Yet more non-police:
It is fairly clear that the government's strategy is to continually build up funding for non-police police, such as PCSOs, Specials, civilian investigators, etc, whilst reducing it for the police itself. The model of civilians with powers that all link together to form a fully-functioning world of criminal justice is quite a clever one, but here is why I think all this cash should go on more "real" police officers instead:
As a police officer, I can patrol, arrest, bosh doors, deal with motoring, investigate crime, put together a case file, seize evidence, charge and interview prisoners, give evidence in court, and chat to Mrs Jones about the sad demise of her favourite cat. More importantly, because I am trained to do all those things, I can also apply my judgment as to when each is needed.
Here's a real example of some every day police work. I get called to a report of some kids mucking about on the High Street. On arrival, there's a broken window, bits of glass across the pavement and a group of kids a bit further up the road acting nonchalant. A passer-by tells me one of the kids did it, and points out the offender. I go towards him, he legs it into a car with his mates. I leg it to my car and manage to stop him round the corner (he's in a metro, ok!). I arrest him, book him into custody, seize fragments of glass from his hair and clothes, take a statement from the witness and the owner of the window, go back and interview the kid, then charge/caution him. I do my statement, and the file, and later give evidence in court. Yes, I'm out of action for the rest of the shift, but the chances are the kid will be convicted (assuming it's a good identification by the witness).
Under the snazzy twenty-first century model of policing, here is how this would be dealt with: A PCSO attends a report of some kids mucking about, as it is designated "non-confrontational". On arrival there is a broken window and a group of kids up the road. A passer-by points out the offender, whereupon the PCSO immediately requests a police officer to the scene to make the arrest. As the police officer approaches, the kid legs it into a car. A traffic officer is summoned to the scene. Miraculously, the traffic car manages to stop the offender nearby. The police officer is called to arrest the kid. In fact, this will have to be a different police officer, otherwise the identification evidence will be ruined. In custody, a civilian attends to seize glass and clothing. A statement-taker is called out to get witness statements. Then, a trained interviewer is brought in to interview the kid. All seven police employees then do witness statements of their involvement in the case, and pass all the information to a file-builder, who prepares the file for court. Any questions the file-builder has must be directed back to the relevant officer/officers, all of whom are required in court if the offender pleads not guilty. None of this is including the fact that a video identification procedure may be required because there was lack of continuity of the suspect, which will involve a further 4-6 weeks on bail and a special video identification officer who will also become a witness. Nobody is solely responsible for the case, so the victim is confused and gets passed from department to department, and the case ends up so complicated it fails in court anyway, or never gets there.
For murder enquiries, frauds or other complex investigations, all these cogs are useful, and fall into place. For simple day-to-day police tasks, which constitute 90% of what we do, it is absurd.
I haven't even started on how the use of non-police alters how we deal with these incidents to start with, in that the above could well end up classified as unwitnessed crime, therefore not investigated at all, or even attended. This is already happening in Blandshire.
I could go onto describe how PCSOs are being used to stop-check offenders for possible crimes, despite not really knowing what they are looking for or what to do if it is the right person. They are being used to do welfare checks on people we are concerned about, despite little idea of how to assess whether a door needs to be forced or not. They attend serious crime scenes and car accidents, to direct traffic and pedestrians, but would be unable to act if the offender/driver appeared in front of them. Civilian crime investigators likewise are generating investigations into shopliftings, burglaries, frauds, without playing any part in the resulting arrest, file or court case, therefore having no real concept of the goal. Any feedback into their work comes a year down the line when the case has failed at court and the investigator's contract has ended anyway.
None of this inefficiency is measurable. But it is insidious and irreversible, and it is utterly ruining the British police force.
I'm not against change for its own sake, I just have an old-fashioned belief in skilled and versatile employees, well-paid and well-trained, and motivated by a deep-rooted faith in the system in which they work.
Failing that, there's always Beach Volleyball.
Coming soon: "Perverting the Course of Justice" by Inspector Gadget. Expect an early review here...
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.