Money seems to be in short supply for HTCUs at the moment. When I started a few years ago, there was usually enough to keep things ticking over – to buy equipment, training, overtime to get through the backlogs and all the rest of it. These days cuts across the force make it very difficult to get anything.
Our training budget has been slashed so that all we can afford now is the basic set of courses for our noobs, plus maybe one or two essential courses during the year (per unit, not per person). We only send one or two people to the conferences, and then it’s only the biggies like F3. We do OK for equipment on the whole, but we no longer have an overtime budget at all – anything we get has to be paid for by the division requesting it. When we do get out to a course or conference we come home disheartened after carrying our shared portion of chips past the four star restaurant where the private sector delegates are dining on truffles, champagne and the hearts of proletariat babies before returning to their hotel rooms with gold bath taps, silk sheets and dancing girls.
From talking to private sector people there seems to be a perception that police forces lack commercial sense. This may be true of an organisation as a whole, and can often be seen in purchasing policies – a few local computer companies tender for business and the winners then have the monopoly position of being named suppliers. From this point they can more or less stop pricing competitively. Computer geeks often seem to be keen online bargain hunters, and if you were to ask a roomful to find the cheapest online quote for a bag of equipment, they generally jump to the challenge – and save the Job a healthy percentage. What’s true for the organisation isn’t always true of the individuals – our unit is a very enterprising place with a successful tuck shop that sells to the rest of our floor, and a new meth lab that will be in business as soon as we can get the extractor fans in.
All this got me thinking. Can we ourselves generate income to partially fund our units? Here are my ideas – please feel free to add yours in the comments.
Selling our Souls to Corporate Satan
Sponsorship might well be one way forward. There are two types of sponsorship, the first being the kind you did at school where you traipse around your neighbours and parents’ friends, getting them to sponsor you a pound for every iteration of ‘keepy-uppy’ you can do, or every length you complete in a sponsored swim or whatever. We could get people to sponsor us for things like every 100 indecent images found on an exhibit, or for every exhibit imaged. This may sound as if it has no place in the public sector policy book, but it is rumoured to have been the motivation behind the present government’s introduction of 3600 new criminal offences during their time in power– if every Labour MP got £1 from each of their mum’s friends for every new piece of legislation, it’d soon add up to a pretty fancy decorative duck-castle.
The other kind of sponsorship is where you sell out to some corporate shill and allow him to associate his fatuous ‘brand’ with you. It’s like that bit in the Book of Revelation (the first piece of gonzo journalism, despite Hunter S Thompson’s claims) where everyone has to wear the mark of the beast. Some companies would probably be happy to have an association with us – forensic product manufacturers, local resellers etc. This would be OK, we’d allow them to have ‘as used by Monkey Constabulary HTCU’ posters and stick their logos on MOFO-V, and they’d give us freebies and discounts. We could even put sandwich boards up outside houses when we’re doing a warrant – ‘Monkey Constabulary – Locking up with the help of Inky Jim’s Inkjet Refills’. Every little helps, as Tesco says.
Moving corporate sponsorship up a level, we could really start to rake in the bucks. When one of our unit gives evidence in court, after taking the oath they could belt out the jingle from that bloody ‘Go Compare’ advert (before punching themselves in the kidneys and weeping with shame). That’s got to be good for a few quid. You’ve got a captive audience of 12 jurors plus the judge, lawyers, court staff etc, all waiting on your every word and with no way to mute the sound – admen would kill for that sort of exposure. If you were to deliver your evidence in running shorts, a stupid moustache and a ‘118’ vest you could double the money – a night at Bubba’s pleasure for contempt would be a small price to pay to enrich your unit’s coffers.
Police forces are encouraged to run like businesses these days, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we’re pushed down even more extreme avenues of corporate synergy – namely consultancy. Many of us already do freebie presentations to local chambers of commerce, schools and the like, so it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for some bright graduate in Finance to suggest that we take this service to the audience that really needs it. I’m talking about criminals – we know who they are, we know how they got caught last time, so if we start treating our crime recording systems as a CRM database and apply a bit of business logic to the situation… I can see suggestions that we run conferences for the local organised crime groups on how to use encryption, secure communication and all the rest of it. This could be extended to exchange or work experience trips, where some of our folk do a few days with the local OCG and some of them come to us to see how we do things. (Note to any Professional Standards people who are picking up the phone right now – this is, as you should have guessed, a joke. I shouldn’t have to say that, but somehow it feels necessary).
This post might have sounded like a whinge about money, but it’s not really. Everywhere in the public sector is living lean these days, and moaning about it won’t do any good. Yes, we need training and the rest of it, but every other department is equally in need of funds. As ever, I’m just standing on the sidelines pointing and laughing.
This post was brought to you with the help of Bauhaus, The Rolling Stones, T Rex and a Tempranillo that could have done with just a touch more tannin.