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Posts Tagged ‘Wasting Police Time’

Finally, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary has admitted what PC David Copperfield, Inspector Gadget and WPC E E Bloggs said all along: that the system of recording crime is as bent as a dodgy Flying Squad copper circa 1973:

The police are failing to record as much as 20% of crime – equal to three-quarters of a million offences – including 14 cases of rape and some serious sexual offences, according to the first official inquiry into the integrity of the police crime figures.

At the same time, confusingly, the police are rushing out to apprehend people for telling children that Santa doesn’t exist (true story from Gadget’s book). It makes no sense at all, unless you consider whether senior officers want their juniors to record crimes that are not easy to solve, but would quite like them to record crimes that are easy to solve.

For saying this sort of thing, Copperfield and Gadget were both lied about by government ministers. (Bloggs didn’t get lied about – she just sold the TV rights to her book.)

You can read free extracts from the three books here, here and here (and obviously we’d love you to buy copies if you haven’t already).

Meanwhile, here’s that Santa Claus story from Perverting the Course of Justice:

DETECTIONS

LET’S go back to basics for a moment.

Lots of people probably don’t quite understand the words ‘crime’ and ‘detection’, and the role they play in modern policing.

That’s not surprising, because what they mean in reality and what they mean in surreality – ie modern policing – are often two completely different things.

In real life, a crime means something which we would all agree is against the law – theft, assault, burglary – and has an actual victim who has really suffered some harm.

In policing, a ‘crime’ – because of the ‘victim-focused’ National Crime Recording Standard I mentioned earlier – can mean, in practice, almost anything which half sounds like it might possibly be a bit like a crime and which is reported to us. (Because who are we to tell Mr Hughes his ex’s nasty texts isn’t a crime?)

Here is one example of a non-crime taken seriously by us.

It’s late one afternoon in the middle of last December. The Christmas lights are ablaze on every house in Bigtown, and the concrete walkway outside the local Spar is covered in fresh white litter. Inside, there’s a queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries. Halfway down the line, a little girl and her mum are chatting about Santa Claus, and the presents he will be delivering in a fortnight.

In front of them is a typical Bigtown youth – Burberry scarf, Nike trainers, NY Yankees cap and a ton of bling.

Overhearing their conversation, he turns round, looks at the girl and says, ‘You don’t believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum’s telling you lies… he ain’t real.’

The little girl bursts into tears and the angry mum storms out of the shop and rings us on her mobile.

I like to think that, if that happened to me, I’d tell my daughter that the nasty man was talking rubbish, and chalk it up to experience.

But modern life being what it is, mum doesn’t do this; instead, she phones us, like it’s a police matter.

OK, so we get a call from a lady wanting to report a Santa denier.

We just tell her we’re awfully sorry but it’s not really one for us, right?

Wrong. The call-taker logs it on the system as a harassment offence. We all know that if the woman had been calling to report a criminal damage that had happened the night before she’d have got someone out a week next Tuesday. But because certain triggers are hit – there’s a child involved, this area happens to be a crime hotspot and the man is still at the scene – a patrol is despatched immediately, to speak to the mum and little girl and, if possible, grab the ‘offender’ and even seize the CCTV to see if they can ID him.

To me, that’s just about as mad as it gets. Is it, even at the edges of abstract technicality, a crime? Harassment is about causing alarm or distress to another. As a senior officer asked in the SMT morning meeting, ‘How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn’t exist? I mean, he doesn’t. Does he?’

He’s got a point. Short of producing Santa himself at an ID parade and proving he’s real, the case is going nowhere. But time and resources have been wasted in a fairly ludicrous way.

Here’s another one.

Two young lads outside a newsagent. One, a 10-year-old, goes in and buys a packet of crisps. Walkers, salt and vinegar I believe. When he comes back out and opens the packet, his 11-year-old chum swoops on him, sticks a fist into the bag and legs it down the road, cackling in glee.

The first boy tells his mum and, yes, she calls us. The ‘thief’ is questioned but – horror of horrors – he denies it. This causes our whole system to collapse, because we’re all about getting people to cough to minor offences and accept cautions for them to make detections.Where do we go from here? Forensics? ID parades with witnesses from the scene who saw the boy make off with the crisps? Thankfully, there is some residual common sense in the police, and the case eventually got ‘no-crimed’ – but not before hours of police time was wasted, and only after submissions in triplicate to the crime auditors to get them to wipe it off the computer.

These aren’t isolated cases. Here are a few others from the papers recently:

- A man ‘found in possession of an egg with intent to throw’.

- A child who removed a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

- A woman arrested (on her wedding day) for criminal damage after her foot slipped on the accelerator and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier.

- Another child who threw cream buns at a bus.

- A 70-year-old pensioner arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour’s conifer trees.

- A man who threw a glass of water over his girlfriend.

I didn’t make any of these up. Anti-social, yes, and in some cases maybe we ought to have a quiet word with the people involved. But are they really ‘crimes’?

Once someone reports them to us as such, and the call-taker enters them onto our computer databases as such, then, yes, they are.

So that’s ‘crime’. What’s a ‘detection’?

You perhaps think this refers to a mechanism whereby the person responsible for a crime, real or surreal, is caught and punished for it.

In fact, it may just mean that a suspect has been charged* – he doesn’t have to be found guilty. Equally, he may have been cautioned, or reported for summons, or been issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder, or the offence may have been taken into consideration when he is sentenced for other matters.

What are the implications of all of this?

They are many and varied.

Firstly, all of a sudden anyone who has been looked at a bit funny can ring the police and demand a response.

Secondly, this will mean one extra recorded crime on the force’s figures (eg ‘harassment’ for looking at someone funny).

Thirdly, we can’t just ignore them. Under NCRS, we mostly have to take them seriously, which is just one reason why it takes us three days to show up for your burglary. Plus lots of undetected ‘crimes’ make Chief Constables look bad, and worry the Home Secretary, so they have to be detected with a response that is bureaucratic and slow and will take officers off the street for hours.

Fourthly, a boy who throws a piece of cucumber at a classmate may feel under pressure to accept a caution – and a permanent entry on his criminal record. This may affect his chances of employment later in life. (Though at the rate we’re criminalising the population, it won’t be long before pretty much everyone has a record, and it’s weird if you haven’t.)

Finally, in many forces, each officer now has an individual ‘Detection Target’. If he or she does not hit this target, he or she will end up with an ‘Action Plan’ on his or her Annual Appraisal. This is essentially a negative statement on your file, which can exclude you from an interview for a specialisation or promotion at the ‘paper-sift’ stage. Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from happening in the first place – none of these count against your individual target.

Of the above implications, the only one that really matters is our figures for undetected crimes. That’s because these are the only ones that affect senior police officers and politicians.

It doesn’t matter that bobbies might be so tied up looking for youths who don’t believe in Father Christmas that they can’t come out when you’re assaulted, because senior cops and MPs don’t very often get assaulted. If the young salt and vinegar crisps thief gets a criminal record, that doesn’t matter either, because who cares?

And neither does the systematic degradation of what was once a force into a ‘service’ that often only seems to serve the non-contributory members of society, because if the Chief Constable or the Lord Chief Justice or The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith MP has a gang of rowdy youths hanging around outside late at night, you can bet there’ll be a rapid and forceful response to that. (Though remember, Jacqui, that you were once a humble schoolteacher, and you won’t be Home Secretary for ever.)

PC David Copperfield was the first to break ranks and tell people about this nonsense. Since then, there have been lots of noises about how it’s all going to change, and they’re going to slash bureaucracy and cut targets. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

Incidentally, the crisps theft was not a lone incident. There were 500 similar thefts, of ‘nominal value under £1’, across my force in the past six months.

What are these £1 thefts?

Well, this might explain some of them. If your card is nicked and used, and the guy who stole it is later arrested with it still on him, this presents us with an opportunity. How about if the police crime this twice?

Once for the deception involved in using it to buy alloy rims for his Vauxhall Corsa, and once for the theft of the actual piece of plastic, nominal value under £1.

So some copper calls you up. ‘Mr Smith, isn’t it great? We got the guy who nicked your card. We’re talking to the bank about the loss of the money, and we also want to deal with him for the card itself. Can we just come and take a quick statement from you?’

This is called a ‘Loser’s Statement’ – it’s designed to head off a defence in court that you are the thief’s best mate and you always let him use your card.

You say, ‘Yep, no problem’, and the Old Bill nip round. Result: the theft of the credit card itself is detected and the crime figures for theft look a little better.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether we’d bother criming the theft of the card if we hadn’t actually already recovered it.

*The reason we’re judged on ‘detections’ and not the outcome of a case at court is that the police have no real influence over what some crazy buffoon of a magistrate decides to do, and no control over a jury in Crown Court. All we can really do is influence the investigation. Though in many cases we can’t really do that either – witnesses decide not to give evidence because they are a friend of the accused, or victims (often women in DV cases) are frightened to assist in prosecutions.

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The Intrigant praises Chris Grayling for his bold plan to increase illiteracy among prisoners by banning them from reading books:

Tough on literacy, tough on the causes of literacy: congratulations on your ban on sending books into prison under the newly written rules. You and I don’t need to read books so why should people who have committed a crime be allowed to receive them?

I know that books can be sent to the inmates of Guantanamo Bay and that books were sent to British POWs imprisoned in Nazi Germany and Dostoevsky received books in the Peter-and-Paul Fortress during his incarceration in 1850. Remember: the George W. Bush-era USA, the German High Command of the 1940s and an autocratic Tsar have no lessons to teach you. They are all a bunch of pinko-lefties.

It does seem a remarkably stupid and vindictive decision. Grayling is obviously not a student of Dostoevsky.

(It’s a little-known fact that Wasting Police Time was the most popular book in English prisons from 2007 to 2011.)

The New York Times says rent increases are forcing bookshops out of Manhattan.

When Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Lower Manhattan, set out to open a second location, she went to a neighborhood with a sterling literary reputation, the home turf of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nora Ephron: the Upper West Side.

She was stopped by the skyscraper-high rents.

“They were unsustainable,” Ms. McNally said. “Small spaces for $40,000 or more each month. It was so disheartening.”

Passive Aggression in libraries.

And an interesting book about a subject close to our hearts, northern soul.

As ever, the Amazon reviews are very interesting. I particularly enjoyed this three-star review from ‘Rian Arren':

This review is from: Northern Soul: An Illustrated History (Hardcover)

The book was purchased as a gift and has not been read by me. However, I am sure the recipient will be extremely pleased with it.
In case you’re wondering what this ‘northern soul’ is, allow Mr Lou Pride to explain:

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…is all over the airwaves at the moment, in the wake of a serious case review (after which lessons will no doubt be learned, gold standard best practice adopted, and many new and more complex forms introduced).

I’ve just been listening to Sir Peter Fahy squirming on BBC 5 Live as Victoria Derbyshire asked him over and over again how it was that his officers failed to take seriously those complaints which were made.

It’s a very good question, and one I’d be asking were my daughters involved.

Of course, my daughters wouldn’t be involved, because I know where they are and who they are with at all times, as – doubtless – do any parents reading this. That is the point, really. Yes, there were other factors, but young teenage girls cannot be abused (systematically) by anyone if their parents or carers (most of the victims having been in care) know where they are, and who they are with.

But as The Guardian says,

There was a lack of strategies to respond to frequent “runaways”, which allowed them to return to their abusers.

‘Frequent runaways’ is a bit throwaway, isn’t it? I can think of at least one simple ‘strategy’ for stopping kids from ‘frequently’ running away, which is, don’t let them. Unfortunately, for reasons not unconnected to lawyers and other experts, it seems it’s not that easy.

But what is the relevance of this to our books? Well, a number of them have explained frequent runaways and the problems they cause.

In Wasting Police Time, PC David Copperfield defines ‘MISPER Enquiries’ as:

Enquiries into missing persons – usually kids who have run away from care homes or school to play in the amusement arcades and drink cider in the park.

But why don’t the care home staff or teachers bar the door? PC Bloggs (Diary of an On-Call Girl, criminally under-rated) explains why in this story of a missing child:

I AM STILL in custody, waiting for Will to find me, when the radio pipes up once more.

‘Could you attend the Benucci Foundation. Colin Roach has gone missing again.’

The Benucci Foundation is a Care Home, providing twenty-four hour supervision of troubled under-16s, and the name of Colin Roach is more familiar to me than my own. He goes for a jaunt two or three times a week, and the staff at the home do little to prevent it.

One of the rules of the twenty–four hour supervision is that it is the police’s responsibility to keep track of the youngsters who live under it. Thus, when a Missing Person is reported, a police officer will be dispatched to the relevant home, where a five-page description and Risk Assessment will be completed. This is actually the most crucial part of the whole process, as without knowing whether the Person is classified as High, Medium or Low Risk we are unable to determine which rank of officer will be fired if they are found dead.

Luckily, we are proficient at finding them alive. Not only do we have the ability to telephone their family members and ask if they’ve seen them, but we’re also good at driving to their favourite haunts or texting them on their mobiles to ask them where they are.

These skills take many years to master and should not be attempted by civilians.

Most Missing Persons are regulars. They are usually in care or foster homes, and have poor criminal or behavioural records. They are between 13 and 16, they drink, smoke and do drugs, and they ain’t scared of no Feds.

All of these factors mean that their carer is under a legal responsibility to inform the police when the Person goes Missing, even if Missing just happens to be going down the shop for a Mars bar. No matter: the police delight in spending hours on pointless tasks, so we are more than happy to cruise the streets of Blandmore searching for these youngsters, and, when we find them, it’s always a joy to spend half an hour trying to persuade them to go home without any actual power to make them do so.

Colin is 13 and I have located him three times already this year. On each occasion I found him in the same place: back at the Foundation sitting in front of the television.

This time, we are shown in by Carlita, one of the live-in carers. She makes me a cup of tea and apologises for having to call us out.

‘So,’ I say. ‘Why did he go this time?’

‘He went for some fags. We usually let him have one after doing his homework, but he wanted one now. So he just left.’

I look at the front door, a sturdy-looking PVC thing with two bolts. ‘How did he get out?’

‘He opened the door.’

‘Did anyone try to stop him?’

‘We aren’t allowed to do that!’ She looks horrified at the suggestion. ‘If they become violent, we retreat.’

‘But couldn’t you just lock the door?’

‘We don’t lock them in,’ she says. ‘That might make them violent.’

Perhaps I have misunderstood the nature of the Foundation. I ask for a recap. ‘Why are kids here again?’

‘High risk offenders. Most of them have committed rapes or sexual assaults on younger kids. Colin raped a younger boy last year.’

‘And they aren’t in prison because… ?’

‘Well, most of them were also abused as kids,’ Carlita explains. ‘They’re not even sixteen, so it wouldn’t be fair to just chuck them in jail and throw away the key. They’re mixed-up kids.’

‘So let me get this straight: you have a house full of boys who have been victims of sexual assault, living in a house with boys who have committed sexual assaults?’

‘Well, they aren’t allowed in each others’ rooms.’

Colin is under a Supervision Order from the court and Carlita shows me the Order. It lays down in no uncertain terms that Colin is to stay indoors at the Benucci Foundation all day, except when escorted to school and back by staff or taken on outings authorised by staff. He is to abide by the rules of the house and is not allowed to be rude or threatening or to assault anyone.

‘So he breaks this Order every time he goes storming out?’ I ask.

She nods. ‘If he does it again he’ll be put in a high security home.’

Will takes out the paperwork. ‘He’s done it… let’s see… 30 times in the last three months.’

Sadly, this is no exaggeration. Colin and others like him really exist, as do their records of going ‘missing’.

She shrugs. ‘Well, like I say. One of these days he’ll be put in high security.’

While the sergeant is there, I trick him into signing his name on my Missing Person paperwork; that means it is now he who will be fired if Colin Roach is not found. Even as he realises what he has done, the radio controller interrupts us to inform me that Colin is now back at the Foundation and could I please go and lay eyes on him so the incident log can be closed.

Inspector Gadget (Perverting the Course of Justice) has the issue in his area, too:

CHARLIE is 14 years old, he lives in a care home and he’s vanished.

Again.

Charlie is a MISPER.

There are two types of missing persons.

The first type is persons who are actually missing.

They might be stressed husbands who left work four hours ago and haven’t come home. They might be mums with post-natal depression, or old people with Alzheimer’s, or kids who are playing in the park and have just forgotten the time. We don’t get many calls like this, and we take them very seriously indeed.

The second type of MISPER are persons who aren’t really missing at all – like Charlie.

In fact, in our area – as in any area – the vast majority of these cases fall into this category.

Most of them are wayward teenagers who have disappeared from one of the foster/children’s homes on our patch. They’re kids with no obvious future except crime, unemployment and poverty: disturbed, unwanted youngsters from broken homes, born to underclass parents who just drop them and never bother to pick them up again. Usually, mum or dad is in the middle of some drug or alcohol daze, or has a new partner who doesn’t want to know. The result is young boys and girls left to fend for themselves, out in the big wide world at the age of 10 or so. They end up in care, and they abscond very regularly – some of them several times a week – after being told by the staff that they can’t smoke cannabis, or can’t drink, or simply because they want to go and hang around in town with their mates. The staff watch them stroll away (they are not allowed to detain them), and then they call us.

They’re undoubtedly tragic, these kids, and they’d break your heart if you let them.

[E]very time Charlie vanishes, we ramp up an entire system.

How this starts is with a risk assessment.

In theory, this is to decide which of three levels of response we adopt: high, medium or low.

In practice, it’s really about getting some poor bastard’s name on it – usually that of a Duty Inspector like me – so that if and when things get bent out of shape they have someone to stick it to. Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see it.

Let’s go back to the theory. It sounds sensible: if someone is at high risk, let’s have a high level of response.

The problem is, what is ‘high risk’? If it means any kid who goes missing, you can forget it. A high level response requires a helicopter. It needs search dogs, a Gold command (Assistant Chief Constable or above) and incident command posts. It needs large teams of level two-trained officers – the specialists who you see on the TV news, dressed in white overalls carrying out painstaking, fingertip searches. Charlie’s always disappearing and he’s not alone in that: if we act like this for every kid who goes missing in our area every time they do it, I’m going to need eight helicopters a day. I will need hundreds of people. It’s impossible.

As for low risk… well, no-one is ever going to be low risk, are they? I mean, would you put that on a form if you were me?

So what happens is, we end up recording the vast majority of MISPERs as ‘medium’ risk (I think I’m supposed to make that judgment based on an e-learning package I did on the computer once). Hence, the entire, bureaucratic, time-consuming, box-ticking, arse-covering exercise that is the risk assessment is actually a big fat sham.

Medium risk doesn’t mean we just shrug our shoulders and don’t do much about it, though. There’s still a whole list of things that have to be done – at least 50 of them, on forms which are about eight pages long.

For instance, you have to:

- Search Charlie’s home and any outbuildings

- Check for any diaries, letters and calendars he might have, seize them and put them in evidence bags

- Question all people in the home.

- Carry out house-to-house enquiries locally and in areas of interest.

- Do an area search of the places that Charlie is known to frequent.

- Alert CCTV.

- Broadcast his disappearance to other officers.

- Get it on to the briefing.

- Put him on the Police National Computer as ‘locate-and-trace’.

- Go to his school – even though it’s long after dark, and he doesn’t go to school most days anyway.

- Visit his last two known addresses.

- Contact his family and friends, and physically go round and check for him there.

The list goes on for quite a while yet – and everything, of course, has to be written down and recorded in triplicate, just in case something bad does happen, so you and your bosses can prove you did all that was humanly possible to prevent it.

So I take two officers off my shift and put them to work on finding Charlie. They trawl the canal towpaths and the children’s playgrounds and the underpasses and all the hidden away places Charlie likes to meet up with his mates and they eventually find him, mildly pissed, lying in a rosebed next to the bandstand in the park.

By that stage, he’s quite happy to get a lift back to the home. They drop him off, knowing they’ll be out looking for him again within the next three or four days.

I could give you many, many examples. Mandy is another 14-year-old who also lives in a care home in one of our towns. She has an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contract’ with the home: if she generally does as she’s told, once a week she’s allowed out to go and buy cigarettes. Yes, I know this is illegal but they have to work with what they’ve got; if they just say No to her, what’s going to happen? What sanctions do they have?

(One day, undoubtedly, Mandy will find a no-win-no-fee lawyer who will sue the local authority on her behalf for allowing her to smoke.)

She’s supposed to go to the local shop, or to her mother, or to whoever it is that provides her with the fags, and then come straight back. She gets half an hour for this, and every single time she doesn’t come back. Instead, she goes into town, nicks a load of make-up from Dorothy Perkins, swipes some vodka from the offie and spends the afternoon getting smashed with a load of older kids. All our medium risk responses grind into action and we get officers out looking for her. Sometimes we find her, other times she comes back of her own accord. Depending on how she’s feeling, it might be that night, but more often it’ll be a day or two later. The following week, we’ll go through the same thing all over again. And the week after that, ad nauseam, until they’re no longer juveniles.

As a normal person, unfamiliar with the way these things work, you are probably thinking that this all sounds a bit mad.

If she keeps going missing, why don’t the care home staff just ban her from going out in the first place? (Because she’ll ignore them and go anyway.)

Why don’t they lock the doors? (They aren’t allowed to.)

Why don’t they grab hold of her? (They don’t want to get done for assault.)

And Mandy and Charlie are but two of many. At any one time, I will have half a dozen of these cases on the go.

In other news, our office cat Harry had to be put down this week. He would usually be sitting on my desk looking disdainfully at me as I batter yet more nonsense into my keyboard; 16 years we’ve had him (and his brother Percy, until he died a couple of years back). It’s a terribly sad thing.

Harry

Still, the office dog is sleeping easier:

molly.jpg

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In another shock, horror revelation, the Public Administration Committee was told yesterday that the cops sometimes fiddle the figures when recording crime.

A witness told the MPs that

“cuffing” crimes could involve officers deciding they did not believe complainants, recording multiple incidents in the same area as a single crime or recording thefts as “lost property”, burglaries as “theft from property” and attempted burglaries as “criminal damage”.

Hmm. Where have we heard this sort of thing before?

So how widespread is this, and why do they do it?

Today, Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon told an ACPO conference that ‘he had spoken to officers from many police forces who said senior officers were applying pressure on them to reduce the crime figures.’ They are

‘inadvertently… still putting pressure on officers to do all they can to manipulate and create crime reductions.  I don’t think they do it because they are inherently corrupt but because pressure is put down to reduce it. It is whether we have the nerve to step away from crime reduction and obsession with crime figures, and whether we can move to a real environment where we do properly record.

But why are these ‘senior officers’ putting this pressure on?

Probably hundreds of run of the mill bobbies have moaned to me about this since we published Wasting Police Time, Perverting the Course of Justice and the rest. They would probably answer the above question with three of their own:

1. Do senior officers get bonuses if the figures look good?

2. Do politicians get re-elected at least partly on the back of boasts and lies about crime?

3. What is a PDR?

Of course, it’s not just that sometimes a shed break-in gets recorded as damage by badgers, there’s also pressure to criminalise effectively innocent people – if you can create a ‘crime’ that you know you can ‘solve’, that’s so much better than recording actual crimes you know you probably can’t. Here’s probably my favourite piece from Inspector Gadget’s book:

LET’S go back to basics for a moment.

Lots of people probably don’t quite understand the words ‘crime’ and ‘detection’, and the role they play in modern policing.

That’s not surprising, because what they mean in reality and what they mean in surreality – ie modern policing – are often two completely different things.

In real life, a crime means something which we would all agree is against the law – theft, assault, burglary – and has an actual victim who has really suffered some harm.

In policing, a ‘crime’ – because of the ‘victim-focused’ National Crime Recording Standard I mentioned earlier – can mean, in practice, almost anything which half sounds like it might possibly be a bit like a crime and which is reported to us. (Because who are we to tell Mr Hughes that his ex’s nasty text message isn’t a crime?)

Here is one example of a non-crime taken seriously by us.

It’s late one afternoon in the middle of last December. The Christmas lights are ablaze on every house in Bigtown, and the concrete walkway outside the local Spar is covered in fresh white litter. Inside, there’s a queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries. Halfway down the line, a little girl and her mum are chatting about Santa Claus, and the presents he will be delivering in a fortnight.

In front of them is a typical Bigtown youth – Burberry scarf, Nike trainers, NY Yankees cap and a ton of bling.

Overhearing their conversation, he turns round, looks at the girl and says, ‘You don’t believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum’s telling you lies… he ain’t real.’

The little girl bursts into tears and the angry mum storms out of the shop.

I like to think that, if that happened to me, I’d tell my daughter that the nasty man was talking rubbish, and chalk it up to experience.

But modern life being what it is, mum doesn’t do this; instead, she phones us on her mobile from the street outside, like it’s a police matter.

OK, so we get a call from a lady wanting to report a Santa denier.

We just tell her we’re awfully sorry but it’s not really one for us, right?

Wrong. The call-taker logs it on the system as a harassment offence. We all know that if the woman had been calling to report a criminal damage that had happened the night before she’d have got someone out a week next Tuesday. But because certain triggers are hit – there’s a child involved, this area happens to be a crime hot spot and the man is still at the scene – a patrol is despatched immediately, to speak to the mum and little girl and, if possible, grab the ‘offender’ (or seize the CCTV to see if they can ID him).

To me, that’s just about as mad as it gets. Is it, even at the edges of abstract technicality, a crime? Harassment is about causing alarm or distress to another. As a senior officer asked in the SMT morning meeting, ‘How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn’t exist? I mean, he doesn’t. Does he?’

He’s got a point. Short of producing Santa himself at an ID parade and proving he’s real, the case is going nowhere. But time and resources have been wasted in a fairly ludicrous way.

Here’s another one.

Two young lads outside a newsagent. One, a 10-year-old, goes in and buys a packet of crisps. Walkers, salt and vinegar I believe. When he comes back out and opens the packet, his 11-year-old chum swoops on him, sticks a fist into the bag and legs it down the road, cackling in glee with a handful of crisps.

The first boy tells his mum and, yes, she calls us. The ‘thief’ is questioned but – horror of horrors – he denies it. This causes our whole system to collapse, because we’re all about getting people to cough to minor offences and accept cautions for them to make detections. Where do we go from here? Forensics? ID parades with witnesses from the scene who saw the boy make off with the crisps? Thankfully, there is some residual common sense in the police, and the case eventually got ‘no-crimed’ – but not before hours of police time was wasted, and only after submissions in triplicate to the crime auditors to get them to wipe it off the computer.

These aren’t isolated cases. Here are a few others from the papers recently:

– A man ‘found in possession of an egg with intent to throw’.

– A child who removed a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

– A woman arrested (on her wedding day) for criminal damage after her foot slipped on the accelerator and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier.

– Another child who threw cream buns at a bus.

– A 70-year-old pensioner arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour’s conifer trees.

– A man who threw a glass of water over his girlfriend.

I didn’t make any of these up. Anti-social, yes, and in some cases maybe we ought to have a quiet word with the people involved. But are they really ‘crimes’?

Once someone reports them to us as such, and the call-taker enters them onto our computer databases as such, then, yes, they are.

So that’s ‘crime’. What’s a ‘detection’?

You perhaps think this refers to a mechanism whereby the person responsible for a crime, real or surreal, is caught and punished for it.

In fact, it may just mean that a suspect has been charged* – he doesn’t have to be found guilty. Equally, he may have been cautioned, or reported for summons, or been issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder, or the offence may have been taken into consideration when he is sentenced for other matters.

What are the implications of all of this?

They are many and varied.

Firstly, all of a sudden anyone who has been looked at a bit funny can ring the police and demand a response.

Secondly, this will mean one extra recorded crime on the force’s figures (eg ‘harassment’ for looking at someone funny).

Thirdly, we can’t just ignore them. Under NCRS, we mostly have to take them seriously, which is just one reason why it takes us three days to show up for your burglary. Plus lots of undetected ‘crimes’ make Chief Constables look bad, and worry the Home Secretary, so they have to be detected with a response that is bureaucratic and slow and will take officers off the street for hours.

Fourthly, a boy who throws a piece of cucumber at a classmate may feel under pressure to accept a caution – and a permanent entry on his criminal record. This may affect his chances of employment later in life. (Though at the rate we’re criminalising the population, it won’t be long before pretty much everyone has a record, and it’s weird if you haven’t.)

Finally, in many forces, each officer now has an individual ‘Detection Target’. If he or she does not hit this target, he or she will end up with an ‘Action Plan’ on his or her Annual Appraisal. This is essentially a negative statement on your file, which can exclude you from an interview for a specialisation or promotion at the ‘paper-sift’ stage. Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from happening in the first place – none of these count against your individual target.

Of the above implications, the only one that really matters is our figures for undetected crimes. That’s because these are the only ones that affect senior police officers and politicians.

It doesn’t matter that bobbies might be so tied up looking for youths who don’t believe in Father Christmas that they can’t come out when you’re assaulted, because senior cops and MPs don’t very often get assaulted. If the young salt and vinegar crisps thief gets a criminal record, that doesn’t matter either, because who cares? And neither does the systematic degradation of what was once a force into a ‘service’ that often only seems to serve the non-contributory members of society, because if the Chief Constable or the Lord Chief Justice or The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith MP has a gang of rowdy youths hanging around outside late at night, you can bet there’ll be a rapid and forceful response to that. (Though remember, Jacqui, that you were once a humble schoolteacher, and you won’t be Home Secretary for ever.)

PC David Copperfield was the first to break ranks and tell people about this nonsense. Since then, there have been lots of noises about how it’s all going to change, and they’re going to slash bureaucracy and cut targets. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

Incidentally, the crisps theft was not a lone incident. There were 500 similar thefts, of ‘nominal value under £1’, across my force in the past six months. What are these £1 thefts? Well, this might explain some of them: If your credit card is nicked and used, and the guy who stole it is later arrested with it still on him, this presents us with an opportunity. How about if the police crime this twice? Once for the deception involved in using it to buy alloy rims for his Vauxhall Corsa, and once for the theft of the actual piece of plastic, nominal value under £1.

So some copper calls you up. ‘Mr Smith, isn’t it great? We got the guy who nicked your card. We’re talking to the bank about the loss of the money, and we also want to deal with him for the card itself. Can we just come and take a quick statement from you?’

This is called a ‘Loser’s Statement’ – it’s designed to head off a defence in court that you are the thief’s best mate and you always let him use your card.

You say, ‘Yep, no problem’, and the Old Bill nip round. Result: the theft of the credit card itself is detected and the crime figures for theft look a little better. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether we’d bother criming the theft of the card if we hadn’t actually already recovered it.

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I had lunch here with Inspector Gadget a week ago, with a couple of TV people. One of them is a very well-known writer. Appropriately, Gadget had Cochon de lait, chou, purée d’oignons et pruneau. I didn’t pay the bill. I can’t say any more about it at this stage than that.

Interestingly, during the lunch it came up that someone called Jed Mercurio, who wrote a BBC show called Line of Duty, had based a lot of it on Gadget and PC Copperfield. This was news to us. World Productions, who made the show, bought the rights to Generation F from us… but not Wasting Police Time or Perverting the Course of Justice. Strange.

Apparently, Victorian people were more intelligent than us. We know this because reaction times – a reliable marker of general intelligence – have declined steadily since the Victorian era from about 183 milliseconds to 250ms in men, and from 187ms to 277ms in women. Obviously, this is all rubbish – but then the median Monday Books score was better than 250 (and worse than 183) so there must be something in it. You can test yourself here.

An amusing review-ish of the new Dan Brown novel, by Steven Poole.

Mark Steyn on Mayor Bloomberg.

And another book due out from us later this year. Pete Ashton was an undercover cop who spent ten years busting major heroin and crack gangs. Along the way, he may have dabbled in drugs himself and certainly changed his views on the rights and wrongs of legalisation. In the wake of the still-rumbling Mark Kennedy scandal, it’s an interesting look at what it’s like to live several lives at once.

Undercover - AI Cover jpeg

 

 

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The fall in crime in England and Wales ‘may be exaggerated’, says the BBC.

What? Crime figures being manipulated to meet targets set by the idiots in government?

Who knew?

PC David Copperfield in Wasting Police Time:

The country seems to be divided between those who think that things are getting worse, and those who think that things are getting better and that it’s all in our heads.

The latter includes most politicians, the liberal left, and ACPO. Many of these people earn quite impressive salaries and can afford to live in areas where crime is, for the time being, relatively low. This may explain their optimism.

The former includes: everyone else, many of whom live in areas where crime happens, and are people to whom crime happens.

The UK population has risen steadily over the last century or so, from 38 million in 1901 to around 60 million today (note, it hasn’t doubled).

In the same period, the total number of police officers employed by the State has risen from around 40,000 to close to 130,000 now (ie it has more than trebled).

What about crime? Well, the number of indictable offences known to the police in 1900 was 2.4 for every 1,000 of the population. In 1997, the figure was 89.1. I’d put my house on the fact that it’s gone up since then.

I suppose some cynics might interpret these figures as to show that the police are actually causing crime. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do wonder this: where are all these new police officers and what are they doing?

Inspector Gadget in Perverting the Course of Justice:

I don’t trust official crime figures… I know the Home Secretary says we have more police than ever, but how many of them are working Response? I know, too, that we have PCSOs now, and that they look a bit like police, but very few of them work beyond 9pm because it’s too dangerous (it’s not too dangerous for the public, note, but it is too dangerous for PCSOs, despite their stab vests and their radios). In the first few months of 24 hour licensing, we were given enormous amounts of centrally-funded extra money to put more bodies on the street – the overtime was great for the Sergeants and PCs. As a result, everywhere you turned there were police. Once that dried up, we were back to normal – and we really don’t have the numbers to do much more than control things to a just-about acceptable level.

So, what if we could do something to the figures, to make it look like things are better? If it’s not within our gift to stop the nations’ youth getting drunk and fighting, and it’s not, the only place left for us to go to, to get the reductions we need, is our bureaucrats.

If we arrest lots of people for relatively minor things, so we get lots of ‘detections’, we at least have some ammunition to use in our defence when people start squealing about NTE ['night time economy'] crime. Or if police statisticians start to look at definitions of crime, maybe we can shift things that would have been counted into areas that wouldn’t be?

For instance, someone is being aggressive and drunk in the street. We have two options. We can arrest him for being ‘drunk and disorderly’ or for one of the offences under the Public Order Act 1986 – sections 3, 4 and 5 of which are more commonly known as ‘Affray’, ‘Threatening Behaviour’ and ‘Disorderly Conduct’.

What’s the difference? The difference is that ‘drunk and disorderly’ is not a recordable crime. You are found in that state by a police officer, arrested and bound over to keep the peace at court the next day (or, more often, given a Penalty Notice for Disorder and sent on your way). It doesn’t show up on our figures. S5 POA is recordable, and does.

There is widespread anecdotal evidence of PCs being put under pressure to arrest for drunk and disorderly. Even if they arrest for S5 POA, it can later be changed to d&d – this is perfectly legitimate, no-one is doing anything technically wrong or illegal, but it does have the added benefit of making the NTE figures look a lot better than they actually are, doesn’t it?

PC Bloggs in Diary of an On-Call Girl:

(M)y mobile rings. It is the Scrutineer Herself.

‘Hello, PC Bloggs? About this racist incident?’

‘Yes?’

‘We can’t just reclassify it.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, how do you know it wasn’t racist?’

‘The victim doesn’t think it was.’

‘Well, how does she know it wasn’t?’

She’s got me there. I mean, just because Mrs Patel doesn’t think it was racist doesn’t mean it wasn’t, I suppose. But I recover like lightning. ‘Um… well, how do you know it was?’

There’s a momentary silence, and it sounds like an irritated one. Then she replies. ‘I will change it to a criminal damage, but unless you can provide verifiable evidence that it was not racist, the classification will have to stand.’

Will is now watching me with his head on one side, looking thoroughly amused. That’s the problem with more experienced officers: they treat all this Crime Managing stuff as a joke and just go along with what the Scrutineer wants.

I swivel my chair to face away from him and refuse to succumb. ‘Verifiable evidence that it was not racist? Like what?’

‘Perhaps if we knew the motives of the offender?’ She says this as though she is talking to a small child, or an idiot.

‘Perhaps if we knew who the offender was,’ I say, ‘I could arrest him or her and find out. Do you know who the offender was?’

‘Now, now, PC Bloggs, I know it seems pernickety, but we have to abide by ethical crime recording rules.’

‘But if it’s racist, I have to do a report to the Hate Crime Unit. I can’t do that because the victim doesn’t think it’s racist. So the report will just say that it isn’t racist, in which case why am I sending it to them?’

‘Well, I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.’

‘But…’ I am starting to doubt my sanity. ‘How did it become a racist incident in the first place? The victim doesn’t think it is, for goodness’ sake.’

‘If someone perceives it to be racist, then it is.’

‘It looks like the only person who perceives it to be racist is the Crime Centre.’

‘Well, that is ‘someone’.’

‘Look, this is just some kids chucking stuff at a door. It’s antisocial, it’s annoying and I’d love to arrest the little blighters if I knew who they were, but it isn’t racist.’

‘That’s your view.’

‘Fine… can we just file it then?’

‘Not without the report to the Hate Crime Unit. It won’t get through Crime Compliance.’

‘Fine, I’ll do the report.’ The call ends.

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In yesterday’s Observer, Nick Herbert, the former police minister, wrote at some length about what he said was the public’s loss of faith in the police. He said this had been caused by the fact that some detectives in Kent are being investigated for a scam involving TICs, and because of Hillsborough and ‘Plebgate’.

Leave aside the question of what on earth an MP of all people thinks he is doing lecturing people about a loss of faith; and the fact that the TIC scam is as old as the hills, and is partly in response to the government’s own insane target culture; and that Hillsborough happened in 1989 (90% of the cops in the country on that day having long since retired).

Andrew Mitchell resigned of his own volition after swearing at the police, and good riddance to the foul-mouthed yob. Arguably, the real scandal is that Mitchell was not arrested; if I were a youth who had been nicked for swearing at the police outside The Jolly Friar Chippy last night, I might be wondering why it is that pompous Tory MPs get a pass and I don’t.

But my main gripe is with this paragraph:

Anyone who doubts what was behind Mitchell’s downfall need only read the blog of Inspector Gadget. A serving police officer, the self-promoted Gadget (he is not an inspector) says: “The relationship between Conservatives and police officers is not just toxic, it is over.” Feelings about the reform of pay and conditions were so strong “there was bound to be trouble. Plebgate is trouble”.

So, just to recap: I say Inspector Gadget is a serving police inspector, or at least has been (s/he may or may not have been promoted).

Nick Herbert says s/he is not.

Does that mean Nick Herbert is saying that I am a liar?

Given that I publish non-fiction books, it is quite important to me that people believe what I say (outwith the usual disclaimers about names and details being changed to protect the guilty).

Can I sue Nick Herbert for libel? It’s an interesting question, with shades of Tony McNumpty.

Incidentally, I have met Herbert once: I found him to be on the slimy side of charming. It was (from memory) some time in early 2007, when PC David Copperfield was invited to give a talk to Policy Exchange, the Conservative think-tank.

I went along to hold his coat, the Daily Telegraph‘s Philip Johnston acted as MC, and the then opposition MP and shadow police minister Herbert was among the invited guests.

The audience was small but rapt: none of them had ever seen or heard a ground-level PC talking, openly and articulately, about the problems British policing faced (and faces). This was because no serving PC had ever done so. (This was a few months after Wasting Police Time had been published, and Copperfield had not yet outed himself; it took a lot of guts for him to attend, as he would certainly have lost his job if identified.)

Copperfield’s key messages were that, yes, the police sometimes are terrible – being human – but here’s why: too much police time was being taken up in pointless paperwork (he recounted how it could easily take six hours to deal with two teenagers for the theft of a pushbike; no-one was saying theft of a pushbike was not important, but six hours was a bit much); that serious recidivist criminals were not being jailed for the protection of their (usually poor, elderly and otherwise vulnerable) victims; that the target culture introduced by the Blair government was changing police priorities for the worse; that discretion was a thing of the past; and that policing much of modern Britain was a bit like dealing with drunk toddlers.

Herbert sat there and listened, gave an interview to some TV people who had attended, and then left.

Wind forward five years, and the paperwork has got worse, the targets are still there, people are still drunk and entitled, and the government can’t wait to let violent criminals out of jail. But then, thanks to the Plebs at the Gates, Dave and Sam have zero chance of being burgled for the kids’ Christmas presents.

Of course, if you want to read more by Inspector Gadget, you can always buy the book.

On that note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our reader!

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We’re reprinting a short digital run of A Paramedic’s Diary – there’s no economic sense in it, really, but I hate to see it slide out of print.

We’re also reprinting Wasting Police Time and It’s Your Time You’re Wasting: perennial sellers that just chug on, year in, year out.

Frank Chalk is still dividing readers nicely up into people who think he ‘hates kids’ and people with kids in rough schools (there are some) who hate the way they are being ‘taught’. Here are two contrasting Amazon reviews from the last week or two, the first by ‘JEM':

I have never been so incensed by any book that I have read as I was by this one. This man is a disgrace to the profession… I work in a school in a very deprived area and, in contrast to Mr. Chalk’s opinion, the children I teach are exciting, interested and enthusiastic…when they have a decent teacher. These children crave positive and consistent role models, from what I have read, Mr. Chalk is neither. His teaching strategies seem to revolve around humiliation, degradation and insults – who is the adult? Everyone deserves the most to be expected from them and the very best teaching on offer. I, thankfully, don’t know any teachers like this man, however I am concerned that some people (with no current experience or interaction with schools) will take this to be a common reflection of what goes on – it most certainly is not! I endured this book and would definitely not recommend it. (I gave this book one star, but only because Amazon made me and wouldn’t let me put none).

That thud is the sound of the point bypassing JEM.

And:

I read this book out of interest to see if my daughter’s experience of teaching in an inner London school was general. Actually it would appear she put a good spin on it! This book should be compulsory reading for education ministers and so-called experts… If anything will persuade grandparents to try to provide private eduction for their grandchildren, this book is it.

It’s about time we published a new teacher, and I may have news on that soon. Likewise, another copper. (By the way, Gadget’s latest mug is amusing.)

I’ve just ordered Gravity’s Engines, which looks like a very interesting read, but will probably end up being another in the long list of books which I buy because they look very interesting but end up being just a bit too dense and complicated for my tiny mind, and are thus abandoned about halfway through. This amuses my rather smug wife no end: she gets through a proper classic novel or something about synaesthesia roughly twice a week.

Robert McCrum, in The Guardian, says ‘the fog is lifting’, and that eBooks will (possibly) save hardbacks, but kill paperbacks. I think he’s right; he’s said it before, and we said it before that. (Someone probably said it before us, mind you.)

Finally, Betty Lavette:

Betty Swann:

Betty Moorer:

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If you’re onto a good thing, why rock the boat? That’s what I would like to ask the ‘unnamed client’ of the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.

According to City AM:

THE GOVERNMENT may be forced to scrap VAT on ebooks if a legal challenge from a London law firm is successful.

BLP, acting on behalf of an unnamed client, is challenging HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over its decision to charge the standard 20 per cent rate of VAT on ebooks while printed books do not have the tax applied.

Alan Sinyor, head of VAT at BLP, said that ebooks and print books should qualify for “fiscal neutrality on the grounds that they are the same from the perspective of meeting the customer’s needs”.

If the case before the UK tribunal is successful, HMRC may have to remove VAT on ebooks, which could have a knock-on effect of reducing their price.

Yep, it could. Is it likely, in the current climate? Or is it more likely that VAT will be applied to printed books?

In other news, while driving back from dropping the kids off at school this morning, I tuned in to Radio 5 Live’s Phone in with Nicky Campbell, where the Howard League for Letting People Off was leading a chorus of astonishment that the police are actually arresting schoolchildren for being ‘naughty’. Leaving aside two big and unanswered questions – define ‘naughty’, and explain what you’re supposed to do with knife-wielding five-year-olds in an era when pretty much all punishment has been abolished by people exactly like the Howard League* – it’s certainly true that in some lamentable cases the cops have been wrongly criminalising kids for ages. As PC Copperfield explained some time ago, much of it is about ‘using young people as statistics-fodder':

PLUS ÇA CHANGE, PLUS C’EST LA MEME CHOSE

IF YOU HAD BOUGHT the first edition of this book, then round about here you would have been reading a (probably) rather confusing explanation of a thing called ‘administrative detections’. This was a complicated bureaucratic scam by which we ‘solved’ trivial crimes. We’re talking crimes so trivial – a bit of name-calling in the playground, a cup of water thrown over someone, a two-fingered salute – that people didn’t actually want to go to court about them, they just wanted to get the matter off their chests. For many modern Britons, the police now provide that outlet, where once a long walk or an adult conversation might have done the trick.

The system of administrative detections has recently been done away with, perhaps after this book found its way to the Home Office, but it’s worth explaining what it was for three reasons – first, because other parts of the book refer to the system; second, to show how things have changed; and third, because these things are cyclical and by the time you actually read this administrative detections will probably be back in vogue.

Let’s say there’s been a bit of mobile phone text abuse going on between a couple of schoolkids – Wayne and his half-brother’s ex-girlfriend’s new partner’s ex, Tracey. Wayne has snt a nsty txt to Tracey so her mum has phoned the police about it; under our system of ‘Ethical Crime Recording’ (see below), it’s therefore officially a crime and we need to sort it out.

We used to ‘solve’ these sorts of ‘crimes’ like this:

First, we’d visit Tracey, the IP. She doesn’t want Wayne prosecuting – it’ll cause all sorts of grief back at school and by next week they’ll be best mates anyway. But if we leave it at that we’ve got a big, fat, unsolved crime sitting there in the middle of our figures, and that’s no good for anyone (certainly not for promotion-hungry police chiefs and politicians hoping to get re-elected).

So we’d reassure her that we only wanted to clear it up for the figures, we wouldn’t take Wayne to court or even caution him, and could she just make a statement? Usually, she’d agree.

Then we’d visit Wayne, the offender. We’d reassure him, too, that the matter would never go to court, and on that basis he’d agree to be interviewed. During the interview, he’d admit that, yes, he had sent a mildly abusive message to Tracey.

Then, by a process of office-based smoke, mirrors and Biros, we would fill out a few forms, staple the whole lot together and send it off to be ‘audited’ by the ‘crime audit’ department.

No-one would ever go to court – indeed, no-one would ever even be cautioned – but… hey presto! The offence would be filed as ‘detected’.

Statistically, it would then show up in our figures as a detected crime, balancing out all those tricky undetected burglary dwellings, muggings and genuine assaults.

Even better, during the interview we’d get Wayne to reveal that he had himself received offensive texts from Tracey. So we’d nip back round to her place and go through the whole process again, only this time she would be the offender and he would be the complainant. That makes two detected crimes!

If we could get them to agree to a ripped shirt or a damaged satchel in a bit of playground argy-bargy at the same time, that – a criminal damage – would be three!

Given that the modern British police service is judged almost entirely by Soviet-style figures – Crime down by two per cent! Detections up by seven per cent! – administrative detections were a work of no little genius. They allowed us to report to the Home Office that we were solving lots of things – and, in a manner of speaking, it was even true!

We just crossed our fingers and hoped that nobody noticed that the crimes we were solving were fairly trivial*.

Of course, there was a downside, apart from the fact that it was all a bit of a fiddle on the taxpayer.

It took as much time and work – and sometimes even more – to ‘solve’ a playground hair-pulling in this way as it does to get a burglar to court. We’d have to visit people, take statements, speak to classmates, interview the offender (having waited for appropriate adults and possibly solicitors and even translators to attend the police station), fill in forms, get the adults to sign other forms, complete a crime report and update the victim before it was all done and dusted. It could take a day or more to sort out.

This meant we were so tied up in investigating spats between Newtown’s children for the sake of administrative detections that we couldn’t do much about real crime.

I mentioned this paperwork contrivance in passing in the first edition, and we were immediately bombarded with requests for interviews from the media.

Surely, they all said, you must be making this up?

The whole issue of the mad bureaucracy which is strangling our police was even raised in the House of Commons, in a question to our esteemed ex-Police Minister, Mr Tony McNumpty MP.

In response, Mr McNumpty said this: ‘Of course, we need the balance between paperwork and bureaucracy, and proper policing. Along with ACPO and the Police Federation, we are trying to ensure that that balance is maintained and to enhance the modernisation that has already taken place. However, the Hon. Gentleman is living in cloud-cuckoo-land if he thinks that that is all that happens in policing – and I would not believe PC David Copperfield either, because that is more of a fiction than Dickens.’

Read into that what you will, but perhaps Mr McNumpty and his colleagues were alarmed by the publicity. A few months later they announced – quietly – that administrative detections were being dropped.

That presents issues of its own, of course.

Firstly, what shall I put in this book in the place where administrative detections were discussed? But, perhaps more importantly, what will be the effect on the average bobby and on crime-fighting generally?

It’s early days, but it’s looking like it will still involve lots of ballpoint pens and plenty of frustrated victims.

People haven’t stopped reporting trivial crimes, you see. And under another key concept in our vast criminal justice bureaucracy – that of ‘Ethical Crime Recording’ – we are duty-bound to investigate all allegations and treat them equally.

Often, as I’ve said, the caller doesn’t actually want us to do anything about the offence, other than ‘have a word with’ whoever they think is responsible.

Sadly, for statistical purposes, we don’t regard ‘having a word with someone’ as a successful outcome to a criminal investigation, irrespective of what the victim and his family want**.

So we now have to solve these crimes properly – by ‘sanctioned detections’ (where the offender is brought to court or given a police caution).

In the case of Wayne and Tracey above, we’d now have to arrest Wayne, drag him down to the police station and go through the whole rigmarole in order to ‘get the detection’. All for Home Office figures.

We can only speculate as to the effect this (often) gross over-reaction has on the ongoing relationship between the texter and the textee (not to mention the texter’s relationship with us, the police).

As for the paperwork, well, it takes just as long. The bureaucracy of the administrative detection has been replaced with the bureaucracy of the unwanted sanctioned detection.

Tony McNumpty and his friends at the Home Office missed a golden opportunity to do something about our form-filling, everything-in-triplicate, fax-it-over-to-me system.

When they did away with administrative detections, they ought to have said this: ‘We know that most bobbies are half-sensible people. Moreover, we recognise that they are the people ‘on the ground’ dealing with crime and criminals. We accept that they are quite able to distinguish between a nasty domestic assault and a bit of handbags between two kids. We’ll give them the discretion to write off the minor stuff, and just have a word with the parties. That will free them up more to work on the nasty stuff.’

Of course, the history of modern British policing is littered with missed opportunities, wrong-headed initiatives and politically correct rubbish, so they didn’t.

McNumpty may or may not go down in history as a giant of law and order. I know what Sir Robert Peel would have made of the whole thing, though. It’s all there in the last of his nine principles: ‘The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.’

Using young people as statistics-fodder, and often giving them criminal records, just so that we can mislead the public about how effective we are is plain wrong. Individual police officers are the ones speaking to the victims and their families, and for that reason they should have at least some discretion about the best way to proceed with an investigation.

*The paranoid among us begin to wonder whether the whole circular nonsense is a job creation scheme for bureaucrats and quangorities.

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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.

And:

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…

And:

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’.

And:

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.

And:

(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!

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