In the past the Police have innovated with ‘Plastic Policemen’ (Community Support Officers) and ‘Sleeping Policemen’ (speed humps) but the latest replacement for falling Police numbers is not a nickname. Forces up and down the country have literally bought Police Officers made from cardboard. Constabularies have spent a total of £50,000 on 782 cardboard cut-out replicas of Police.
The cut-outs have been bought at a time when Police numbers are falling cut to budget cuts, and they have been deployed nationally despite little evidence of their effectiveness. According to the MailOnline they are supposed to deter shoplifters and petrol thieves but only three forces were able to offer any evidence at all of their effectiveness.
A total of 21 forces have bought the cardboard police since 2008 at a total cost of £53,940, at the same time as they axed 10,000 frontline officers. The costs of the cut-outs varied widely from force to force with one spending ten times as much on each of theirs as another force.
Whilst the average cost of cardboard crime fighters was £69 each, Gwent Police managed to spend £255 on their 52, a total of £13,260. South Yorkshire Police paid just £25 for each of theirs. Most were used in an attempt to prevent crime, although a few forces did use them for promotional and recruitment purposes. They were mostly paid for by the Police themselves but some were funded by local council ‘Community Safety Partnerships’.
Both the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, and The Taxpayers’ Alliance criticised the spending, with the TPA describing the purchases as a “gimmick” and both questioning whether they really reduce crime at all.
Policing has become a highly controversial area of public policy recently because the government has reduced budgets but claims that forces can maintain frontline officer numbers by cutting bureaucracy. Most say they are unable to do so, and as a result officer numbers have been cut against the government’s wishes.
Police Constables cannot be made redundant under British law and so the reductions in the frontline normally come from retirements and moving officers to back office roles previous undertake by civilian staff.
Suggestions that the cut-outs do not reduce crime were bolstered by an incident in Pitsea, Essex in which a 23 year old man dragged a cardboard policeman out of a petrol station and smashed it to bits.
The man, who was clearly undeterred from committing crime, was fined £90 after Essex Police traced his car number plate. The incident was especially embarrassing as Essex Police only recently reintroduced the cut-outs after removing them all four years ago, admitting they did not reduce crime.