Riots: you need police officers for a police surge

by Dan McCurry

Cameron’s contradictions continue to baffle. Crowing before a packed parliament for the riot recall, he hailed the police “surge” as if it was all his own idea. No wonder the police are furious, he wasn’t even in the country when they formed their strategy. Not only did he not invent the police surge, he doesn’t even understand it, judging by the contractions he made.

David Cameron is at his most passionate when making sweeping statements about the waste that comes from officers engaged in back-office tasks. It is true, that having a police officer responsible for neighbourhood watch is more expensive than hiring a civilian to do the task. But the civilian is unlikely to understand the role, as well as being unable to don a uniform, at a moment’s notice, to face down a riot. If you lose the officer, you lose the ability to surge.

As for the neighbourhood forums; are the police wasting their time, speaking to the public, when they should be out there nicking people? This is arguable, but the job of being a police officer is not simply to enforce the law, but also to reassure the public that there is a system in place protecting them.

When serious allegations of child abuse in a dysfunctional family emerge, it is normal practice for social workers to meet with police officers and the CPS in order to decide the best way forward. If the police are to be removed from this back-office task, can a civilian worker fulfil their role, and what would be the training and qualification for this civilian worker. If a former social worker was qualified, what’s the point of the meeting without the input of an experienced officer?

Would it be possible for the civilian worker to be trained in public order policing, in order that she can assist when a terrorist incident creates the need for a surge? If so then the savings made by employing a civilian worker, would be lost by the expense of having to provide extensive training.

There are situations where expensive police officers should not be deployed. Having one hundred officers slowly walk across a field in search of clues to a nearby murder, probably isn’t the best use of resources, when civilians could do the same task equally well. But to claim that officers are only doing their job if they are actively engaged in answering 999 calls, is failing to recognise the wide range of duties that they undertake.

A reserve list, and better incentives for specials, would help with wide fluctuations in ebb and flow. But the ability to rapidly take officers from office activities and deploy them quickly in the field would be seriously undermined by the determination to seriously reduce their overall numbers.

Mr Cameron believes that he can cut police numbers and guarantee future police surges. Many Labour MPs, and much of the British public, cannot reconcile these two opposing statements. The prime minister must rethink this short-sighted policy.

Dan McCurry is a Labour activist whose photographic and film blog is here.

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4 Responses to “Riots: you need police officers for a police surge”

  1. Nick says:

    Just another Labour target. It’s the numbers that count. What those people actually get up to is irrelevant.

    You’ve got the same attitude as a first world war general. Lets throw more bodies at the enemy. It must work, mustn’t it?

    Far simpler to cut the crap paper work and get the bodies on the street. It’s no good if they are sitting at desks eating doughnuts and illegally accessing the police computers for their friends at the Guardian.

    Very simple isn’t it. Labour spent all the money. There is no money left. People won’t work for nothing.

    Biblically, we are reaping what Labour has sown.

  2. David Talbot says:

    The second to last paragraph seems a bit garbled.

    Good piece Dan but alas I am shortly to argue the exact opposite of your argument over on LabourList. The police service has the highest numbers of staff in its 180 year history and a budget 47% higher than in 1997. The proposed cuts will take the force back to resource levels it enjoyed in 2003/04.

  3. john p Reid says:

    Er police civilians do go through fields looking for forensics, Cmaeron is right that there are to many police in back room jobs, but this isn’t due to Laobur, but the Major Government introdicing the CPS and making CID do papaer work that beat police should do, yes that means that beat P.C.s would be spending more of their shifts inside, but it would also eman you wouldn’t need so amny CID in the first place, remember laobur itroduced the Serious organsied crime agency to make some polce give up their warrant cards to become SOCA, yet they were effectively Civilian versions of Detctives.

  4. Dan McCurry says:

    David, Sorry about the typos. I’m sure urs is better in this regard.

    I agree with your point about CPS added a whole new layer of bureaucracy. They calculate less court time due to CPS tightening up on the needs of evidence, but they don’t count the sheer cost of slowing the system down. They should go back to the Sergeant making the decisions in the regular crimes.

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