i Editor's Letter: Keeping cops off our streets


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The Independent Online

I had turned into a side street made narrow by parked cars. A police car was heading towards me, but I was convinced there wasn't room for us to both squeeze by. With cars at a virtual standstill the good-natured cops beckoned me on inch by inch.

As we passed, tyres slightly brushed each other. We all got out to inspect the "damage". I licked my finger and rubbed off a faint tyre tread around the police car's wheel arch. They did the same, but said with a sigh that they had to report the "incident" as it would register on their "black box".

Three hours later, they left my nearby house, where we'd had two rounds of tea and biscuits. During this time we talked football, and they shared with me the debilitating misery of police paperwork. They were obliged to call a "neutral" cop to assess the tyre treadmark. We had to wait 90 minutes for him as it was Saturday. There was a match on and there had been pre-game aggro at nearby Shepherd's Bush (those QPR fans, eh?). He was apologetic too.

All three of them told me that the paperwork and time associated with making any kind of arrest made all police loath to bring people in for anything but the most serious of crimes. Each arrest would mean a minimum of two hours for two cops off our streets and in a station, often longer. It drove them bat-s**t crazy.

I thought of those dedicated, hard-working and frustrated cops twice recently. Once when I read there were absolutely no "proper" cops (not PCSOs) on duty in Croydon the night the riots broke out. The second time was editing today's story on the "shock" rise in street crime. We all know the single biggest deterrent to such crime, but it isn't cuts alone that keep cops off our streets. I know I sound like the Daily Mail, but we need to free them from the tyranny of red tape to let them do their jobs.