The BBC seem to be giving one of my comedy heroes Blair Gibbs some media attention http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14780735
“Officers should wear uniforms on their way to and from work to increase police visibility and help reassure the public, a think tank has suggested.
The right-leaning Policy Exchange said in London that would equate to having an extra 1,200 officers on the streets.”
Now I am sure in some world this is a good idea.
Earlier in the week I tweeted that I was no longer using my warrant card to obtain free travel, after weeks of working double shifts, no rest days, no annual leave and seeing scores of officers having to sleep in corridors at police stations because they can’t get home and back again in time for their next shift I ended up fed up, and knackered when for the second time in as many days I’d got on a bus to start the journey home and the bus driver was calling for my assistance with some minor ticketing issue, the bus sat there refusing to move until I’d “dealt with him” (chap who had the wrong ticket, or no Oyster credit or whatever), I’d worked a succession of extended shifts and not been able to get much more than a few snatched hours of sleep and here I was being asked to deal with some ticketing issue, I really could not be bothered (and to be frank have no clue what the correct course of action would have been anyway) so I paid the driver Â£2.20 for the chap with the wrong ticket and sat back down.
Now this is not unique to me (I know I am a trouble magnet on public transport!) I know several other officers who won’t brief it on the busses, your anonymity goes straight out the window. You no longer get to make the decision about what level of response to incidents, no more quietly sitting and being a professional witness, you’re outed to the entire bus. You have no PPE, you have no radio and if it all goes wrong then you’re relying on someone else having called it in. Now this isn’t to say that we always ignore crime when we’re off duty, we don’t, just sometimes the action we take isn’t always overt.
But it’s my decision, part of the dynamic risk assessment, if I show out, or if I wait for response to get there. Going to and from work in uniform with no PPE and no radio is a huge officer safety issue. Obviously the Policy Exchange have no actual experience of policing, but officer safety is a very important thing, it goes without saying there will be officers who have informed their neighbours they are “dolphin polishers” or “plain clothes astronauts” and some of us don’t want it to be known what we do for a living, we don’t want to draw that level of attention to our homes and our families, we don’t want people coming to us at home and trying to report crimes. Cutting about in uniform when you’re not on duty is not the answer to getting more police officers on the streets, the simple answer is to stop getting rid of them.
We work in a job where most of the people it will be the worst day of their lives when they meet us, because they will either have been a victim of a crime or some other badness will have befallen them, or we are there to take their liberty away. Needless to say the latter don’t always have positive feelings towards us, and there are times when they would like to take a pop at us (this doesn’t happen to people in think tanks, because for the most part the people who have their lives ruined by think tanks are upstanding citizens). So we are faced with the situation where we have a lone officer on their way to work, sans radio, no vest and no equipment some might see them as a vulnerable target.
I have no idea where this post is going other than trying to express why it’s a very very bad idea.
“”Too many sworn officers are hidden away in back offices,” said Blair Gibbs, Policy Exchange’s head of crime and justice.”
Really Blair? What do you describe as a “back office” role? Is it everyone who isn’t in uniform? What about the people you don’t see, the CID officers, the SIOs the countless people who are warranted officers but are in key roles that can’t be filled by a contractor from G4S? (by the way, we don’t have “sworn officers”, you’re confusing us with America again, we have warranted officers.)
I feel we are moving in very dangerous times, where people with no actual experience of the very unique industry in which I work, are making statements about how said industry should be run. We’re the police, we deal with crime, we aren’t here to turn a profit.So how can someone with no operational policing experience, and seemingly very little common sense, be in a position to be passing judgement?
I am considering starting up a Think Tank to deal with Think Tank reform, I believe I am perfectly qualified because I have never worked in a think tank and I have very little idea what one is or what one does.
If you want to increase officer numbers on the streets, reduce sickness and officers wanting to move out of “front line” duties might I suggest improving the quality of the issued uniform and equipment, walking round for 8 hours in a pair of Â£28 boots and some polyester trousers isn’t easy.