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The BBC's Danny Shaw
"The police service must make better use of its resources"
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Chief Superintendent, Peter Gammon
"We have become more remote from people"
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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Police 'need more officers on beat'
polcie officer in London
Solo officers are seen as more approachable
A major study from the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales is calling for a "massive culture change" to put more uniformed officers on the beat.

The report - which has been seen by BBC Radio 5 Live - seeks to challenge traditional assumptions about policing, including the need to patrol in pairs and the tradition of detectives working in plain clothes.

The public perceive police officers to be more approachable when they are working on their own

Chief Sup Peter Gammon
It says many of these working practices hamper efforts to make officers more visible and accessible to the community.

The document, due to be published next week, follows the launch of a bold new Home Office advertising campaign which aims to boost recruitment to the police service.

At present police numbers are falling, with only 5% of officers on patrol at any one time.

Chief Superintendent Peter Gammon of the Kent force says that while greater police numbers will be welcomed, the issue lies in how these officers will be deployed.

"We've become remote from people and less accessible," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Uniforms 'low-status'

The association is concerned that patrolling in pairs has become the norm, both in vehicles and on foot.

Chief Sup Gammon said: "Our research shows that the public perceive police officers to be more approachable when they are working on their own."

He added that the double-crewing of officers should only occur "when it's operationally necessary or when there's a safety factor involved".

The association's findings also show that an officer alone on the beat is less likely to be attacked.

Another key question posed in the report is whether the police service needs so many plain clothes officers.

It says many could do their job in uniform but feel that this has a lower status than plain clothes.

Chief Sup Gammon suggested that by simply changing 5% of plain clothes officers back into uniform, there would be 6,000 more officers made instantly visible.

Meal breaks

The report also puts forward the idea that unmarked cars could bear the force crest when not being used for undercover or surveillance work.

A further recommendation is that officers should consider taking meal breaks in restaurants and cafes, as they do in America, as this would provide a further reassuring presence for the public.

It is thought the findings have widespread support from a number of chief constables and a senior inspector of constabulary.

When published, a copy of the report will be sent to Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

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