The Blog is in reference to this article http://www.ukpoliceonline.co.uk/index.php?/topic/50516-newsif-police-want-our-respect-they-must-return-to-the-streets/#entry549167
The Scourge of British Policingby sherlockmr
I read an article this morning written by Simon Jenkins of the Evening Standard (link below)
Having read this one sided report on why Mr Jenkins believes the Police have no respect & what he believes the Police need to do to win back that respect I have decided to write a response. I do not envisage him reading this blog (I hope he does) but if only one person reads it and is saved from forming a wrong opinion of the Police based on his biased reporting I will be happy.
The report started off so well, being supportive of the frustrations felt by officers at the bureaucracy and hurdles in their way. It seemed to understand that today’s style of policing is NOT what the majority of Police Officers want…However, it then quickly flipped the coin and begin making silly claims about some of things the Police do day to day and an unfounded theory on how he believes the Police can win back public confidence.
Whilst I agree public confidence has taken a knock of late, if government figures are to be believe (which I agree are often not) then confidence in the Police is rising.
I would like to address several points made by Jenkins individually.
London policing has gone from the preventive reassurance of a street presence to the “response policing” of screaming police cars, whose ubiquity shocks many visitors to London.
Whether you like it or not and whether the Tory figures agree or not, the number of police officers on the frontline HAS been affected nationally. Yes they are making arrangements to boost the front line (by cutting from or closing down other specialist teams) but over the last few years the frontline has lost officers. This reduction in officers means that there are not enough to deploy on foot the typical ‘British beat Bobby’. In times gone by the presence of a Police Officer walking around on foot not only instilled public confidence but acted as a deterrent to criminals. These days however, the presence of a bobby seems to be no deterrent to the criminal underclass of society. Especially a single solitary officer (I will touch on single crewing below).
Cuts, Societal change, increased paperwork and bureaucracy all serve to deplete the frontline forces. To prevent public confidence from falling in relation to response time, officers need to be mobile in vehicles. They can not cover such vast areas and respond to emergency calls as effectively on foot as they do in a vehicle. They can not transport criminals to custody (often miles from their area) via public transport. They can not carry with them the mountain of paperwork and equipment needed for each crime without a vehicle. Unfortunately the need to respond reactively to crime using blue lights and sirens is a reality of today’s society and a result of governmental interference within the Police Service.
Lines of paddy wagons now attend even the tiniest march or embassy demo. Central Westminster often looks like the scene of a police rally
Really? Does he honestly believe this? You do not have to cast your mind too far back to see how a “tiny march” can result in massive national riots or localized public disorder. One of the main criticisms faced by Police following the 2011 summer riots was the inability to mobilise enough resources, respond and end the violence in a timely fashion. Ensuring that there are enough (and possibly slightly too many) officers present for a small march means that should things escalate to disorder and violence then the Police can try and stamp it out quickly. The “paddy wagons” he refers too (a term which could be considered derogatory or insulting to the Irish given that it was coined in NYC during the riots of 1863 when the police carriages were used to arrest and transport what were considered the plague of the city, the Irish) act as a very useful deterrent the majority of the time. You don’t really know from first appearance whether the vehicle is full of officers or if it contains just the driver and it would take a fool to try and find out the hard way. It is designed to increase public confidence, act as a deterrent to trouble makers and demonstrate that the Police have the matter under control. There is little use in the Police being vastly outnumbered should things escalate.
Overtime two years ago cost Londoners £130 million, with some elite VIP protection officers taking home £100,000. The Audit Commission last year claimed £1 billion and 7,000 jobs could be cut from police budgets, with no reduction in frontline work.
This I am inclined to agree with. Why should the VIP’s (MPs, Royal Family, visiting dignitaries etc) receive a round the clock personal police presence to at great expense to the tax payer when they Government are happy enough to let the public have a depleted and under resourced Police Service? That however is no fault of the Met, it is down the Government and so should not be used as an example in a context designed to invoke unfavorable opinion.
The inability of the Met to counter London’s burgeoning gangs cannot be unrelated to its paltry presence on inner London’s most vulnerable streets and estates.
Whilst I agree that an absolute zero Police presence does nothing in the fight against crime of any sort, does Mr. Jenkinson honestly believe that a bobby on the beat carrying a tin of CS spray and a stick, greatly outnumbered, unwanted and unsupported in the ‘problem areas’ is going to prevent gang violence on the streets of the dangerous, violent and hostile council estates. I have seen single crewed officers pulled from police vehicles and beaten, bricked and stabbed. I have seen gang members use violence against another not less than 20ft from a Police Officer in uniform. The Met can of course deploy more vehicular mobile units into problem areas but then this is not what is wanted according to the report. The humble bobby on the beat that Mr. Jenkins no doubt remembers from his childhood is NOT the cure for this specific societal illness.
I will know something has changed when police go back to living in these communities. At present half the Met lives actually outside London, encouraged by the astonishing perk of free travel to work.
I am sorry to be the barer of bad news Mr. Jenkins but the communities most in need of Police presence and interception are NOT the sort of communities you would wish to live in. You, as a normal member of the public would not want to live with criminals, gangsters, drug dealers, activists etc on your doorstep. So imagine being the Police Officer, (the person whose job it is to STOP these people) and moving into their community with your family? This is not Heartbeat, Hot Fuzz or Ripper Street we are talking about here. The days of the local bobby living in a clearly marked Police house are very sadly long gone. I have known friends and colleagues who have been threatened, sworn at and attacked whilst trying to do exactly what you request. One friend in particular who once worked with me on a specialist Organised Crime team was followed home, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters and woke up to find petrol poured through his letter box with the can and a lighter left on his doorstep. Needless to say he was given protective alarms, installed a CCTV and promptly moved his family to safety whilst they looked for alternative living arrangements. It may be possible in the more rural and pro-police areas of the UK but if you honestly expect Police Officers to do this in London then you are insane.
I will know something has changed when I see police patrolling singly, thus covering twice the area
I am not a great believer in single crewed officers on patrol. I always prefer officers on my team to be double crewed for numerous reasons.
Health & Safety
Cost of running 2 vehicles instead of one
More able to deal with incidents if on foot
Public opinion (overkill) if two cars turn up rather than one double crewed car
Accountability and integrity
Critics argue that statistics show Officers are more likely to get injured if double crewed. I say that is because they are more likely to get involved or intervene if they have a trusted colleague to watch their backs.
A single crewed officer can not be frowned upon if he/she is reluctant to stop a group or vehicle of suspected drug dealers, gangsters, burglars etc due to the safety implications. Every officer has the absolute right to go home safely at the end of their shift. Again, society has changed from the time of the humble bobby on the beat with his whistle and truncheon.
I will know when they put aside the weapons they love to tote around VIP locations
The UK currently faces the greatest threat from international and domestic terrorism and extremism. Since the 7/7 bombings security around the capital has quite rightly been increased to protect the public and the “VIPs” you refer too. Around the world there have been increased attacks of prominent public venues by terrorist groups. I do not think it unacceptable for the Government to request a small armed Police presence on the streets and around buildings considered potential terrorist targets. Should there be an attack similar to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack or live intelligence of an immediate threat to public safety, then it would be far better to have an appropriate Police presence already in place than have reverting to “response policing” of screaming police cars, whose ubiquity shocks many visitors to London”.
I will know when every driver I see stopped by the police is not black, and when the London police drop targets for strip-searching young men for cannabis, calculated to offend minority communities
A statement clearly made in order to invoke a controversy. A force which is accused of racism on an almost daily basis accused of racial profiling by a prominent reporter. Shock horror!
Some statistics will show that the majority of cars or people stopped and searched by the Police in parts of London are predominantly black males. If a victim of knife or gun crime tells the Police that the suspect was a black male then what else can the Police do other than stop and search black men? When making statements such as the one Jenkins makes above you need to be very careful about what you may imply and what effect YOU are having on public confidence in the Police. The article below by one of his peers may make interesting reading.
I police a diverse community. 100% of the drug and knife crime committed in my area in the last 12months has been by young white men. 100% of the people searched for drugs or weapons on the street have been young white men. Is that looked upon with the same shock and disgust?
As the article rightly states at the start the trouble and public confidence issues with the Met are NOT down to the brave, selfless and dedicated officers striving to keep Londoners safe each day. It is not even down to their leaders further up the ladder. The issues come from only two directions. The government for the cuts and political interference's and the press for publishing negative, one sided “news” in an effort to sway public opinion and sell papers. As Jenkins quite rightly states in his article.
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