Police spend £30,000 on celebrities

Knutsford Guardian: Angela Rippon is among a host of celebrities paid cash by police to attend events Angela Rippon is among a host of celebrities paid cash by police to attend events

Television presenters, former sports stars and an actor from The Bill were among those recruited by police forces to help front safety campaigns and attend awards nights, new figures show.

The list, which reads like the contents of Alan Partridge's contacts book, shows a handful of police forces in England and Wales sought the clout of celebrity status from the likes of ex-newsreader Angela Rippon, former England defender Jack Charlton and Gladiator "Atlas" over a three-year period.

Forces paid nearly £30,000 to hire the celebrities, although many of the fees were covered by sponsorship.

In some cases, payment took the form of a donation which was passed on to a charity of the celebrity's choosing.

Norfolk Police made three separate payments including giving £3,000 to Graham Cole, who plays Pc Tony Stamp in ITV police drama The Bill, to feature in a staff film about "customer service".

In the film, which can be viewed on the force's website, Cole is seen walking through the streets in uniform discussing public perception of the police.

The cameo clips are "designed to make the viewers think about their own communication styles and attitudes in different situations and what it may feel like to be on the receiving end", according to the force.

Mr Cole was paid a fee of £3,000, which was "sponsored" by Norfolk Police Authority, the force said.

Norfolk Police also recruited Sheila Reid, who plays disabled character Madge in the Benidorm sitcom, to present a mobility scooter awareness DVD. The £3,000 fee was covered by corporate sponsors.

ITV meteorologist Martyn Davies was used by the same force to front a flood awareness and flood training DVD, costing £3,000.

He was also used as a guest speaker on the same subject for a fee of £669.60, with "sponsors" footing both bills.

Staffordshire Police paid £2,000 to Sky News anchor and Eggheads presenter Dermot Murnaghan to front a DVD and booklet "guiding people through the complexities of the criminal justice process".

The fee was "significantly reduced" due to the public service nature of the project, according to the force.

Durham Police said former Leeds United defender Jack Charlton appeared at a Tesco store in 2009 to support a campaign about bogus callers. Mr Charlton waived his fee and a donation of £250 was made to the Jack Charlton Trust for Disabled Anglers.

West Yorkshire Police had local television presenter Christa Ackroyd appear at the Excel Awards in March last year. Her £1,000 fee was paid by event organisers.

Ms Ackroyd was one of several celebrities hired by South Yorkshire Police, according to the freedom of information request by the Press Association.

She was used four times to present awards or be a guest speaker. Fellow presenter Harry Gration was used seven times by the force between February 2007 and July this year.

The force said they are not able to provide details of the costs for this, saying they were covered by sponsors.

But the force spent £15,567.60 on guest speakers such as land-speed record holder Richard Nobel OBE. He was paid £5,000 by the South Yorkshire Police as a guest speaker.

Angela Rippon was also paid £5,000 by South Yorkshire Police to attend a discussion forum.

Derbyshire Police paid £200 to former boxer Johnny Nelson for opening OzBox Community Gym in Allenton, Derby.

And while Steve Coogan's fictional radio presenter Alan Partridge once spoke of his plan for Jet from Gladiators to host a millennium barn dance at Yeovil aerodrome, Dorset Police went one better by actually securing the services of a Gladiator, with Sam Bond, aka Atlas, turning up to an internet safety day in Dorchester, free of charge.

A total of 42 police forces were asked for information contacted as part of the Press Association investigation.

Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, North Wales, Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley, West Mercia and West Midlands police forces refused to give details due to time restrictions.

Another 25 forces say they have no evidence of them making payments to celebrities.

Total payments made by the police forces which replied to the information request came to £28,687.20.

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