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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 17:17 GMT
Policing on the cheap?
Police patrolling Parliament Square
Auxiliaries may carry out duties such as regular patrols
All around Britain, more and more different kinds of uniformed officers are patrolling our streets, such as local authority wardens, private security patrols and parks police - none of them actual PCs. But times are changing, as Tim Maby reports.

Generally, the police have regarded this development with scepticism, but now the Metropolitan Police have applied to the Home Office for money, under their anti-terrorism budget, to set up their own brand of 'auxiliaries.'

The Met claims it needs the new force because of the huge amount of extra security work London police officers have had to perform since September 11th.

Extended family

The Police Commissioner who put up the idea would go further; he would like to put 1,000 of these auxiliaries on the streets within the next six months.

In the longer term, he wants them to be given extra powers to carry out low-level police work, under the heading of "extending the police family."

What this seems to amount to is: don' t waste expensive police officers on unnecessary tasks, but the Police Federation is critical. Vice-president Jan Berry says people want real police on the beat, not simply someone wearing a uniform.

If you want other groups involved, she says, use Special Constables.

Powers

Traffic warden
The future of policing?
Neighbourhood wardens are spreading across the country, thanks to the injection of government money. They have no more power than the average security guard, but the Parks Police I spoke to do have the power of arrest, to enforce London by-laws, which cover anything, from litter to public indecency. They are sworn in by a magistrate as Special Constables.

Now, the Wandsworth parks officers are to be linked to normal police radio, already they are frequently involved in operations on the streets and plans are already in hand to put together a team of street wardens.

This is the sort of thing that would have been frowned upon by chief constables over the past decade, but Kevin Morris, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, believes that sort of thinking is now out of date.

The Police Reform White Paper should be published within two weeks. The government is now paying out millions to any council wanting to start up a warden's scheme.

The test will be if we, the public, are, as the jargon puts it, fully reassured.


To listen to Tim's report, click on the link above.

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