At a cost of £15 per year per household (which the County Council adds to the precept, the Parish Council’s discretionary taxation appended to the Council Tax), the Parish Council will fund a Police Community Support Officer dedicated to the village.
The privatisation of policing tends to cause a visceral fear in most liberals. The state’s monopoly on coercion and violence are rightly viewed as essential safeguards against the brutal anarchy that would ensue if private armies were allowed to proliferate. Yet on the other hand, hiring a bodyguard or security guard is only a natural extension of the individual’s right to self-defence.
This example is actually a half-way house, with the PCSO remaining an officer of the state, but financed and thus deployed by the local community. This is closer to Britain’s policing heritage than our current system; over the past 30 years successive Home Secretaries have extended centralised control over what were a plethora of local police services, developed from local watch committees. This centralisation has not been entirely positive.
Dedham is famous for Constable
This particular story does raise an issue of equality, however. While I can see no reason why a community should not be allowed to volunteer to pay for extra security, and while it may make sense for that security to be an officer of the state, I am concerned by the report on today’s Times (a column inch of which explains my unerring knowledge of the workings of Dedham Parish Council) that the Parish will only pay half of the costs of the PCSO, with Essex County Council or Essex police presumably picking up the rest of the bill. This raises the spectre of public resources being allocated to where communities are rich enough to bear part of the costs, but are unwilling to bear all. This is in effect a subsidy to the wealthier sectors of society, who can afford to vote for a £15 a year rise in their Council Tax, diverting resources away from poorer areas where money is tighter. What is more, it allocates resources based not on need, but on ability to pay: as Dedham Councillor Lyn West noted, ‘the village would [not] get "value for money" in view of the low level of crime in Dedham’.