Here in Blandshire Constabulary, along with most other forces outside London, we have yoyo-ed between single and double crewing for years. Every now and again a chief comes along who notices that if everyone were single-crewed, there would be double the number of crews out there. Then another chief comes along who points out that this means needing double the amount of cars (in non-urban areas), and a decrease in safety. At present, Blandshire is in a state of sort-of-single-crewing. In that the Senior Management Team accept that it is unacceptable to transport prisoners single-crewed, but that they do rather like the idea of double the number of arrests being made. My colleagues and I spend a good proportion of our day arresting people single-crewed and then waiting with them at the side of the road until another colleague can come along to transport them to custody with us.
- Transporting a prisoner. You simply cannot safely keep an eye on a prisoner and drive at the same time. Even in a van, if the person has been struggling, is very drunk, or injured, they are a risk to themselves in the back and should be monitored.
- Forcing entry to a premise. This can be dangerous in itself, let alone what happens when you get in.
- Pursuing a criminal. You often end up doing this alone, especially if you are a lot faster or slower than your crew-mate. But anyone running away might well fight if you catch them, so it's best to do it in pairs.
- Search a suspect. Apart from it being against the Code of Practice to search alone, it's also full of hazards.
- Pursuing a fleeing vehicle. Again, people do, but providing a proper radio commentary whilst driving at speed is not really ideal.
- Attending domestic incidents. Domestics are probably the "moodiest" situations we go into. Not only will you almost certainly be arresting someone who doesn't want to be arrested, but the chances are the victim will also launch a violent assault on you.
- Attending road traffic accidents. You need to be able to watch or direct the traffic whilst giving first aid/taking witness accounts, and you can't do those at the same time.
- Dealing with assault/robbery as it happens. If you go legging it after the villain, who's going to help the victim. If you don't leg it after the villain, what will the victim think?
- Attending sudden deaths. We go to these solo all the time, but we shouldn't have to. You never know just when a death is going to strike a chord with you, and if that happens it's best to have back-up.
- Delivering death messages. As above.
These guys don't patrol alone. Why should we?
That said, there are a lot of jobs people do alone, and policing isn't necessarily the most dangerous. In fact, on-call electricians, builders or gas-men can be in lethal situations. But it isn't just about safety. A duo of police officers is far better equipped to deal with almost all crimes. It halves the amount of time spent doing the paperwork, and you're going to need a colleague when you go to nick the offender anyway. You're also more likely to work harder if you're not having to do everything yourself, and if you have some company for the twelve hours you are on duty. So single-crewing is all very pretty for the public, and may well double the amount of visible police crews. But will it actually solve or prevent any more crime, or mean that anything is dealt with any better than it is now? I'm afraid it might well mean the opposite.
The crowd certainly felt able to approach this officer.
We're not all like Robert Enright.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.