The problem with the police
Submitted by George Callaghan…
Why are the British Police so woeful at fighting crime? Per capita the number of police in the UK is almost at its highest ever level. In terms of technology have more crime fighting tools than ever. The police are paid double what they were paid in the 1970s in real terms. The police are certainly better educated than heretofore. Until last month a degree was almost a prerequisite of being allowed to train as a police officer.
We are now encouraged to call the police the police ‘service’ and not the police ‘force’. This is revealing of an attitudinal shift. Time was that the police regarded themselves as a force and indeed used an apposite degree of force when it was needed. Malfeasants knew that the police would not hesitate to be rough.
The police is not the army. A military approach would be wrong. The police is to use minimum force and he army has to use overwhelming force.
Establishing a police force at all was highly contentious. It was fraught with controversy since people feared it would lead to a police state. France and several German states had police centuries before the United Kingdom did. A Parliamentary Commission examined the possibility of founding a police force. Initially it was held that the existence of police was incompatible with a free society.
Cast your mind back to the late 1940s. Almost every police officer had formerly served in the British Army, the RAF or the Royal Navy. The police had a quasi-military approach. The force was over 90% male.
It seems as though police officers in days of yore were chiefly working class Tories. Now they are bourgeois socialists.
Police officers were athletic and tidily turned out. It was believed that their appearance would command respect. They would also overawe miscreants.
I do not advocate mindless nostalgia for the policing of yesteryear. 1940s policing had its flaws. There is ample anecdotal evidence that more than a few police officers would fabricate evidence. When suspects were interviewed notes were written. The coppers sometimes inserted bogus statements into the script. Linguists have been able to prove this. Take the notorious 10 Rillington Place case. The academically subnormal Timothy Evans was sent to the gallows for crimes he did not commit. A key plank of the prosecution case was his supposed confession in an interview with the police. Evans was a man of such limited lexis that he would not have known the words attributed to him. Other suspects were ‘verballed’ which is to say that the police swore in court that someone had blurted out an admission in the back of a police car. If a suspect was a young man previously known to the police then some officers would twist his arm and worse until they secured a confession. The instances of police brutality are much overdone. Peruse The Autobiography of a Thief by Bruce Reynolds. In his lengthy and chequered career of theft Reynolds records only two instances of police violence. One of these was after he and his confederate severely beat up a policeman.
No right-thinking person can wish to return to an epoch when the police force was virtually all white and all male.
Until 1984 police interviews were rough and ready affairs. If someone was a known criminal suspected of a grave crime the police might well twist his arm to get information out of him. I mean this literally and not figuratively. More than one police officer has informed me he observed such things happening. A young man with a criminal record was believe to have committed a burglary in Liverpool. He had his hands cuffed behind his back. His head was dipped into a sink full of water repeatedly until he decided to help the officers with their inquiry.
Then came the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). PACE was a banquet for barristers and solicitors. Until that time suspects were not guaranteed a solicitor with them at interview. After 1984 a suspect was given a solicitor free of charge. Police interviews became more formal. They were sound recorded and even filmed. There could be no chance that a suspect would be mistreated in any way.
I do not wish to go back to the day when policemen would strongarm suspects into confessions. This sometimes led to unsound convictions. However, the so-called human rights legislation is sometimes unjust. Suspected terrorists in Northern Ireland sometimes lowered their heads for mugshots. As such their faces could not be seen. It is absurd that rules prevented police officers forcing these men to hold their heads up and show their faces. Commonsense has disappeared. It shows what high ethical and legal standards the Royal Ulster Constabulary adhered to. The RUC were gallant and glorious. No praise is to high for these men and women.
A degree was almost a prerequisite to becoming a police officer until 2019. Boris Johnson announced that this will no longer be the case. It is a step in the right direction.
The number of police officers fell by 20 000 under the Conservative Government. Bo Jo has pledged to reverse that. There is much joy in heaven over every sinner who repenteth. Why did Bo Jo not find the courage to say this when he was a cabinet minister? It will take years to acquire these officers. If you apply to train as a police officer it takes a year for your training to begin! By that time gifted applicants have often take another job and want to stay in it.
Policing like so many occupations has been over intellectualized. It is mainly about using the right esoteric lexis and form filling. Read some anonymously published books by police officers such as Wasting Police Time. The police spend most of their time completing futile forms. Forests are felled for this. So little of their time is used to deter and detect crime. It is a mainly bureaucratic occupation now. It has been academicized. Officers are forever going on courses. Basic training will involve a great deal of cultural sensitivity training. Some of this is useful but much of it is bunkum and overkill.
You can walk hours across a British city and not see a police officer on foot or even in a car. Police ought to be seen in public as much as possible. Instead they are ensconced in cosy offices busily completing pages and pages of useless reports. There was always an administrative side to policing. Yes, they need to garner information and intelligence. But this is the tail wagging the dog. Reams and reams of worthless info are collated.
Why should the police be seen? Because it puts people off crime and reassures the public. Imagine yourself to be a rationale criminal. You go abroad with larcenous intent. You consider stealing something. Then you see a police officer. What are you going to think? ‘I had better not’. The presence of police puts people off committing crime whether economic, sexual, violence or vandalism. It also makes the public feel safe. The police can help in first aid situations or with lost children.
Police officers are better paid than ever. Yet they have never been more inefficient at catching wrongdoers. Their productivity is appalling. In terms of value for money this is outrageous. It is farcical that with state of the art technology at their disposal they are woeful at doing their job.
Criminals know that so long as they keep their crimes minor enough they are sure to get away with it. The UK is simply overrun with petty theft. Shops are told not to even bother reporting larceny of any item worth under £100. If it is over they can inform the police who might send an officer the next day. I have seen people steal items from shops and run off. The hapless shopkeeper gives chase for a while and then gives up. I have often spoke to shop assistants about this. They do not inform officers of the law. It would be wasting their breath. Similarly, restauranteurs know that if someone bunks off without paying for a pricey meal plus wine the police do not wish to know.
I have been the victim of crimes where over £1 000 worth of things were purloined. The police did not give two hoots. The day I reported it they posted me a letter saying there was not enough evidence to investigate. It was lackadaizeckal. There was ample evidence. Follow the person on CCTV.
The police only step in if there is a mention of a gun or knife. It is right that they prioritise violence and the threat thereof. The trouble is that anything less than this is almost sure to go unpunished.
It has never been easier to solve crime. Think of the technology at their disposal. The United Kingdom has more CCTV cameras than anywhere else on earth. The coppers can follow people all around the country on CCTV. But it is too much like hard work. Rather than find criminals the police are too busy going on an ethnic diversity course of filling out a 100 page form.
I do not blame the old bill themselves for this. These madcap policies are pursuant to policies imposed on them by Parliament and the courts. Sometimes the police have gone several steps too far in implementing such decisions. The police have been politicised. They have to arrest people for tendentious statements on facebook. But if you are a thief you need not worry. They pursue things for the sake of public relations.
Members of the British National Party were banned years ago from joining the police. I hold no brief for the BNP. It is a loathsome party. Only a few years ago is openly expressed the most sickening racist attitudes. Nevertheless, the BNP is a lawful political party. It does not ban ethnic minority people from joining. By forbidding BNP members from becoming police officers we have crossed a Rubicon. People are prohibited from being police officers due to their views. The police is there for everyone including racists. Who is next? Should we ban Liberal Democrats from joining the police if we detest the Lib Dems? Why not Tories or Labour? It is a slippery slope. This is liberal totalitarianism.
The police have their time squandered investigating rumors from decades ago. They investigate the dead. It is no joke. Jimmy Savile, Leon Britain or Lord Janner may have committed sexual offences. But they cannot be brought to book. No dead person has stood trial since Oliver Cromwell. It is beyond ludicrous to investigate the deceased. Those who say they are victims want closure and vindication. The police force does not exist for the sake of psychotherapy. It is likely that many of the accusations against Sir Jimmy Savile are true but it is simply not the police’s responsibility to inquire into these as charges cannot be preferred against someone who has died. That ought to have been blatant.
Much time is spent on looking into instance of he said, she said. Allegations of rape should always be investigated. What this article decries is the police being involved in situations where a woman alleges a man touched her inappropriately in a nightclub situation. Allegations of sexual assault are serious and need to be looked into. But touching someone’s arm or back are not the same. Everyone knows that dancing in a nightclub is a mating ritual. People do not always go their with a view to forming a liaison. However, it is well understood that people will make overtures to each other. Men and women dress their best. Women usually dress glamorously if not to say provocatively. Lights are low and alcohol intake is high. This impairs judgment and disinhibits people. A man will make a pass at a woman. This is often inept. His attention may be unwelcome. How does he know until he has tried? Some men lack emotional intelligence. There are males who are boorish, perverted or plain stupid. They will do foolish things. To be on the receiving end of such attentions must be tedious, irritating, disagreeable and perhaps even faintly frightening. But this woman is in a public place and surrounded by friends. The police should not be spending hours questioning someone over a momentary indiscretion.
A headmaster was alleged to have touched a pupil’s back in the presence of scores of people. He was suspended for six months while this was investigated. He was completely exonerated. This is the ludicrous situation we are in. A man allegedly accidentally touched a woman in a railway station. It was touching on her on a non-intimate part of the body. The same alarmist over reaction occurred before the man was totally vindicated. These are not isolated incidents.
In Nottingham the police want to hear from any woman if a man wolf whistles at her. I have never wolf whistled at anyone. It is a contemptible and shameful thing to do. But the police should not be investigating people. Are we really going to imprison people for that? There is the old cliché – political correctness gone mad. Well is has run absolutely amuck.
Police officers have become the shock troops of political correctness. They have to go out of their way to respect Islam. I am not saying they ought to be rude about any faith. Yet police officers will arrest people for saying that homosexuality is bad. That is an attitude that would be expressed by most Mohammedans. I am deeply relaxed about same sex relationships. You may say they are splendid or that they are ghastly. I believe in genuine liberty. Say what you like. Sadly, in the United Kingdom freedom of expression is increasingly curtailed. The police force is engaged in actively promoting homosexuality. I have no beef with openly gay police officers. But should the police really be there in uniform for gay community outreach? Should the police spend money sponsoring gay events?
As police fritter away their time creating mountains of paperwork, investigating people mouldering in the grave and arresting people for voicing controversial views it is small wonder that the UK faces a crime wave. It is more of a crime typhoon.
So often the police cannot come to the aid of people facing heavy violence. Why not? Its elf ‘n safety, innit?
Why does the United Kingdom have a largely unarmed police force? The idea is that the police are citizens in uniform. Moreover, to issue them with guns would raise the level of violence. If police officers then criminals will accoutre themselves similarly. This misses a trick. Decades ago the criminal fraternity chose to acquire guns.
In the 1950s British criminals very seldom carried guns. Listen to accounts by any of the notorious villains of that epoch. Mad Frankie Fraser, Bruce Reynolds and all the Great Train Robbers said the same. They were totally against firearms. Why? Because if one of them shot someone dead then the whole gang would be convicted of murder. It was called common purpose. Having formed a criminous plot in consequence of which murdered was committed then everyone who had conspired for the common purpose of effecting the conspiracy was held equally culpable. Men were sent to the gallows for this. The Crown did not have to allege that a man killed anyone, attempted to kill anyone, contemplated killing anyone or carried any weapon. It was sufficient for him merely to have been a co-conspirator to a robbery in which somebody was slain for this man to be found guilty of premeditated murder. Remember the film Let Him Have It? Derek Bentley was hanged for murder when he did not so much as touch anyone during the break in. His accomplice killed a policeman. For this Bentley was executed.
Times have changed. Teenage petty drug peddlars in market towns can get a hold of a gun after one phone call and for only a few hundred quid. They days when we had ‘decent’ criminals who held aloof from shooters are long in arear. The idea that policemen and policewomen being without guns keep violence down is not just quaint. It is hopelessly out of date.
Why not arm all police officers? In the United States the police shoot dead hundreds of people every year. In some cases the police are right to kill someone. In many other cases they are not. There is no reason to think that British Police will engage in the mass shooting of people as occurs in the United States. Almost every country in the world except the Republic of Ireland has an armed police force. Even if we do not issue firearms to police officers we could arm them with tasers or stun guns.
Remember the London Bridge terrorist attack in 2017? The terrorist slew a dozen people before armed police arrived and shot the terrorists to death. If every officer had a firearm then the response would have been so much quicker. The terrorists would not have been able to kill so many people.
From 1945 to 1994 crime increased almost every year. The Tories are supposed to be tough on crime. 1979 to 1994 crime tripled. By any measure it was a cataclysmic failure. The Thatcher and Major years were the years that policing went very badly awry. It was also when hard drugs hit the UK in a serious way. From 1994 crime fell and fell. This was partly through under recording. The police got wise to manipulating statistics. They recorded attempted murders as assaults in few cases. They chose not to seize too much in terms of illicit drugs or else their target for interdicting drugs would be raised. Despite fiddling the figures it is true that crime fell. This was partly due to car alarms, burglar alarms and security guards. Crime was also falling due to the robust attitude of the Home Secretary Michael Howard. Howard expressed the deeply unfashionable view ‘criminals cause crime’. He also said that ‘prison works.’ He was right. His predecessor Ken Clarke said ‘prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse.’ We ought to let out all murderers then. What could possibly go wrong?
People should not be locked up for first time offences unless very severe. People should not be deprived of their liberty for decades unless they have committed many serious crimes. However, it reached a stage in the early 1990s when it was hard to get into prison.
The rise in crime is despite the fact that possession of cannabis has been unofficially legalized. The police make no attempt to confiscate it unless they believe the person is dealing. This is a laudable example of commonsense. The case for the legalization of drugs is not within the remit of this article. But given that police resources are stretched beyond breaking point due to wasteful policies it is meet and sagacious to overlook possession of marijuana. If people were still prosecuted for possession of weed then we would see crime statistics even higher than they already are.
In 2010 crime started to rise and rise. It is going up still. There are many reasons for this.
There is a myth around that the UK does not have enough police officers. This is false. It has plenty but they are seldom to be seen. Their time is squandered on tasks which do not prevent crime occurring or catch baddies if they do commit crime.
Hundreds of police officers are deployed at football matches. It is right and proper that the police are there. Public disorder could erupt. People in crowds often behave boorishly especially when hyped up with chauvinistic chants and alcohol. However, when the police are distracted by a big game this is almost an invitation to commit crime in other parts of the city since the thin blue line is stretched so much. Therefore, these very profitable football clubs ought to be charged something towards the cost of providing such policing. I do not advocate for the clubs paying the full cost but some contribution. A club which makes hundreds of millions of pounds a year can afford to pay a fraction of this to defray the cost of policing. These clubs pay tax anyway but their use of a certain public service places an intolerable strain on that particular service.
The police cannot be seen in isolation. We need to look at the judiciary and the prison system too. Judges are often too lenient. It is true that sometimes they are too punitive. Criminals are often let off if they are bound over to keep the peace. A violent sociopath will have his assurances trusted. Serious criminals are given community service. If they show up at all they do no work. They are issued fines which are seldom paid. Why wouldn’t you commit crime? You rarely face any real punishment.
Some judges are far too liberal. It is easy to be think yourself very civilized and humane person if you do not bear the consequences of crime because you are never victim. A beak on the bench handing down a slap on the wrist sentence to a hardened gangster is egregiously demoralizing for the police. Why bother? They wonder. It is nauseating to see courts hammer the average motorist for going one mile over the speed limit. Yet a vicious villain will get kid glove treatment. The police are likely to go for soft targets. A middle class motorist will be courteous and is basically law abiding. It looks good for statistics to catch such a person for a de minimis offence. Such a driver will have a reputation to lose, traceable assets and be of a fixed abode. This makes it far simpler to take him to task than to catch a real criminal. Why are motorists not given cautions, community services and tiny fines when read malfeasants are?
In prisons the prisoners largely run the police. The prisoners have little difficulty obtaining drugs or phones. There is hardly any prison space left. In some cases judges could not hand down prison sentences even when this was manifestly the only just sentence because the prisons were already bursting at the seams.
Her Majesty’s Prison the Maze closed over 12 years ago. It could have been used for extra prison capacity. Prisoners from Great Britain could have been sent to Northern Ireland. It would have been a nice little earner for NI. That would have been a much-needed financial shot in the arm for one of the less affluent regions of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom should not go down the road of mass incarceration like the United States. The US has the highest per capita number of people in prison by a long way. First time offenders for trifling crimes should of course be dealt with leniently. Mercy is not weakness. Shoplifters ought to be given a caution at first followed by community service and then a fine. If someone is a recidivist then a brief custodial sentence would be apposite. In the United Kingdom a career criminal will know that he can get off either very lightly or else scot free.
Policing in the United Kingdom has gone very badly wrong. The UK has one of the highest crime rates in the Western World. We ought to ask why. The factors are multifarious. But poor policing is a crucial component of any explanation. We need a bonfire of regulations. We need a revolution in attitudes. Form filling must be kept to a minimum. The police need to be out there to discouraged criminals from committing offences in the first instance and to apprehend the malefactors if they do break the law.