Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Time to localise the Police

I am second to none in my admiration for police officers out on the beat, a visible and comforting presence on out streets, ready to meet every challenge from an aggressive beggar to a mad gunman. Unfortunately, they are in a distinct minority. Their colleagues have all sorted themselves comfortable 9 to 5 indoors jobs on specialist 'units' - domestic violence, drug rehab, trafficked women, domestic violence to trafficked women, bicycle crime and all the rest - where they can get away with not leaving the comfort of the station and the convenience of the canteen at all.

Lewisham council taxpayers pay for 1,000 full time Met police officers; deduct 10% for diplomatic protection and armed response detached duty, allow a further 15% absence from leave or sickness at any time, and divide the balance into three shifts and we should still have over 250 plods on duty at any time. Readers were incredulous when I reported that most of the time there are just 12 officers available to respond to incidents in the borough.

And now the Inspector of Constabulary has found that this mirrors the national picture - just 6% to 11% of our police are available at any time.

No blame should be focused on the humble copper. It's not his fault. It is instead a massive failure of management; all those shiny new MBAs amassed by the Superintendents upwards haven't done them a scrap of good. They're useless managers. Utterly crap. They've learned how to do Gantt charts but forgotten how to schedule shifts.

There is a very small amount of very important police work that needs to be carried our by specialist officers on a regional or national basis; terrorism, organised crime and the like. And experienced detectives in murder squads are vital. But the reality is that 98% of police work is local - call-outs to disturbances, vehicle crime, criminal damage, thefts and shoplifting, burglary, assaults and road traffic offences.

It's this whole latter class of bread and butter police work I'd suggest should be devolved to borough level here in London, with the cost of the borough force charged directly to local ratepayers, and under the strategic control of a borough Watch Committee made up of elected members and magistrates (but with tactical control remaining with the borough commander).

The truly specialist units would be run by the GLA / Mayor and paid for either by a precept to the boroughs for London regional activity or by the Home Office for national activity.

And for the lads on the Trafficked Domestic Abuse units and the like back at the station, it's time to pull those duty belts back on, get the Doc Martins and the hi-viz out of the cupboard and learn what rain feels like again.


Elby the Beserk said...

Minority? In our sleep Somerset market town, population c25k, I have never seen a proper copper on the beat. Indeed, months go between sightings of them at all. Occasionally on at the arm of the Mayor, occasionally at an RTA, but on the beat? Never in the five years I have lived here.

Spent Copper said...

Could'nt agree more Radders and thanks for the kind words. One thing though, you mention 3 shifts? Historicaly, Police Forces used to work a 4 shift system, each was 8 hours long and consisted of 6-2 earlies, 2-10 lates and 10-6 nights. The fourth shift was on Rest Days. The available Patrol Officers were therefore divided into an A, B, C and D shift with one of the 4 shifts on duty at any one time.

Things have moved on from those days and, given the considerable level of violence that Friday and Saturday night bring, the available Patrol Officers are now spread over 5 shifts, to give greater cover late on Friday and Saturday evnings, ie, the officers from 2 shifts being on duty at the same time, to give double cover for a few hours.

Yo make a good point about Superintendents with MBAs. In the good old days policing was thought of as a craft, ie, like nursing it was primarily a practial job which was learned by doing it. To be sure a foundation of theoretical kknowledge was required and ones first 16 (?) weeks were spent at a police training Centre but thereafter, you spent a couple of weeks on a local proceedures course, then 3 weeks with your Tutor Constable and then you were on your own. I cant help but think that the current tendancy to move from a practical to the more theoretical model has more to do with providing the means for easier central control of the once independant Police Service.

reg legume said...

Twelve policemen out of 1000 is surely 1.2 percent? Forest Hill maths education....best in the world. Was?