If you live in an old house you are likely to have walls inside the house of varying degrees of quality. You will also know that a good quality heavyweight wallpaper can cover up a whole multitude of sins. Unlike a modern house with its paper thin stud walls that can be covered in emulsion and look very tidy the older wall can be covered in surface cracks and in places quite crumbly. Sometimes you are not aware of the state of the wall behind and only when you come to redecorate does the sorry state of the plaster behind reveal itself. It can be a shock to discover and could be quite expensive to correct. You have to make a judgement call. Can I afford to call in the plasterer? If he/she is to do one wall they may as well do them all and probably the ceiling too. Is it worth it or can I utilise a cheaper option and fill the gaps. If money is of no concern to you then the tradesman gets the job. If however, you are managing a budget, working all the hours God sends, trying to raise a family and keep food on the table a cheaper option may be your only route. Out comes the polyfilla. A cheap and readily available supply of sticky, hardening gloop that will fill the cracks, patch some of the holes and dry to a hard finish. It’s not permanent. It’s actually a bit of a botch job but it sorts a problem and by the time you come to decorate again you either have the money to do it properly or, even better, you have moved house and the problem is somebody else’s. With the filling complete you can finish the job and then sit back with your feet up and enjoy the newly decorated room. Only you really knows the truth of what is hidden behind that thin veneer of wallpaper. I blogged a while ago about the erosion of the police service and the handing out of contracts to private contractors such as G4S. The theme was “You Get What You Pay For” Many of you will also know that I have over 20 years service with the police but prior to that I was a Special Constable for 3 years. If I ever tweet anything slightly contentious about Specials I get many questions asking for my view on our policing volunteers. I always refer such enquiries to my blog Special People. I am not against the Special Constabulary. On the contrary I am very supportive of them and the role they provide. That said I am also a professional police officer and my duty is to the public and nobody else. If a policy or change in law or practice is likely to put the public at greater harm then it is my duty to stand up and challenge that decision. I could be going head to head with the local Detective Inspector or Theresa May. I seem to have a better track record of success with the DI! Policing in this country is on the change. The Government are driving the changes in a blinkered fashion and the rank and file officers, those at the sharp end of the fight against crime are all shouting from the rooftops that the cuts are dangerous. Not only to the public but to the safety of officers attending violent incidents with fewer numbers. We are being ignored. Police officer numbers are being reduced nationwide. Yet there is good news.. apparently. The number of Special Constables is on the up. The NPIA reports a total of 20,343 across the country. An increase of 10.4%. If you follow some of the forces or Chief Officers on Twitter you will see very little shouting about new police officer recruits. There are however many filtering through reporting new intakes of Special Constables. Thames Valley in particular seem to have invoked a very determined policy. Nigel Woodley @TVPSC when asked said;
Yes we have tripled our establishment in our five year recruiting plan. 247 five years ago compared to 760 now.
Tripled their establishment in 5 years! That’s like increasing the current regular police force from the 135,000 we are now to 405,000 officers. It’s an incredible leap. It only leaves one question in my mind. Why? I reiterate. I am not anti-special. It is important to note though that they are not full time officers. They are not as qualified or experienced as full time officers and are not able to cope or handle the majority of the tasks we complete. We have forces around the country increasing the number of unpaid volunteers on one hand whilst on the other they are cutting down the retained, remunerated officers. Even to an outsider this looks suspicious. The Government and Chief Officers push this ‘good news’ through with smiles. It is something to encourage the public. “You are safe. Look at all these community volunteers who want to give something back to their local area.” It is a big truth that this is exactly what the Special Constables want to do. I cannot take that away from them. However, it is becoming clear that their role and position in policing is being used by Government and Chief Officers as a political football to divert attention from the bad news that is the reality of policing today. The public don’t generally see a Special Constable. They see a police officer in uniform. Unless they look closely or understand the different insignia they do not worry or care whether the officer is full time or a volunteer. As far as public confidence goes this is good. There are cops everywhere. How marvellous. Yet the problem arises in that the Special does not have the same skill set as the fully qualified and experienced officer. The officer who gives‘full time attention to those duties’. Some are no doubt very good, put many years of service into the force and manage a lot of roles many would quake from. They are few and far between though and the bulk of Special Constables have a thimble of policing skills in comparison to the bucket a full time officer has. The public are being hoodwinked. Much as they were with PCSO’s that made it look like there were more police on the street when there weren’t. Some PCC candidates are advocating massive increases in Special Constables too. I seriously believe that they have absolutely no idea what the role and skill set of a Special is and the yawning gulf between. Special Constables have a role to play in policing in this country. They are however a supplementary addition. They are not a replacement. Chief Officers and the Government would agree with me but whilst saying one thing their actions indicate something else entirely. The drive to increase the establishment of Special Constables across the country is an attempt to fill the cracks with Policefilla and cover it up with shiny new wallpaper. They can then sit back and admire how rosy everything looks but they will know it’s temporary. It’s a botch job that is going to lead to greater problems. Only when the investigated a little closer will the public realise that the wall behind is about to collapse. The Government and Chief officers will no doubt have moved on by then and the problem will be one for the new tenants who can blame the sorry state of affairs on the previous owner. Courtesy of The Custody Record