Electric cars too slow and expensive for police, says Avon and Somerset commissioner

Thursday 28th October 2021 9:00 am
PCC candidate Mark Shelford. ()

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Police officers in Avon and Somerset won’t be chasing suspects in £40,000 Teslas in the next few years.

Mark Shelford, the police and commissioner who holds the purse strings for the force, was urged to do more to address the climate emergency but said his priority was keeping people safe now.

He will consider investing in electric cars when the technology improves and prices come down.

The PCC said he wants to follow the lead of Avon Fire and Rescue Service, which has more than halved its carbon emissions since 2008 and has a 10-year environmental plan.

Introducing his first draft police and crime plan after his election in May, Mr Shelford told a public meeting on October 26: “The golden thread that runs through from my manifesto to the plan is about the police changing their focus to prevention.

“We want to stop crime happening, not run around locking people up. We will still do that but the focus must be on preventing crime.

“We haven’t set percentage targets because that often creates the wrong type of policing.”

Councillor Andy Wait said the force needed quantitative targets, especially when it came to climate change, pointing to numerous councils aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The police and crime plan says the force should reduce its carbon footprint, cut its fuel, energy and water use, reduce waste and recycle more – but it does not set targets and says the changes will not come at the cost of the service to the public.

The PCC said: “Operational effectiveness is my priority. The ask for me is about keeping people safe right now.

“We’ve put into effect a study to look at our buildings and vehicles.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to have a fleet of electric vehicles – it’s not going to deliver the response speed we need and it would cost a fortune to deliver.”

Cllr Wait said it was laudable to keep people safe on a daily basis but the plan should look further ahead to issues like flooding.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to say you’re going to keep people safe tomorrow if there’s a tsunami coming 10 or 20 years down the road,” he said, adding that if electric cars are too expensive the PCC should strike a deal with Tesla and other manufacturers to drive the prices down.

Cllr Richard Brown said police officers had previously opposed driving electric cars because of their speed and range but now they can go faster and further.

He suggested a trial at Taunton Police Station, where the council has already installed electric car charging points nearby.

Paul Butler, the PCC office’s interim chief finance officer, said he expected a step change that would drive down the prices of electric cars in the coming years but it would be disingenuous to make abstract commitments now.

Avon and Somerset Police already has a few electric cars but they are not used for responding to incidents. It has invested in solar panels and biomass boilers, uses technology to avoid unnecessary journeys and encourages PCSOs to patrol on bike or foot.

Some 1.7million people live in Avon and Somerset but only 4,000 have commented on the police and crime plan, although that is nearly double the previous response. Only one per cent of responses came from under-18s and 2.2 per cent from 18- to 24-year-olds.

The consultation is open until November 8th. Visit www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/news/2021/10/pcc-publishes-draft-police-and-crime-plan to respond.

LDRS, Stephen Sumner

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