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Police told to text to save money

Police in the UK are reportedly being trained to text because their radio system is too expensive.

There is something both lovable and just about British policemen.

They roam the streets, dispensing righteousness, without the aid of a gun. Which makes it safer for the average British citizen to know that if they happen to offer a policeman a slurry quip they will not be offed within a nanosecond of the punchline.

However, it seems as if the British police is struggling to make ends meet, technologically speaking. For the Daily Mail solemnly reports that bobbies on the beat are being trained to text to save money.

You see, British policemen have radios attached to their lapels. However, the company that happens to own the network upon which the police urgently ask for backup, Airwave Solutions, is alleged to charge quite a lot of money for the service.

Personally, I am highly suspicious of any company that has the word "solutions" in its name. Claiming you are a solution is merely a ruse behind which lurks a company that creates problems.

Step away from that radio. It's too expensive. CC Steve Punter/Flickr

So who could be stunned to discover that the British policepersons are being taught to text in order to avoid using their radios? The Mail declares that Airwave Solutions makes more profit than UK cell phone provider Vodafone. And one reason that they might have such healthy profits is that they reportedly charge 2 British pounds (around $3) for every second that the police exceed some pre-arranged limit of talk time.

Please consider that. $3 a second. No cell phone provider, no lawyer, no lap dancer would surely even think of charging that sort of money.

The Mail quotes Clive Chamberlain, chairman of the Police Federation in Dorset (a sweet, picturesque part of England that spawned Thomas Hardy and some very fine alcohol rehabilitation clinics) as saying: "Airwave is a very expensive system which was forced upon the police service by the Government."

Chamberlain added: "We are being told that texting more has the potential to save tens of thousands of pounds because it costs only 4p to send 1,000 texts."

And so British policemen are attending special courses during which they are taught to text. This means that instead of telling someone at central control that they are about to apprehend a hound or just clocking off for some plaice, chips and peas, they will text information according to sixteen numerical codes.

How very modern. It's a little like ordering from a restaurant menu by the number rather than the dish.

This numerical texting mullarkey is, however, said to be restricted to the transmission of routine information. If a policeman is hurtling in chase of a serial killer, he is still allowed to use his radio.

Former Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick did offer somewhat wisely: "If officers are trying to push buttons they won't be looking to see what is going on around them and to that extent it's risky."

However, isn't it comforting to know that it isn't just you who signed up for an expensive cell phone plan without realizing it? Isn't it gratifying to realize that someone, somewhere, far bigger than you, is having to be very careful about the minutes he spends conveying his whereabouts?