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Police plan to give unqualified civilians power to nick speeders

Published: 18 November 2001

ORDINARY civilians could soon have the power to pull you over, fine you £60 and give you three points for speeding.

Civilians are already used to make up safety camera teams, which provide maintenance for speed cameras sites all over the UK. Police also use civilians with handheld speed detectors to deter speeding in villages around the country, including Ash, in Somerset. At the moment, they have no more powers than anyone else – all they can do is change cameras films or send you a nasty letter if they catch you with a handheld device.

But Scotland Yard wants the government to change legislation to give an army of similar do-gooders the power to stop vehicles and issue fixed penalty notices. And Home Secretary David Blunkett has indicated he’s in favour of the plan.

The civilian recruits, which the Metropolitan police has called " police auxiliaries, " would form a second force of 1000 lower-paid unqualified officers, with responsibility for patrolling streets and dealing with minor offences including traffic offences.

A discussion paper on the scheme issued by the Met proposes giving the civilian recruits responsibility for dealing with " low-level offences and quality of life issues, such as antisocial behaviour, minor disorders, aggressive begging, drunkenness, street drinking and traffic offences. "

It goes on to identify the legislative changes necessary to enable the auxiliary officers to perform these tasks, including giving them the " power to issue fixed penalty notices for a range of offences, " and the " power to stop vehicles and people. "

A spokesperson for the Met said the force " envisaged the auxiliary force being operational by 2002. " She also confirmed that the civilian officers would not be qualified to the same standard as full-time police officers, and that they would face a " less rigorous " selection process.

The spokesperson refused to specify what sort of uniforms the civilian recruits would wear or exactly how they’d stop riders, but indicated they’d use similar methods to the police themselves. " They’ll wear some kind of uniform, " the spokesperson said. " I can’t discuss details, but I don’t think you really need us to tell you how they’ll stop vehicles. "

The Home Office indicated that Blunkett was in favour of the legislative changes necessary to enable civilian officers to stop you on your bike, and said those changes could be made as early as the end of this year. " We’ve received the proposals from the Met and Mr Blunkett has said that police reform is a priority, " a Home Office spokesman said. " We’re already planning to introduce a wider police reform bill at the end of the year which will extend the powers of non-police personnel, but not to the extent proposed by the Met. That bill could be amended to include the new powers proposed by the Met, but we’re still involved in ongoing discussions over the matter. "

The plan is a response to growing pressure on the Met in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, which have meant the force has had to provide more than 1000 extra patrol officers in the centre of London every day. " It’s a cost efficient way of supporting and assisting full-time officers, " the Met spokesperson said.

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