Police enlisting unpaid support to man St Albans station

The Herts Constabulary section in the council chambers

The Herts Constabulary section in the council chambers - Credit: Archant

A move to enlist volunteers to search CCTV footage for criminals, update crime spreadsheets and provide other administrative support at St Albans police station has been blasted as “embarrassing and shameful”.

Neighbourhood Watch members were recently emailed by a liaison officer asking for people to help the police by carrying out various duties including updating victims of crime and handling telephone enquiries.

Herts Police hopes to recruit three volunteers from the 24 people who applied.

But an annoyed former police officer, Kathryn Hurle, of Sandridge, criticised the request, saying: “I find it rather repugnant and even embarrassing that they have to stoop so low in asking for volunteers to run the small show that is left in the town hall ‘office’.”

“Having been a serving officer some years ago in the Met I find this totally shameful and disrespectful to the men and women who presently serve as police officers.

“I feel quite strongly about it as I think the police should be doing these roles.”

Councillor Robert Donald, chairman of the district council’s city neighbourhoods committee, said such out-sourcing was a concern.

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He said: “It doesn’t seem appropriate to be asking members of the public to be dealing with that sort of information.

“It’s a huge leap from being a member of Neighbourhood Watch to doing back of office administration.

“Is it right to be asking volunteers to be doing work that is sensitive and complex, which has been done until now by people who have been paid?”

Eric Roberts, from the St Albans Civic Society, said: “I’m surprised about it because the volunteers could be someone you know and it could lead to awkward situations.

“I know the community has to help the police, but there are certain things that are best left to the professionals.”

However a police spokesman has rejected concerns, saying that it would free up officers’ time to, for example, focus on other tasks such as providing further victim support, taking statements and interviewing suspects.

St Albans MP Anne Main said: “I don’t have a problem with volunteers getting involved with the police, as these are menial roles. People are already looking at CCTV footage in stores, and volunteers will be screened and vetted.”

The move follows efforts to save money in the force, with Herts Police announcing in mid-May that it was sharing human resources and learning and development functions with forces in Beds and Cambs, to save around £4.3 million.

Staff are also being consulted on proposals to have a joint unit for firearms licensing, to save £224,000.

These changes have been recently announced by Herts Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd, who earns £75,000 a year.

• St Albans police moved into the district council’s offices at the Civic Centre in mid-April as the station in Victoria Street was not fit for purpose.