Cameron Watt is Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Justice, he writes here in a personal capacity. In addition to his call to scrap the 'plastic police' he remembers some unhappy Blackpool experiences.
The failure of two police community support officers (PCSOs) to attempt a rescue of ten-year-old Jordon Lyon from a pond in Wigan has caused an national outcry.
Understandably so. Surely few, if any, police constables would have stood idly at the side of that pond. (I know the PCSOs called for back-up, but that’s nothing more than anyone else could have done by calling 999 on their mobile.) Police officers recognise that they are expected to show initiative, bravery and resolve, even if they haven’t received specific training on how to deal with a particular situation. As Jordon’s step-father said, most members of the public would have reacted with greater courage and resolve. Depressingly, Greater Manchester Police have fully endorsed their PCSOs’ course of (in)action.
PCSOs clearly do not have the powers, training and sense of vocation to eqiup them for the job the public wants them to do. A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that, on average, PCSOs solve just one crime every six years. In several areas of the country, ‘officers’ failed to detect a single crime over the past year. Perhaps they are doing better at tackling the low-level disorder that blights contemporary Briatin? Regrettably, they are not; when it comes to issuing fines for anti-social behaviour, public disorder or motoring offences, PCSOs average just one every four months. Emboldened hoodies certainly do not fear PCSOs, who they know have no powers to arrest them.
A record of ineptitude on this scale should surely prompt an abandoning of the whole PCSO experiment. Yet PCSOs continue to be hired apace while numbers of real police fall. According to the Police Federation, 400 PCSOs have been recruited in Manchester in the last 18 months, at time when the number of police officers fell by more than 200.
Surely it’s time to replace the plastic police with full trained officers. Most would happily trade two or three PSCOs for a single motivated police constable. Setting real police free from suffocating bureaucracy to patrol our neighbourhoods is key in reversing high rates of crime and anti-social behaviour.
Full marks to Fingerprint Events, from whom I received my pass for party conference this week following a late application. Hopefully all delegates are receiving similarly efficient service, and we won’t have hundreds languishing in the accreditation office in Blackpool.
Ahh, Blackpool, that jewel of the Lancashire riviera. I am not yet sure where I will be staying this year, but I hope it will be a step up from the £14 per night B&B I endured at my first Blackpool conference. At the time I was working at CCO for the Renewing One Nation unit led by the Editor. With so many staff members and guests to accommodate, Tim booked us into the most economical lodgings.
It was grim. My dingy matchbox-sized room just about had enough room for a rackety bed, with the customary nylon linen, plastic undersheet and complimentary pubic hair. Wind and rain whistled through a wonky window. An incessant jingle from a neighbouring seafront funfair kept me awake, shivering, long in to the night. Dodgy offal offerings were served at breakfast by the establishment’s proprietor - a portly, flushed Glaswegian sporting a string vest.
I feel for the university CF branch that finds itself there this year.
What are your fond memories of Blackpool?