When I first read that Scotland Yard was axing 65 police stations across London and setting police officers up in local Post Offices I thought it was a spot of tabloid sensationalism. Several newspapers reported that the Met Police is to close 65 stations (including Scotland Yard) and move its front desks to Post Offices and supermarkets as part of £500m budget cuts. Despite the incredulous headlines, this bold plan makes a great deal of sense, both from a property and facilities management perspective and for budgetary and community reasons.
The public no longer uses police stations to report crime – fewer than 50 crimes a night are reported in person at police stations. So why should the Police man front desks in expensive locations? Research from the Mayor Of London reveals that public confidence in the police sits at 62 per cent, far short of its 75 per cent target. Taking the Police out of the back office and moving them into more visible positions in the community – in supermarkets, Post Offices and libraries – should see that public confidence increase, and reduce crime in those areas.
And while it might initially be offputting to spot a man in uniform when you’ve just popped in to buy stamps or borrow a bestseller, in the FM world, we’re accustomed to mixed-use space. Schools can be polling stations one day and adult learning spaces the next. Church halls are used from everything from tea dances and birthday parties to jumble sales, yoga classes and NCT meets. Coffee shops are home to everything from senior execs having an impromptu board meeting, mums breastfeeding babies and pensioners having a catch-up. With libraries and Post Offices at risk from closure, giving them an additional function will give them an extra lease of life – and could result in increased revenue.
We’re all working more on the move – in satellite offices, client sites and coffee shops – why should the Police, who need to be visible to society, be any different? In fact, shouldn’t they be leading the way?
Of course there will be lots of small print to get through. But let’s hope that when the headlines become reality, someone has taken the time to talk to the Police about the implications on working behaviour and etiquette on moving from back office to front of house and that they have been trained how to work and behave differently.