Headlines: December 6th, 2001

Police reform proposals announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett reveal a radical approach to tackling crime and disorder. It is proposed that professional boundaries should be re-drawn to allow the police to focus on catching criminals. Other tasks will be carried out by civilians employed by the police, local councils and private companies.The development of a new Police family with new powers to tackle low-level crime is likely to prove the most controversial part of the White Paper. The first level of support will be provided Community Support Officers, who will be employed by the police and have powers to issue fixed penalty notices for disorder, including drunkenness, anti-social behaviour, aggressive begging and traffic offences.

The second level will be made up from street wardens, neighbourhood wardens, security staff and similar agencies. Wardens will provide a reassuring uniformed presence on local streets and in public spaces. They will deter anti-social behaviour; reduce low-level crime and the fear of crime and encourage communities to work together to improve their local environments. They will have very limited power. Wardens are employed by local councils and a number of schemes are already in operation. Funding has been approved for more schemes. The Police Federation which represents Constables is opposed to the inclusion of private security companies in this second level of support services. It argues that private security guards will be accountable to commercially-driven pay masters and this major constitutional change alters the relationship between the citizen and the state regarding their liberty.

Other areas where professional boundaries will be re-drawn include introducing civilian investigators with specialist experience into a new core of specialist detectives. Civilian support staff will take on new duties which include, casework management, custody suite work and finger printing.

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