Theresa May, the police and the abysmal truth – an open letter (pt 1)
Note: This post contains images that some readers may find disturbing.
Dear Prime Minister,
As yet another election approaches and with you about to be confirmed as Prime Minister in a one-sided contest that resembles a Real Madrid versus Hartlepool reserves encounter, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reminisce with you, your time as the holder of one of the great offices of state.
You have, of course, been lauded as one of the great Home Secretaries, both strong and reforming, so let’s go back to those post 2010 election ‘heady days.’
It all began so well Prime Minister if you remember with your promise of support for police. However wee Tom’s ‘independent’ report on police ‘reform’ bore an uncanny resemblance to the utterings on police reform of one David Cameron that began in 2006.
Strangely enough, expecting officers to roll around in the gutter with drunken yobs whilst approaching the age of 60 didn’t go down terribly well with those who missed the divisive pension cut. Equally, it soon became clear that being abused, spat on, attacked, and expected to be a cop 24 hours a day was deemed to be on a par with the salary of a McDonald’s trainee manager for those starting out on their career.
Still, it’s nice to see original, innovative work rewarded and you rewarded Tom, didn’t you Prime Minister, by making him Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, then giving him a knighthood for services to something or other. Clearly, rewards obtained on merit and nothing to do with you ensuring that your well-heeled shoe would be kept on the throat of the police service.
We saw Sir Tom’s eagerness to join the ranks of boys in blue when he donned a police uniform at a police memorial event. What an outcry there was over the trivial fact that Sir Tom had never performed a day’s police duty in his life. Perhaps, Prime Minister, he could have become a little more credible if he had worn his uniform whilst conducting a lone patrol around some of the more dubious estates of Hackney, Lambeth or Lewisham on a Friday or Saturday night. I’m sure some of the local, youthful, masked residents could have entertained him with a rap song or two. If that didn’t appeal, how about single crewing in a rural area where back up is miles away yet the drunken pub brawl isn’t.
In fairness to Sir Tom however, he at last appears to be ‘smelling the coffee’ as far as the difficulties faced by police are concerned and actually appears to be becoming ‘a fan.’ Sadly he’ll always be remembered as the puppet who put the skids under UK policing, but who knows, Prime Minister, what his next report might hold!!
Establishment contempt for police leads to increasing attacks on police
Shortly after the murder of two New York police officers in December 2015, New York Governor George E. Pataki tweeted: “Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric.” Governor Pataki then named New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Attorney General Eric Holder.
I replied thus: “We see this anti-cop rhetoric in the UK. Sadly it comes from the very top of government.” That of course was a direct reference to yourself, your ministers and indeed your former boss David Cameron.
Back in 2010, the police service were expecting cutbacks from your new government. What we weren’t expecting was the level of bile and contempt that went with it. Do you remember your 2014 speech to the Police Federation when you used three lengthy paragraphs to list every police ‘transgression’ from Hillsborough to Plebgate. Some of these occurred before serving officers were even born, others in your list have still not been proven and the total number of officers involved, even if all are ‘guilty,’ are but a handful of the tens of thousands who served over that period. You however chose to smear every serving officer and in doing so gave encouragement to the thugs which in turn increased the threat to each of those officers.
Blurred image of a two police officers being attacked outside an east London school
Remember the speech in 2015 Prime Minister. There you accused the police of ‘crying wolf’ and ‘scaremongering.’ As the bodies begin to pile up, as the number of stabbing and shooting victims increase and as violent moped gangs cause havoc, what say you now? Probably not a lot, well at least not about policing.
The 2016 conference saw an outburst against police treatment of domestic violence victims. Strangely enough, in many units that deal with domestic violence and other safeguarding issues such as child sexual abuse, sexual offences officers might well agree with you.
Don’t be patting yourself on the back with that comment though, Prime Minister. These officers are struggling to cope with caseloads that number 20, 30 or 40 all of which are ticking time bombs. Believe it or not Prime Minister, it’s not like episodes of ‘The Bill’ where the whole station, both uniform and CID, can devote their time to solving one case. It’s not uncommon to see officers in these real life safeguarding units break down in tears, while recruitment is frequently a problem.
Of course in every speech you make concerning policing, there is a sentence that contains some faint praise for the police but we all know that this will be ignored by the media. We realise anti-police sentiment is not exclusively expressed by your good self. Others in your party and indeed the opposition make no secret of their loathing of police.
Do you remember the speech David Cameron made to the Tory faithful just two days after PC Dave Phillips was killed by a thug when he was trying to stop a stolen vehicle? The then Prime Minister’s one reference to police was as follows: “Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a black person constantly stopped and searched by the police because of the colour of their skin.”
Not a mock up: An officer’s blood stains his uniform after being attacked
As attacks on police officers increase in number and severity, would you agree that if establishment figures such as Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries treat the police with contempt by constant denigration, abuse and smearing as illustrated above, this increases the risk of abuse of, and attacks on, officers at the hands of the thugs?
Stop and Search: Blood on your hands, Prime Minister?
The term, ‘blood on your hands’ when applied to politicians is rather a dramatic one, isn’t it Prime Minister? It’s normally applied to those who have taken their country to a needless war such as Tony Blair or George Bush, or heads of state who have brutally suppressed their people such as Assad, Saddam and Mugabe.
You may or may not be surprised, Prime Minister, that many within the police service have applied that damning phrase to your good self. Did you know that if you Google, “Theresa May” and “Stop and Search” the result is 43,500 responses? Yes, I know that’s a rough and ready rule of thumb but it illustrates how you castigated police over stop and search, threatening legislation and accused officers of being racist.
Even in your current just published manifesto, you are again threatening the police with legislation in respect of stop and search thus again implying they are racist. Given the current carnage on the streets of London and elsewhere in the UK, that is truly breath taking.
As your rants continued did no-one show you a montage of the young fatal street crime victims of London? Such montages show a disproportionate number of victims who are black, mixed race or from other ethnic groups.
RIP. London’s young victims
The proportion of suspects/assailants are similar and thus the issue became ‘the elephant in the room’ and one that you, Prime Minister, can only have stuck your fingers in your ears and shouted ‘I can’t hear this, I can’t hear this.’ That is of course if any of your civil servants or other Home Office employees dared to inform you of the facts because by all accounts you didn’t suffer dissenters gladly.
Easier to stick to the race line Prime Minister, ignoring the fact that preventative stop and search also takes place in the predominately white high crime gangland areas of England and Wales in places such as Merseyside and parts of Manchester.
Interestingly, stop and search is also a contentious issue in Jamaica, not on racial grounds, but on the grounds of legality. Some state that that random road checks and road blocks conducted by the Jamaican Constabulary Force are largely unlawful when they result in vehicle searches – which is frequently.
The hierarchy of the JCF however maintain that the numerous firearms recovered from these searches justify their actions in that they save numerous lives. It remains to be seen whether stringent legal curbs are imposed by Jamaican lawmakers.
Of course in terms of London gangs and stop and search, there will be those activists, perhaps supported by yourself, who will say that the black community are being criminalised and stigmatised. The Met’s own gang matrix shows almost 80 per cent of gang members are black or of mixed race. This matrix has been labelled as racist but, Prime Minister, those figures are supported by that excellent charity Gangsline.
Did none of your staff tell you, Prime Minister, that gangs, be they predominately black, white or Asian, flourish in areas of socio-economic deprivation whose communities suffer with inadequate housing, poor education, a lack of job opportunities and often inferior health care especially in relation to those suffering mental health issues? Whose fault is this, eh Prime Minister? Could it be the fault of successive national governments from both right and left ‘supported’ by the inept local governance of local councils?
And of course it’s the police who are left having to deal with the increasing mess created by politicians.
Circulated widely on social media as a victim of London’s gang related violence
But no-one from the police community will claim that stop and search is the panacea which will, by itself, result in the virtual eradication of knife and gun crime. Communities need to take responsibility and, having had the privilege of living and working in London all my life, I know that from within the black community there is much outstanding work being carried out by truly remarkable individuals and organisations. Sadly that work is hampered by a withdrawal of funding by your government which is seeing youth centres, organisations and clubs being closed down. As Sheldon Thomas of Gangsline stated on Channel 5 news the other day, the government needs to start listening to those who know.
But what was the result of your tirades against police stop and search which were supported by politicians and activists of the left such as Diane Abbott. Stop and search figures crashed didn’t they Prime Minister, across the country but especially in London. And you and police chiefs gloated that whilst stop and searches were down, the proportion of successful arrests as against stop and searches increased.
What a triumph! What was carefully kept away from the public, Prime Minister, was the fact that the total number of arrests that took place as a result of stop and search in London dropped by 1,000 a month. Did you not even ask the question when you were Home Secretary or were you told and decided to do nothing?
Some officers on social media stated that they continued to stop and search regardless; others emphatically stated that they were not going to place their livelihoods and indeed the welfare of their families at stake by risking complaints as the result of carrying out a resented stop and search. Make no mistake, any complaint that contains an element of racism will taint that officer for this entire career even if it is not proven, while the IPCC is simply not trusted when investigating allegations of alleged police racism.
The fact is, Prime Minister, that as stop and search tailed off, confidence grew in that individuals became aware that the risk of them being stopped in possession of a knife, gun or drugs was becoming ever more remote. The genie was emerging from the bottle and no-one was attempting to force it back in.
More knives were being carried on the streets and, quelle surprise, more stabbings and shootings as a result. As the situation worsened, some, not in gangs, felt it necessary to carry a knife in order to protect themselves.
You and David Cameron have accused the police of being racist in carrying out a disproportionate number of searches on youths and young men from the black community. Tell me Prime Minister, did any of your staff show you the footage that, for a short time circulated on social media, which showed the aftermath of the fatal stabbing of a young teen rapper known as Showkey?
The videos were taken down but a few seconds of this heart-breaking footage still exists. The original showed, as often happens these days as the NHS falls apart, police arriving before paramedics and turning over the lifeless, bleeding body of Showkey before frantically applying their skills to keep him alive. Sadly they failed and I suspect the trauma of that day will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
The death of Marcel Addai in Hoxton saw a similar scenario where an officer won praise from Marcel’s family and neighbours for desperately trying to save this young man’s life despite being surrounded by a hostile crowd.
These are but two example of those you refer to as ‘racist police’ trying and sometimes succeeding in saving young lives. Have you ever considered Prime Minister that these same officers are carrying out stop and search, not for the sadistic pleasure of harassing young black men, but to actually save lives?
Officers attempt to save the life of a teen stabbing victim (face obscured). Sadly the young man died
Yes, I know many stop and searches are for drugs but does that matter? As Damilola Taylor’s father pointed out and as was illustrated by Channel 5’s current documentary, ‘Inside the Gang,’ drugs are the oxygen of the gangs. If you, Prime Minister, lived in a gang-ridden Hackney Estate and were considering picking up a knife as you left home, wouldn’t the fact that you might be stop and searched for whatever reason, be it weapons or drugs, act as a deterrent?
Apologies, I appreciate that being a resident of a Hackney Estate will almost certainly be beyond your comprehension. It’s not beyond mine however because I was. As a matter of interest I returned to pay a nostalgic visit shortly before the Olympics. Each block now resembled Fort Knox. A sad sign of the times, eh Prime Minister?
Of course, despite the fact the genie in respect of knife and gun crime is well and truly out of the bottle, it seems that the mantra of the both the Met and government is that gangs are not really a major factor. The Met’s figure wobbles between five and 25 per cent in terms of gang involved knife crime, yet the Met’s own figures show that almost 80 per cent of violent knife crime remains unsolved.
So, and stay with me here Prime Minister, how on earth is it possible that the figure of 25 per cent is quantifiable given the level of knife crime unsolved? Those involved in working to divert young people away from gangs and knife crime I know agree that where some youths are proven to be ‘carrying’ because of the fear of gangs this should warrant a tick in the ‘gang crime box.’
Interesting too that the Met, thus far, have refused to provide (to me) under the FOI the total number of knives seized across London by means of stop and search or sweeps. Surely Prime Minister this sort of information really should be in the public domain.
I wonder if anyone from the Home Office during your period of tenure actually placed on your desk any sort of report which suggested that knife and even gun crime is significantly under-reported. Did you know, Prime Minister, that there is a flourishing cottage back street industry in the treatment of non-life threatening knife and gun wounds? Did you know that those in gangs stabbed by rivals will treat their own relatively minor injuries by using super-glue? And, whilst we are looking at medical treatment, how much worse would the death toll be but for the acquired expertise of paramedics and hospital medical staff?
Did you also know that, despite a requirement that hospitals report all knife injuries, some staff will not do so if the patient claims it was an accident or, more significantly, if the patient states that by talking to the police, he/she will be regarded as a snitch which could result in further attacks or even being ostracised by his/her own gang friends. Snitches get stitches is not just an empty phrase!
Perhaps an alternative, Prime Minister, would be to take on board the views of your own creation, the College of Policing (CoP). You probably haven’t been briefed as to the fact that there is a gap the width of the Pacific Ocean between rank and file officers and CoP. One recent report published with great gusto by the CoP compiled by three academics concluded that stop and search had a ‘negligible’ effect on violent crime. So if that is the case, why not simply end stop and search as has been suggested by many activists and even apparently considered by Sir Bernard? Couldn’t be a better test for the effectiveness of stop and search and if your academics are right, there will be no dramatic increase in knife crime, well, not above the increase we are already seeing.
One final thought Prime Minister before we move on to pastures new. Every individual fatally stabbed or shot on our streets would still be alive today if their assailants had been stopped and searched before encountering their victim.
Armed police on…off…on…our streets
Do you remember the Mumbai massacre in 2008 Prime Minister, when Islamic terrorists killed 164 people in a four day rampage? That sent a tremor through the UK’s police service and we were all asking ‘what if?’ The concern was most keenly felt amongst armed officers and then of course in 2010 you took office. Three years later in 2013, the Westgate Shopping Mall massacre in Nairobi caused again considerable concern throughout our police service but by that time the number of armed police in the UK was, under your watch, falling.
Earlier the same year, the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich shocked the world and throughout this period we saw other terror attacks in Ottawa, New York, Melbourne and Sydney. In Europe further incidents occurred; four persons were shot dead at a Jewish museum in Belgium while a terrorist incident on a French train was foiled by three US nationals including two servicemen.
It was the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015 followed by the murder of 30 UK nationals in Sousse in June 2015 that convinced front line UK officers that urgent action was needed and indeed would be taken by the UK government in respect of the number of armed officers policing the UK.
Yet amazingly, on your watch Prime Minister, numbers of armed officers continued to fall. What had been an establishment of approaching 6,000 armed officers in 2009 had shrunk by 1,300. What makes this even more inexcusable, Prime Minister, is that you must have been only too well aware that the trickle of UK jihadists travelling to fight abroad had turned into a flood.
It took the Paris attacks in November 2015 which included the Bataclan massacre that actually convinced David Cameron and yourself that less than 5,000 armed officers was woefully inadequate. You knew, didn’t you Prime Minster, that not to take action would have been political suicide? No matter how any independent enquiry was constituted, you would have been crucified even by the faithful Tory press that lauded your ‘taking on’ the police.
The Nice massacre in July 2016 really did ensure that the panic button was pushed and there have been frantic moves to recruit additional armed officers as you well know. It’s not always proved that easy though has it? Standards are high but a more relevant point as far as potential recruits are concerned isn’t the prospect of a firefight with terrorists armed with AK47’s, but what happens when the police trigger is pulled.
Some vague promises have been made by your good selves as to action to protect officers but there is little sympathy from’ or trust in the Independent Police Complaints Commissions, which even you admit Prime Minister is not fit for purpose.
It seems that much hard work by the police chief’s lead expert in armed policing, Simon Chesterman and others, including firearms instructors, has ensured that the uplift will be achieved. Attention has been paid to improving vehicles, communication and cooperation together with a surge capability that calls on armed officers from non-Home Office forces, but the actual numbers of armed officers on the streets will not be much greater than they were in 2009.
We saw, didn’t we Prime Minister, in the most heavily policed area of the UK, how devastating a terrorist attack could be. The death of PC Keith Palmer and four others was a tragedy that will never be forgotten. But where does that leave other areas of the UK outside of the big cities?
France of course covers a much larger area than the UK but has a similar population. Its police forces, Police Nationale and Gendarmarie, number around 260,000 officers; more than twice that of the UK and all are armed. Even in the smallest rural towns there is normally a police presence and while the previously unarmed 18,000 municipal police officers are also being equipped with firearms.
In the UK, thanks to your cuts, Prime Minister, the nearest single crewed unarmed police officer could be 20 minutes away from a substantial rural or coastal town as a terror attack commences. It really is no use talking about surges and SAS deployments unless the attack is of the prolonged Mumbai variety.
Look at the damage caused in just 82 seconds at Westminster. Imagine the carnage that would have been caused had that attack taken place along the high street of the small coastal town from where I am writing this. There would be a probable fifteen minute response from unarmed officers. The closest armed officers will have to stop their vehicles, open the gun cabinets in the boot and don protective clothing before proceeding to the call. It’s extremely probable that even their presence would fail to stop a Nice-type attack.
I once wrote that ’ minutes count’ in respect of a terrorist attack and was corrected by former Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley who stated ‘seconds count.’
You Prime Minister, as the country faced an increasing terror threat, presided over a horrendous cut in overall police officer numbers that must have baffled your fellow European ministers. Even a further boost in armed police numbers over and above the original target to say 8,000 still leaves the UK’s population outside of the major cities massively vulnerable to any form of terror attack.
Those in the Palace of Westminster who opposed and to all practical purposes vetoed the wishes of senior police officers in respect of deploying armed officers to fixed points such as at the gates were, frankly, criminally negligent. Doubtless, in true establishment tradition, those issues will never be explored in full public view, but similar negligence is only too apparent in many parts of the UK.
Still Prime Minister, when a tragic terror attack away from the main UK cities takes place and grabs headlines across the world, we can take comfort from the fact that there will be a Cobra meeting!!
Part 2 in a few days. Let’s hope in the meantime, someone, somewhere asks you a few pertinent, probing questions in respect of your ‘policing record’ but I’m not holding my breath.
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)
Sign-up for the Guerilla Daily newsletter – the best frontline and independent blogs every week day.