I write in response to Julian Lovatt’s excellent letter about the state of policing in Crowborough and Sussex (6 April 2018).
My grandfather was a police officer for 35 years. He arrived with his family in Crowborough as a newly-promoted sergeant at the beginning of 1965, and remained there until his retirement in 1981. After his death in 2000, I found a draft of a letter he was composing having seen a letter in a local paper regarding the deterioration of the police service. In it he said that he believed that the merging of several local forces to make Sussex Police, alongside the introduction of patrol cars replacing officers walking the beat, had lead to the breakdown of the relationship between police and public.
These changes were taking place at a time when Crowborough had an inspector, at least two sergeants, and a number of constables, detectives and even a traffic warden. If he felt that the police were becoming less visible then, I can only imagine what would be his dismay and disbelief if he could see things now.
Crowborough now has none of the above, and a police station that is barely open. However, a lack of money to provide front line officers is only part of the problem. The police, schools, the NHS - whatever service it may be - are now only seen as commodities, to be managed as businesses. The main concern of the PCC - a post that is unnecessary and an extravagant waste of money - is to show Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that she has performed her duties as a manager and so deserves a pat on the back from them in the form of a better rating. Ratings, targets - that’s what it’s all about. Though I’m surprised that HMIC is allowed to retain such a quaintly old-fashioned name - I would have thought that it would be changed to something like Ofpol by now, to keep it in line with other regulators.
If politicians such as the PCC and the Chief Constable (for that is what he is now) set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for the public to see and contact police officers, then they feel that they have done enough to meet their needs. True service is doing what needs to be done without cost being the first consideration. Not only do we need to see a return to ‘real’ policing, as opposed to the virtual kind, but the notion of public service has become so warped that it will take a change of mindset to give the people of Crowborough, Sussex and the rest of this country the police force they deserve.