Your police record: an open letter to Theresa May (pt 2)
“Police reform is working, crime is down”… #Liar Liar ??
Dear Prime Minister,
Well quite a lot has happened since I sent you part 1, which I hope but doubt you found time to read. After the tragedy of Manchester, I felt it would be totally inappropriate to make any sort of political points in the aftermath, but now you politicians are back to knocking lumps of each other, I feel more comfortable with part 2.
We all felt similar emotions after the horror of the attack and, quite properly, items on the election agenda such as the rather toxic dementia tax were parked. You quite rightly deployed the army, Prime Minister, but I wonder whether your advisers or indeed your good self realised that another can of worms would be opened.
We know that, without question, we have the finest armed forces in the world, or rather what’s left of them after your government threw good men and women on the scrap heap, and we all know that a government’s primary task is the protection of its people.
Cops and ex-cops, who tend to be quite cynical, Prime Minister, felt that you and party would do anything to keep policing and law enforcement off the election agenda but, with the deployment of troops, all of a sudden there it was or rather is.
It was good to see you, Prime Minister, praising the efforts of police and other emergency services who ran towards carnage and danger as they so often do.
This thank you from a child NOT Theresa May
As far as your post-tragedy praise of police is concerned it was a bit of a shame that just four days earlier, when your manifesto was published, you once again denigrated police by effectively accusing them of being racist.
Tut, no shaking of the head in denial, Prime Minister, in that manifesto you threatened the police with legislation unless they further curbed stop and search. Has no-one dared tell you of the carnage (that word again) taking place on the streets of London and elsewhere? Was I totally wasting my time in writing that section on stop and search? Perhaps your advisors are suffering from the King’s new clothes syndrome, Prime Minister.
But how you all squirmed when it was suggested that you had to deploy soldiers simply because the police service had lost more than 21,000 officers since 2010 and you did that against an escalating terror threat, didn’t you Prime Minister? As for your successor Amber, well she always reminds me of a scary headmistress who would gladly rip the head off an errant pupil were it not for legal constraints. She had to deny police cuts had anything to do with the deployment of the army and really did get into a terrible mess on BBC’s Question Time regarding community policing, but more about that later.
Amber also said that the chiefs of the security services and police were ‘satisfied’ with the resources they had in the fight against terror. Well I can understand the submissive National Police Chiefs Council saying that, but the security services? It transpired within a couple of days that 23,000 potential jihadists are resident in the UK, 3,000 of whom are considered a serious risk.
I’m sure you also know that the oft-quoted figure of 700 in respect of those who travelled to Syria is regarded as a gross under-estimate. In addition, we also have those who have either trained, fought or both in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen. How many MI5 officers to deal with all this, Prime Minister? According to their own website, just 4,000.
As a matter of interest, Prime Minister, if all those 21,000 police officers suddenly magically appeared like extras in a Doctor Who episode and all were surveillance trained, we’d be able, at 30 officers a target, to monitor an extra 700 dangerous individuals – yet resources are sufficient!
And would you believe it, Prime Minister, I’ve just seen Amber on Sky News saying “The scale of the problem that we have” yet it seems, despite George’s promises, further cuts are on the way with Greater Manchester Police amongst those voicing their concerns. Just to remind you that their numbers have been cut, on your watch, from 8,200 to 6,000 officers. The poor old Met also seems about to get hammered again with further cuts totalling £400 million.
It was good though, Prime Minister, wasn’t it, to see the country coming together in support of the victims and in a spirit of defiance and no-where was this more evident than in Manchester.
And wasn’t it marvellous to see the reception officers were getting, both armed and unarmed, as they took to the streets undertaking re-assurance patrols?
Tragedy and the vanishing community cop
Since 2010, Prime Minister, on your watch, community policing has and is withering on the vine. In some forces it is hanging on by its fingernails while in others it has, to all intents and purposes, vanished. Even those designated as neighbourhood/community/safer neighbourhood officers are frequently engaged in taskings or investigations as the demand on police forces increases, and which means that those officers frequently find it difficult to get out and about in their communities.
It’s almost as if, Prime Minister, you actually want to divorce the police from the public, that you want the public to have the same degree of contempt and loathing for police that you have so clearly demonstrated since 2010.
So how galling for you, your acolytes and indeed those on the far left whose contempt for police equals yours, when across the nation, the public connected once again with their police force, oops sorry service. Those hundreds of images and selfies of police and public were for real, Prime Minister. Police have been applauded in public and even disappointed Chelsea fans were thanking armed police after leaving Wembley. What a shame that it took a heart-breaking tragedy for this to take place.
Officers have been provided with coffee, tea, soft drinks, water and even food, and we await an announcement from the IPCC that they will conduct a full investigation into gratuities consumed by police.
In fact, the public have never been totally divorced from their police, no thanks to you let me hasten to add. The plethora of police ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries enable the public to see for themselves the increasing difficulties, abuse and danger police face on the front line. Many officers even feel able to make comments on these programmes as to the effect your cuts are having.
Do you remember in the House of Commons, Prime Minister, when your predecessor David Cameron was questioned on the collapse of community policing? Do you remember his reply when he said that under the Conservatives the number of community police had actually risen by several thousand? How we laughed at what was clearly outrageous porky but, as you well know, no-one can actually lie in the House of Commons chamber.
In the centre of most European capitals, Prime Minster, as you may have seen in your travels, you can’t turn a corner without bumping into a police officer. In London, I frequently walk from Covent Garden, through Trafalgar Square, up to Piccadilly, then along Regent Street to Oxford Street where I walk down to Marble Arch. During that time, in an area packed with tourists, I rarely see a uniform police officer other than in vehicles. Of course if I took a diversion along Whitehall…!!!
The town on the South Coast where I spend I lot of time in retirement used to have a keen Safer Neighbourhood Team who were well known, highly visible, popular and effective. Now they are rarely to be seen and on one of those infrequent occasions, the officer I spoke to said their task in respect of community policing was “hopeless.”
Even during the recent post-tragedy surge, I walked significant distances along the arterial Uxbridge Road in west London and didn’t see one patrolling officer. Twice I had to travel up to central London and again around Oxford Street and Oxford Circus not one patrolling officer was visible. No criticism of police here but it illustrates the fact that the police jam is too thinly spread.
Your policies have shut numerous police stations including those in substantially populated areas, thus taking police away from the heart of communities. Patrolling police now may have to travel miles to get to that community as opposed to stepping or driving out straight into it (not literally of course!!). It really wasn’t just about how many members of the public were turning up at the front counter; it was about communication, presence and security.
It’s almost as if, Prime Minister, you are doing your utmost to ensure that the public’s only dealings with police will be when they have committed an offence, been involved in an accident or other traumatic event such as being the victim of serious crime. You notice I said serious crime because it seems there are moves to reduce police contact still further by virtually compelling the public to report crimes by other means including online and even gather their own evidence.
Great for the elderly and vulnerable eh, Prime Minister? Reducing police contact with the public will mean that they will merely become remote authority figures totally divorced from the public they serve as is the case in so many other countries.
Do you remember, Prime Minister, when you told a Police Federation audience that the public’s confidence in the police needed to be restored? Once again how we laughed given the fact that trust/approval ratings of politicians such as yourself is between an abysmal 16 to 22%. That for police is somewhere between 66% and 70%, despite the constant denigration by politicians including yourself and the media?
Those police family cynics I referred to above may well deduce that your policies and cuts are almost designed to drag the police down to your level when it comes to trust, approval and popularity.
Yet even the normally servile National Police Chiefs Council have stated how crucial good community policing is in the fight against terrorism and criminality.
My, didn’t Amber get herself into a right tizz when asked about community policing. We get most of our intelligence from Prevent said Amber, so no need for those community police. We get our intelligence from community leaders so no need for community police. Ah, so community leaders don’t talk to community police!!
And how vital is good community policing in the fight against knife, gun, gang and moped crime. How much can a motivated, fully staffed Safer Neighbourhood Team achieve on a gang ridden estate in an inner-city area. Talk to Sheldon Thomas of Gangsline who will regale you of stories about a Home Beat on his gang ridden estate in the 70’s who kept the peace.
But it’s not just about crime and gathering intelligence, is it? It’s also about police officers showing that they are human beings too and haven’t they done that superbly well over the last few days?
Frankly, Prime Minister, I have to ask who in the Home Office is telling both yourself and now Amber that community policing isn’t effective. The fact is that you are both willing to sacrifice one of the police service’s most valuable assets on the dubious alter of cuts, oops sorry, reform.
Good community policing is a crucial component part of the fight against terrorism and other serious crime and it is frankly appalling that both yourself and Amber are destroying it.
Police reform is working. Crime is down. Liar Liar??
Normally, Prime Minister, most people would be delighted to have a bestselling song dedicated to them but I’m not sure how you feel about the current number 1. Many police officers would feel it is entirely relevant given your oft-repeated mantra of ‘police reform is working, crime is down.’
‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime;’ do you remember that famous Tony Blair phrase, Prime Minister? Whenever that was mentioned amongst a gathering of cops in a police canteen, everyone would roll around laughing. These days there are few police canteens thanks to your reforms but if officers can avoid the attention of The Sun and gather together for their meal break entitlement, well guess what? Yes, the phrase ‘Police reform is working. Crime is down’ brings about similar convulsions of merriment.
How often is it, over the past few years that officers have had your mantra of ‘police reform is working, crime is down’, rammed down their throats by you and your policing ministers. Interesting that your policing minister Brandon Lewis has now found it necessary to insert the word ‘traditional’ before the ‘crime is down’ bit.
As some wags have pointed out on Twitter, cutlasses would fall within today’s definition of knife crime and that is definitely up; in the Met by 24% and, as was pointed out to you, much knife crime goes unreported. Imagine, if each weapon recovered that had been ‘stashed’ for later use, was recorded as a crime, how that would increase the figures. You could argue that as the weapon had been carried in a public place before being ‘stashed’ it should be recorded as a crime but perhaps the Home Office and police bean counters would rather not go there.
Gun crime up in London by 42%, violent crime up across the country by 22% and let’s remember there is the little matters of ‘moped crime’ up across the country and in London, by a staggering 600% over two years.
Inevitably Prime Minister, we have to put up with the usual utterings from your ministers and police chiefs that it’s more people reporting, better recording, different recording methods etc etc. So, to sum up then, under your government violent crime has risen but we shouldn’t worry because it hasn’t really.
But what of the hidden crime, Prime Minister? Reported shoplifting and other retail theft cases is around 320,000 cases a year yet the British Crime Survey states only one in eight are reported to police. Bit of a coach and horses through those figures there, eh Prime Minister?
Then there’s fraud where only a fraction of offences are actually recorded as a crime. Most, especially attempts, are simply recorded as intelligence. There is also the other sort of fraud which is rampant; forging all sorts of documents from passports, to driving licenses, to immigration stamps, to ID cards all not recordable unless they come to the notice of police.
And of course, every drugs deal is a crime and there must be tens of thousands of those in a day. As policing numbers decline, as stop and search declines, life becomes a ‘box of chocolates’ for the legions of drug dealers despite the best efforts of our depleted police forces. Talking of drugs dealing, did you know that young teens from London and other major cities are out dealing in the smaller county cities and towns; it’s called county lining and thrives partially because of a reluctance to stop and search.
Oh, and once again the summer holiday season is upon us so we’ll be exporting, unhindered by chocolate teapot border controls, our drug dealers to resorts such as like Faliraki, Ayia Napa, Ibiza, Magaluf, Malia and Kavos where they’ll enjoy preying on young Brits and other youthful victims, but at least their actions won’t directly impact on UK crime figures or hospital admissions.
The UK’s Prime Minister, the drug dealers friend. Harsh Prime Minister, but is it true?
Then there are organisations dealing with child sexual abuse, sexual offences, domestic violence who are constantly telling us that reported crime in relation to these and other safeguarding issues is just the tip of a very large iceberg.
We all notice, Prime Minister, that you can, and normally do, fall back on the England and Wales crime survey. That’s the one where invitations to take part are sent out and Mr and Mrs Nice from Nicetown volunteer to assist. See the flawed methodology here?
You’ve just said on Channel 4 that crime is changing and resources will need to be put into cybercrime. Yes, for once I agree with you Prime Minister, but I also have to ask whether you are blind to the issues on our streets that I referred to above. More resources and officers are needed across the board. We need those 21,000 officers back and then some more.
Despite you, your ministers and police chiefs trotting out meaningless crime figures with assurances that we are safer than ever, the public are not fools and can see the deteriorating situation with their own eyes. Your solution seems to be a further reprehensible, reduction in police funding.
The finest police force in the world being brought to its knees
We’ve already shown that abuse and assaults including extremely savage attacks on police officers are increasing at a frightening rate again thanks to your policies. In addition to the dangers posed by the constant denigration from those such as yourself, single crewing is increasing and back up often further away. The closure of custody suites and their centralisation means that officers have further to travel with prisoners and, on Friday and Saturday nights, are often reluctant to arrest thugs who deserve it so as not to remove themselves from the streets.
Credit where credit is due though, Prime Minister. One of your few plus points is the introduction of tasers; heaven knows what the assault level upon officers would be without the threat of and the occasional use of the taser. A marvellous invention the ‘red dot.’
Frustrated officers report that 999 calls are going unanswered as they are ‘tied up’ with prisoners which may involve being stuck in queue outside a custody suite, that is once they get there. There are also frequent complaints that 999 calls go unanswered simply because there are not enough officers to deal. It must be so frustrating to hear over the radio that people are begging for help which is simply not available.
And, when officers are out and about, helping people as best they can, they do so in the knowledge that the operational support they once enjoyed is no longer there. Did you know Prime Minister that a few nights ago there were just two police helicopters available across the whole country? The creation of the National Police Air Service (NPAS) has led to the closure of bases and there are frequent complaints from officers on the ground that the response for assistance is often met by ‘NPAS not available.’ How frustrating for those officers and indeed for the brilliant NPAS crews who want to be ‘up there and at ‘em.’
Police dog numbers have also been slashed Prime Minister, and talk to any front-line officer as to the value they place on support from K9 units. Did you know, Prime Minister, and this is a disgrace, that police forces, despite the increasing terror threat, have actually felt compelled to cut the number of explosives detection dogs (known affectionately as exploding dogs). One force, to the horror of its officers has cut six ‘exploding’ dogs.
There are also reports that some control rooms are manipulating 999 call figures by re-classifying those originally designated as immediate priority when it transpires that no officer is available to answer the call.
Under your government Prime Minister, the NHS, despite the best efforts of its staff, is crumbling. Much of the weight, as with other cuts, falls on police. They are clearly having to step in for hard pressed paramedics and if unfortunate patient isn’t regarded as being in a life-threatening condition, police officers may have to remain with that patient sometimes for several hours.
Imagine that, Prime Minister: having to spend perhaps hours with an accident victim, perhaps elderly, who is in screaming agony from broken bones yet cannot be a priority for ambulance control as their condition is not life threatening.
A recent high profile murder saw an admission from the local NHS that it took 50 minutes for an ambulance to reach a shooting victim on the grounds that the patient’s condition wasn’t regarded as life threatening. Even if that was true, quite how any shooting victim can be expected to wait for 50 minutes is astonishing.
Despite the best efforts of the armed police who responded, the victim sadly died. Full details may later emerge at either the trial or inquest.
Then we have the issue of mental health, Prime Minister, which is causing huge problems to police. The reasons why there seem to be an increasing number of individuals with mental health problems is a question for others but all too often it’s the police who have to deal with it and unfortunately sometimes it can go horribly wrong.
No, police officers don’t want those with such issues in police cells, but have you ever tried to deal with an individual who has lost all reason and is going berserk? There is no easy solution but it’s easy to criticise when things go wrong. Little mention in respect of police successes when they talk down distressed individuals from bridges or the tops of high buildings or wade out in dangerous seas or rivers.
You made an election promise re mental health but, even leaving aside the costs, where on earth are you going to get the staff from?
Like those with mental health issues, police also don’t wish to place children in cells but a recent programme that featured autistic children prone to extreme violence was an eye opener. Slightly built children having to be restrained by several expert careers using padded mats. Everything sounds so easy doesn’t it Prime Minister until you are that officer having to deal with that problem. I suspect you’ve never had to deal with an extremely violent, muscular 15,16 or 17-year-old ‘child.’
I could go on but Mike, who edits this superb little magazine, has already been more than generous with his space so it’s time to move on; however before I do, one more question. Did you really have to raise the issue of fox hunting again? Regardless of competing views, legalising foxhunting will inevitably result in violent protest across the country at weekends when the police service is already stretched. More rest days cancelled (see below) and more pressures on a struggling police service.
The human cost of your policing policies
Your policies have resulted in diminishing police numbers having to deal with increasing demand; a consequence of this is that officers in England and Wales have accumulated as of March last year nearly 177,000 rest days in order to make up the shortfall. This only adds to the pressure and strain on officers and their families.
Then there is the dramatic increase in officers going sick, either as the result of increasing violence or as the result of stress, depression or other very real mental health issues. Stress related sickness is becoming a real problem as demands on police increase.
Long hours often without a break, the fear that split second decision making could result in a long drawn out disciplinary process or even prison, the lack of rest days as illustrated above, the after effect of violent attacks or of attending horrendous incidents such as we saw in Manchester, worries about personal relationships being put in jeopardy, concerns about financial difficulties (officers having to use food banks); it all adds up, Prime Minister.
Then there is the linked question of morale. Look at the various surveys of forces across the country, look at the Police Federation surveys, look at all surveys carried in respect of police morale and police fears for the future. They amount to a devastating indictment of your policies and indeed your attitudes to police. Your shameful response tends to revolve, as we have seen around the words ‘scaremongering’ and ‘crying wolf.’
‘I predict a riot’
You have said, Prime Minister, that we must be prepared for a tough five years so let’s hope that someone, somewhere in the Home Office is working on contingency plans. If Brexit negotiations hit the buffers, the new trade deals fail to materialise and the Le Touquet agreement is revoked, ask yourself whether that could that lead to civil unrest as the economy nose dives?
Last year I wrote an article, which posed the question as to whether police were losing control of the streets. It received thousands of views mainly amongst the police community and very few dissenters. The fact is that police will struggle if faced with disorder on the scale of that we saw in 2011. Even in 2011, it was fortunate that many of the rioters decided looting stores was preferential to attacking police.
Now, in 2017, many forces have to rely on mutual aid when they have a high-risk football match or a potentially violent demonstration. That means ‘importing’ units of specially trained officers from neighbouring forces. Some forces who have disbanded their mounted units now have to borrow those units from other forces.
So, what happens if the country explodes as it did in 2011 and this time, as a perfect storm develops, the rioters are not diverted by looting? What happens if police forces refuse to release their own officers to assist another force fearful of what might happen in their own force areas? Just a reminder, Prime Minister, that there are 21,000 less police officers and 26,000 less PCSOs and support staff than in 2011.
Imagine the humiliation of having to put the army on the streets to cope with rioting and indeed the dangers. Best you get working on those contingency plans, Prime Minister, and perhaps best you think about restoring police numbers.
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)
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