The police are like Tescos in some respects, we have branches everywhere & are open 24 hours. Although, unlike Tescos who are opening more & more outlets, we appear to be closing them.
In Tescos, when you need a service, you join the queue (if you’re not French). You have a reasonable expectation that you will be served in turn as your place up the queue decreases, until you get to walk out of the store with a big satisfied smile on your face and several quid lighter.
This is unlike the service you’ll get at a police station. You can join the queue but you will have no idea when you’ll get served, not even which day, and must expect that people with possibly more urgent problems will push in front of you.
This leads to a situation where people’s expectations aren’t met. It’s the same principle as making a doctor’s appointment; if you need to see the police you want to do it now not in 4 days time when the problem is over.
There are thousands of people every day who have a genuine need to see an officer on the doorstep. On many occasions they are waiting several days while people constantly jump the queue.
Quite often they get fed up & call back to say ‘forget it’ either the problem has diminished in importance or they are so fed up waiting in every day for the police to not turn up. At least when a plumber lets you down you can get a different one from the Yellow Pages.
The problem arises in that they have reported a crime or at least a potential crime. Protocol dictates that once a crime is reported police have to record it. The choice of whether the injured party wishes to pursue it is no longer with the police or the reporting person; rules is rules.
So after a few days of police showing no interest, suddenly when the person wants to withdraw their complaint they’re told ‘you can’t’.
The following conversation is typical, if somewhat abridged:
999 Operator: Police emergency
Bloggs: I’ve just been punched in the mouth by this bloke up the road.
999 Operator: Where is the offender now?
Bloggs: He went home, he lives at number 47
999 Operator: Do you need an ambulance?
Bloggs: No, I’m at home now, nothing’s broken.
999 Operator: OK, we’ll send a unit to see you, as it’s not an emergency I can’t say how long it will take.
Later that night….
Police Operator: Hello Bloggs, sorry we haven’t been able to attend yet, we’ve had a really busy day. Are you home tomorrow?
Bloggs: Well I was going to a garden party at Buck House, but I can stay home, what time can you come?
Police Operator: We can’t make appointments, it’ll be when an officer is free.
Police Operator: Hello Bloggs, sorry we haven’t been able to see you today, we’ve been really busy, what time are you up until tonight?
Bloggs: I’ll be up until about 11pm
Repeat above conversation for 2-5 days
Police Operator: Hello Bloggs, sorry, no unit, too busy, etc, etc, can you perhaps come into the police station to make a report
Bloggs: OK, I’ll call in at 5pm after work tomorrow.
Bloggs: I’m here about an assault, can you take a statement or something?
Enquiry Officer: I can’t, I’d need to get one of the police officers to return and do it
Enquiry Officer: Er, there’s nobody free, they’re all assigned.
Bloggs: Hello, about being punched in the mouth, forget it. I’m fed up waiting. I’ll leave it thanks.
Police Operator You can’t.
Bloggs: I can’t?
Police Operator: No, you’ve reported a crime, we need to see you.
Bloggs: I’ve been waiting for someone to see me for nearly a week. I don’t want anything done any more. You’re obviously busy and I’ve been inconvenienced too much already, just leave it.
Police Operator: Well if you don’t want any action, that’s fine.
Bloggs: Great, bye.
Police Operator: But we need to take a statement to say you don’t want anything done.
Bloggs: So you weren’t inteterested in seeing me when I reported it and now your saying I can’t just leave it.
Police Operator: Er, no, we’re not allowed to, we don’t have any choice, actually, neither do you.
Bloggs: OK, can I make the statement now?
Police Operator: We’re a bit busy at the moment, I don’t have anyone free.