putting sirens back on police vehicles before someone is seriously injured."
  • Officers reported being "hampered" and "frustrated" by heavy traffic while responding to a call for back-up from community support officers dealing with a shop-lifter.
  • Another officer, trained as an advanced police driver, told the federation: "I find myself sat at a red light, knowing I could get through safely, but that if something went wrong I'd get kicked off [the force] for careless or reckless driving. The job is challenging enough, so please just give us the tools for the job."

The federation blames cost-cutting for the use of cars without sirens.

Supt Kerry Blakeman, from the force's operations department, said officers who respond to call-outs in cars without sirens have to follow the Highway Code and cannot break the speed limit to cut through traffic.

He said: "Incidents graded as 'immediate' are responded to as soon as possible, usually in a matter of minutes and on many occasions require the use of lights and sirens.

"At no point was the Corsa intended for response work as it is a low performance vehicle."

West Midlands Police, which has had to make £120 million of budget cuts since 2010, must find further savings of £100 million over the next five years. The force has also shed 1,500 officers.

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