Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Correct diagnosis, wrong prescription

In a leader this morning the Times reminds us that every time we meet a police officer our confidence in the police falls;

When Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police in 1829 he defined nine principles of operation, of which the most important was “the police are the public and the public are the police”.

The police have not always lived up to this precept. Only 3 per cent of crimes now end in a conviction. We spend more on the police in this country than any developed nation and yet detection rates are not improving. The chances of being a victim of crime are at the lowest level for two decades but three quarters of the British public believe that crime is going up. The police force is the only service in which public confidence declines on contact with serving officers, from 57 to 41 per cent. Something is amiss in policing.

Hugh Orde's presciption, featured elsewhere in the same edition, is for fewer and larger forces under central command and control, a new 'general staff' replacing the unaccountable and shadowy ACPO.

It takes some chutzpah for one of the men responsible for creating a police force remote from the people it serves and which has lost their confidence to recommend more of the same as the solution. And it's risible nonsense in every way.

Yes to a Royal Commission - but Orde will find the way forward is smaller forces under local control carrying out 90% of policing, with specialist squads at national or regional level, reporting to the Home Secretary or London Mayor, leading on terrorism and organised crime. The needs of these niche law and order challenges cannot drive the organisation of the vast bulk of day to day policing - which must be local. The police are the public, and the public are the police.


MTG said...

The terrible mess known as UK Police is destined to become a dominant political issue. Whilst Police blogs account for a important and growing means of contact between ordinary members of the public and police, an almost total breakdown in communications is also evident here. Today, I note a police blogger called ATNS who is willing to stand up and criticize a colleague, (the infamous Inspector Gadget), for abuse of a police blog. I append the copy of my response to him which is relevant to your topic.

Bravo, ATNS. Finally, a policeman unafraid to sport principles - even if it means disagreeing with another. I hope the police service can be rescued and restored by you and many more like you.

Gadget revels in a temporary position as most damaging UK police blogger. Coarse, obscene, intolerant of criticism and too arrogant to correct mistakes, his blog wallows in libel, malicious falsehood and political sabotage/interference.

Such long term inappropriate behaviour from a senior policeman has resulted in tremendous damage and negatives. The great pity is that properly used police blogs always held the potential to enhance police reputations and draw a closer relationship with the communities they served.

Government and bystanders waited for the fulfillment of a promise to work closer with the public. In his damaging crusade, Gadget has helped to further split an already divided society. His blog foolishly maintains Police are always in the right with public/politicians ridiculed as ever wrong. Yet Gadget's divisiveness is dependent upon a gang of uneducated police commenters and sock puppets, combining forces to bring UK Police to the level of the gutter.

A response is coming and hopefully, the identification of all the culprits will result in a satisfactory outcome for government, good police and public. The process must be concluded with assistance to individuals for pursuing named culprits in civil actions as a result of cowardly and unwarranted attacks, hosted and approved by 'Gadget'.

Demetrius said...

The bit that is missed in all this is that at one time many senior police officers had military experience and so did very many officers in their forces. So they thought and functioned on a totally different basis to the officious bureaucratic paper/computer merchants of today. And it shows.

Brizn E. said...

We need small police forces to deal with all the run of the mill policing, who can then prioritise the local issues. A national police porce could be set up to deal with major crime, terrorism, protection duties, etc., and could be called in by the local forces if required, a function where in the old days they would "Call in the Yard".
It is apparent that even with the present large forces, they still do not have the experience when it comes to a major, but relatively rare crime (such as the Soham killings) and it would be far better for these crimes to be passed immediately to the experts.
The US system of having the FBI to investigate major crimes and the Secret Service to provide diplomatic protection, with local Police Chiefs or Sherrifs could well be adopted in a form to suit this country.
At the same time we need to get rid of some of the large number of high level civilian paper pushing posts. It is ludicrous thet the Met should have mors civlilian posts with the equivalent rank of Commander or above than they have serving officers. Presumably, it's the same with other forces.

marksany said...

Targets are the key cause of the decline in standards. John Seddon has written about policing at the systems thinking review and makes the case for police to work closely with their communities and not be controlled from the centre.

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read that post. Thank you for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that there has been a long standing effort to form Police forces that match the Euro regions into which the UK is about to be dissolved. I wonder if Orde is Common Purpose? He is clearly pushing the Party line.

Pat said...

1/ I wonder if MTG could provide a link to ATNS?
2/ This is the end of a long road- or at least its way past where I want to go.
In 1910 a bunch of armed criminals robbed a bank- and the police were assisted by members of the Public providing their own fire arms, or in some instance personally taking part in a pursuit.
Over the years every conceivable weapon has been banned- down to the penknife that a schoolboy would have received on coronation day. Even if I had any suitable weapon to enable me to assist in such a circumstance, I would walk away for fear of being arrested myself.
My reading of history is not that the number of armed criminals has declined, just the number of armed citizens. If the police force insists on doing everything itself then it will have a far tougher job.
And it is not just in the disarmament of the public that the police have been set aside from the public. The pursuit of targets set by either politicians or senior police officers (if there is any more a difference) results in the police picking the low hanging fruit. The Victorians and Edwardians got on fine without prohibiting any drugs- we now have a war on drugs- which is good for the percentage arrest rate but not for much else (how many recorded cases of possession of illegal substances are not cleared up? If the possessor isn't found then the possession is not recorded) We have a vast effort to fine anyone exceeding the speed limit despite zero hard evidence that this actually benefits anyone- because it's easy, the arrested have too much to lose to make a legal challenge worthwhile- and again how many recorded instances of speeding have no recorded vehicle? As well as using up a lot of police resources all this undermines public support for the police and hence public help- and makes it harder for them do do the job the public wants- the one most of them signed up for.
We live in a police state. No that doesn't mean that the police service is in general greatly oppressive (yet), and certainly does not mean that any significant number of officers act oppressively.
At present we have minor mendacity from the force as a whole, but the more that policing is left as the exclusive province of the police the more possible it is that this could change- and if it can happen then wait long enough and it will.

Blue Eyes said...

We certainly seem to have the worst of both worlds at the moment: distant decision-making without the benefits of world-class specialists. I agree with your proposal R to have the bulk of "plodding" done by very locally accountable forces which can outsource the more difficult jobs to nationwide specialists. Isn't that similar to the FBI scheme stateside?