Thursday, 10 April 2008

Plodding On

According to the Telegraph, all 31,000 serving Metropolitan Police officers are to be issued with an electronic tag that will allow their supervisors to monitor their exact location to within a few feet for the entire time that they're on duty. Use of the tags will, apparently, be compulsory, and they are expected to work just as well above or below ground.

It's an interesting idea, and could, potentially, be very useful. Control will be able to see, at a glance, where their officers are, and should be able to deploy them to potential trouble spots far more easily, for example. It should also have some positive impact upon officer safety, too.

Not surprisingly, however, the Bobbies who are to be tagged are not entirely in favour of this new-fangled gizmo, and I can't say I blame them. Unless it's handled very carefully, this is going to look like a Big Brother, time and motion type of scenario, with each officer being required to account for his whereabouts at all times - was he in the right place, at the right time? Why? Why not? Where should he, could he, might he have been to better, more efficient, CHEAPER advantage?

The police force is not without its micro-managers, and you just know that some paper-pushing control freak with a warrant card will use this system to make life hell for those officers who have worked out that life - and therefore police work - doesn't work to a timetable. It also strikes me that when (not if, WHEN) security of the system is compromised, it could be a very, very useful thing for potential villains to know where the long arm of the law is right now - with that sort of information, the arm's length might shorten considerably!

And then, of course, there's the dual problems of beer and sex. Yes, I know, neither are supposed to happen while officers are on duty. The key word here is "supposed" - they happen from time to time, and, as far as I can see, they don't do any harm for the most part. But I can't imagine that it would be helpful for coordinators in control to notice sudden clusters of Plod Tags in the Rose and Crown, or to question why two - or more - officers enter into unusually close proximity (the tags are accurate to a few feet remember) in the back of the van during a quiet hour or two.

In short, although I can see advantages to the system, it strikes me as unreasonably intrusive. Good coppers will feel unable to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities, for fear that the unseen monitors in control will question their motives and reasoning. If we want to have an effective police force, its officers must be allowed a degree of autonomy that these tags will hamper to the point of extinction. It's worked until now, and I see no reason to change that - just because something can be done doesn't mean that it should be!

Billy Seggars.

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