Norfolk Police allays fears over “privatisation” of the force

Police have reassured people that the handing of powers to a Costessey security firm was not the first step towards the privatisation of Norfolk Constabulary.

The announcement that GSL Dardan had become the fifth company to be granted policing powers by the force since 2008 under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS), comes just days after it was revealed that Surrey and West Midlands police were inviting bids from private firms to carry out police work such as investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and detaining suspects.

But Norfolk Constabulary said they would not be dealing with government cuts by hiring private firms in the way that the two other forces are planning to do.

Simon Bailey, deputy chief constable, said: 'It is misguided to suggest that this (CSAS) will lead to the privatisation of the police.

'There are no links between Norfolk's Community Accreditation Scheme and the recently-publicised initiatives in West Midlands and Surrey. They are completely different.'

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The CSAS scheme gives security staff powers such as issuing fixed penalty notices for low-level crime, demanding personal details from members of the public, limited access to the confidential Police National Computer and controlling traffic at public events such as football matches or the Lord Mayor's celebrations.

The security firms are contracted by the event organisers rather than the police.

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The powers, introduced to Norfolk by the chief constable in 2008 under the 2002 Police Reform Act, see security staff go on four-day training courses and the staff are strictly vetted.

Superintendent Stuart Gunn from Community Safety said: 'This extra layer of community policing reassures the public when they attend events, such as concerts and other entertainment – events where police officers and police community support officers would not routinely attend.'

Former Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew, who has expressed his interest in standing as an elected police commissioner, outlined his fears over privatisation of the police in an email to Norfolk Police Authority's chief executive Chris Harding yesterday.

Mr Morphew told the Evening News: 'I am happy to be reassured there is no extension to the security guards' powers being used in Norfolk.

'However, we have to be vigilant. It does look like there are cracks in other places in the country that will be putting public accountability for policing in jeopardy. We must keep our police public at all costs.'

Stephen Bett, chairman of Norfolk Police Authority said: 'There is no privatisation of the police and their powers have not got any greater.

'If anything did change there would be consultation about it.'

General secretary of Norfolk Police Federation, David Benfield, warned CSAS should remain restricted, but stressed that he had nothing against the companies or staff bidding for security contracts.

'We need an air of caution,' he said. 'All of the companies in question are not doing this for the good of the community. They are doing it to make a profit.'

Adrian Ewing, a retired chief superintendent with Norfolk police, is now a consultant at Costessey security firm GSL Dardan, which was given the CSAS accreditation on February 29.

He said: 'We are looking forward to playing a full and active part with supporting Safer Neighbourhood Teams and improving public confidence.'

The accreditation means GSL Dardan can bid for contracts to use their limited police powers.

Security firm EventGuard became the first business to be given the powers in Norfolk in October 2008.

And managing director Martin Leeder said they were yet to give out a fixed penalty notice.

'It is all about education. It is not about penalising people,' he said.

The powers used by his staff such as confiscating alcohol at the Lord Mayor's procession or outside the Forum are used with restraint. And he added EventGuard would not want to take on more powers.

'I think there is a bar to be achieved,' he said. 'You could create a second-tier police force and that is not what the scheme is about.

'The security industry is not a police force; we are there to assist them.'

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