The end of the British Bobby? Is policing by corporate power replacing policing by consent? Clare Sambrook exposes the insidious first steps of G4S, the world's largest security company, as it moves in on the police force of Lincolnshire (Margaret Thatcher's home county).
My post yesterday about G4S recruiting ex-police officers to run cut-price murder investigations ran with a rather shocking image: epaulettes emblazoned with the red, white and black G4S company logo above the words (in much smaller type): “LINCOLNSHIRE POLICE”. G4S dominant and on top, as it were.
I guessed that the image (first spotted here) might be a spoof, mocked up in protest at the massive privatisation contract — worth £200 million — by which 540 civilian Lincolnshire police workers turn into employees of G4S, the self-styled “world’s leading provider of security solutions”.
It had to be a spoof, for what self-respecting police authority would submit to its name being attached to a corporate logo at all, let alone a corporate logo in the striking red, white and black colour scheme favoured by the Third Reich?
I contacted both Lincolnshire Police and G4S by separate emails, asking, were the epaulettes genuine? And, if so, who was entitled to wear them? And where else do the G4S and Lincolnshire police insignia appear together? And waited.
Meanwhile, we ran the image with my G4S contract-cops piece: spoof or no spoof, it seemed to express — with visceral impact — something about the corporate takeover of this most important public service.
Yesterday at noon, confirmation came that the image was . . . genuine! The explanation, from G4S head of UK public relations Nicola Savage, is worth quoting in full:
“This epaulette is worn only by G4S civilian uniformed employees working in the Lincolnshire Police strategic partnership,” said Ms Savage, who, by the way, used to be a government information officer.
“It was jointly designed and agreed by both Lincolnshire Police and G4S. It is worn by employees working in departments such as the Force Control Room, Custody as well as by Town Enquiry Officers. There are no plans to introduce the dual logo elsewhere.”
Almost four hours later the very same words arrived again, this time pasted into an email from the Lincolnshire police department, G4S having the whip hand again.
So, uniformed civilians sporting G4S-Lincolnshire Police epaulettes, will be Town Enquiry Officers looking and acting like police officers.
And uniformed civilians with G4S-Lincolnshire police epaulettes will be running police custody units (although, according to the Lincolnshire police authority, a real police officer will play custody sergeant).
And they’ll be running police identification units and the force control room (with a real police officer playing inspector).
Readers of the Lincolnshire Spring neighbourhood policing leaflet learn that G4S staff will run, among other things, the crime management bureau, the central ticket office and collisions unit, the criminal justice unit, the resource management unit and firearms licensing.
That’s an awfully long way from police minister Nick Herbert’s assurances only four weeks ago that, “This is all about supporting the front line by making sure that the backroom jobs that do that can be done more efficiently" and that core policing would not be privatised.
As for the corporate statement, "There are no plans to introduce the dual logo elsewhere," it is a warning. It does not come from the government, or from a Minister speaking to Parliament. The sentence carries a huge, silent word at the end: "yet".
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