PC slates store tea invite move

A BEAT bobby has branded a scheme to invite police officers in for a cuppa as stupid - and said it gave out confusing mixed messages.

A BEAT bobby has branded a scheme to invite police officers in for a cuppa as 'stupid' - and said it gave out confusing 'mixed messages.'

The officer, who is coming towards the end of his career in East Devon and didn't wish to be named, made the comments following the launch of 'It's a Fair Co-op of Tea' scheme.

It calls for officers and Police Community Support Officers to drop into Co-operative stores across East Devon for a free cuppa to help them spend more time in the community.

The scheme is collaboration between the supermarket chain and the Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary,

Paul Netherton.

But the officer criticised the plan - and pointed out that the police's Professional Standards Board, no more than six years ago, began a campaign to stop the culture of police officers accepting

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"They drew up a code of conduct because the public were angry at what they perceived as police officers using their position to get things for free and our integrity was brought into question," he said.

He said when he first started out it was a 'regular occurrence' to drop in to see the baker for a chat, and he would give him a loaf of bread, or the grocer for 'a bag of apples or tomatoes.'

"It was incredibly useful," he said. "Bobbies on the beat talked to shop keepers and members of the public and you got intelligence about crimes in the area, then they stopped it.

"What annoys me is that, on one hand, we are being told to be whiter than white and not accept anything for free and now there is this. It's stupid, it's confusing and it's giving us mixed messages.

"Exactly what is too much? Can you now accept a cup of tea, but not a cake? Or a biscuit with that cup of tea?

"Is it all right to accept it from Co-op but not from Somerfield or Waitrose?"

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton said: "It is essential that our staff are not only visible but make contact with the people they meet. It is important that our staff have an opportunity for a rest break but, in this case, there are benefits to the police and wider community as the police stay within their neighbourhoods and have more time to talk and make a difference.