Wandsworth Parks Police

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A parks police van.

Wandsworth Parks Police was the name given to the body of Constables[1] run by Wandsworth Borough Council from 1984 to 2012, which was primarily concerned in patrolling parks and open spaces in the London Borough of Wandsworth to enforce by-laws and other enactments relating to parks and open spaces. The constabulary worked closely with the Metropolitan Police Service, with whom there was a history of mutual co-operation, the two forces often assisting each other with arrests, ASBOs, and other operational matters.[2]

These Constables were first and foremost council officers and were referred to by Wandsworth Council as 'Parks Police Constables',[3] or 'Constables'.[4]

As each London Borough Council is independent, the police powers exercised by Wandsworth's Police Constables differed from those exercised by Constables from other London Boroughs. However, this was down to local policy and interpretation of the legislation that the constables attested under.

In April 2011 Wandsworth Council announced that it was proposing to take advantage of a Metropolitan Police Authority funding scheme that would result in the set up of a team of 16 police officers from the Metropolitan Police dedicated to policing the parks and open spaces of the borough. The council believed the move would save £800,000 a year as well as securing a team of officers some with higher levels of training and greater powers. Such a move meant the abolition of the Wandsworth Parks Police.[5][6][7] There was opposition to this proposal.[8] However, it went ahead on 1 April 2012, when the force was replaced by a Metropolitan Police Safer Parks Team.[9]

Whilst the Wandsworth Parks Police have been formally disbanded, the council retained five officers [10] within the newly formed Wandsworth Events Police. The officers are still sworn in under the same legislation and enjoy the same powers as their predecessor brand. The cost savings that were put forward by the council as a justification for disbanding the parks police took no account of the cost of maintaining the 'new' constabulary, which is led by an Inspector [11]

Legal status[edit]

The Constables were sworn in under Article 18 of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967. This states that:

A local authority may procure officers appointed by them for securing the observance of the provisions of all enactments relating to open spaces under their control or management and of bye-laws and regulations made thereunder to be sworn in as a constable for that purpose but any such officer shall not act as a Constable unless in uniform or provided with a warrant.

This gives the powers of a Constable whilst enforcing open space law, including bye-laws and regulations. This includes the power under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to stop a vehicle, driving onto common land.[citation needed] Other powers used by the Constables are set out in Sections 24 and 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) as amended by section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.[12]

When on or off duty and they see an offence being committed that is not in breach of the open spaces laws, they may only arrest using 'other person powers' (commonly known as citizen's arrest) given under Section 24a of PACE.[13]

Wandsworth council's opinions on the stop and search powers of Parks Police constables differed. One report stated that they had no such powers,[14] whereas a later report said they had search powers only upon arrest for breach of bylaws, under Section 1 of PACE.[12] However, the post-arrest power of searching was derived from Section 32 of PACE which allows those that are arrested to be searched:

"Section 32(1): A constable may search an arrested person, in any case where the person to be searched has been arrested at a place other than a police station, if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the arrested person may present a danger to himself or others.

Section 32(2) Subject to subsections (3) to (5) below, a constable shall also have power in any such case- (a) to search the arrested person for anything - (i) which he might use to assist him to escape from lawful custody; or (ii) which might be evidence relating to an offence"

It would seem that these constables did have such a power. However, if they seized evidence in relation to a suspected offence of which they did not have jurisdiction then they still had a power of seizure, although they were required to hand the evidence over to a local police officer for consideration of arrest.

Regardless of their status as Constables, they were also council officers and as such could enforce legislation which only Local Authority Officers are able to enforce for prosecution.[citation needed]

The number of arrests made by the constabulary dropped from 148 arrests in 2000/2001 [15] to 18 arrests in 2010/2011 [16]

Equipment[edit]

The powers of parks constables to carry batons has been questioned by the British media,[17][18] with the trade union UNISON warning their members not to carry them.[19]

The Constables of Wandsworth Parks Police were trained to Home Office standard to carry Monadnock batons.[12] Wandsworth Council received their own legal opinion in November 2001 stating that carrying such equipment was legal.[12] However, a report for Newham Council[20] and a legal opinion for Barking and Dagenham Council contradicts this.[21] This opinion stated that there was no "lawful authority" for parks constables to carry batons.[22]

They also trained with and carried rigid handcuffs.[23]

The motor vehicles used by the Constables were fully fitted with blue flashing strobe lights, alternating headlamps and sirens.[12] Wandsworth Council stated that their use was legal under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, as amended. These regulations permit blue lights to be fitted to emergency vehicles that are used for police purposes.[12]

Terminology[edit]

They were not a "police force", because they were not a body constituted under acts such as the Police Act 1996, Police (Scotland) Act 1967 or the acts that set up the British Transport or Ministry of Defence Police.[24] This view was supported by an independent opinion for Barking and Dagenham Council.[22]

They however provided a police service, both in plain clothes and uniform. They enforced bye-laws and other enactments relating to open spaces.

Other duties[edit]

  • Key holding and response to building alarms by day and night, including the search of premises with Police Dogs when alarms are activated.
  • On site security and protection of Council staff, particularly in the Town Hall.
  • Serving legal documentation on behalf of the Council and the Courts.
  • Policing and co-ordinating events, both Council and non-Council, particularly those in Battersea Park and supporting their P.P.S.O. and Reserve P.P.S.O at said events.
  • Working together with other Council departments, the Metropolitan Police Service and the other emergency services in emergency management and civil defense.[12]

Police Dog Section[edit]

Police dogs[25] had a vital role in the work of the Wandsworth Parks Police, assisting police officers in routine work. General purpose police dogs were German Shepherds, Bouvier des Flandres and Malinois. Drug search dogs were Border Collie and Labradors.

Headquarters[edit]

The headquarters of the Police Service were located in Battersea Park, and included both the office of the Chief Officer, and the modern operations and control centre, manned 24 hours per day. The headquarters was also home to administrative staff and Home Office qualified instructors. The constables were also awarded Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee Medal as Police Officers.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ UNISON Police Staff Profile Magazine,Winter 2003/04 issue page 8 and 9. Article 'When can a Police Officer be a member of UNISON?'. Author Laurence Pollock
  2. ^ http://wsra.info/Assets/Minutes_25_10_07.pdf
  3. ^ Response by Wandsworth Council to a Freedom of Information Act request, throughout the response
  4. ^ Response by Wandsworth Council to a Freedom of Information Act request, Section 14 part A
  5. ^ http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/10368/plan_for_met_officers_to_patrol_parks
  6. ^ http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13624
  7. ^ http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23938047-met-police-to-take-over-park-security-in-south-london.do
  8. ^ Blunden, Mike (25 August 2011). "Sacking parks police may be against the law, unions warn". Evening Standard. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Wandsworth Borough Council website
  10. ^ http://www.batterseapark.org/news/parks-police-threat/
  11. ^ http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/download/5997/pump_house_gallery_appendices_to_the_terms_and_conditions
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Response by Wandsworth Council to a Freedom of Information Act request
  13. ^ "Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15)". Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  14. ^ http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/Published/C00000362/M00002523/AI00002899/$PaperNo06456.docA.ps.pdf
  15. ^ http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/pressreleasedetail.asp?id=1279
  16. ^ http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=14495
  17. ^ "Parks police to be armed (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)". Guardian-series.co.uk. 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  18. ^ "Arming Parks Police 'Illegal' Says Former Officer (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)". Guardian-series.co.uk. 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  19. ^ "Baton Balls". Private Eye. 27 April 2007. 
  20. ^ http://www.newham.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/ED1C2C59-4028-4BFA-AA8A-3AFF6F389882/0/asbr.pdf
  21. ^ http://moderngov.barking-dagenham.gov.uk/Published/C00000180/M00001479/AI00005057/$DLESTinaRobinsonFutureoftheParksConstabularyAppendixB2.1FINAL.docA.ps.pdf
  22. ^ a b http://moderngov.barking-dagenham.gov.uk/Published/C00000180/M00001479/AI00005057/DLESTinaRobinsonFutureoftheParksConstabularyAppenidxAandB2FINAL.pdf
  23. ^ "Specialty Hinged Handcuffs | HIATT Handcuffs". Hiatts.com. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  24. ^ Report for Newham London Borough Council, section entitled 'The use of the word "police"'
  25. ^ "Parks police - Dog section - Wandsworth Council". Wandsworth.gov.uk. 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  26. ^ "Press release 91/01". MPA. 2001-12-04. Retrieved 2009-05-07.