Should police travel to work in uniform?

Police officers on bicycles
Image caption Police officers on bicycles pass a boarded-up house in Notting Hill, London

A think tank has suggested that police officers should wear uniforms on their way to and from work to increase police visibility.

Policy Exchange said that would equate to having an extra 1,200 officers on the streets in London - but the Police Federation said the idea was impractical and would make officers and their families potential targets.

Police officers have been reacting to the think tank's proposals. Here is a selection of their comments:

From the UK Police Online forum

Scouse_bobby says:

if they want me in uniform to and from work, where do I store my CS Spray and Taser at home? Will they pay me to charge my airwaves terminal at home?

If I end up arresting someone on my way to work and my area ends up short, what happens regarding staff numbers then? Do I get paid for arresting before work and at what rate? What happens if I arrest on my way home - do I get paid and again, at what rate?

What happens if I am followed home by local criminals as I am clearly identifiable as a police officer? There are already colleagues who have been unfortunate enough to be identified and had their cars set on fire. However, if EVERY police officer is easily identified then this could increase?

Would the police as an organisation take responsibility for my home and family? What happens with car insurance - if I drive to work in full uniform and therefore needing my kit belt, how many insurers would refuse to insure a vehicle used for a policing purpose (which it would be) and a vehicle carrying a Section 5 firearm or 2?

Are they suggesting using public transport? If they are the tax payer is going to have to pay for extra train services as I can not get home after nights or lates by public transport and I cannot get into work for mornings by public transport which is why I drive my car!

Ridiculous idea and as highlighted above raises more issues than it resolves!

Problem solver says:

You step out of your house in the morning and your neighbours, who all know and appreciate your important role in society, bid you a cheery "good morning officer" as you walk off to the train station. What could possibly go wrong!Sorry - thought I was on the set of "Heartbeat" for a minute.

From the Police Oracle forum

IveToldYouOnce writes:

OK. If I'm in uniform, so that I can deal with 'stuff' that happens on the way into work, then I will want, nay demand, my PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]. I think that's reasonable.

So I'll need somewhere secure to hold my CS, TASER and radio - them all being restricted bits of kit. It'll need to be some sort of safe that is bolted to a main wall somewhere in my house. I could charge 'rent' on the space required....... and I'll need to be charging my PR at home - so I'll want some sort of recompense for the electricity to charge it.

I'll also being doing at least an hour of extra duty per shift. Do I get paid for that or is part of the 'flexible working arrangements' that HMG want to impose?

I can only assume that this only applies to those officers who travel to work on public transport.....and I assume that because the Think Tank (presumably) all work in London and so have decent public transport that most of the country doesn't have...........

One presumes that as I'm effectively 'at work' once I leave the house, that my car will need some extra insurance. Oh, and I won't be able to listen to the radio (as in Radio 4) in case it stops me hearing my PR. I'm sure that interferes with my Rights, but there you go.

Why don't they go the whole hog and make officer's homes 'temporary police stations' as you could see coppers getting ambushed (in all senses of the word) when they leave their house to have crimes reported to them - or to be asked to deal with.

I can see it now, there's a knock at the door at 2000hrs and it's the bloke from down the street saying "I know you're a copper, and I think you'll be starting on nights shortly, but there's an iffy looking bloke down the road that you need to look at".

I don't know about the rest of you, but I use my travelling time to, and from, work to contemplate the day ahead, relax and wind down from the stresses of the day/night. I do that so that I reduce the amount of "world of crazy" into my house to affect my family/private life.

Otis writes:

If I now travel to work in uniform, does that mean I can no longer read the paper, or eat or drink on my journey in, like everyone else ? Does this mean that I am entitled to a paid break on arrival for my shift ?

If we commute in uniform and now get bothered by all and sundry because there are minor incidents up and down the train, being brought to out attention ( ie 3 carriages up there is someone smoking in the toilets ). We are obliged to deal. If it all goes wrong and I need back-up there are several implications.

One, the trains will be getting held up all over the place, stuck in Stations while Officers wait for urgent assistance, ambulances, etc.

Two, we will need a bigger BTP [British Transport Police] to cater for all these incidents.

Three, I will be late for my own shift, along with all the other passengers.

From Twitter

Chairman of The Police Federation Paul McKeever, @PoliceFedChair, tweets: The PolEx ideas are trying to cover up the gaping cracks that a 20% cut and 32,000 lost officers/staff will bring to policing.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, @PoliceFedforNI, tweets: Going to work in uniform? Suicide here and frequently unsafe elsewhere. High price to pay for extra visibility.

@KennyPlod tweets: It seems the @Policy_Exchange masterplan involves me working every hr god sends, not seeing my family and dying before I cam claim pension

@TheCustodySgt tweets: When will Govt listen to those of us doing the job & not academics who have no experience of policing? Inclusion not exclusion please.

@Peelian_cop tweets: My duty to protect my family comes 1st i'm afraid @Blair_Gibbs I would not put them at risk or my home to give the illusion of more officers

@99Ado tweets: so wht if you do plain clothes work, ud have to go to work in uniform to then get changed into civvies, tht be bit dangerous

@SuptPayneWMP tweets: I am thinking of having a flashing blue light fitted to my i-phone to enhance police visibility when I tweet. #stupidpolicingideasday

Your emails

As a serving officer, and I can safely say I would quit my job before wearing uniform to and from work, as even without wearing the uniform I am aware of the potential of being followed - I have three young children and a wife and their safety is paramount. I know colleagues have been followed before - their homes damaged, and sometimes their lives threatened. King Kenny

I'm a serving police officer in Scotland currently on protected duties due to pregnancy. One of the first things they do is say no uniform in case you are spotted and targeted on your way to work. If some of my neighbours knew I was a police officer they'd have a field day. And in case they suggest keeping the necessary kit at home, burglars would love that. Completely nuts. Katie

Are these people for real? My other half nearly had to move homes due to some criminal finding out where she lived. I really wish they would leave the decisions to the people in the know and not make huge assumptions from behind a desk. Birmingham Fox

I'm a father of a serving PC. The risk of reprisal is very real, not as bad as NI but real, such as finding your tyres slashed, house vandalised etc. I know my son keeps a low profile for those reasons. On the other hand he is a pair of eyes while off work and carries his radio on the way to work. Anything untoward would be passed on straight away. Andy's Dad

I don't know any officer or civilian staff who would walk by someone in need because they haven't started work yet. There's plenty we do without making ourselves known to the victim. But my elderly mother would be appalled if I had to give her a lift wearing my uniform - she'd feel like a suspect in custody. Jessegee

As a serving Kent PC living on MET area, I ride a motorcycle to work. Should someone stop me on my motorcycle I would be late for the shift, totally interfering with resources. To which may I add I do not get free transport and I have made several off-duty arrests not in uniform. Rocketguy

Comments from social media sites have been faithfully reproduced

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