Jobsworths are already pains in the proverbial, imagine them with powers!! Well, that seems to be the way things are going at the moment as the Labour Government seeks to devolve more policing powers.
Several newspapers are already dubbing it ‘Stasi Britain’, a reference to the notorious former East German Secret Police.
The Community Safety Accreditation Schemes under the 2002 Police Reform Act gave Chief Constables the right to hand limited powers to civilians, the aim being to give civilians working in the ‘community safety’ area to have more powers to deal with the public.
To date, 95 organisations are involved, including 19 private companies, local authorities, housing associations, NHS trusts and the fire service.
But now, the government wants to devolve powers to even more individuals, the likes of Council staff, car park attendants, private security guards, dog wardens and anyone else they can find. These people would have the power to issue on-the-spot fines and even to demand your name and address etc.
The idea is a network of (cheap) spies who would go round snooping and fining people for such things as no tax disc, littering and anything and everything they consider too trivial for the security forces, namely the police.
There are already some 1,400 ‘accredited’ persons, but the government is keen to recruit a small army of civilian snoopers. They even have their own uniform and badge, and there are plans afoot to expand the number of offences falling within their mandate.
Companies are being urged to sign up to the scheme and are even being encouraged to use their involvement as a way of promoting themselves! This is where it could get seriously dangerous.
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said:
“The potential benefits are significant. They can help contribute to the delivery of neighbourhood policing that is both sustainable and really addresses the problems that local people face.
I can think of few things that so clearly make a difference. The schemes contribute to police efficiency by releasing officers from non-essential community tasks.”
Opponents of this type of scheme see it as an extension of ‘policing on the cheap’, another tier of law enforcement following the contentious and controversial delegation of powers to the Community Support Officers, and a further erosion of civil liberties.
These new Town Hall spies are not accountable to the police but to their employer! The police would only be informed of complaints if there are more than three cases in a year.
It is a system which is very much open to abuse, not only by individual jobsworths but even more so by private companies who would be able to snoop on people and collect personal data with impunity. It’s the thin end of a very large wedge. Personal grudges or disputes could so very easily be settled by the abuse of these devolved powers.
Vetting of these new civilian recruits varies around the country, and this is also potentially dangerous and very worrying. In one area, candidates face intense scrutiny and investigation, in another it’s a simple CRB check, and we know how reliable they are!!
Policing is for the police force, end of story, it’s what they are there for after all! If there are not enough to go round, recruit more, don’t start setting up loads of little private armies. Getting ordinary citizens to snoop and spy on their fellow citizens is not a healthy way to go.