September 30th, 2009

And so it goes

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Just a little follow on from yesterday’s entry…

Twenty years ago Mrs Pilkington would have had a much better service than she got in the years leading up to 2007. There were many thousands less police officers. In March this year there were 144,000 police officers. In March 1987 there were 120,000.

We have 24,000 more police officers yet those available for front line policing have been slashed dramatically. I don’t have access to any figures for the amount of officers available for day-to-day policing calls so I can only go by my own experience. In 1987 one division I worked in paraded 18 officers split between 4 police stations. This did not include 3 rural cars which covered the villages, 1 officer in every neighbourhood beat & a rural officers who shared all the villages between them. We put out 9 patrol cars in the division plus a walker in each of the town centres & the police stations were open 24 hours a day.

Now those same 4 towns have a maximum of 8 officers between them, we are lucky if they can put out 5 cars in the whole division, all of the police stations are closed longer than they are open.

Back in the day the village bobby lived on the patch & knew everyone & everything there was to be known. He probably looked after 2 or 3 villages. Every estate had a neighbourhood officer who lived on their patch, they often had a little police office attached to their house, they too knew everyone, they were a vast source of information. What they knew & what they did couldn’t be recorded in an exel spreadsheet yet their value to policing was enormous.

Then someone in a wendy house somewhere decided that the only way to measure the success of an organisation was to match its performance against a written down set of criteria & the way to do this was to count beans. Suddenly, the value of everything was measured in beans & rural/neighbourhood officers didn’t  grow any beans on their patches. Add to that the fact that they lived in expensive police houses.

The theory went that if you did away with neighbourhood & rural officers not only could you pull them all back to the nick where they could produce a few beans, you could also save the expense of maintaining their houses, sell them off & plough lots of lovely lolly into all the new & dynamic projects which were about to hit the world of UK policing. We lost a generation of intelligence which we are only now getting back, amazingly enough, through local PCSOs, who will, within a few years, be just as valuable a tool to police intelligence as the old village bobby.

It made good political – read voting – sense to increase the number of bobbies, so every government promised more. More bobbies means more votes ‘cos we all want more bobbies on the streets, only they never made the streets. They all went into disparate little ‘remit’ teams. You know the teams, they are the ones you ask for help when you’re struggling to meet all the frontline priorities who turn round & say “sorry, mate, not my remit”.

So we had the burglary squad, set up to specifically target burglary beans, the robbery squad busy collecting robbery beans, sexual offences squad, paedophile squad, computer crime squad, diversity squad, more officers means more potential for naughty goings-on so the rubber heel squad was boosted. We had the serious crime units, the bloody serious crime units, organised crime, it goes on. Then there are the units who monitor the other units, who count the beans, who supervise those who count the beans, who make sure the right beans are being counted.

So every time an Inspector of Constabulary comes a-calling & says, “now look here Mr Chief Constable, your force is doing particularly low in detections of spanner-wielding credit-card thieves” we have to have a department whose soul aim is to reduce spanner-wielding credit card thefts.

The problem for those on the front line is that most of the calls we get don’t lead to all the remit-beans. Nobody measures the prevention of crime, nobody measures kids who piss up your garage & chuck eggs through your windows, nobody measures depressed people who threaten suicide but never go through with it. You don’t get a bean for sitting outside a row of shops stopping the kids from spitting at people with special needs.

And if they’re not measured, they’re not important.

If the next Inspector of Constabulary comes round & says “Now look here Mr Chief Constable, the behaviour of teenage yobs in this area is apalling, this chart shows a 150% increase in bad language in front of old ladies, get it sorted” you’ll have so many shiny-arses out of their offices that the problem could be sorted in a year.

It ain’t gonna happen, though.

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