The police have become a political football and the situation will become much worse as we get closer to the general election.
As politicians argue about police numbers to win votes, the police receive the wrong end of a verbal kicking and any common sense about what is best for the public tends to be forgotten.
These unseemly arguments hinder innovation, as any idea forwarded by one political party is belittled and criticised by the others. Lancashire Constabulary has a well-deserved reputation for being a pioneering police service. It took a key role in developing the first police radio system, appointed the first female chief constable in the country and is recognised nationally as leading the way in IT based intelligence systems.
Since the 1990s it has used a problem oriented policing style, which means that rather than simply dealing with an offender after they have committed a crime, they work to try to prevent crimes from being committed in the first place.
They have decided to invest £3m in a joint project with Lancashire County Council to fund a new ‘early action’ response team. The 27 full time staff, most of whom will be social workers, aim to help vulnerable children, adults and families in the Preston and Burnley areas. In a recent 12-month period Lancashire Police was called to deal with 49,000 ‘early action’ incidents. These relate mainly to missing children and issues of safety, vulnerability and mental health.
The aim of the new team will be to provide a better peak time and out of hours service to respond to these kinds of problems and, where possible, to prevent them happening in the first place. It is a very worthwhile experiment and may turn out to be an effective way of reducing demand on stretched police and council resources, as well as providing an excellent level of service to society’s most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, this initiative has become a political football as former Tory council leaders argue they had set aside this £3m to fund more PCSOs, rather than it be spent on this new initiative promoted by the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner.
The decision whether to employ 48 extra PCSOs or invest the money in the ‘early action’ team needs arguing on its merits and not on political colours. Lancashire Police should be supported in this initiative, as it may just be the way ahead.