September 29th, 2009

Not important enough

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

The dreadful case of Fiona Pilkington whose life was blighted by anti social youths on her estate to such an extent that she took her own child’s life & committed suicide by setting fire to her car as they sat in it, will have some far-reaching repurcussions. The surprise is that, in the two years since this tragic event happened, there has been just about zero change in the way police deal with anti-social behaviour.

I spend every late shift in every town I control not sending police officers to anti social youths. This is despite the fact that I know what an effect it can have on people’s lives let alone their peace. I’m almost ashamed to say but I have anti social behaviour in my street & I never report it to the police, the reason purely & simply is, I know there is little chance of the police arriving before the youths have moved on. If it’s gotten too bad I have gone out there myself & given some ‘advice’, though I don’t like doing this in my own street. (I tend to climb over my back fence & appear from somewhere not near my house so they don’t know where I live).

The apalling crux of the matter is one of mathematics. We have X-amount of officers & we get Y-amount of jobs which take Z-amount of time. When Y x Z > X we cannot possibly get to all the jobs on time, if at all. We either have to make people wait, in some cases days, or we just don’t go.

The problem with antisocial behaviour is that it doesn’t fit in with any targets & we don’t get to tick any boxes. When Jay sends a text message to his ex-girlfriend Leah saying she’s a slag, that’s threats to violence or damage, malicious communications or a domestic, all of which are recordable & may result in a detected crime. When Mrs Miggins is fed up to the back teeth with a bunch of teenage yobs who spend every night shouting & swearing outside her bedroom & pissing up against her fence, that’s just a bit of ASB. Guess which one gets an officer sent to it whether they want one or not & which one gets closed off 2 hours after the youths have gone elsewhere with a ‘no officer available’ closing.

Mrs Pilkington did not have the protection afforded to certain groups within society. Had she been black or Asian, Jewish or gay, she would have had an officer every single occasion she phoned. There are teams within each police force whose sole job it is to look at ‘hate’ crimes against minority groups. I well remember a case of some kids throwing snowballs at a Jewish shop, on a day when the kids were throwing snowballs at everyone & anyone & we didn’t have the resources to deal with all the accidents & crime let alone kids chucking snowballs. Most of the snowball jobs just got closed off because there was absolutely no chance of us sending anyone; we had more important & immediate things to do. The Jewish shop had to remain open because the racism word had been mentioned. Within an hour the Inspector in charge of the diversity unit was on the phone to the control room inspector demanding to know why this racist incident hadn’t been assigned within the 1 hour requirement of force policy.

Nobody phoned up from any police unit who sit on their arses looking at logs in some office somewhere at HQ on behalf of all the other people being taunted by kids with snow. The fact that Mrs Pilkington had a disabled daughter, much of which taunting was aimed at, doesn’t seem to have cut any ice with the local constabulary.

I’ve blogged before about the unfairness of diversity policy & have argued that everyone should be treated on their own merits only. It completely baffles me that, for instance, a 6’6 Afro-Caribbean nightclub bouncer with years in the nighttime entertainment trade, who gets called a rude name is entitled to a better service than a vulnerable teenage girl who may be, unknowingly to us, considering suicide because of some  bullying. How can a rule written on a policy somewhere at police HQ possibly differentiate between the effect on these two people & class one as somehow more deserving of a higher response than the other. Where is the leeway to attend based on the individual potential effect on the victim?

Just occasionally, someone will come up with a local operation to target antisocial behaviour. Extra resources will be called in & they will be tasked for ASB jobs alone, unavailable for RTCs, assaults or domestics. This is a clear acceptance of the importance of tackling such behaviour, but if it is important, why isn’t important all the time & on every estate.

Antisocial behaviour is the key to so many more problems in society. Someone who grows up not having consequences for their behaviour will learn that they are entitled to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want. They will grow up with a me, me, me attitude & will spend the rest of their lives demanding everything they can get.  A child who grows up to respect other peoples needs & rights will end up as net givers to society.

When I was on the street I actually enjoyed helping to make other people’s lives a little better. One of the reasons I wanted to join the police was to help people who couldn’t help themselves. I held that belief until the day I retired. I still believe it. I am unable to do it because I do not have the resources nor the will from those who run the show to sort the matter out.

After the story of Mrs Pilkington, I will be wondering if the next job I fail to send an officer to will end up with someone murdering their child & topping themselves. That’s simply not fair & I don’t have the power to address it properly.

Time will tell whether the fallout from Mrs Pilkington will make any difference.

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