This time last year Coventry City Council were advertising for a ‘Crime Reduction Co-ordinator’ on a pretty hefty salary – this year it appears we have a different story with their ‘Neighbourhood Wardens’ facing the chop in order to recoup £173,000. But this decision hasn’t gone uncriticised, not least by Chief Supt Steven Glover who insists that the wardens provide a “visible and uniformed presence”.
But hang on – wasn’t there a time when a “visible and uniformed presence” was provided by actual police officers with law enforcement powers? Perhaps if our police weren’t bogged down in endless paperwork, losing hours of their working day to relentless bureaucracy, they may be able to patrol Coventry City Centre adequately without back-up support from the local council.
The pressure on the police is evident in Chief Supt Glover’s further comment that he would now be forced to draft in extra police officers at busy times when the force was stretched.
Isn’t the obvious way around this problem to relieve the strain on our police force, rather than providing more of these toothless and inadequately trained ‘support officers’? And if such ‘dummy officers’ dressed in uniforms are such a formidable deterrent, then couldn’t such a service be provided by civil society on a volunteer basis, saving taxpayers’ cash?
As usual, one of these dubious positions is replaced by another. In response to any protest the council have created the enigmatically titled role of ‘Neighbourhood Impact Officer’, eight of whom will be deployed around the city on Saturday nights to deal with revellers at an unknown cost. Police Support Officers (PCSOs) will also be patrolling Coventry.
The police do a fantastic job, but the abundance of these additional roles that seem to ape a police presence without the bite or authority, suggests that the availability of real law enforcement officers is worryingly restricted. Coventry City Council may well be right to scrap the position of ‘Neighbourhood Warden’, but in reality reform needs to start at the other end of problem, with police being freed from their bureaucratic shackles in order to perform the public service they trained to do.