I wrote some time ago now about the Governments agenda to privatise many policing functions in this country. We have just seen the announcement of the plans to privatise the majority of the functions of the Probation Service. The management of all but serious offenders will be handed to private companies, charities and volunteers. If you have any doubts regarding the Government plans for the future of policing just look at the similarities.We should all be very concerned about the privatisation of Probation and Policing services. Here are some thoughts from a former Chief Probation Officer regarding the Probation proposals.
There is an obsession in some quarters that privatisation offers better or the same service for less. There is an assumption that the public sector is fat, lazy and inefficient. The reality is very different. Over the last 30 years the police have adopted private enterprise management practises, targets and measures. There has been a huge increase in police staff performing back office functions. All of this has led to a police service that has lost its raison d'etre. The focus on targets and performance has simply meant cutting the resources where the public want them and putting them into achieving those targets, which are largely irrelevant to the public.
We have already seen the results of the privatisation of a number of functions. Parking, for example, used to be enforced by the police. Now it is in the hands of Local Authorities and private companies. It has simply become a cash cow. Private companies monitor offenders who are tagged and serving their sentences in the community rather than in prison. The tags are supposed to ensure that the offenders are at home during their curfew period. The monitoring is so inefficient and ineffective that tagged offenders can breach their curfews almost with impunity. We are giving huge amounts of public money to private companies for nothing. We have seen the private sector committing fraud on the 'welfare to work' program. Dare I mention G4S and the Olympics?
The Government has been tinkering with the Probation Service for almost 20 years. As most offenders continue to re offend the Probation Service was seen as ineffective. It has been forgotten that the Probation Service started out as an alternative to prison. The idea was that (mainly) first time offenders who were going off the rails needed some mentoring and support to get them back on track. We then stopped sending people to prison and sentenced persistent offenders to Probation expecting them to turn around hardened criminals with nothing more than a carrot.
In 2003 the Probation Service was subject of the Carter Review. (For the Police substitute the Winsor Review.) The ground was laid to reduce staff numbers. The publicity machine went into action to discredit the service. Changes were made to the organisation. In particular it effectively merged with the prison service and its management became impotent. The staff associations were ridiculed and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation was disbanded. Coincidentally, the Government has made it clear that their funding of the Association of Chief Police Officers is about to cease and that will see the end of that organisation too.
There will be no public sympathy for the police. The Governments publicity machine has ensured that the retail riots and even the Olympics has been forgotten. Your average Daily Mail reader will swallow hook line and sinker that the police are overpaid, lazy, thugs who need their speed guns taken away and need to get back to the days of doffing their helmet to MP's and decent members of the public rather than arresting them. Police inefficiency is blamed for the failing justice system that no longer punishes offenders
Tom Winsor's review of policing has led to the reduction of salaries for new constables by around £4000 plus an increase in pension contributions and a further reduced pension. This is supposed to increase the quality of police officers! It sets everything up for a reduction of police officer numbers and the employment of low paid security officers to replace them. PCC's have been introduced to ensure this process is implemented.
When are the press and public going to wake up and see the writing on the wall? In a few years time G4S security officers on minimum wage will be patrolling your streets. Private investigation companies will be investigating your crime. G4S will be responding to all but the most high risk emergency calls. Like the Probation Service, there will just be a small number of real police officers to deal with the most violent offenders.
When private companies working for profit are employing patrolling officers how much more likely is it that you will get a ticket or summons? How likely do you think it is that your crime will get investigated or detected when the cost of such might reduce company profit? When the few police officers that are trained to deal with violent offenders are all busy then no one will come when you being beaten and robbed.
If the media and voters don't wake up soon you will have this largely privatised police service. The criminals and fanatics will be very happy. Decent people will lament the real police force they once had.