Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright has announced he’s done a deal with the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s which he hopes will see more their staff given the full powers of a police constable, as they become specials.
Constables always hold their office and can use their powers if they are on duty or not. Special constables are no different, however special constables do not usually use their police powers in their “day jobs”.
I have some questions which I would like to see Police and Crime Commissioner Bright address:
- Are we likely to see Sainsbury’s staff using their police powers while working?
- Will they be wearing their police uniforms while working for Sainsbury’s?
- Will shoplifters find themselves being arrested by security guards or store staff with police powers?
- Will employing people with police powers give Sainsbury’s preferential treatment from the police, will they for example get a quicker response if a special working for them has arrested someone and calls for assistance than they would if another staff member at a store had simply called the police?
Similar questions and concerns have been raised about Tesco’s employment of special constables elsewhere in the country. In 2012 A special constable who was a member of Tesco staff detained a shoplifter while dressed as banana, though his force denied he had “put himself on duty”.
Few, if any, police forces are open about how many of their special constables work for Tesco, despite many FOI requests eg. : Special Constables employed by Tesco PLC – a Freedom of Information request to Surrey Police – WhatDoTheyKnow
While not involving a special constable, in 2010 in Peterborough a Tesco security guard reportedly dressed up in a police style uniform and carried handcuffs.
I expect the assurances my questions seek could easily be given by the Police and Crime Commissioner; and there may well be no ulterior motive in Sainsbury’s keenness to see their staff become Special Constables beyond them gaining wider life experience which they hope will enable them to perform better as employees. They may also genuinely be seeking to support volunteer work for the benefit of society.
Meeting the Public
Special Constables are not the only thing Police and Crime Commissioner Bright is hoping to pick up from Sainsbury’s; he also wants to use their supermarket to help him meet more members of the public.
Police and Crime Commissioner Bright appears to have realised that his almost exclusive focus on parish councils and neighbourhood watch groups, a policy on which he was elected, means he isn’t making himself accessible to the vast majority of the county’s residents.
On the 10th of November 2012 Graham Bright told me: “I don’t deal with people like you”, I thought this might perhaps refer to me not living in an area covered by a parish council, or a neighbourhood watch group. While adding Sainsbury’s shoppers to those he is prepared to engage is a positive step I’m not sure if Police and Crime Commissioner Bright is yet open to hearing from people like me, I only rarely shop in Sainsbury’s stores in Cambridgeshire.
I have previously written about how Police and Crime Commissioner Bright hasn’t managed to correct an out of date phone number for the police which has been displayed prominently in the Morrisons supermarket near his Cambourne office, despite the store being regularly used by his Chief Executive.
Commissioner Bright at Huntingdonshire District Council
I have made Police and Crime Commissioner Bright’s appearance at Huntingdonshire District Council in June 2013 available in full on YouTube, below are transcripts of two relevant excerpts:
Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright Sainsbury’s are being fantastic on this, including your shop here. Because they are encouraging staff to think about becoming specials; if they do they’re giving them time off for their training and if they pass the training they get rewarded by a fast tracking into management in Sainsbury’s and that is fantastic. We’re trying to encourage other firm to do the same so we can get more.
Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright You’ve got to try and find those people who aren’t members of organisations. We go and talk to organisations but eighty per cent of the public don’t belong to anything so you’ve got to get to them which is why I’m trying to use supermarkets because people shop and you can actually get to them
Later in the meeting Police and Crime Commissioner Bright stated that the meeting the public sessions were part of his arrangement with Sainsbury’s.