The drive to target hate crime is forcing police officers to spend valuable time investigating wolf-whistles, bad manners and impolite comments, a police leader has warned.
Sergeant Richard Cooke, the recently elected chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation, said forces were expected to record and follow up reports of hate crime, even when no criminal offence had taken place.
Writing in today's Daily Telegraph, Mr Cooke warns police officers would be dispatched to offer words of advice to people, but this meant they had less time to focus on "genuine crimes" such as burglary and violence.
Mr Cooke said he did not believe this was what the public expected of its police service. While applauding the principle behind protecting those at risk of hurtful abuse, officers have expressed their frustration at being drawn into what they see as social rather than criminal issues.
Mr Cooke, who represents 6,500 rank and file officers in the country's second largest police force, said: "I fear a dangerous precedent could be set, where our scant resources are skewed further and further away from the genuine crisis in public safety taking place on our urban homes and streets.
"Nobody, especially police officers, would ever want to see any elderly person or woman subjected to any sort of crime. The same goes for any other innocent member of the community. But we do have laws to address all manner of crimes and anti-social behaviour already."
Earlier this week the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that he had asked the Law Commission to consider whether misogyny and ageism should be added to the list of categories that constitute a hate crime.
It is hoped that by broadening out the definition of the offence, police and prosecutors will have more power to tackle and punish those who deliberately target vulnerable groups.
Newly published figures show how religious hate crimes rose by 40 per cent last year with attacks on Jewish people representing 12 percent of all offences.
Abuse against gay and transgender people and the disabled has also risen.
But there are increasing warnings that in the drive to identify and tackle the problem, police priorities are being impacted.
Mr Cooke said: "We all abhor and want to end genuine crimes motivated or aggravated by intolerance and prejudice. They should be investigated, and those who commit them should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as should those who incite them."
But he went on: "Let us focus urgently on genuine crime, supported by basic evidence. Let’s not encourage people to think we can solve deep social problems or give impolite people manners.
"Are we really going to be required to routinely record, and potentially act on, incidents like a builder’s wolf whistle or an insensitive comment towards an elderly driver?
"I do not believe for one second that this is what the public, outside of the politically correct 'court of Twitter', expects or wants us to do."
South Yorkshire Police recently came in for criticism after urging people to report insults that did not necessarily constitute hate crimes.
Last month the newly elected chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter, warned that common sense policing was disappearing with officers forced to spend time intervening in trivial social media disputes rather than attending burglaries and other serious crimes.
He said it was time for a debate sensible debate about what the public expected of its police service.
"Where we get drawn into local disagreements, the argument over the remote control, the dispute in the playground, the row on Facebook it is frustrating. I certainly think police time can be better spent and it makes a mockery when we are so stretched," he said.