A Time for Common Sense


From “Rye’s Own” March 2001 issue

The time has come for our police and those that control them to stop playing games and get on with the job they are paid to do.

There has been an endless cry from the police for new resources and an even louder wail from politicians that the force is underfunded as though throwing money at a failing organisation can be any answer.

Mr. G.W.R. Terry The Chief Constable of East Sussex
Mr. G.W.R. Terry The Chief Constable of East Sussex

The resources are there for all to see, the problem is they are being used incorrectly and with little or no imagination. There are more policemen operating in Sussex today than there were in 1966. The problem is they have been centralised and lost touch with the public. They have demanded more and more ‘toys’ to work with, as if gimmicks like helicopters and scrambler motor cycles are likely to cut the crime rate.

Please face reality when policemen lived in and were part of the community they were respected and helped by the overwhelming majority of the public. Today they have lost that respect and in the Rye area they have become a joke. Often so late arriving at the scene of a crime they have no chance of apprehending the villains The police representation was even late arriving at the recent meeting of the Sussex Police Authority Consultative Group at Rye Town Hall. They were actually jeered by members of the public something that would never have happened twenty years ago.

The Police Authority Consultative Group was set up to act as a conduit between the police and the public when relations started to break down after centralisation. This act itself was an admission that the new system had failed but of course there would be much loss of face if this were to be admitted so the establishment carried on in the same ridiculous direction. Look where it has ended.

They have sold off the police housing stock, closed village police points, closed many town stations and put most of the others on a part time basis. The senior officers are now, for the greater part, fast track academics who have little experience of ‘sharp end’ policing and no idea whatsoever when it comes to addressing the public. It is though they look at the world through blinkers, reciting a mass of crime statistics, which I do think they actually believe themselves. The fact of the matter is the police are completely out of touch with the general public, seemingly insulated in their cars and working behind the closed doors of their police stations. Contact with them is made via mechanical voices on telephones and when one eventually gets through it is not the man in Rye you speak to but some officer in Lewes or Seaford or Eastbourne who has no idea of the street names in Rye. Emergency calls are answered by an ‘Instant Response Unit’ – another joke if it were not so serious. The unit may be 30 or more miles from Rye and can even be sidetracked to another ’emergency’ on the way. The police claim that 20 minutes is the maximum time for a response unit to reach Rye, but this is completely erroneous. Our Fire Service, which is manned by part timers, gets to a fire in this town within FIVE minutes. If the full time Police were operating from Rye Police Station they would be there in the same time. As it is, even if there are policemen in the Rye station they do not respond, it is left to the Instant Response Unit, no matter how long they are going to take. There are police cars parked at the back of the Rye station, day and night, but they are not used for emergencies.

Police Dog on Patrol 1966
Police Dog on Patrol 1966

We have a new man in charge at Rye, let him use a bit of initiative, demand the return of the sixteen men purloined by Senlac. Get night and day foot patrols out again. Advertise the station number to the public. Get that phone manned day and night Get at least one man on stand-by with one of the cars at his disposal to respond to beat officers and local public problems. Take the weight off the 999 system. Let Rye look after its own people. Get all the vehicles parked behind the station at night moved into the streets of the town so that there is a police visibility around. This would be using resources that are available, no more money needed. Encourage officers to get involved with young people. There once was a policeman at Rye called Donald Franks, he was Scoutmaster and respected by the young people of the day, he influenced the difficult lads in the right direction. Other Rye coppers were involved in local football and youth clubs. There was a cycle proficiency course run by the Rye police and school visits were made on a regular basis.

Rye and the surrounding villages, controlled by Rye, had 52 policemen plus a CID section in 1966. Everyone knew at least a few of the policemen by name. Crime was kept to a minimum because police knew the problem people and for the same reason, detection rates were very high. Public response when a policeman called for help was 100%. One wonders what that percentage would be today?

Getting back to common sense, it seems that the old system worked admirably. Police officers were happy with their lot, the public were satisfied and felt secure and crime was kept well under control.

Contrast this with today’s sad story. Crime on a scale undreamed of in 1966, even in the big towns, is happening in the streets of Rye. Police officers are disillusioned and leaving the force, being replaced by men of a lower and lower calibre. Technology is king, but fails miserably when compared with the old system. Prevention is more effective than detection. The only time one sees a policeman these days is speeding past in a police car, they seem to have one each.

How can the force justify racing two police cars from Hastings to Rye to deal with a traffic accident? A round trip of about an hour using fuel and endangering other traffic in their efforts to get to the scene. This task could be done much easier from Rye, at far less cost and with a much quicker arrival time. That was how it used to be done. We need to go back in time.

There are reports in the local press of a Rate Revolt in the face of such poor police cover. This demonstrates how far local businesses and residents will go to make their point. Surely, those responsible for the terrible state the police service has been allowed to fall in must take notice and reinstate a proper police presence in this town. Forget centralisation – it is a complete and abject failure – reinstate the old system while you still have the officers to do so.

If you are in any doubt about these comments

Ask any ‘Old Policeman’ they will confirm what must be done!

The words of a policeman in 1967

“To everyone in Rye my officers and I say thank you for your support and your example. It is a wonderful place – together let’s keep it so” Mr. G. W. R. Terry, The Chief Constable of East Sussex

From “Rye’s Own” March 2001 issue