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October 20, 2017

TWO very young special constables appeared today in my area of Newport to stand self-consciously under a flyover where gangs of youths and alcohol swilling people usually gather amid broken bottles, discarded cans and cigarette butts.

Cars are revved up at night in the area and there is a general air of disorder and disarray. A woman was screaming at the top of her voice one night last week while what seemed like a running fight was going on up and down the street and a young man elbowed me rather menacingly as I was walking along.

I went over to tell the blue-topped duo how welcome they were as the area has been attracting anti-social gatherings, particularly at night, and I haven’t seen an actual police officer patrolling in the area for many years.

They told me that “the sergeant” had asked them to poke their noses around the area.

Their then followed a very cagey, uncomfortable conversation.

They adopted that tone and manner so beloved of police officers which relies on the officer having a small mouth and very, very big ears and the interviewee (in this case, me) having a very, very big mouth and very small ears. Not a tone or demeanour (it usually involves calling me “sir”) which I particularly care for nor ever welcome.

In other words, you tell us everything you know about what goes on around here and we will tell you nothing.

No deal, I explained to them, after they had brought the Data Protection Act into the equation (this act prevents them from telling me anything, ever, in case it identifies anyone, they tried to persuade me, which is nonsense because all I wanted to know was roughly what they knew and why the sergeant had told them to patrol the area so we could establish some facts).

It was this kind of stance and treatment from police that upset so many local people in the Shaftesbury area when they were investigating the murder of a blind girl living in the estate some time in the 1990s.

“It works like this,” I explained to them. “You give me information and I give you information. You don’t give me information and I don’t give you information.”

I went on my way, me not knowing any more than I already knew and them likewise. Now that is not what you call community policing.





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