Posts Tagged ‘community policing’

Riots: you need police officers for a police surge

21/08/2011, 11:02:26 AM

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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