BLACK boxes are to be installed in Essex Police cars as a condition of a new car insurance policy.
Officers will be electronically monitored behind the wheel as part of the new policy that is costing the force around £1.9m.
This is £1.4m more than the previous insurance policy that ended on September 30, which cost £500,000.
The huge increase is equivalent to the cost of around 45 police officers and is one of several expensive items Essex Police is being faced with as it heads into its budget setting for next year.
Black box insurance means a car is fitted with a small ‘black box’ device, about the size of a smartphone, which records speed, distance travelled and the time of day or night that it’s on the road.
The device also assesses a driving style by monitoring braking and cornering.
Black boxes are often fitted to new, young and inexperienced drivers.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, has said the increase in the cost of the policy is due to a number of factors.
He said: “Essex Police is a member of the SEERPIC consortium, the South East and Eastern Region Police Insurance Consortium.
“SEERPIC negotiates a number of different insurance policies – including motor, property, public liability etc. – for the ten forces in the consortium: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex and Thames Valley.
“The previous motor policy ended on September 30 and had an annual cost for Essex Police of £500,000.
“The new policy commenced on October 1 and there has been an increase of around £1.4m.
“To date, SEERPIC Forces have not received the final invoices and are, therefore, unable to confirm the exact cost.
“As mentioned above, the increase is due to numerous factors, not just the number or nature of claims.
“Other factors include the insurance market itself and the desire to insure a blue light risk.
“All Forces within SEERPIC have seen an increase in their motor premiums at varying percentages, with Essex Police seeing the third lowest percentage increase of the ten.
“As part of the new contract, our insurers have set out risk management conditions which must be complied with over the next 12 months.
“These include for example, the use of telematics and driver metrics psychometric assessments.
“SEERPIC will, therefore, be working closely with the insurer and internal departments in order to comply with these conditions and improve the risk.”
Planned increases in the number of police officers could be derailed due to substantial financial pressures, including a tripling of the force’s car insurance premiums, Essex’s crime commissioner has warned.
At a meeting with Essex County Council, the crime commissioner raised the spectre of a large precept increase next year to pay for a raft of fiscal challenges, including a £175m overshoot on a nationwide police IT programme that could be top sliced from force budgets and pension demands.
Essex Police paid for 150 new police officers due to start in January from the £12 increase in the force’s part of council tax from April.
However, Mr Hirst wanted to almost double that number to a total of 290 through another £12 precept increase, taking the total number to around 3,140, through an extra investment of around £15 million.
He has warned that financial pressures could hit those plans hard.