Thursday, September 23, 2010

Policing - Just Like The Major Told Us

A rather big police error

So now even the police admit they've failed against the yobs. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) says:
"In the 70s, 80s and 90s every time there's been a cutback the first thing that's gone is the front line on the streets and I think it's been a big error and we've paid for it... anti-social behaviour... and its variants, that signal lack of control on our streets, have grown and evolved in intensity and harm."  
Needless to say, the Major was round first thing to make sure we'd understood - he'd been right all along:
"Isn't this precisely what I've been saying all these years? And you too pig ignorant to listen? We need good old-fashioned coppers out on the beat, not a bunch of pinko social workers filling in forms back at the nick."
Yes, of course, form filling has been a problem for ever, but under hopeless top-down pc Labour it mushroomed into a terminal condition. A condition made much worse by all the command and control systems imposed as part of Labour's tractor production plan.

According to HMIC, over the last 40 years police numbers have increased by well over 50%. And in addition, there has been a fourfold increase in other staff, including those famous numpties in yellow jackets:

And yet this is the very period during which HMIC says "cutbacks" gave rise to the withdrawal of frontline policing. In other words, the police withdrew services during the lean years, but never restored them during the fat.

What happened of course, is that the average cop has been spending less and less time actually out on the streets. As we've mentioned before, Mrs T's brother was a cop, and when he started as a young PC at Holborn in the late 50s, he'd routinely work 10 or 11 hour night shifts walking the beat alone (these days he'd have a watertight case under the Human Rights Act).

But the subsequent reduction in hours, plus all that paperwork, plus the demands of the burgeoning police bureaucracy, has had serious consequences for policing the streets. In today's police force as few as 6% of the total police strength are actually available at any one time to do what we most want them to do - ie patrol our neighbourhoods and respond quickly to calls for assistance.

HMIC has published this very interesting chart, summarising a survey of larger police forces. It shows what proportion of the police strength is actually available for neighbourhood patrols and response at various times during the week. And it shows how that proportion is derived from the total strength (click on image to enlarge):

So on Friday night at half-past midnight - ie a peak time for drunks smashing up town centres and pissing through your letterbox - only 6.4% of the total police strength are actually available to deal with things. Of the rest, half are permanently deployed on other matters, a further 42% aren't rostered for duty that night, and of those that are, a further 2% are off sick, on holiday, or on restricted duties. Which leaves just 6% available to do the job when we need it done.

And there's more. HMIC gives us some chapter and verse on the bureaucratic thicket down at your local nick - the over-specialisation, the silos that hamper coordinated action, the useless but time consuming local area partnerships, and the sheer wibble that pervades everything. Here for example is the chart of the model Police Management Structure for a borough, complete with its Professional Standards Champion, its Borough Partnership Manager, and its Victim Focus Team (click on image to enlarge):

It's the triumph of box-ticking over actually getting the job done.

Now nobody wants to be here, including the police themselves. But as always the question is WTF can we do about it?

As regular readers will know, Tyler has always been a big fan of elected local sheriffs - accountable to local communities for what happens on the streets, not what boxes have been successfully ticked. And we very much hope that Mrs May will implement the plan as promised.

But local sheriffs will only work if they are allowed to. There must be an end to centrally set tractor production targets, an end to fixed national terms and conditions (Ts and Cs - see this blog), and in due course, an end to reliance on central funding. Sheriffs must be free to experiment and discover what works in their own local communities.

That really is the only way. It's the only way we can be sure of local policing for local people. And at a time of big budget cuts, it's the only way the police will possibly make the leap in efficiency they must now deliver.

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