A light has been shone on an odd little corner of the Metropolitan Police today. A freedom of information request revealed £22.7m worth of sponsorship and donations since 2007, from some quite unlikely places.
For example, it turns out that the Association of Payment Clearing Services paid £11.9m to help fund a fraud cheque and credit card unit – other parts of the banking industry pay the rest of the operating costs. An oil security company paid for a constable to patrol petrol stations. BMW and Land Rover supplied cars, and some local businesses around London donated bikes. But what possible use would Chelsea and QPR football shirts have been (to the police, we mean, not in general. No football wars here, please) or the 11 gig tickets provided by EMI?
In the grand scheme of things, £22.7m is a drop in the ocean of the Met's £3.5bn budget. But speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones said
This is such a small amount of money, they shouldn't even go there... It's interesting to say it's legal to hire out police. But is it ethical?
We agree this initially looks worse than it is. We also wonder why the police bother with what the Association of Chief Police Officers says is legitimate income that can help counter declining budgets when a lot of people currently wouldn't trust the police (stop and search, protest policing, murky connections with press and hacking) as far as they could throw them.