THE BLOG

Policing Football on a Fair Boot

17/04/2012 16:00 | Updated 17 June 2012

Football has been making the headlines lately. Chelsea thrashed Tottenham 5-1 last Sunday, not sure how the blues will get on playing my team, Liverpool, in the FA Cup final, but I'm definitely rooting for the reds.

Closer to home and football also made the headlines over policing costs for the Gillingham and Swindon match. The costs surrounding the game at the Priestfield stadium still remains unresolved. As a keen football supporter, I really hope that the police, Medway Council, and Gillingham football club, do find an amicable solution so fans can enjoy the match this weekend.

However, let's not forget, amidst big budget cuts, falling police officer numbers and growing demand that informed and fair decisions must be made. The public rightly expects that those who profit from events that require a significant police presence should pay a fair contribution towards the cost of that policing. Public safety is, after all, vital and we can't take risks with it.

It was interesting to note that the Association of Chief Police Officers - ACPO - issued an academic study into the impact of large football matches on policing last week. The report was written alongside researchers from the University College London. It looked at crime patterns in coloration to matches and the findings suggest that there are significant increases in crime and disorder on match days.

Public order policing is paramount to the safety of fans, and local areas, and I'll be interested to have a look at any lessons learnt from ACPO that we can apply here in Kent.

South Yorkshire Police also came under fire from the media last week amid reports suggesting that residents were going to be consulted as to replacing police officers with police community support officers (PCSOs). Their website states that this is not the case and that 'police officers will not be removed from policing.'

Our PCSOs here in Kent do a wonderful job and I do think it is important for the public to understand they have a very different role to police officers. I have always supported PCSOs and their visible presence motto on our streets. Yes, they cannot make arrests but they complement officers. Last year they were given 12 new powers to clamp down on underage drinking and anti-social behaviour on our streets. All of this helps free up valuable police officer time to fight crime.

Together they work side-by-side and I don't think that you could have just one or the other now. The two roles provide a service to the taxpayer and act as a feed of information on local crime. I think if anything, it's not about policing on the cheap, but educating the public as to what they are and what they do.

There are lots of misconceptions about 'plastic policeman,' an insulting description to my mind, which I personally feel is unwarranted. Our PCSOs work really hard and I routinely receive letters commending their work. When a PCSO is moved from a village this is the first thing I hear complaints about. So let's give them a break from criticism and let them get on with the job at hand - keeping our communities safe.

Lastly, on a personal note, my husband Tony was piped at the post for the UK Veterinary of the Year Award. He was so disappointed, but cheered up enormously when his son-in-law said: 'It's like winning silver at the Olympics. Just because you didn't make gold doesn't make you a rubbish athlete, but one of the best in the world.'

Very wise words - keep a perspective Tony!