Police sponsorship deals: the thin end of the wedge of police privatisation

In a recent article in the Daily Echo, Martyn Underhill, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset said he would consider sponsorship deals with “reputable organisations”. He said ideas could include adverts on police cars, website links or plugs on Twitter and that there was “huge potential” in sponsorship, but it would be long-term. He added: “This will help us to plan and sustain projects that might otherwise not have been possible due to the ongoing financial constraints.”

He also advised that he had already spoken to a possible sponsor. So if the government’s savage programme of austerity is anything to go by, it may not be too long before we see something along these lines patrolling our streets:

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Mr Underhill’s election slogan was “keep politics out of policing”, so it is disappointing to see him advocating the introduction of private sector finance to fund policing. He may see this as assisting in planning and sustaining projects but most recent examples where private sector money has been used in place of government funding have ended in abject failure, like for example PFI funding.

Sponsorship deals of the police may only be the small end of the wedge regarding opening up the police service to the the private sector but it is still a legitimate concern and however it is spun, it is a political decision in line with the policies of the current government.

Although both West Midlands and Surrey Police have deferred plans to partially privatise their forces, the chief of G4S, the world’s biggest security firm, has predicted that private companies will be running large parts of the UK’s police service within five years. Ironically one of the driving factors behind Surrey’s decision to suspend the decision to sell off services was their reservations about one of the partner groups, G4S, following their shambolic failure to provide adequate numbers of security staff for the Olympics. If you have any doubts about whether police services should be outsourced to private companies, the logic against it, is there for all to see in a nutshell.

The role of a PCC is yet another scatter brain policy of the coalition and the elections attracted very little public interest. In Dorset the turnout was 16.77% which was higher than the national average. Of those who bothered to vote, 45.2% marked Martyn Underhill as their first preference. This equates to 7.38% of the electorate in Dorset, so hardly an overwhelming mandate to make radical decisions as to how our police force is funded. Also there was no mention of ‘sponsorship deals’ in his manifesto.

The Police Federation have been warning for some time now that the cuts to Police budgets will inevitably hit the front line and Trade Unions such as Unite and Unison have been running campaigns against police privatisation.

Fighting crime takes teamwork. From the bobby on the street to the investigators and forensic experts gathering information to secure a conviction. Police forces need a joined up force working together to serve and protect the people. If you break up and sell off chunks of the service to ‘profit first’ companies, police forces will not be more efficient – it will put lives at risk.

When you have the likes of G4S and Serco waiting in the wings to bid to run core crime functions, such as 999 call handling, custody and detention, investigating crime forensics and patrolling neighbourhoods, you know public policing is under threat,

Police sponsorship deals may be the thin edge of the wedge of police privatisation but if you believe that our police force should remain in the public sector, do not allow the door leading to privatisation to be pushed further ajar. Please make your PCC aware of your views. Click here for Martyn Underhill’s contact details.

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