Martin Kirby Column; Spare a Copper, Boxed-out and Techno-help
NOT ON TARGET
I'm starting to wonder whether the coalition government has collectively lost the plot, given the bizarre police-related announcements of late. For a start, we've been handed crime figures which make the idea that the moon is made of green cheese look plausible.
Anyone reading their local newspaper or watching TV news will be unlikely to conclude that hordes of criminals have seen the error of their ways and become model citizens, yet we are told that reported crime is down.
This was disputed by The Office for National Statistics, which said police officers come under an "informal pressure" to slash crime and may have downgraded some crimes so they were not reported. For example, this could lead to a burglary being reported as criminal damage - or low-level vandalism being classed as anti-social behaviour.
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Labour has called for reassurance that spending cuts were not behind the fall in recorded offences - but the Coalition insisted police forces had reduced crime on lower budgets.
The level of police-recorded crime in the year to the end of September fell by 7% or 290,000 to 3.8 million offences, the ONS said, while overall crime against adults fell by 8% or 820,000 to 8.9 million incidents.
If the police have been massaging the figures, you can hardly blame them. If they were allowed to get on with feeling collars instead of filling-out forms and making sure they do not infringe a criminal's 'Human Rights', they wouldn't have to worry about meeting dopey targets.
Now the policing minister Damian Green has announced that new starters will be able to join police forces at superintendent level as part of a wider overhaul of recruitment rules.
Mr Green also revealed plans for a fast track to inspector scheme, and foreign police chiefs will be able to run British forces for the first time. The minister said; "Direct entry at senior ranks will make sure that there is access to the best pool of talent, those who have proven leadership and business skills and who can bring with them fresh thinking from other sectors." Quite how Mr Green has arrived at the conclusion that someone such as a bank manager would have the necessary skills to be a senior police officer I'm not sure, although given the way bankers have behaved in the past borders on criminal, I suppose it could be said they have some relevant experience, but it gets worse.
Under current rules, all police must enter at constable rank, but the proposals put out for consultations would allow new starters to skip the compulsory two years on the beat. So coppers who have done their time grappling with thugs and picking-up drunks are expected to look up to a pen-pusher with no practical experience? I don't think so.
All this will do is deter good people from joining the force, knowing that they have no chance of promotion when the top jobs are going to be filled by college boys and business executives.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Most drivers are still observing rules regarding the 'yellow box' outside the old fire station on Eastern Avenue, probably out of sheer habit. Now the defunct building is fenced-off and the forecourt covered with weeds, the yellow box is surplus to requirements and could be removed but of course, that costs money. So the box must remain, as if waiting for the ghost of Fireman Sam to come screeching across the carriageway.
No, I'm not on for a 'freebie'; I've got the receipt to prove it. But I believe in flagging-up businesses that provide a good service. I bought a small tablet computer from Maplin, in Gloucester, last month and the headphone adaptor pin broke off inside it. I went back hoping to get it repaired but without any fuss I was given a replacement tablet.
Another good point about Maplin is none of the staff is on commission, so you get truthful, sensible advice on all things technical. Thanks guys.