One disgraceful facet of Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model is how people are being mislead in relation to access to the police.
Under the LPM, the closure of half our police stations should create no problem for public access because there are now 'Contact Points'.
Let's look at this. On my borough six months ago we had four stations open to the public – two of those 24/7. There was no problem with public access. Now there is only one station open for the public.
To replace this shortfall we now have 'Contact Points'.
These are half a dozen locations around the borough where, in theory, you can speak to a police officer. However, these Contact Points are open only for one hour at a time: two evenings a week, and one afternoon. So that's three hours each week they are open. Also they are staffed by PCSOs, not police officers. Police Community Support Officers do not have access to most police systems and so cannot create crime reports. There is almost nothing they can help you with. A PCSO told me:
“It's frustrating – when somebody comes here, the only thing I can do is apologise and send them to the main station.”
The public don't even seem to be aware of these contact points, so nineteen times out of twenty nobody turns up.
The Borough Commander has seen fit to place some of these Contact Points in unlikely places such as our local hospital. Firstly, the PCSO doesn't know where to go, so she ends up loitering in a corridor. Second, you arrive thinking you can report your crime, but then have to search the entire hospital to find the PCSO. Third, she then tells you she can't do anything, and suggests you go to the one station that's open 24/7.
The waiting room of that station often now has a queue stretching out of the building on to the street and a very stressed receptionist behind the counter.
Some Contact Point locations are neighbourhood police offices, where there is no public entrance, so the PCSO has to stand outside on the pavement, shuffling his feet.
The purpose of Contact Points is analogous to being in hospital waiting room when a nurse says 'Hi!' to you so she can record that you've 'been seen', and so help the NHS performance indicators.
It's the same thing – a Contact Point cannot actually give you any service, but Sir Bernard desperately wants to be able to hide the problems.
But this is a lie. There are problems. Appalling problems. Worse, it's a betrayal of trust. Why can we not instead be honest with the public? – everybody knows our budget has been cut. If only police senior managers weren't so terrified of criticism. At least in the UK, this is a trait they all seem to share.
Instead of telling people the truth, we are insulting their intelligence and wasting their time – they make a trip to a Contact Point only to be told we can't help and are directed to the only station that's open.
Again, it's policing by the performance indicators. I find it disgusting, and it makes police officers and PCSOs look like fools.