Society Magazine

Economies of Fail – Part 2

Posted on the 10 March 2015 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

Yesterday I wrote about the costs of cuts to frontline Police numbers and how we are having to spend the best part of £2m on overtime for officers to get the essentials done at the end of their shift because there just isn’t time throughout the day.

A major factor in the current workload is that to a greater degree Police are still picking up the baton for many situations where our responsibilities are nothing more than a distant echo of more affluent times – the times when we had enough boots on the ground to stop the kids kicking their football against your wall or ask the neighbours to turn their music down.

Times have changed. Policing has changed. Responsibilities have been re-assessed but the general public still live in a rose-tinted vision of how things used to be.

In order to cope with the core business Police forces have had to take a metaphorical axe to the list of incidents that we will attend in the new world and the customers don’t like it….

Noisy neighbours:
If your neighbours are playing their music too loud that’s a matter for the council and EHO. You can ask, but we may well never get there. I know that this is ASB and that Police have some powers regarding long-term issues but we just can’t prioritise this above serious crime in progress in the majority of cases.

Parking complaints:
Most Police forces now have no ability to deal with double yellow lines or carriageway obstructions. These are again the responsibility of your local council.

Concern for Safety:
Could you just go and check on my friend who hasn’t answered their phone for a day or so? Sorry – unless there is something to suggest that life is at risk it’s probably going to be a no. You would be amazed at the number of calls we get from people who are so concerned about a friend or relative that they haven’t managed to find the time to go to their house (even if its only a couple of miles away) but think that the Police will drop everything and rush round immediately. In years gone by we may have had the resources to do this, but not now – it’s just not going to happen. Sorry!

Lots of people still call the Police to let us know that their neighbours alarm is going off. This is not unreasonable, but unless the alarm is installed/monitored by a company who are contracted to notify the Police and have satisfied the criteria which is required for a Police response or there is something directly suggesting that there is an intruder on the premises then we probably will not attend. By all means call, but don’t be surprised if that is the end of the matter.
Most alarms will go silent in 20 minutes so you shouldn’t have to wait long for peace and quiet to be restored…

Social Services:
Things have improved significantly over the last couple of years, but there are still occasional Friday afternoon phone calls about children that suddenly become more at risk because their case worker is off all weekend and it wasn’t urgent enough while there was a ‘tomorrow’ on the to-do list.

Mental Health:
We are NOT trained in dealing with, understanding the issues involved in, or taking physical control of those with a mental health issue. These matters still get passed to Police on a daily basis when they should be going straight to the medical professionals equipped to deal with them. We won’t put the mentally ill in our caged vans – they are not criminals. We shouldn’t be putting people on a section (136MHA or otherwise) into our custody suites. And we should not be used to drag a reluctant (but not violent) person from their home just because they have been assessed under the Mental Capacity Act and found to be in need of enforced care.
Police work on a pain and compliance basis for controlling people – this is not acceptable as a method of moving someone who is simply unwell.

Sick and Injured:
It’s still a source of amazement to me how many times someone calls the police to report what can only be considered a medical issue. If there is a real chance of someone dying then Police will assist a medical response to force entry or ensure the safety of an Ambulance crew, but we carry barely enough first aid kit to deal with minor cuts and have very basic first aid knowledge. All that happens is that you call us, we call Ambulance and time is wasted. If it’s not criminal then you need the boys and girls in the green jumpsuits – not a copper in a stab vest.

If no one is injured and the road is not blocked you do not need to call the Police. Exchange your details or just get the registration number of the other car and go to your insurer to deal with the claim. Even if you want to tell someone there and then that it was not your fault, we are not going to come. We cannot provide evidence of liability for a minor accident that we have not witnessed so please do not ask.

Lost property:
If you lose your phone (aka Can I have a crime number because my iPhone got stolen from my coat while I was really drunk but I didn’t see anyone take it and I did fall over a lot – ooh is there a new model just being released? I didn’t realise…) then most Police forces offer online reporting for this. You don’t even need to call!

Lost people:
If you are a grown-up, have gone out drinking for the night and then found yourself at the wrong end of town having spent your taxi money on one last Jägerbomb then please don’t call with some sob story or demand that we pick you up as you ‘pay our wages’ and it will be our fault if you ‘end up getting mugged’. Grown-ups who are big enough to go out on the lash should also be bog enough to plan their post drinking transport. You will not be getting a blue light taxi…

Minor crime – not in progress or indicating life at risk:
Again, many forces offer online reporting for this type of incident. Minor damage, low-level theft and other incidents that aren’t in progress or don’t present a realistic chance of locating an offender can all be reported and will receive a response in due course according to the type of incident being reported and the force area you are in.

This list is far from exhaustive but covers the main incidents that generate calls for service where no response is normally given.

In the olden days things were different and we usually had enough time and enough officers to get to them, and to do so with a degree of efficiency. If something minor happened, you could always just pop down to the local Police Station or knock on the door of your village Police house and speak to someone there. Not any more. Those days are gone and will probably never return. We can no longer justify sending an officer to a non-emergency call in most cases – most of the time we struggle to get to the serious stuff in sufficient time or numbers to do the job the way we would like!

This is the new world and it’s still evolving. Further cuts are being enforced this year and payroll is about the only thing left to absorb the latest round of financial reductions. I can’t see what else can be chopped from the list of stuff we do so any further reductions will do nothing but further slow the response of officers to the things we struggle to get to already.


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