What exactly is West Midlands Police asking potential private sector partners to do for it?
Chief Constable Chris Sims, along with the Chief Constable of Surrey force, has met representatives of 64 businesses to discuss controversial plans to work with them – plans which unions condemn as “privatisation”, although Mr Sims insists that’s not what’s taking place.
A contract note sent to potential bidders sets out activities they might be asked to deliver, although it also states that “not all these activities will necessarily be included in the final scope”.
They include: “Investigate crimes, detain suspects, manage incidents... patrol neighbourhoods... manage high risk individuals, disrupt criminal networks” and more. At a press conference following the meeting with private firms, Mr Sims stressed that every police officer would remain under his command.
That’s reassuring perhaps, but I’m not sure anyone has suggested private firms would boss police officers around. Instead, the fear, if that’s the word, is that private employees such as security guards would replace police officers.
But Mr Sims and Lynne Owens, of Surrey Police, appeared to dismiss that suggestion too. In a written press release, Ms Owens said: “This is not about replacing officers on the beat with private contractors – any suggestion of that kind is nonsense.”
Yet the same press release quoted Mr Sims as saying: “We believe that many of the routine and repetitive jobs currently carried out by police officers or police staff might potentially be done better or at less cost by the private sector, freeing up police officers to carry out frontline duties.
“For example, we would question the cost effectiveness and necessity of using officers to collect CCTV evidence or guard a crime scene.”
So you might get private security guards asking you to move away from the yellow tape surrounding a crime scene, by the sound of it.
The Police and Crime Commissioner, to be elected November 15, would have to sign off any deal agreed with the private sector. I wonder if they will.