Sunday, 8 November 2015

An uncertain future for policing: "It is the fact that places such as genteel Frinton no longer feel they can rely on the state."

There has been considerable debate at the Town Council on the future of policing: 
Futures Forum: An uncertain future for policing in Sidmouth and Devon

As indeed there has across the County:
Devon and Cornwall Police 'may cut 760 officers' - BBC News
Police chiefs lambaste Home Office funding 'shambles' | Western Morning News
Tory MPs accused of 'failing' constituents in police funding debate | Western Morning News

This will be debated at County Council:

My question for the leader of Devon County Council - Cabinet - Wednesday 11 November 

Posted: 05 Nov 2015

“Devon & Cornwall Police are to cut 760 officers. The chief constable has indicated that this will mean that the focus will only be on high risk crime, in the future. “Will the cabinet urgently be writing to all Devon MPs urging them to publicly speak out against these extremely damaging cuts?”

My question for the leader of Devon County Council - Cabinet - Wednesday 11 November - Claire Wright  

Interestingly, the solid Conservative press have been very critical of the cuts:
Police budget cuts branded "madness" as rural forces complain they are being unfairly penalised - Telegraph
Bobbies on the beat could vanish, warns police watchdog - Telegraph
The true impact of cuts to police funding | The Times
Britain's police force is at BREAKING POINT: Savage cuts risking public safety | UK | News | Daily Express

One solution is to employ private security people to police the streets:

Plymouth city centre to be policed by private security officers in bid to cut crime

By Plymouth Herald | Posted: October 09, 2015

By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, @WTelfordHerald

Comments (23)

PLYMOUTH city centre is to be patrolled by private security guards during shopping hours under a scheme aimed at stopping crime and anti-social behaviour.

Dubbed the Parc Rangers, the “officers” will deal with criminals and troublemakers – such as shoplifters, drug dealers and street drinkers – and assist the police. But they also have other functions, including being a friendly face for shoppers and visitors, offering advice, helping with lost children and even providing first aid.

Low-key patrols began last month and already the Rangers have helped 76 retailers deal with crimes, intervened in 50 incidents of anti-social behaviour and another 20 breaches of the peace, and helped with one police arrest.

They have also homed in on nuisance people banned from the city centre under Parc’s exclusion scheme, and given medical attention to two people.

Plymouth city centre to be policed by private security officers in bid to cut crime | Plymouth Herald

And the same is probably coming to Exeter:

Police cuts could lead to 'creeping privitisation'

By Western Morning News | Posted: November 05, 2015

By Mike Bramhall

A Westcountry MP has hit out at the ‘creeping privatisation’ of the police force amid fears of further swingeing cuts, which he says would hit community policing. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw spoke out after it emerged that Exeter could follow Plymouth in introducing a retailer-funded city centre security scheme, and residents in a seaside town announced they were paying a private firm to patrol their streets because of a lack of police.

Exeter MP Mr Bradshaw expressed his fears against the backdrop of Devon and Cornwall Police being forced to make an estimated £54 million of savings due to Government cuts, leading to the prospect of a string of police stations being closed and sold off, and the loss of 1,300 personnel. According to a leaked document, this could include 700 police officers and the force’s 360 Police Community Support Officers.

Last week, it emerged that 300 residents of Frinton-on-Sea in Essex are paying security company AGS £2 a week for staff to drive around the town every night between 7pm and 7am, because of a lack of police. The town’s police station closed 20 years ago, and the nearest is set to be closed and sold by Essex police due to spending cuts.

Mr Bradshaw said: “I am extremely concerned about the further huge cuts in police funding and the creeping privatisation of law enforcement that is happening as a result. The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner is threatening to take his own Government to court over its failure to fund our local police service properly, and we face losing the visible community policing which has been so valued in Devon and Cornwall over decades.”

But South West Devon Tory MP Gary Streeter said he was confident that people in the region would not need to copy Frinton’s example, once details of police budgets are finalised next month. He said: “A lot of reports about the size of possible cutbacks are exaggerated. We have been talking to the police and Home Office for some weeks, and we will not know until December what the settlement will be. But we are confident that it will be significantly better for our region than has been broadcast by some.

“There is no doubt it will be a difficult spending settlement. Devon and Cornwall Police must continue to improve the way it does things, for example in terms of cooperating with other forces and cost savings in the back office. But I am very hopeful we will keep our Police Community Support Officers – we all want to see them kept. The number of officers leaving will be nothing like as has been reported in the Press. I am optimistic.”

Mr Streeter said he was not aware of any moves to implement any Frinton-style schemes in the South West, adding: “We in South West Devon are in a very low crime area. I’m not aware of any communities that feel under threat from repeat burglaries and I’m not aware of any calls for private security to be expanded.”

In Plymouth, the ‘Parc Rangers’ initiative, in which city centre retailers are paying for the shopping area to be patrolled by private security guards during trading hours, has got off to a positive start.

Ian Warmington, retail co-ordinator of Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc), said the Rangers scheme – aimed at stopping crime and anti-social behaviour – was being closely monitored by Exeter. He said: “Exeter contacted me when we first launched in September. It is all down to funding, but I think Exeter will follow shortly.” Mr Warmington said the Rangers were dealing with around 150 incidents a week.

He said: “It is not all to do with anti-social behaviour or thefts; many are to do with giving people directions or first aid issues. The response has been amazingly good. We are not a replacement for the police and we are not trying to take their place. The Rangers have very low level powers and are an added benefit as we try to make Plymouth a nicer place to shop, work and play.”

Ben Bradshaw Frinton security police cuts Tony Hogg | Western Morning News

This week, the media has reported widely on the seaside Essex town:
Private security firm paid to fill void left by police cuts - Telegraph
'We're not vigilantes': why Frinton has hired its own security | UK news | The Guardian
Frinton … East Devon … take your pick | East Devon Watch

There are very obvious parallels with East Devon's seaside towns:

Frinton-on-Sea in Essex is 'forgotten England', abandoned by politics

7 November 2015

Frinton-on-Sea is very prosperous by the standards of this part of the north Essex coast. But most criminals would think twice before thieving in a town wedged between a railway line and the North Sea with just one proper road in or out. Anything out of the ordinary here is swiftly noted, usually with suspicion.

Hi-viz security: Steve Beardsley (left) and a colleague have been hired to patrol Frinton's streets

On the surface, then, Frinton would not appear to be a town with a great deal to worry about. So why have local residents felt the need to hire an additional, private police force at their own expense? The answer is not so much to do with crime. It is a symptom of a much deeper malaise which should perplex the political class far more than squabbles about tax credits or Trident missiles. It is the fact that places such as genteel Frinton no longer feel they can rely on the state.

Many people all over the country feel not merely neglected but abandoned by central government. They pay their taxes, as they have always done, but the services which they expect in return — be it health, education or policing — are now in steep decline.

And, while the simplistic Left like to blame it all on ‘Tory cuts’, these citizens know it’s not all about budgets. Instead, it’s about the fashionable causes and warped priorities of a richly rewarded managerial elite versus the expectations of the people they serve.

For example, the public hear the Chief Constable of Surrey saying that her officers may no longer bother chasing car thieves or those who drive away from petrol stations without paying.

They hear the Police Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall say officers may no longer bother investigating some suicides or those who do a runner from a restaurant (in an area dependent on tourism).

They hear the Police Commissioner for Bedfordshire saying — as he did this week — that motorway speed cameras might be recalibrated to extract fines from the tiniest infractions (with no mention of ‘road safety’).

Yet they also know there are plenty of police available to swoop on pensioners who remonstrate with feral youths, or to take sneak photos of celebrities from helicopters, or to round up journalists who talk to whistleblowers and so on. And sympathy is in short supply.


At the same time, central government is planning 10,000 new homes for the district, with no obvious employment for all the new arrivals, let alone extra health workers or schools.

I meet local councillors Jeff Bray and Richard Everett — both members of the Ukip opposition on the Tory-controlled district council — who say that Whitehall is clueless about the impact it will have. Mr Bray represents a ward where an outlying village of 750 homes is on course to absorb 1,000 new ones. ‘Where is the infrastructure and who will live in these houses if there isn’t the work here?’ he asks.

To cap it all, local policing is shortly to go through the wringer. Faced with making £63 million of savings over the next five years, Essex Police is about to cut 15 of its 25 walk-in stations and shed 190 of its 250 police community support officers (PCSOs). The nearest police base to Frinton-on-Sea, in neighbouring Walton, is to be sold.

‘This is the England that the politicians take for granted,’ says local MP Douglas Carswell, who defected to Ukip from the Tories and is his party’s only MP. ‘These are people who have paid into the system all their lives. Now they find themselves let down by the sheer incompetence of the state and by a political class cocooned in another world, spouting figures handed to them by civil servants.’

It certainly helps to explain why so many people in Frinton have agreed to sign up with local security firm AGS, paying £2 a week in exchange for nightly street patrols.

Some people, though, have derided the idea as a waste of money.

And local politicians from all parties question it, especially since Frinton and Walton already use part of their town hall funding to pay for six extra PCSOs.

This week, at a hot-tempered public meeting in nearby Clacton, the Police Commissioner for Essex, Nick Alston, said he was ‘not a fan’ of the scheme and that it was a ‘surprising’ move given the extra PCSOs.

But, for many, it is simply a small price for reassurance in an uncertain world. Locals know the PCSOs are off-duty for most of the night and, by day, often travel by bus or bike. These private patrols have at least two vehicles going non-stop from dusk to dawn.

‘I’m all for them, especially in a place like this which is a bit out on a limb,’ says local resident Ken, who works for a courier firm. ‘Sometimes, I am on the road at 4am and I like the fact that you see these patrol cars driving around.’

At the Jade Chinese restaurant on Connaught Avenue, owner David Lau says AGS did an excellent job with a violent customer a few weeks ago. ‘They were here in two minutes and sorted it out,’ he says, adding that the police arrived 15 minutes later. He believes the police are doing their best but fears that planned reforms will only reduce their presence. ‘Without the police, what can we do?’ asks Mr Lau.

A few doors up, Suga Jay, owner of the Premier Convenience Store, praises AGS for tracking a couple of hoodlums who kicked in the door of her shop to steal a six-pack of beer.

Not all agree. ‘I’ve worked in many cities and Frinton is very safe,’ says Will Hopkins, supervisor at the town’s solitary pub, The Lock & Barrel. ‘This is just feeding paranoia.’

As I drive around Frinton with AGS boss Steve Beardsley, it’s clear that many people — especially women — are glad to see his vehicle with its fluorescent police-style livery. There are waves from mothers outside a local primary school. ‘Saw you on the telly last night!’ shouts one, who has seen him on one of umpteen news reports. At a building site for 13 new flats, Mr Beardsley stops to talk to the foreman who congratulates him. He hasn’t lost so much as a bag of cement since the patrols started.

Local councillor Giles Watling isn’t so impressed, though. The former actor in the TV soap Bread, who was a Tory candidate at the last two parliamentary elections, says: ‘This is a beautiful place where people live very happily. I’m uncomfortable that the role of the police is being taken over by an organisation which smacks of vigilantism.’

However, Mr Beardsley, 50, stresses that crime is low and that he is neither a vigilante nor a quasi-cop. ‘We are certainly not the police, but we work alongside them,’ he explains. ‘Vigilantes take the law into their own hands, whereas we leave that to the police. We are eyes and ears and a deterrent. At most, we might make a citizen’s arrest, but only until the police turn up,’ says Mr Beardsley, who carries no weaponry beyond a walkie-talkie and a camera. (As a member of the local RNLI lifeboat crew, he also has a bleeper for emergencies at sea.)

Once 300 Frinton households had agreed to pay £2 a week for multiple nightly patrols, he was under way. And it is catching on. This week, a similar service has started in the neighbouring town of Holland.

In other words, this is not just about crime: it’s about neighbourliness. Not so long ago, people would have relied on friendly local services or next-door neighbours for this sort of mutual aid.

The fact that people now feel obliged to pay for such a basic community service is a terrible indictment of the state we’re in.

Frinton-on-Sea is too old and white for our politicians to care about | Daily Mail Online

The 'natural alliance' between the 'party of law and order' and the police seems to be breaking down:

The Tories and the police - who is playing who?

SAM WALTON 22 May 2015

Sometimes it would be extremely helpful to the police for protesters to break windows at key sites...

The Conservative Party position themselves as tough on crime and the party of law and order, and historically they have had a natural alliance with the police. Certainly their track record of implementing contentious policies has meant they have needed the police firmly on their side.

The announcement of cuts to police budgets by the last Coalition government may therefore have come as something of a shock to the police, and their representative body, the Police Federation. In spite of the fact that the police suffered far less severe cuts than other services, there was strong and sustained reaction to any notion of a decline in numbers or pay. The Police Federation marched in numbers, booed Theresa May at their conference and generally attacked anyone who opposed them. But they employed less obvious and more Machiavellian tactics as well.


And then there is ‘Plebgate’ - you all know the story. Senior Tories took the saga as a declaration of war. Throughout the Conservative Party, scales began to fall from eyes.

It seems you can cover up the deaths of 96 football fans, take bungs from and fail to investigate journalists whilst they invade the privacy of hundreds of people in the public eye, baton and push a man to death on film and then try and cover that up, systematically profile and harass black and ethnic minorities over decades (I stopped making a list at this point but could have gone on avery long time); and you will only hear murmurs and encouragement from the Conservative party. But lie (or worse tell the truth) about one minister calling you a pleb, and the “a few bad apples” excuse seems to wear thin. Suddenly all the stories from minorities about police repression became credible in the eyes of the privileged Tory elite.

Investigating MPs expenses vaguely effectively won’t have helped things either.

I am not the first to point out that the police have a somewhat closed culture. A big part of this is that all posts above constable are filled only by internal promotion. All senior police officers used to be junior police officers. This means that for the police the respect of fellow police is vital to career progression. Even if a police officer is not ambitious, they all want to stay in the police for 30/35 years to get their wonderful pension. Stepping out of line is very tricky in such a closed culture.

The power of the culture that exists in the police motivates police officers to stick together and close ranks, and is at the core of why the Police Federation is so strong. It means the police can pull off miscarriages of justice so big they are impressive in purely logistical terms. It means that the police and ex-police will never be effective at investigating the police. As an aside, it is also a big factor in the police's phenomenally inbred and counter-productive internal politics, and treatment of outside influences - from the public to politicians - as a threat.

If the top police jobs are not reserved for police then that completely changes and disrupts the careerism and blue code of silence or ‘Omerta’ culture that is such a part of modern policing. This made it the perfect target for the Tories, and gave them an opportunity to attack what the Police Federation cares about the most.

Cameron’s idea that an American should head the Met, then Britain’s most senior police role, did not go down well. But was nowhere nearly as offensive as Home Secretary Theresa May’s plans to recruit senior police from outside of the force. It did not help that the Conservatives had already imposed Police & Crime Commissioners, creating new ‘top dog’ posts which are universally hated by the police (although ignored by the public).

But that is not all the Tories have done to undermine the police’s culture. They dismantled the navel gazing National Police Improvement Agency, and created the College of Policing - encouraging police to research and study with other members of the public, not just on campuses filled entirely with police. Theresa May has also made some effort to strengthen the “overwhelmed, woefully under-equipped and failing” ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission. For the first time ever someone who has not been a police officer (and therefore might be effective) was appointed as head of the main body charged with scrutinizing the police - a move that was desperately unpopular. Finally, in case anyone doubted that this was war, Theresa May cut all funding to the Police Federation.

So the Police Federation has fought back the only way they know how - viciously. However, unlike with previous governments, the state was not relying on the police to control massive protests to quite the same degree, and were able largely to implement their reforms. For me this reveals why the police would have a motivation to synthesize a narrative where they were needed to defend the bastions of a Conservative government from protest - by making sure disorder occurred as close as possible to key government structures.

It seems that the government weren’t buying, but don't hold your breath about the effectiveness of reforms designed to transform the police. Police culture is a supertanker on 30/35 years services, still with no outsiders coming into senior posts, and it will take a very long time to shift at all. If a future government needs to rely on the police to crush dissent again, they may have to do what Thatcher and new Labour did - buy off the police with a 45% pay rise or perhaps a 13 year golden ticket to any powers they want.

Ultimately, the end of the affair between two of the most reactionary and repressive groups in Britain can only be a good thing for anyone who wants a progressive society. But with 5 more years with the hated Theresa May reappointed as Home Secretary and more police cuts likely we are already seeing more shenanigans from both sides. Perhaps it is justice that this Conservative government could well savage the police the same way Thatcher’s savaged the miners.

The Tories and the police - who is playing who? | openDemocracy

In other words, we have a conflict between the law-and-order agenda:
If people can't protest peacefully, they shouldn't be allowed to protest at all - Telegraph
What would a Conservative government do for you? - BBC News
No More Bobbies On The Beat, Under The Party Of Law And Order ? in The AnswerBank: News
The Party of law and order?

... and the small-state agenda:
George Osborne's small state objectives require much bolder action - Telegraph
Further notes on small state interventionism | Conservative Home
Police budget cuts: Unpaid volunteers now working at crime scenes | UK news | The Guardian
Are the Conservatives ideologically driven state-shrinkers? | Flip Chart Fairy Tales
The State of Austerity - STRIKE!

To Finish: In Plymouth, as reported above, private security guards 'have also homed in on nuisance people banned from the city centre under [an] exclusion scheme'.

It is happening elsewhere:

How Policing Works in a Privatized City

Atlantic Station is a city within a city

JEFFREY A. TUCKER Wednesday, June 10, 2015

“All the common areas of Atlantic Station including the streets, sidewalks, parks, and alleys are private property.”

Thus reads one line buried in the Rules of Conduct for Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia: a marvelous city within a city. But it’s this one line that makes the critical difference. It’s why this one-square mile in the heart of this great city has done more to model beauty, prosperity, diversity, and happy living than 50 years of “urban renewal” and other government programs.

The entire community was built on top of the old Atlanta Steel Mill, which opened in 1901 and closed in the 1970s, leaving desolation in its wake. Atlantic Station opened 10 years ago as a visionary entrepreneurial venture — the brainchild of The Jacoby Group, headed by Jim Jacoby — funded mostly with private money (the city helped with tax breaks and some infrastructure funding).

How Policing Works in a Privatized City | Foundation for Economic Education

See also:
Futures Forum: Getting potholes filled: and asking multinational companies to pay their fair share of tax to make it possible
Futures Forum: Volunteers in the community: 'doing jobs for free' or 'empowering communities to take local action'?

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