Automotive

London Police Are Using ‘Tactical Contact’ to Stop Suspected Thieves on Mopeds

GIF: ITV

The London Metropolitan Police released a compilation video late last month showing just how the bobbies deal with fleeing suspects on a moped, and it looks like it more than tickles. It might also be illegal.

Police in London are using their patrol cars to bump fleeing suspected moped robbers. It’s nothing fancy, though they’ve given it a fancy name: “tactical contact.” The Met says tactical contact is only executed by highly trained officers in order to end chases quickly.

Moped-based thefts have plagued London in recent years. Robbers speed by and snatch the mobile devices and bags out of unsuspecting pedestrians’ hands. Police say strategies like tactical contact have helped reduce so-called “ride-by thefts” from 19,455 robberies in 2017 to 12,419 this year. The New York Times however found that the tactical contact was only deployed 63 times this year. Other tactics, such as tracking suspects using helicopters, have proved much more effective.

“There is a perception that if you remove your helmet or fail to stop for police when requested to do so we will not take any further course of action,” Commander Amanda Pearson of Frontline Policing said in a press release. “This is untrue.”

Police are hoping that by showing how tough they can be when dealing with moped robbers, criminals will think twice about committing the act. Tactical contact, however, might be turning the cops into law-breakers. From the Times:

“Judged against the common standard, as police officers are, it is dangerous to drive a car deliberately at another road user,” Tim Rogers of the Police Federation of England and Wales told The Guardian. “The law clearly classifies this as dangerous driving, and officers could be prosecuted.”

The publicity around the video drew attention to a continuing criminal investigation into one chase last year in which a 17-year-old rider who was fleeing the police sustained serious head injuries and fractures. The rider, whose name was not made public, pleaded guilty to five charges, including attempted theft and driving without a license.

“Ultimately, no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent,” the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Britain’s police watchdog, said in an email, “be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint.”

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These images of fleeing suspects flipping over car hoods and wiping out in bushes aren’t the only signs that the Met police department is taking a harder stance against criminals. Some officers will soon be able to carry firearms while on patrol, a change from the famous tradition of police walking their beats unarmed.

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