When a police force is better as an old-style constabulary
I have just read two of your recent articles concerning cultural identity (the Cornish brand, and the merging of Devon & Somerset Fire Service with that of Avon). These two articles are contradictory in some respects – symbolic identity and brand is apparently a great thing for Cornwall; but dilution of identity and brand of DSFRS though amalgamation is ok?
I can quite understand the fire service efficiency argument through sharing of resources and cutting duplication in the face of budgetary pressure, although equally the enthusiasm of some senior managers for such significant changes often results in the baby being thrown out with the bath water. I also wonder why DSFRS don't have a merger with Cornwall's service – at least the regional identity seems more obvious.
This all put me in mind of another recent, subtle cultural change. Devon & Cornwall Constabulary senior officers have told their staff that they are now "Devon & Cornwall Police", and that hereafter they should refer to themselves as such. Not that there has been any wider publicity on the matter. The reason, they are told, is that the public have difficulty finding them (on the internet, for example) with the traditional "constabulary" nomenclature. Must cause a real scramble on the 999 system, that one.
It may matter, it may not. I served 30 years with a constabulary that had managed with that title since Devon & Exeter (formerly a constabulary and a police respectively) amalgamated with Cornwall (a constabulary) and Plymouth City (a police) in 1967. (As a point on amalgamations, that one seemed to work fairly well, even with its divisional & county identities often persisting.) A constabulary seems to be the collective contemporary term for a number of forces. I'm sure there would have been an Act of Parliament which would have entitled Devon & Cornwall as a "Constabulary". and I don't suppose anyone has had time to change that with all the other important things they must have to think about.
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The now Chief Constable did once ask me why "constabulary" and not "police". As a simple county copper, I could only point out what it said on his cap badge. But I do think that a good many of the force's officer's would identify very closely with the heritage and reputation of Devon & Cornwall Constabulary. I can't help wonder why someone really thought the change of identity was necessary. Are the Home Office interested in converting all the other "constabularies" that aren't already "police"? (there appear to be six or so, out of 43. Perhaps someone who transferred in from some other force, and who doesn't share the same cultural heritage and identity? Personally, I'd go for the other option – why not "Metropolitan Constabulary". How they would laugh into their jars of cockles and jellied eels.