on a march. They're taking a stand against the cuts that have progressively degraded the service they are able to provide to the public to the extent that much of it, they point out, is provided due only to their ability to go the extra mile and fill the gaps with goodwill and their own wallets.
I witnessed this at first hand while out on patrol with police officers in Shepherds Bush one Saturday night when they needed to arrest three individuals who had just carried out an assault. I remember very well how essential bits of kit were used such as specialist keys to unlock doors - which they'd had to pay for with their own cash because they hadn't been provided. And the fact that they had to drive around in a van that was frankly falling apart - including a sliding door - which was fine apart from the fact it usually wanted to slide right off its hinges.
In fairness to our Council, who are absolutely committed to fighting crime after my report was published the van was renovated and they now have a new one. But should it have taken that? And what about the Special Constable I met - someone who volunteers for the Police for free and who had used up his entire annual leave allocation to do basic training. For the dubious privilege of facing danger on our behalf. Such as this episode when I accompanied a danger-fraught raid on a crystal meth factory on the White City Estate - inside the flat we found a samurai sword and a club with blades pressed through it that wouldn't have been out of place in a medieval battle field.
I watched people who were prepared to deal with dangers like these one minute and then dispense the most sensitive diplomacy I have ever seen the next, both to victims of crime and potential committers of crime who themselves were slowly dying from disease and drug addiction. Quite a job. I can tell you that the general feeling among them is of real anger bordering on betrayal at these cuts - but I can't quote anyone because that is a political statement. You'll have to take my word for it. Or perhaps not - have a read of this from a serving custody sergeant who blogs anonymously about what the mean for him. It may open your eyes.
The police get a lot of things wrong, and are rightly criticised for them. But let's not forget the fact that these people routinely put themselves on the line for our benefit and for far too long have done so with more goodwill than any of us would probably go to in our own lives. So to see them being asked to accept swingeing cuts that will further degrade the service is frankly beyond the pale.
Support them when they need you - they're there when you need them.