Boys in blue learn to flash in the dark

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The Independent Online
In what may become the budget panda car of the future, bobbies on the beat have started wearing flashing blue lights.

The police hope that the four-inch strobe lights - which are worn on uniforms but can be fixed to helmets - will give officers a greater profile in the dark. There are no plans at this stage to include a siren.

About 80 of the new "strobocops" are carrying out trials in London on the latest crime-fighting device.

The scheme, however, has not met with universal approval. Some police officers have been chanting "nee-naw, nee-naw" at colleagues equipped with the blue flasher. And a police spokeswoman at Marylebone police station, where one of the trials is taking place, said: "If I saw a policeman walking down the street wearing a light I'd wet myself laughing."

Sergeant Pat Shiel, 36, of Marylebone police, added: "I suppose they can be used to help officers call for assistance, but they're of little use in a punch-up situation, are they? The last thing you'd do if you're being hit is to slip your hand in your pocket and clip your light on."

The lights - usually worn on an officers' tunic - have been distributed to Marylebone and Kentish Town police stations, a dog section at Teddington and traffic officers at Hampton Garage.

The light's inventor, Inspector Michael Hallowes, believes that the extra illumination will be useful for officers searching underground tunnels or operating at night in open spaces and rooftops.

He told the police magazine, The Job: "Often the initial reaction was to laugh. There was a fair bit of wearing them and going `nee-naw, nee- naw'. But once they were in use attitudes changed to enthusiasm."

The true value of the inspector's creation will be judged at the end of the month by participating officers.

At Scotland Yard yesterday, a spokeswoman was reluctant to discuss the Metropolitan Police's new, but not-so secret weapon. "We cannot comment until the trials have been completed," she said.