May 20 2013 Latest news:
By MARTIN GEORGE
Monday, June 18, 2012
What do a brace of pheasants, a George Formby biography signed by the author and a jar of homemade strawberry jam have in common?
Although they may sound like items on the Generation Game conveyor belt, they were among more than 100 gifts donors ranging from MPs and construction companies to the royal household offered Norfolk police officers and staff over the past year.
The list, published in the register of gifts, loans and hospitality 2011-12, provide a window into the working lives of the county’s police.
Nearly a quarter of the presents came from members of the public, and suggest a world that Dixon of Dock Green would be familiar with.
PC Walford declared a home-grown discovery apple worth 50p, PCSO Holden and PCSO Chard listed jars of honey and strawberry jam valued at £2, while PCSO Fuller appeared to be popular, recording five gifts of chocolates, biscuits and sweets.
Other items may have left the fictional PC Dixon scratching his head, whether it be the £8 brace of pheasants from a local estate owner, a £15.99 book about George Formby or a mounted force crest from the Kosovan border police valued at £20.
But perhaps the most intriguing gift was a pair of 50p stress balls for two people working in financial services – possibly to ease their angst while coping with the cuts.
The Christmas period proved a popular time to give presents, with policing teams in Sheringham, Acle, Taverham, Fakenham, North Lynn and Thetford all receiving sweets, cakes and biscuits for their efforts.
But perhaps unsurprisingly, the royal household provided the classiest gifts, distributing £474 worth of whisky miniatures and £100 of Christmas puddings to members of the royal and VIP protection team.
The Norfolk Police Authority’s ethical standards committee reviewed the register of gifts and hospitality in its April 2012 annual report, and said it was “pleased to note that members and officers were declaring any items received”.
It said all gifts above £25 have to be declared, but it encouraged even “nil returns” to ensure openness and complete transparency.
A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said the force had recently reviewed its policies and procedures towards the register, and sent staff and officers an email outlining the importance of following them.
Asked whether filling in paperwork to declare gifts of trivial value wasted police time, he said it ensured there was a clear audit trail and record which protected recipients, donors and the constabulary.
He said: “Officers and staff are aware how they should be conducting themselves so we offer our public a service that is completely transparent and fair – and ensure we are acting with integrity and within the law.
“Failure to comply with our policies and procedures can lead to disciplinary action, and even dismissal.”
Paul Ridgway, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said the paperwork involved was preferable to there being a perception of undue influence over police.
He said registers of gifts were introduced in response to claims about police corruption in the 1980s, and had “certainly stamped it out in Norfolk at least”.
The register also revealed a sharp fall in the level of sponsorship Norfolk police received, from £82,154 in 2009-10 to £12,187 in 2011-12. A spokesman said the £70,000 drop was due to the end of one-off projects.