‘Policing’ is increasingly falling to private security and citizen-led initiatives. Yet the wages and the training don’t match the responsibility. So what can we do?
The popular 2003–2015 British crime show New Tricks, repeats of which appear regularly on New Zealand television, is about a trio of detectives brought out of retirement and attached to a London police squad to help investigate unsolved crime.
It’s an entertaining premise—but it’s no longer as fictional as it once appeared.
Earlier this year, Essex Police advertised for civilian volunteers, including retired officers, to work alongside detectives. This followed the Home Secretary’s 2015 proposal to give stronger powers to police volunteers to take witness statements and even detain suspects.
The reason is austerity. Since 2010, some UK police services have experienced budget cuts of up to 25%. The result has been a dramatic reduction in officer numbers: From 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2017. One MP observed ‘it’s the thinnest blue line I’ve seen in my life’.
Though widely interpreted as desperate populist posturing, Boris Johnson’s promise to recruit 20,000 new officers won’t make up for those already lost, nor the additional number required to match population growth since 2010.
It’s little wonder that many Chief Constables have identified volunteers as a solution. As of July 2018, 40,000 police volunteers were operating in England and Wales, adding an estimated £75-80 million of value.
In the United States, volunteer policing is also growing. There reserve citizen officers operate with full police powers—including authority to use firearms – a practice that can be traced back to the deputising powers of the local sheriff, and which originated in the Posse Comitatus and ‘hue and cry’ of medieval England.
Such developments might sound a long way from New Zealand but in fact are already here—albeit in more limited forms.Continue reading ‘Plural policing’ should come at a cost