At a quick glance what do you see?
Do you see two police officers? You could not be criticised if you think you have.
Take a look at this.
If you were in a situation, needed the police and this drove past. Would you expect to find a police officer (a constable to those who disagree with me about the title) inside?
What about this. An easier one?
It has one of those pesky camera images on the side but still marked up as a police vehicle. Expect a cop inside? Not likely at all I’m afraid.
I’ve said many times before that putting PCSO’s in uniform so similar to police officers was a cheeky ploy by Govt and Chief Officers to increase the uniform presence on the streets. It will be argued by the same that this increases public confidence and reassurance. The problem arises when the public find it difficult to discern the difference between the two. In such cases they will generally assume they are all police officers. Deception.
As the progression of PCSO’s continued forces found themselves needing to provide them with transport. In many regards this was contrary to their primary role of being on the ground in amongst their communities. Some forces provided fully liveried cars with the exception of emergency lights and equipment. Plastered down the side in big letters it said “POLICE”. For all intents and purposes it was a police car. The public see it as a police car and expect a police officer inside. This action will have been seen as a great boon by ACPO as it continued the public reassurance theme initiated by the uniform. I can be certain of this having worked for a force where the Chief Constable insisted there was no double crewing until every available vehicle was out on the road. The message was simple. To hell with officer safety. Get the cars out and make it look like there’s loads of us. Deception.
Many many years ago I cycled with a friend to find the police workshops. My friend had an interview to be a mechanic and wanted to locate the premises beforehand. We couldn’t find it. He got frustrated and angry. I was a little ahead of him and saw him waving down a police van. He clearly wanted directions. The van didn’t stop. It drove right past him and me. He cycled up to me and ranted about the police and how they didn’t give a toss. “What if I’d just been robbed?” he growled. I then pointed out to him that the driver was in oily overalls and looked like a mechanic. No wonder he didn’t stop!
We now have many more police staff who support us in a variety if ways. Some need transport. Some don’t. Where they do there has been a gradual shift to marking up vehicles to show they belong to the police. Some examples are more extreme than others.
The new PCC for Staffordshire has said that all plain vehicles will be liveried. Undercover and surveillance vehicles will be unaffected. So how many vehicles driven by police staff will now be liveried to look like police cars but not have police officers inside? CID officers use plain vehicles for routine work. They are ever so slightly under the radar. That is their role. They visit vulnerable or unwilling victims or witnesses who don’t want a liveried car outside their address. It also has to be said that a detective in a suit looks pretty stupid getting out of a uniform operations vehicle. They need a degree of anonymity to be effective.
The behaviour of senior officers over the years in this area is pure and simple deception. If you place a liveried vehicle on the road the general public will just assume its a cop. We look good and they are none the wiser.
Sadly the nation knows about the cuts. They know we are losing officers hand over fist. The decision of this PCC, and no doubt others will follow suit, is just continuing that deception.
Have a look at this incident in Luton. This sort of event happens daily in rural areas. It’s now filtering into our cities. The officers had no back up. How horrid was it? How awful could it have become? Imagine the public perception and confidence if they witness this incident and see a liveried police vehicle drive past and not stop. I wouldn’t blame the driver. They have no powers, no training and no equipment to deal with such disorder. The public and the media will simply see it as the police showing no interest and ignoring a situation. Only later after much panicking in the press office would the truth come out. Too late.
You can dress a man in a straw boater and a blue and white striped apron and stand him in a butchers shop. It doesn’t make him a butcher but the customers don’t know and expect him to be one.
You can dress up every car to look like a response patrol but unless its a police officer inside then it’s deception.
More importantly, how long before a PCSO or police staff member driving a liveried vehicle turns a corner, is mistaken as a police officer, ambushed, attacked and hurt or worse?
This deception has to stop. It fools the public into a false impression of police resources and puts officers, PCSO’s and staff alike at risk.
It’s deception, or as we say these days in the police; “Fraud by false representation”