Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2002
200. You have mentioned a whole plethora of
various security people a variety of peaked cap people in uniform.
Has the Police Federation had any experience yet of confusion
amongst the public as to what is a police officer and what is
a private security guard?
(Mrs Berry) Certainly there have been complaints going
into police stations where people purporting to be police officers
have stopped vehicles, have issued on the spot fines, etc, but
then again I cannot say that has happened more recently than previously.
There have always been people in society who see an opportunity
to deceive others.
201. You will be aware, of course, that the
private security industry already plays, as you have indicated,
a major role in community safety: shopping centres, special events,
private premises. Would you not agree there is an advantage in
having an accreditation scheme to promote best practice so hopefully
to remove some of the fears and worries that you have expressed?
(Mrs Berry) Again I think that we acknowledge the
role that private security might play in shopping centres and
the like but we believe, also, there is a distinction between
that and the extension of police powers to them. We do not believe
that they need the extension of police powers.
(Mr Elliott) Can I just add to that? The cases you
have quoted are on private premises predominantly, in fact exclusively:
private parties, private shopping malls. These proposals are talking
about these people having powers in the public domain which we
think is a step too far. People to a degree have a choice to go
on private premises or not, knowing what security arrangements
there are there but they do not have a choice particularly to
walk the streets with Community Support Officers wandering about.
202. I may do a devil's advocate here and could
I just pursue this point? Would you wish to see police officers
clearly identified with some sort of distinctionI am trying
to point out that at dusk and night time whether it is in a public
place or a private place my concern, and I welcome your views,
is that the public could be confused as to who is a bona fide
police officer and who is not?
(Mr Elliott) I think that is part of the point we
have been making. It is interesting in a force in the North East
last year the chief constable tried to do a survey about "When
did you last see a police officer". Because there are so
many people dressed similarly to a police officer it was difficult
for some people when they actually saw a police officer to say
"Oh, there is one". There were quite a lot of people
about and clearly in the survey there were mistaken identities
between the police and some forms of security and private security.
203. You will be aware, of course, that many
former police officers have either started up their own private
security firms or work for private security firms. Is that good
news or bad news? How do you feel that affects the private security
industry having so many former police officers working for them?
(Mr Elliott) It is good news for the individuals who
have got the job. People do not like to retire too young in the
police service. I am not so sure it is that good for the service.
204. Just a small point. We have discovered
that traffic wardens in the past have not been given the power
to stop vehicles. Bearing in mind there are still a few traffic
wardens around, is it good news that they will now have this power?
(Mr Elliott) There are concerns that Jan suggested
about the fact that quite a lot of traffic wardens now are not
employed by the police, they are employed by local authorities.
That will be a concern for us.
205. In your experience in the Police Federation
is the view that the privatised traffic wardens are income generators
rather than there to assist with parking and the free movement
(Mrs Berry) That is certainly an allegation which
has been made. Certainly sometimes complaints are made at police
stations along those very lines. That gives us another job to
try and solve.
206. Traffic wardens still. Section 37 which
according to the note enables traffic wardens to be given the
same powers to stop vehicles as that currently held by police
officers, that is what it says. Can you tell me what you think
that means because I am unclear?
(Mr Elliott) Police officers currently have the ability
to stop any vehicle in the street. I presume it means exactly
(Mr Elliott) The police officer might stop a vehicle
for a variety of reasons. I am a little unclear as to how many
reasons a traffic warden would wish to stop a car for.
208. I agree with you. In fact Sir David Phillips
said last week that he believed the same thing, a general power
to stop for moving traffic offences I think.
(Mr Elliott) I think a police officer in uniform has
the power to stop a vehicle on the road for any reason ostensibly
to check for moving traffic offences. You could check that the
person has got a driving licence, all those sorts of issues. I
am not sure exactly why a traffic warden would want that power.
209. We are both in agreement that it looks
as if it gives traffic wardens the same powers, which Sir David
said in his view meant allows them to deal with moving traffic
offences. Can I ask you this: a traffic warden waves a vehicle
to stop and discovers that the driver is roaringly drunk, do you
think that means the Bill is intending that traffic wardens are
going to require a breathalyser or "on your way home, sir,
I cannot do anything about it"?
(Mr Elliott) The Bill is silent on that. I cannot
see that that was the intention of the Bill. I am not sure what
the intention of the Bill is in this respect. Equally, the traffic
warden would not have the power to detain the individual, as I
210. Quite. Sir David says "I would have
to refer to the section but my interpretation, and I may be wrong
about this, is it allows them to deal with moving traffic offences".
In a way that cannot be right because they have got no powers
anywhere to carry out any of these functions.
(Mr Elliott) That is absolutely right. I cannot see
just simply the power to stop a vehicle gives traffic wardens
the power to deal with what is quite a wide range of road traffic
offences and some quite complicated road traffic offences. If
you look at our traffic department, quite a lot of people there
are experts in a particular area, the particular types of vehicles,
the particular offences on vehicles. It is quite a complex area
211. I know you are not going to get very far
on this but do you think that it is going to give them powers
to deal with issuing a fixed penalty on the spot notice for crossing
a red traffic light or speeding? What do you think is meant by
(Mr Elliott) You are pushing me on an issue that I
am not sure on myself. To say that running a red light is a fixed
penalty offence, red traffic light offences usually turn out to
be quite contentiously fought, usually because people say "I
went through on amber".
212. The wording in the explanatory notes "it
thereby enables traffic wardens to be given the same power to
stop vehicles as that currently held by police officers"
to me seems a nonsense and it seems to me that you probably take
the same view.
(Mr Elliott) I do. The only reason I can see them
stopping somebody would be that they were badly parked over there
and they did not get a chance to put the ticket on before they
drove away. I cannot see anything beyond that without giving them
some additional powers, which they do not appear to have in the
213. They could not have additional powers,
could they, as untrained traffic wardens to run through the whole
breathalyser procedure, to run through the whole Road Traffic
(Mrs Berry) I think there may be some situations where
giving traffic wardens the power to stop vehicles is meant to
release police officers for other duties, particularly where they
are directing traffic for long periods of time. Because traffic
wardens do not have the power to stop, albeit they are used on
many occasions to direct traffic, that does cause problems and
I think this may be a clause to try and overcome that particular
problem so that police officers are not the only people who have
the power to stop. It does obviously open the door for other positions
to take place later if that was the wish of Parliament.
(Mr Elliott) That would be quite limited. It might
be for a purpose.
214. I want to ask a question that came up thinking
about Mr Winnick's questions. If we all want to see more police
on the streets and you do not like the Community Support Officer
concept, what is the Federation's view on civilianisation? It
was very striking last week that a witness said in New York there
are 40,000 police officers but 45,000 support staff and in London
there are only 26,000 officers and half as many support staff.
If you do not like CSOs, would you be prepared to see quite a
big increase in civilian support at police stations?
(Mrs Berry) I think that is right. It was probably
the Police Federation who began the analogy with New York. We
drew attention to the differences in numbers of police officers
in New York last May and the number of police officers in London.
I think it is true to say that there are roles, and there are
a number of pilots taking place at the moment, where the police
officer is required to stay in the police station after an arrest
but they are getting back out on the street quicker by support
staff taking on the bureaucratic paper filling. That has worked
very successfully in some forces and I think some of the plans
from the Bill are to extend that throughout all police forces.
I think in that respect it could be helpful. What is very certain
is that for a long period of time we had a situation where the
number of police officers was being reduced. There was a u-turn
in about August 2000 but even though you might decide in August
2000 that the reductions have gone too far and we now have to
recover that situation, it takes an awful long time for the u-turn
to be completed. The Metropolitan Police are still a lot of numbers
down on what they should be.
215. Wait a minute. On what they were or what
in your opinion they should be?
(Mrs Berry) Even what they are planned to be. They
are still down on the targeted figures.
216. They are not down on what they were, are
they, they have gone up?
(Mrs Berry) They have gone up, but it depends
217. If they have gone up you ought to say they
have gone up.
(Mrs Berry) It depends from what base we are talking
about and which month we are talking about.
218. Is there a time when they have been higher?
(Mrs Berry) I think there has been a time. Certainly
in 1997 they were higher from the figures we have from December
2001. There are a lot of figures being bandied about in the media
at the moment which I do not think is always very helpful because
very rarely are we all comparing the same figures. They change
on a monthly basis. Sometimes we are using Metropolitan figures,
sometimes we are using Home Office figures, and they are changing.
It takes about 18 months from the time a police officer is actually
recruited before we start to get a return on that investment.
Up until that period of time they are in training and they are
probably taking another police officer along with them so you
are actually reducing your capacity. So at a time when the Police
Service is going through a huge recruiting campaign it is actually
reducing our capacity on the streets because you are having to
use more and more tutor officers. Going back to your original
question, we believe that far more investment has to be made for
professional police officers on the street and in the longer term
that will have an impact on crime, not just at the serious end
of crimewe take the point you were making earlierbut
also very few Mr Bigs in the criminal world get there without
starting off committing low level crime. It is important that
the Police Service has a strategy for dealing with the whole raft
of criminal activity and not just focusing on Mr Big.
219. Thank you for that. A general question.
It strikes me that given there is nothing about civilianisation
in this Bill and given that you think CSOs, which is the big idea,
are the wrong officers arresting people in the wrong place, in
the wrong way, keeping them there until the right person turns
up, the police constable, and then he or she cannot do anythingthat
is what you said to Mr Winnickgiven all of that, what is
it in this Bill, which is mainly about structure, which is actually
going to improve policing and make the job of policing easier,
better and have more of them? Is there anything you can point
to in the 109 pages that will actually make a difference?
(Mrs Berry) The police reform programme probably goes
further and beyond what is required to be gone through statutorily.
There are proposals for improved leadership in the Police Service,
that does not necessarily need to go through an Act of Parliament.
There are proposals for having improved co-ordination of science
and technology arrangements, not all of that needs to go through