Article originally published in Police Oracle and republished here for wider enjoyment.
In a bid to give up slagging off Winsor and May for Lent I’ve cast my eye over some notable police related news stories of the last few weeks and suddenly realised that they nearly all have one thing in common – especially when you apply the filter of modern day philosopher Jessie J and ask the big question: Is it all ‘about the money money money?’
There’re the obvious examples like those discs containing information from three of the UK’s most sensitive inquiries which have gone missing after being put in the post. The post? Critical sensitive data in the post? Anybody else thinking that was probably cheapest way to get it from A to B? We weren’t exactly rolling in dosh in Humberside but we managed to have a part time civvy driver called Ron who was pretty reliable on a mail run. Fortunately the panic was soon over when a copy was found being used as a coaster in Ministry of Justice canteen.
Then we had, ‘Tasers for all front-line officers’ – suggested the Police Federation. Good idea but unless they’re about to be stocked in that magical mystery middle aisle at Aldi between own-brand Irish Cream Liqueur and the wood turning lathe – then we almost certainly can’t afford them. Especially as after being stung (oops) for millions in litigation in the US the manufacturers have now suggested using the suspect’s back as the target area. That seems simple enough then – just wait until people are running away from you before you discharge your taser…
Another no brainer was this BBC website shocker: ‘Complaints against police at record high’. Wonder if it’s anything to do with starting pay down £4,000 and 35,000 less staff? My favourite quote from the article was from the IPCC, “Some of the increase was due to the broadening of the definition of a complaint….” Imagine – Dear Chief Constable, I was a recent victim of crime. I was very happy with the service but now you’ve broadened the definition of a complaint….
If the cap fits
Sometimes cost is concealed behind the thin veneer of ‘practicality’ like the West Yorkshire force scrapping the traditional custodian helmet. Whoever is making that decision please have a word with yourself. I know that the police service aims to be representative of the community it serves – but flat caps for Yorkshire cops?! Let’s at least try and hang on to some of our valued traditions even if they are a few quid dearer.
Then there’re the really heavy ones like the simmering Rotherham abuse enquiry where no one dare mention the cha-ching cha-ching. All the talk is about fear of racism, incompetence, poor police work – no talk about money and resources being a factor in not picking up the investigation at an earlier stage.
We don’t talk about money when it comes to investigations you see we only talk about ‘proportionate investigation’. It’s a media friendly sound-bite that some insiders would tell you really means ‘how can we do it cheaper?’
As long as the public are safe though right? Fifty five year old, Paul Kohler wasn’t safe in his own home – where he was the victim of a sickeningly violent attack which left the lecturer “unrecognisable”. Listen, I don’t want to go all UKIP on you but the 4 defendants had a total of 32 previous convictions in Poland between them including violent disorder? Is that fair on UK victims? I don’t pretend to know what filtering system and controls we have in place but I bet it’s a ‘proportionate one.’
Life of Brian
On a much lighter note plans to name a Thames Valley Police horse ‘Brian’ caused a stir. I know I was shocked too – that we still had a police horse left. I’d name him ‘Call me Dave’ as a reminder why he has to work alone these days.
Some forces are trying to save some money though by recycling a load of old photos to facilitate facial recognition technology. Apparently we forgot to ask anybody first and so it wasn’t very popular with some. There was a bit of a kerfuffle on Newsnight, when Chief Constable Mike Barton, had a bit of a ding dong with posh Police Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird and former Home Office minister Norman Baker, who said ‘we don’t keep non convicted peoples fingerprints and DNA.’ You sure about that Norman? The last I heard we keep it for 12 years. Unlike Police Scotland who are following the Strasbourg directive and destroying their samples – but I reckon that’s just because theirs is a bit too flammable to store.
To be fair in some cases money doesn’t appear to be a factor at all. For example the cost of surveillance on uncharged suspect Julian Assange has now hit £10million! That’s more than the investigation into the Iraq war. Let’s be clear the allegation that Assange sexually assaulted two women in Sweden is very serious. Just checking Sweden are picking up policing tab? £10million can buy a lot of tasers.
The police bean counters in Blackpool seemed to be counting the wrong beans when the Metro ran the story: ‘Bean flicker admits assaulting police officer’. After spending a few seconds trying to figure out if ‘Bean flicker’ was an anagram of ‘Ben Affleck’ I went on to discover that the offender had flicked three baked beans from his breakfast through the hatch of his police cell and they landed on a detention officer’s shirt. Howard Green, defending, said, “This was not a serious act of violence”, (You don’t say Howard?) If he’d have stuck his tongue out as well would it have been an aggravated offence? The defendant was fined £75 (I’d have fined him 57) and £20 victims surcharge (presumably for Post Traumatic Bean Disorder).
But not everyone wants to tie up the criminal system with petty business that’s why they are about to start trialing the first ‘online court’ and even a system where the judge delivers verdicts by texting the defendant. Presumably something like “I find U guilty of stealing & sNteNc U2 6mths incarcer8tion innit x”
Just when we were hoping for better news the Daily Mail ran with the story ‘One in five police stations closed to the public since last election’ – Can that really be true? Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, wants to close some more. He says that “43 forces are an unforgivable waste of money”. I agree let’s have just one force and move it further north, and don’t think you’ll be eligible to claim travel expenses as we’ll only need one PCC.
Well I say ‘need a PCC’ – I’m not sure the public quite agree since elections attracted just under 15% turnout to vote which is a lot less than the Celebrity Big Brother final. Considering that the last 3 CBB winners have been Jim Davidson, Gary Busey and Katie Price, I really can’t see the general election going wrong can you?
My favourite headline of the month was nothing to do with policing and came much closer to home for me in the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, who were reporting that we were finally getting a new town centre toilet with: ‘All Cisterns Go!’ Well done Scunny Telegraph that’s a great splash!
To finish on a positive note Policeoracle.com reminded us that we still have some friends when it reported that Tory MP Damian Green plans to “defend” officers at the Oxford Union debating society in respect of the alleged loss of confidence in the police. A Tory MP defending the police?…….. Can’t we ask if Brian the horse is available?