Every month Huntingdonshire’s top police officer, Chief Inspector Chris Mead, shares his views on policing the district. In his October column CI Mead shares a letter from a resident who was disgruntled by the way the force has changed in his lifetime.
MY post bag will often bring a range of letters and communications, some complimentary and pleased with the service they have received, others disappointed, frustrated and displeased.
Every once in a while a letter will stand out and, with the writer’s consent, I share one with you.
I received a letter from a gentleman in his 80s from Yaxley. The gentleman had written, recalling with fondness his recollections of policing in the 1930s, police officers being respected and to some extent feared by youngsters if they misbehaved.
Scrumping apples from the orchard would be investigated, questions asked to trace the culprits and when found, a punishment was administered.
Sadly, the gentleman contrasted this to his recent experience of policing when his garage was entered and tools and his wife’s bicycle stolen. Unfortunately the offender was never identified. Without a bike, shopping was now done by car, only for the chap to be caught speeding by an automated camera – doing 36mph in a 30mph limit.
The letter expressed dismay at how policing has changed and questioned whether “common sense and a robust spirit of justice has been replaced by a slavish attachment to arbitrary procedures, statistics and political correctness?”
This prompted me to think how policing has changed over the years. The burglars and thieves still commit their crimes and try to evade capture, but we have new challenges like internet fraud, cybercrime, harassment by Facebook, and overseas drug importation to name but a few.
The local officer, as recalled in the letter, is seemingly no longer there, replaced by things such as the Police National Computer, Automatic Number Plate Recognition, squads, helicopters, CCTV, surveillance and forensics.
Some will argue these are more effective than the local officer, others passionately disagree.
One thing is clear, the police service has modernised as it has had to and this has many advantages but I would be the first to recognise that there are many elements that have sadly been lost.
The job of policing is still hugely rewarding but can also be dangerous, as recent events in Manchester demonstrate. Ultimately, we are still a public service trying to do its best to make a difference, helping those that need us, catching those that offend and seeking to make communities safer.
Sometimes we get that right, other times we don’t.
As the local area commander, it is my job to make sure that Huntingdonshire is policed in the most effective way possible, making best use of squeezed resources to help the law abiding majority and relentlessly pursuing and making life difficult for the offending minority.