A report to tomorrow’s Cambridgeshire Police Authority meeting states that uniformed staff at Addenbrookes are to be given police powers as part of a trial scheme to be run between March and September 2009. Presumably this means their security and parking staff rather than nurses.
These staff will wear badges, which the public are supposed to understand indicate they have police powers. The exact nature of the powers are as yet unspecified. I think people understand and respect the authority of a police uniform but will not know what these badges mean. Some of the powers which could be given to these people include powers to demand you identify yourself, giving your name and address. They can also be given the power to hand out a raft of fines, in the form of fixed penalty notices. I am not convinced that the individuals who are issued these powers and badges will be as well trained, or subject to the same quality of supervision as police officers.
The report notes that no local democratic or public debate has occurred.
I think we need real police doing real policing. I view the handing out of badges and powers to increasing numbers of people as an unnecessary and unwelcome extension of the police state. If Labour win the next general election and ID cards and the national ID database are introduced the effect of this increase in the number of people empowered to demand you identify will become much more significant. By the time people will start really noticing it, it might be too late.
Hospital staff are the thin end of the wedge, who will be next shopping centre security staff, pub and club door staff, council staff? This also might be the thin end of the wedge in terms of powers and equipment, if unchecked might such people end up with the power of arrest and armed with TASERs?
I would draw a parallel to Cambridge’s City Rangers. Liberal City Councillors have expressed strong opposition spread of police powers to organisations other than the police Cllr Rupert Moss-Eccardt speaking about the City Rangers’ powers has said that there was a general drive from central government to “enhance the extended policing family” he said that eventually: “anyone who works for any public body will get some powers”. He suggested we were on an unstoppable slippery slope to a position such as that seen in the USA, where for example even driving test examiners are considered “Federal Officers” and as such carry firearms. Cllr Rupert Moss-Eccardt described this general trend as an “unfortunate development”.
Cllr Nimmo-Smith confirmed last Thursday that no additional powers are being sought for the City Rangers (although they do act without powers). Cllr Nimmo-Smith said the rangers “routinely attempt to stop cyclists who are using pathways and roads incorrectly, and log these interventions In doing so
they act as responsible, assertive citizens.” Personally I do not think this is good use of the City’s Rangers, once it passes the point of records being kept, the stop becomes more formal and should I believe only be done by the police.
In some cases, giving limited police powers to others makes sense, one example is Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) whose officers have been given powers to stop vehicles for testing. These are currently the only accredited individuals to have been given police powers by the Chief Constable in Cambridgeshire.
The image accompanying this article is the logo to be worn by those given police powers, it needs to be publicised.