Friday, 8 February 2013

The Honorary Police of Jersey

In the dim and distant past, in the days when it cost ten bob (50p in today's near worthless currency) to almost fill the passion wagon with petrol and, it goes without saying, before Herself and I got together, I had a couple of very minor altercations with the long arm of the law. I deliberately didn't say that thin blue line which stands between us and anarchy, because these little run-ins were with an obnoxious little honorary police officer who, as I once suggested to him, had obviously been to night classes to pass the parish force's entrance exam (sole question: there have been six Kings of England called George - name them).

This self-important little pipsqueak - why is it that most of the more officious ones are small, I often wonder - lived about a hundred yards from my home and for about two years found something to flag me down for about every ten days or so. If that had been these days and his superiors got wind of such harassment, all hell would break loose with inquiries, disciplinary boards, consultations with the Attorney-General and possibly witness statements from the parish hall cat, for all I know. (Helier Clement, JEP)

Helier Clement, writing the above in the JEP is quite right about today's honorary police system being very different from yesteryear. Today it is not just a matter of volunteering, bring given a card, and going out to enforce the law officiously, as he describes in his article. Although to be fair, there were some very good honorary police in the past, but that learning was much more a case of picking things up as you went along, and without the discipline and oversight that exists today.

Nowadays, there is a lot more than just directing traffic, or conducting speed checks, although those are some of the occasions when the honorary police are most visible to the general public. And contrary to what the public believe (and sadly too many politicians also), gone are the days when after swearing-in all you got was a yellow jacket and warrant card before being 'let loose'. That has all changed - dramatically!

Every officer who joins MUST undergo a foundation course. During that period they are not deployed unsupervised nor given any training on technical equipment which are subject to intensive courses later on in their advanced training.

The foundation course is designed to primarily keep officers safe and to 'teach' the rudiments of law as required knowledge of office and includes such things as 'judges rules', powers of arrest, basic motor traffic law and general custody procedure. Courses are arranged and conducted by an approved States of Jersey Police trainer. In house they will learn about the Parish Hall Enquiry system, record keeping, common day-to-day usage forms and many other matters that whilst covered in the course are best learned through their senior and more experienced colleagues.

Once the foundation course is completed to the satisfaction of the States of Jersey Police training staff, officers are certificated and may thereafter attend further courses for advanced training. They include, speed-check devices like the laser gun, road-side breath testing, first aid and self-defence. This is not the martial arts type of self-defence but how to read body language, street-awareness and general personal safety - which may then follow on to specialised handcuff training and restraint techniques.

It is all conducted in stages and part-learned too by assisting other, more experienced officers which may in some parishes also include being deployed with a States Officer for an evening or two.

In addition, there are several optional course available on specialised topics, for example, domestic violence, drugs awareness, licensing law and many more. Officers are encouraged to add to their knowledge base generally and have open invitation to accompany a Centenier to the Magistrates Court and/or Police Headquarters Custody Suite to observe the charging process. Officers, in any event, are introduced to the Criminal Justice Systems by sitting in on Parish Hall Enquiries and taking the role of 'Duty Officer' for the purposes of recording the hearing and generally assisting with the paperwork - of which there is plenty!.

Many people are not aware that amongst their duties:

1. Conducting curfew checks - to the schedules as laid down by the Courts
2. Licensing checks - all licensed premises, which of course, includes hotels as well as pubs, nightclubs and restaurants
3. Searches for missing persons - usually in conjunction with, and co-ordinated by, States of Jersey Police
4. Conducting road checks in co-operation with States of Jersey Police and DVS (Driver & Vehicle Standards)
5. Serve summonses. This is not so frequent these days, but still part of the 'services' to the courts that fall to the Honorary Police.
6. Attend road traffic accidents and public order incidents
7. Provide security services again in conjunction with States of Jersey Police for example: Royal visits.
8. And provide request back-up to the States Police is a multitude of emergency circumstances

Then of course there are things like the Branchage, Visit Royale (once every six years), and ceremonial/traditional occasions like Liberation Day and Remembrance Sunday. And with some of those go planning and co-ordination meetings involved with those occasions in much the same way as there is for the Battle of Flowers, Jersey Live, Jersey Marathon, Jersey Triathlon Challenge, West Show - the list goes on.

Obligations falling to Centeniers only also include attending 'sudden deaths' (death at home) where it is the Centeniers prerogative to release the body of the deceased into the custody of the morgue or undertakers - and sometimes to the Coroner. There are also many occasions when they need to liaise with the Law Officers/Legal advisers on complex cases to determine whether charges are to be brought - or not, or perhaps commuted to a lesser charge.

Also contrary to what people may think, Centeniers are also required to charge anyone arrested by Customs and Excise. There are detention cells at both the harbour and the airport - not all criminal prosecutions are brought by the Police and few actually realise that.

The savings to the taxpayer are considerable, as the absence of honorary police would require extra manpower in the States of Jersey Police, together with pensions when they left. That is a debt that is often overlooked.

The honorary police are currently in a recruitment drive in many Parishes. If you are interested in giving something back to the community, are reasonably fit and able, why not find out more from the links below?

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