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Police Fining People to Generate Revenue Would Be a Terrible Mistake

20/11/2015 09:49 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Befordshire Police Crime Commissioner Olly Martins has announced that they are considering enforcing a zero tolerance approach to speeding on the M1 in order to generate revenue for the Force. He is quoted in the Telegraph as saying. "If motorists do not like it then they can always stick to the speed limit.

He hopes to have the scheme up and running by April and it could effect hundreds of thousands of motorway users. Anyone driving at 71mph or more would face a £100 fine or, in certain circumstances, a choice of a speed awareness course for £90. The former goes to the Treasury - the latter to the Force itself.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, the head of the College of Policing, launched an attack on the plans condemning them as "fundamentally wrong". He went onto to make a comparison with the situation with policing in Ferguson in the United States where police use fines to obtain income - resulting in the majority of the population being fined at some point and relations between police and public being shockingly bad.

This may seem an exaggerated comparison - but it isn't - not on the principle of it, only in the extent of the use of this type of revenue raising.

Policing in the UK (and in many other Countries) depends on a level of trust in the police and a reliance by the public on being treated fairly. If we exceed the speed limit (which I regrettably have done) and we are fined for it or have to pay out for a speed awareness course then I think most people will accept that if it is about making the roads safer.

Once it becomes known that motorists are being fined - not to make the roads safer - but to provide money for the police then this is where the relationship of trust between police and public begins to break down. All people have an innate sense of what is fair - we hear it from children and we know adults look for it. It is why most of us agree to being law abiding citizens because we trust that in doing so we will be treated fairly and protected by the law.

If those that enforce the law shift from enforcing for the safety of others or for the greater good into doing it to pay for police overtime or newer police cars then people will resent it and will be less likely to assist the police in other ways.

The danger is of course that police will look for other opportunities to extract money from the public - more fines for other offences perhaps? The suspicion would arise that police were picking on individuals - not for the safety of the community or the ensuring the 'Queens peace' but for income.

Should this become common practice I predict future interactions between individual officers and members of the public will become more hostile leading to more confrontations or at least less understanding and co-operation. This could lead to officers changing their own attitudes to the community - a siege mentality leading to poorer community relationships.

Of course this approach would have the greatest impact on those on lowest incomes - if poorer people cannot pay increasing numbers of fines issued then they are likely to have warrants issued for their arrest for non-payment of fines which could impact on personal lives or employment - all in order to provide income for the police service.

Of course Befordshire is a long way from Ferguson both geographically and in terms of how police operate - but this use of fines for income would be a step in an entirely wrong direction and I think it would do more harm to British policing then anything in recent history.