Mergers and priorities

WHEN the news came through that the Home Office was backing off even further on police mergers, those of us on your local police authority felt a modest sense of achievement. The Cambridgeshire Police Authority was one of the few that had opposed the ide

WHEN the news came through that the Home Office was backing off even further on police mergers, those of us on your local police authority felt a modest sense of achievement. The Cambridgeshire Police Authority was one of the few that had opposed the idea with all its might.

The authorities in Cumbria and Lancashire were the only ones who had actually volunteered for a merger. As a result of the time I spent in Cumbria recently, I believe there was something less than wholehearted support for the idea. It was more a case of "if it is inevitable, one may as well lie back and enjoy it."

They have now discovered it was not inevitable - the Home Office has just announced that even that merger will not now go ahead.

Anyway, despite the odd bit of huffing and puffing still coming out of the Home Office, I think it fair to say that the idea has gone away for now. Indeed from where I sit, one can almost hear the swish of the long grass into which it has been kicked.

The whole merger idea always placed (for me) too much emphasis on dealing with what is called "level 2" crime - international terrorism and organised crime. However, when the police authority goes out and meets the people, the public seems to put far more emphasis on "level 1" crime. They want more done about burglaries, anti-social behaviour and the like.

Given the amount of police resources that were diverted away from frightening the ungodly in order to work on the Home Office merger proposals, I am hopeful that a more reasonable balance might now emerge as these resources are freed up. Perhaps there might even be enough to start establishing some of the "boundaries" that I have written about before.

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As I sit writing this, it is a warm summer evening and, in common with most people, we have our house windows open. It is difficult to concentrate because of the incessant noise of high powered cars and motorcycles rushing through my part of the High Street. Almost all of them make exhaust noises that would have got them prosecuted a few years ago. As an absolute minimum, they would have had to worry about that possibility in those days.

Of course, we all wanted souped-up cars in our youth, but most of us could not afford them. To us, phase one tuning meant drilling a small hole in the silencer to increase the noise (but not too much.) Phase two tuning added to that by leaving a copy of Autosport prominently on the back seat.

However, in those days, the local police had an unofficial offence called "failing the attitude test." When this happened, the local bobby would "have a word" with the young motorist concerned. It would be explained (nicely, of course) that if one continued making that sort of noise, it would represent a comprehensive failure of the attitude test and one's name would go on to some kind of list. Once so recorded, the offender would be stopped regularly by the police because they suspected that his exhaust system was exceeding the legal noise limits.

Unfortunately (they would explain) the force only possessed one piece of equipment capable of measuring the noise accurately enough to make the case for a prosecution. This equipment was always kept in another part of the county so that, when it was sent for, it could take as long as two hours to arrive. Thus, even if the measured noise did not, in fact, exceed the legal limit, the young motorist's social life could be seriously disrupted.

It happened to several of my friends, most of whom either filled in the phase one tuning hole or, as a minimum, desisted from taking their engines up to valve bounce until they were well out in the country.

I know what you are thinking. Sadly, I also know what the average PCPC (Politically Correct Police Constable) is thinking. I know that nostalgia is not what it used to be, but I can dream, can't I?

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