The terrible shooting of two bobbies in Manchester has led to the usual mixture of handwringing, lies, and radio phone-ins. The amazing thing is the ignorance exhibited by journalists about modern British policing. It’s not like it’s a secret.
On Radio 5 Live yesterday, Victoria Derbyshire appeared not to know either that the police often patrol alone, or that sentences for serious assaults on cops are woefully weak. There was also confusion from lots of people about bail (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act isn’t written in foreign) and over the question of whether the police put too many or too few resources into the hunt for the guy. Hard to win that one.
As for arming the police, I’ve spoken to many of them over the years since we published Wasting Police Time. It’s not scientific, but I’d say 95% of the front-line cops I’ve interviewed want to be armed. Life has changed since the mythical days of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ (who, let’s not forget, was actually shot dead while on duty). The argument that it makes officers unapproachable is hard to sustain: millions of Britons happily take their holidays in countries where the Old Bill are all tooled-up.
Anyway, from Wasting More Police Time:
Single-crewing is stupid. It only makes sense if you think the point of the police is this thing about ‘reassurance’, which is, the public see lots of police about so they feel better… The fact is, it’s a tacit admission that we have decided that a certain level of actual crime happening to some people is a price worth paying for this spurious reassurance of the rest. It’s an admission, actually, that we can’t do much about real crime, we can only massage your ‘feelings’ about it. I don’t personally buy the reassurance argument, anyway. Two years ago, if we went to a proper call needing four cops, we’d go in two cars. Now you’ll have four cops in four cars and everyone sees four pandas rock up and immediately assumes world war three is kicking off on their doorstep.
It has been introduced by people who will never have to live the policy they force on the rest of us, and it doesn’t work for very obvious reasons, reasons you only wouldn’t see if you were a senior policeman or woman who doesn’t understand that things have changed on the streets in the 15 years since you last walked them, if you ever did…
In my force, assaults on police increased dramatically after single patrolling was introduced. Scrotes who would have come relatively quietly when there were two of us now will chance their arm, on the basis that they might get away and if they don’t the courts will not add anything on to the ticket for assaulting a police officer as it’s supposed to be ‘part of our job’.
I get assaulted, both verbally and physically. I’ve been spat at and bitten and then spent weeks waiting in fear to find out whether I’ve contracted hepatitis or HIV/Aids or whatever the person I was arresting told me they had – during which time I can’t live a normal life with my wife. I’ve never had any of these assailants prosecuted to the full extent of the law, because it’s part and parcel of the job, apparently, and not in the public interest to deal with these people.
(F)ar from giving stronger sentences for assaults on police, the reverse often happens. As a uniformed Inspector, and before that, as a Sergeant, and a Fed rep, I’ve been involved in a large number of cases of assaults on my officers. The general pattern is one of the CPS refusing charge except in the most egregious cases. In the cases where they do charge, they will accept pleas to lesser offences – so the defendant says he won’t plead to GBH but he’ll plead to ABH, or he won’t plead to ABH but he will plead to common assault. Instead of saying, frankly, bollocks to that, we’ve got the evidence, let’s have a trial, they roll over to keep their own stats up. And then, the courts do next to nothing to offenders. I’ve had a young WPC bitten and scarred – no jail for that. I’ve had officers hit with iron bars, chains and bottles, and the offender is given anger management and a small fine. I’ve had an officer stabbed with a syringe where the offender claimed that he had AIDS, which turned out not to be true but was horrible for the officer. No jail for that. It makes me very angry.
And so on and so forth. We’ve published four books dealing with this sort of thing now – not far short of half a million words. Gadget has been blogging about it for years, as has Bloggs, and Copperfield before them both, and lots of others. Victoria Derbyshire even had Copperfield and Bloggs on her show!