The largest public sector union is calling for a national review of unpaid volunteers in the police service.
Unison has called on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the College of Policing to examine the «increasing trend» of replacing paid police staff with volunteers.
Coincidentally, the call has been made the same week that a force announced volunteers would soon be deployed at football matches and festivals.
As previously reported, the union has compiled a report, which claims that the recruitment of 9,000 unpaid police support volunteers is risking the national reputation of policing.
PoliceOracle.com understands that representatives will be meeting representatives from the College over the issue imminently.
The union says it is especially concerned that volunteers are carrying out roles, which were previously undertaken by paid staff or warranted officers including crime scene and digital investigation.
National officer Ben Priestley said that this happened «without any public debate outside of the police service» and that there was a suspicion it was being done due to cuts.
He told PoliceOracle.com: «We’re not opposed to volunteering, it’s a good thing, but there is public interest in knowing about the roles volunteers are performing. With police staff bearing the brunt of cuts it’s right that we ask about it, and with austerity set to continue this is only going to become a bigger issue.»
It is also calling on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out a «thematic inspection» of the issue.
So with this in mind lets think how this impacts on Football, Festivals and ANPR.
This week Cambridgeshire Constabulary has announced that it is deploying unwarranted volunteers in a mobile automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) van, and will also be using them at football matches and festivals in the future.
Regarding football policing PC Matthew Selves explained: «The role of the support volunteers will be mobile camera operators. They will be in the van and parking in areas where we don’t have CCTV coverage to provide a deterrent as well as an evidence gathering mechanism and reassurance to the event goers.»
The force says the volunteers are an extra capacity, not linked to budget cuts, and they are a resource they would not have had to deploy otherwise.
But former football policing strategist Chris Hobbs told PoliceOracle.com: «If they are going to be carrying out targeted filming of hooligans they’ll have to have officers nearby anyway because they could easily become a target themselves.» This is a very good point as many BBC and ITV producers and technicians could attest when they have been in satellite vehicles that have been attacked.
Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright said: «Police support volunteers play a crucial role in the modern police force. The volunteers carry out a wide variety of roles and have a range of specialist skills that increases public trust and confidence in the service.»
Sir Graham’s statement clearly and adroitly demonstrates his total lack of any form of grip on policing reality. How on earth he thinks that volunteers can have any specialist policing skills that increase the public trust and confidence in the service is, quite frankly, staggering. He is clearly delusional and totally out of touch.
Just to drag him into the 21st Century, the British public’s trust and confidence in the police is probably lower than it has been since its inception in 1839. At least in those days there were loads of coppers patrolling the streets in uniform.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has repeatedly praised the role of volunteers in policing, and is actively promoting people becoming involved in different capacities.
The organisation did not respond to a request for comment on this story before it went live, but members have in the past said volunteers should not be replacements for paid officers or staff.
The point that ACPO, a failed and self-serving organisation which does nothing for the man or woman on the street, has failed to grip, is that the good ship SS British Coppering is going down with all hands. This is the very time a time when they, i.e. Chief Constables and politicians, should be doing everything to keep the vessel afloat and get it to dry land for urgently needed repairs.
Instead, they are dreaming up schemes that are so far in the realm of fantasy, they make Lord of the Rings look like a documentary.
Add to all this, one very major point that does not appear to have been mentioned, which is if all the highly specialised and wonderful volunteers are going to be deployed operationally to perform jobs such as targeted filming of hooligans etc., surely they need to licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA)?
Does this not also apply if Plod deploys volunteers to provide security at public events? In this case they must be licensed by the SIA, they must complete the training and somebody will have to pay for this.
No doubt Chief Constables such as the visionary Sir Graham Bright, will expect the volunteers to pay for their own training. The frightening thing is, the volunteers probably will be in a rush to move from enthusiastic amateurs to have a certificate and thus, overnight, become a professional security person who can start policing.
We then fall back to the SIA and hopefully they can organise the training and administration to meet this project. The one thing you can guarantee is that the training will not be standardised and after a few weeks of whatever training the volunteer can get at the best price, they will be licensed and ready to go policing.
How does this make the Special Constabulary feel? Frankly it seems a complete insult to a gallant and valiant group, who although often criticised by their full time colleagues, have turned up in uniform pounded the beat and done the Job for nothing.
If this is going to roll into place, then the death knell of the police is sounded long and loud. God help us each and every one.