The discussion and debate continues about privatising the police and outsourcing policing functions to private companies. The Home Editor for BBC News posted an article on the BBC website recently. He began with;
I have to admit to puzzlement as to why the “breathtaking” proposals that private firms may deliver some police functions have so shocked people
As with any other issue there is often a lot of hyperbole. Those who are quick to voice their outrage are the first heard and this initial response often misses the point and is perpetuated by some of our national newspapers. I think there has been a lot of concern raised across the news and social media that the police are about to be sold out to the likes of G4S, GeoAmey, Reliance and the ex ACPO top heavy GSL Bluelight. If this is the “breathtaking” response Mark refers to then I’d agree. The situation is concerning but I’m not one of those who is expecting routine front line police duties to be handed to private security companies. Sadly though we know only too well how our governments and large organisations work. Whilst the public and the media get into a froth about replacing police patrols with private security company employees the real worrying issues about the proposals will be drift in unnoticed.
Utilising G4S and others is not new. The article points to G4S managing 14k offenders who are monitored on tags. Do the police need to do this monitoring? Of course not but there is the guaranteed certainty that when a tag is breached who is called? The police.
There is a further issue on the piece in relation to high risk prisoner movements. G4S or their equivalents do not move high risk prisoners. They hold contracts to staff courts, provide police station to court/court to prison transport services. I’ve worked in custody for many years now. I’ve seen three companies manage our prisoner movements and each and every one of them has failed. They are regularly late which delays the courts and often unable to cope with spikes in demand that we the police cannot predict. If someone on a warrant arrives in custody after the court van has left then they often cannot move the prisoner to court that day. Who does the movement in such instances? The police. Who does high risk movements? The police; generally backed up by advanced driving crews and firearms officers.
The article states;
security firms already patrol and guard major public sector construction projects, railway lines, MoD bases, and public buildings such as government departments, shopping malls and pedestrian precincts.
Security guards do a valuable job but let us not forget that they are NOT police officers. Who do they call when things go wrong? When situations arise that they have no powers or authority to deal with? The police. I take exception to;
and private security firms routinely police football matches and other public events
Private security companies do not POLICE such events. They provide security services, basic crowd control and are nominated as stewards for ground evacuation etc. It is the police who police events and police our communities. Nobody else. This dilution or misuse of the term in this context is misleading. Who do the security companies call upon when staffing a major event when things go wrong? The police.
We have seen a vast increase over the years of private security companies providing services to specific community areas. They drive around in cars marked up like police vehicles and wear uniforms that are as close to police uniform they can get without breaking the law. As a special many years ago I was ridiculed by a drunk. “What the f&$k can you do? Your just a plastic.” Many PCSO’s will be able to recount how they have ended up in a situation where they have had a similar comment hurled at them. Security guards are the same. “What are you going to do about it. Call the police?” Chief Constables have even gone to the extreme of single crewing patrols because that way the perception is there are more of us on duty! PCSO’s were regularly given uniform that made them look like police officers. You had to look closely to see if they were actually a police officer or not. Why? The answer is obvious. Image is what seems to count and kidding people into thinking things are better than they actually are is common. I tell you now that the general public may struggle to tell the difference sometimes but the criminal fraternity don’t. As someone stated in the comments on the article; Dumbing down lowers the bar for entry into criminality.
The argument is that outsourcing is not new. I’d agree it’s not new. My concern is the continual and gradual erosion of the police service across the country. A police officer is an omni-competent person able to deal with anything that comes their way and can change role at the drop of a hat. We are the most flexible workforce in the country. That resilience is being eroded. Officers are de-skilled as some tasks and responsibilities are taken from them. Those skills are never renewed as training is not needed and an unnecessary expense.
The police are a stand alone, not for profit, organisation. We are relied upon to provide a service come rain, shine, hell or high water. We run toward problems whilst others run away. We cannot strike and we need a back up service behind us that is bound by the same commitment with terms and conditions. When the privately employed staff covering police duties go on strike who will keep the police running? It won’t be us because we won’t know what to do and will not have the skills required. This is covered in my other blog
There are so many issues to cover. When somebody doesn’t know what to do they call the police. We give advice on the phone or we visit and reassure. It may not be a police matter but it’s a service and it’s important to that service user. Financial viability does not come into the decision. Private companies will look to save money and standards will as a result be lower. Justice and police reassurance should come without a price tag.
There are less than 135,000 police officers in this country now. A significant reduction in 12 months from 140,000. It is getting less all the time. Of those 135k there may be 3/5ths on duty during a 24hr period and 2/5ths on rest day. Those officers on rest day can be called upon at the drop of a hat to provide back up and resilience to deal with an unexpected situation/incident. Those on duty can have their shifts extended and be retained on duty in similar circumstances. There are also 135,000 of us who are members of your community, live in your area and want the best for our community and children and security as much as you do. Which is why if you ask a police officer how many times he/she has stepped into a situation whilst off duty and dealt with something you will find, pound to a penny, every single one of them has and most likely countless times.
The current attacks on the police are reaching the point where officers have lost the good will to “make” the job work. We have done ourselves a disservice over the years by doing this because it looks like we were coping with the staff we had. In reality we weren’t.
Apathy at the current situation is astonishing. I’ve spoken to many officers who have no interest in going to London on May 10th. They have already admitted defeat. They have already given up. I want you to watch the video clip at the end of this blog. Compare it to the police and the attacks by the government.
We have carried people on our backs for years and all has been well but we are tired. We are low in morale and there are those of us who believe the Government will defeat us. Have you already written off May 10th? Have you already written off your pension and your pay? Watch the video. With determination, with encouragement, with power and strength we can still go a long long way.
Get off your butt and get to London. Be there. Make a difference.