Storm over police duties for civilian workers in Britain

August 27th, 2008 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, August 27 (IANS) Civilian policing is getting official sanction in Britain, but critics say it is a move towards a snooper state.For a few hundred pounds, security guards, council workers, car park attendants, dog wardens, park wardens, charity workers and football match stewards can get Home Office accreditation under the new Community Safety Accreditation Scheme.

This allows them to hand out fines for offences like littering to riding a bike on the pavement. They can also stop cars to check their tax discs, seize alcohol from underage drinkers and demand people’s names and addresses. But they cannot detain anyone.

The hope is that they will free up rank-and-file officers from having to perform these unpopular tasks. Details of the new army of police-style officers emerged in Home Office papers disclosed by the Daily Mail.

Already 1,400 town hall and private sector staff have been accredited, and the government wants a dramatic expansion of the scheme.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Accredited persons have a key role to play in the delivery of neighbourhood policing and are an important part of the extended police family.”

Councils and other public sector organisations must pay between 300 and 315 pounds ($550-580)to be accredited, and between 35 to 90 pounds per employee. In the private sector, the costs are between 450 and 600 pounds per firm, and 32 to 132 pounds per employee. The scheme is being sold to companies such as security firms as a way of boosting their profile.

Privacy campaigners have dubbed them Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s “Stasi” after the East German secret police.

Phil Booth of NO2ID, a campaign opposing the government’s planned ID card scheme, said: “This is a sinister move towards a Stasi snooper state in which jobsworths are devolved the powers of the police - including the right to demand you identify yourself.”

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: “The public want to see real police on the streets discharging these responsibilities, not private firms who may use them inappropriately - including unnecessarily snooping on the lives of ordinary citizens.”

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