IN A few days time there's going to be a bit of a kerfuffle with the police. They hope you don't notice anything.
In fact, they're counting on it.
The amusingly nicknamed "B'day" will be happening on May 20 and will see the implementation of the Blueprint project. Which is a nice PR way of saying "today we implement the changes which we've been forced to do because the government has cut our budget so much we can now only afford a "nee" when we turn on the siren (meaning "nee-naa" - and for those amongst you who claim police actually only use the US woo-woo-woo sirens, you are the very definition of pedants).
Basically, they've taken what they've got, looked at the finances and said "how do we police with only this much money?" They've then fired civilian investigators, front counter staff, back room civvies and others, told older coppers who've done 30 years to sling their hooks, closed front counters - and probably will be closing small stations altogether - rejigged patrol, response and CID departments, turned the thermostat down, ordered tellys to be turned off as they're not licensed anymore, and cut back on the biscuits. The awfully flash cars belonging to the very senior officers in Middlemore are still there though... even the one's being broken into by thieves while they are left "insecure" outside the Chief Constable's home.
The structure of the police world in Devon and Cornwall will see a seismic shift on B'day. No gradual introduction, no trialing, no testing the water.
New shift rotas, rearranged section teams, new CID units covering much larger (much, much larger) patches, longer hours and new responsibilities for late shift detectives, additional roles for dog handlers, traffic cops and armed response, new prioritisation on crime and non-crime incidents - they'll all take place as of that day.
With less coppers, natch.
Okay, for a great number of you filth-haters, it's no bad thing. "They'll have to work for a living" some will say (invariably those who think a morning's work is watching more chav baiting on Jeremy Kyle).
There is undoubtedly something heartwarming in hearing a copper moan that they've now been posted to the back of beyond and due to police regulations they will have to drive 30 miles - yes, 30 whole miles - to get to their new place of work.
When I've cheekily replied I was travelling around 50 miles every morning when I was 16 to get to work on a train packed with other commuters, and I considered it just part and parcel of needing a bleedin' job, it has gone down like a turkey twizzler at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's proposed Plymouth deli. But, welcoming public servants to the often harsher world of the private enterprise is a gleeful job, all the same.
However, before you all gloat, keep in mind this. Less cops, stretched much thinner, attempting to do the same work as before, but demoralised, angry, fed-up, taking on-going flak from the government and its endless reviews and inquiries over their pensions from the likes of Lord Hutton (remember him, the guy who claimed the BBC had over-egged the suggestion that the 45-minute bombs-from-Iraq claim was rubbish?) and Tom Winsor who scrutinised their pay and conditions – well, I hardly need tell you it doesn't make for a bunch of laughing policemen.
In fact, it makes for very unhappy policemen, very unhappy indeed.
And, let’s be honest, unhappy policemen are a pain in the backside.
I mean, I've been tracking them for more than a decade as a reporter, and bigger moaners you'd be hard to find.
Admittedly, unlike most of us, their customer base are the kind of people you want to moan about.
I think I'd also get a bit despondent and suffer a sense of ennui after a week of listening to the like of Tyson and his on-off-on-off bird Chantelle and their endless whinging about who's threatened to batter who on Facebook and whether their neighbour should be done over because they "grassed" on them about beating their kids Chardonnay and Reese and leaving their pit-bull Hercules to crap on every square inch of the pavement.
The proof of the smaller and less appetizing pudding, I think, will be in the amount of crimes solved next year. I'm putting my £1 bet down now with the bookies that the detection rate next year will see a marked drop, and the year after.
And when the new Police Commissioners are planted, the Home Office will be able to hold up their hands and say “nothing to do with us anymore Guv, you’ve elected a new Commish, it’s their fault, blame them”. Which is an awfully deft bit of political hand-washing, I must say.
However, the figures won’t look bad for too long. Only until the government comes up with a plan to rejig the Home Office figures and police get the go ahead to screen out certain incidents so they don't appear on the books.
Remember, if you can't lose enough weight, just fiddle with the scales until it looks like you have.