Now as I'm part of the policing organisation I should have some idea of where we are trying to go strategically but I'm actually getting rather confused. I know bringing in changes takes time but at the moment there just seems to be a clash of seismic plates.
On the one hand we have the modernisation and best value plans where the top police brains have looked at our functions and stated what our core responsibilities are. This has been going on for years since the Taylor report, where it was made clear that the police are not actually responsible for public safety at football matches and other commercially organised events. Since then we've also withdrawn from house alarms not connected (paid for) centrally to police and noise nuisance, both of which are referred to the local authority who have the powers to deal that we don't. The Highways Agency now patrol the motorway system to keep it flowing and deal with traffic issues freeing reduced numbers of police to deal with enforcement and accidents. The local authority have street wardens in spanking brand new 4 wheel drive vehicles equipped with CCTV to patrol social housing estates and respond to complaints from residents. Some forces like in the Pilkington case obviously already see low level stuff as non police matters.
We then have the policing pledge where we are to concentrate on the customer and their needs. In reality large numbers of police officers are becoming involved in non police activities attempting to engage with the general public and raise satisfaction levels. Most of this work is done by local neighbourhood teams, one of which I used to lead. There was always a balance to be found between fighting crime and keeping the punters generally happy and reassured. I know it wasn't really the role of my PCSO's to accompany some old people to the dentist or do some chores for them but it did embed them in the community and raise satisfaction levels. It also allowed me to gauge what was going on and the perceptions locally. I also used to totally plan and police local events including processions and community fun days. It still happens and is encouraged but the responsibility actually lies with the organiser for the event.
So who would you call if the neighbours across the road were having a noisy party at 3am on a Thursday night? A call to the police should receive the policy line, contact the duty officer at the local authority, who should in turn contact the environmental health officer. As most of them go off duty at 2am the duty officer would tell you the bad news and invariably say try the police. It's a fact that the police are seen as the service provider of last resort and if we didn't turn out because we've run out of units no doubt you would be pretty dissatisfied with police.
You can see the conflict of policy here as police are withdrawing from having a visible local presence, closing police stations and going towards central bases on industrial estates where all the patrol resources are in one place, with no public contact or access. It makes financial sense but is it focused on the needs of the community who lose their local police station?
The central message coming out has been lost on me so how are the general public supposed to work it out. This needs somebody in Government to sit down and decide what route we should go down. Meanwhile those on the response teams are still running about like blue arsed flies.