On Wednesday the 21st of August 2013 the Cambridge News carried an article: “Concerns as private security firms seek police powers in Cambridge“.
This refers to handing out police powers to those who are not police officers under the “Community Safety Accreditation Scheme” (CSAS).
This article arose from the “Operational Update” provided by Cambridgeshire Police to Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s secret and private Business Coordination Board meeting held in June 2013.
The force told the commissioner:
Currently Cambridgeshire does not proactively promote CSAS or seek new schemes’ however we do respond positively to externally generated applications where that would positively add to community safety. The Constabulary is currently processing two new applications as set out in separate letters already provided to the OPCC; both traffic management companies, GSL Dardan and CSP Ltd.
I suspect the reference to “CSP Ltd” may be a mistake and the intention may have been to refer to City & Suburban Parking Ltd.
The minutes of the meeting state, in relation to the award of police powers to non-police officers:
The Commissioner confirmed he was content with the strategic direction
There is no clear statement of what the approved “strategic direction” actually is. Ideally the Police and Crime Panel would carefully scrutinise the commissioner’s decision and work out what exactly he has announced he is content with, but they’re on an extended summer break until November.
The minutes also record:
Cambridgeshire Constabulary does not actively promote the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme
Giving private security guards police powers would be a substantial strategic change to the nature of policing in Cambridgeshire. If Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright is to approve the proposal he needs to clearly justify his decision and we all need to hold him to account for that, and his other decisions, at the next election. Deciding if to award employees of these companies with the powers they are seeking is clearly a matter for the commissioner and not something he should be delegating.
When the police authority considered the trial involving giving police powers to security guards at Addenbrookes details of the proposal were published in the meeting papers and the decision taken in public. Commissioner Bright has, in contrast, decided to hold his key decision making meetings behind closed doors, only publishing the papers weeks afterwards.
The commissioner has not published the letters from the companies seeking accreditation. It appears to me to be an odd way round to do things, for the private companies to pro-actively approach the police seeking powers.
I think it will be very confusing for people to be faced with security guards claiming they have police powers. I don’t think many people would recognise the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme logo or understand what it means. I fear people will end up in court for failing to comply with a request from a security guard not understanding the powers that they have been given.
We don’t give police powers to those directing traffic around roadworks, though we do require those involved to work to certain standards and in some cases to have relevant qualifications. I can see no reason for event traffic management to be handled any differently.
I am shocked that the Commissioner and Chief Constable are even considering risking the hard won and easily lost reputation of our local police by handing powers to security guards.
I am particularly concerned by security guards issuing summary justice in the form of fixed penalty notices. I think that is completely inappropriate.
Security guards, bouncers and event staff don’t operate under anything like the structure of safeguards and accountability which ensure police officers use their powers appropriately and proportionally.
If security guards feel they are faced with a situation which requires police powers to resolve then they should call for a police officer.
I see in Sussex the police have given the AA police powers. I’ve driven though Sussex recently, but had no idea about this. Those with police powers need to be clearly identified – if parking attendants have the powers in one place, roadside mechanics in another and security guards somewhere else on a national level things will be very muddled.
The use of CSAS requires consultation with local authorities according to Section 40 of Police Reform Act 2002, the law which allows for the award of these powers. Hopefully Police and Crime Commissioner Bright will ensure such consultation happens this time (no such consultation took place before Addenbrookes staff were given policing powers) and our councillors get to have their say.
- Addenbrooke’s Staff to get Police Powers – December 2008
- Addenbrookes Security Threatening People With Fixed Penalties – October 2009
- Policing Addenbrooke’s Hospital – April 2009 – April 2009
- Policing West and Central Cambridge – January 2009 – (I asked about consultation with councillors on handing out powers) under the CSAS
- Cambridgeshire Police Authority – December 2008 – CSAS was discussed.
The image accompanying this article is the logo which is worn by those given police powers, it needs to be publicised.