Cardboard policemen dismissed as gimmick

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The Independent Online

A police force's decision to put life-size cardboard cut-outs of its officers around Taunton to boost public confidence has been branded an "unnecessary gimmick" by a taxpayers' campaign group.

Residents visiting local supermarkets, schools and public shows are being confronted with the replicas - two of whom sport tattoos on their arms.

Avon and Somerset Police have insisted the five models, understood to cost £100 each, are "absolutely not" intended as a cheap alternative to real crimefighters.

Instead they are helping the public familiarise themselves with the genuine articles and make them "more approachable", it claimed.

A promotional picture shows five beat managers from the Safer Stronger Neighbourhood team in uniform, alongside their cardboard counterparts. Chief Inspector Yan Geogiou and Sergeant Andy Murphy are presiding over the shot.

Sgt Murphy explained: "This initiative is another opportunity to let people know that their local officers are approachable and able to help.

"It's a case of recognition - if people in our neighbourhoods know the name and face of their beat manager it makes them more familiar and therefore approachable."

But Mark Wallace, campaign director of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: "This is an unnecessary gimmick. Everyone knows what a police officer looks like. Most people just wish they saw a real one more often.

"Perhaps people would approach bobbies on the beat more if there were larger numbers of them on patrol.

"Cardboard cut-outs are no substitute for actual policing. No cut-out to my knowledge has ever slapped handcuffs on a criminal."