Is the Covid-19 threat a chance for the UK Police service to resurrect its relationship with the General Public

Aubrey A Jones
Detective Chief Inspector (Retired)

As I was retiring from the police service in 1995 after over 30 years’ service, of which 20 years was spent investigating organised crime and money laundering throughout Europe, The Far East and the Caribbean it was a time of epic change to policing in the UK.

The use of computers and other intelligence driven systems within forces was beginning in earnest and many Chief Officers saw this as the answer to the vast majority of policing issues. Technology was the answer; we no longer require the traditional relationship with the public that had existed for 100 years.

I was of the view and explained it forcefully that technology was certainly the answer for certain areas of crime and international liaison, fraud, money laundering and exchange of intelligence being examples. But, the issues that mainly affect the general public, burglary, vehicle theft, local drug trafficking, violence on the street, criminal damage still require a strong inter-action with society and appropriate agencies. Many Chief Officers disagreed and I heard it said – ‘We don’t need the public any more, technology is the answer to everything’.

The current pandemic has for the moment changed the course of policing the country. The police are being forced to interact with the public on the street and other public spaces. Already there have been a number of examples where officers are finding this problematical. The traditional relationship between the public and police has broken down. I often give presentations to assorted age groups with regard to Italian and European organised crime groups (The Mafia). I always ask, what is your relationship with local forces/officers to members of the audience? The answer is always – there isn’t one!

This is the time for UK police forces to resume, recreate even, this relationship!

In Italy where I worked for over three years there are three services with civil policing powers, the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza totalling over 250,000 officers, this does not include local town police and other forces. They are visible on the street 24/7 in almost every town and village throughout the country. They have the numbers to man road blocks; check reasons for the public being outside and other Covid-19 related issues. The UK has a fraction of these numbers and stopped patrolling rural areas years ago. Can they step-up to this ‘new’ challenge of public inter-action in a positive and supportive manner? They have too!

Throughout towns and villages in the UK volunteers are coming forward to assist older and vulnerable members of society in many ways. It’s time for UK police forces to offer support to these members of the community and ‘dare I say it’, return to the traditionally values of British policing together with the aid and advantage of technology but not let it ‘rule’ their every- day operations.

Some of you might be thinking, OK what is he doing to assist these initiatives, how does he spend the day? Being 75 I am regretfully past the age of taking an active part in many issues but I feel it’s important to contribute in words and communication. Since my eventual retirement aged 60 I have written a biography of esteemed polar explorer – Dr Reginald Koettlitz. I’m currently busy writing ‘Three Bullets on the Doorstep’ an account of international organised crime throughout Europe. Hi-lighting both Italy and the relationship with the UK, using my experience, gained whilst residing in that most wonderful of cities, Rome, in the most beautiful of countries, Italy which I regard as my second home. I still visit as often as possible.

It’s time for this pandemic to move on so I can visit once more. In particular, the superb cities in the northern regions from my base in Ferrara. I had no time to absorb the art, medieval culture and architecture whilst residing in Rome. I had other pressing issues to attend too!


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