Should the Police listen to the critics?

I said to my plumber the other day, ‘mate, you really shouldn’t be doing it like that, why don’t you use a 22mm pipe for that, not a 15mm pipe?’  That was before I pulled up the reporter saying, ‘Hey, you should be using less adjectives to give your text more form’, and I’m sure the road worker appreciated me stopping my car and pulling the back of his trousers up, advising him, ‘There you go, keep the chill out old boy, and not sure you have used enough tarmac there either’.

Is this the incessant ramblings of a Copper past his prime, or is it the equivalent of how a police officer is treated when every act they do is challenged by someone with biased and yes, some narrow minded simplistic ideas?  Suddenly everyone is an expert, everyone is happy to tell police what to do and how they should be doing it.  Reporters and media stirring up a storm about Stop Search, bring policing back to Robert Peel days of foot patrol only, use less force on people, use more force on those rioters, no not that much force, you didn’t stop the person smelling of cannabis and arrest him, why didn’t you send a police officer to my burglary, (because they were dealing with a person who smelt of cannabis) you shouldn’t be stopping juveniles, police should be stopping more hoody juvenile gangs and so… it goes on.

On the other hand, the public including a lot of these arm chair experts pay my wages so I should listen to them, but it doesn’t make them all right, and I shouldn’t be accused of not listening to them if I don’t agree.  That plumber would know the pressure in the pipe would be completely wrong and the heating system would fail if he used the 22mm pipe for that part. That’s because he lives and breaths plumbing, has done so for years, and someone venting off (see what I did there) with mythical solutions on how he should do his job doesn’t make them right.  The plumber knows that, he thinks I’m an idiot, and the difference being, even though I am paying his wages, would probably tell me so and march out of my house.  As the police, we cannot do that, but to be frank I think there is probably a middle ground and we should challenge some ridiculous rants.

When you have changed your policing style with how crime has changed over the 25 years I have policed, then you have a pretty good idea of what works and what no longer does.  Things change, and I’ve learned you go with it, because things change for a reason.  I asked 10 years ago to a disgruntled member of public, how many police they thought were working today in a certain large sea side town we were in.  They looked at the large police station with the many windows and said “I don’t know, 30? 50?”  I remember it well, and I asked several people over the years with similar results.  I presume they thought there was a police officer behind every window.  On that day there were 8 officers. That gives you an idea.  If I put 8 officers on foot patrol, they would have a jolly nice chat with the public we serve, and those public would think they were wonderful, but there would be 200 other people wondering where the hell the police were.

Modern day policing has developed from instead of getting one call for a serious crime from one phone box, we now have  numerous calls from mobile phones.  We receive calls from the public on a lot less serious incidents because the police are at the end of 3 buttons on their phone.  We have to have more people to answer those calls, we have to have more people to go to those calls.  In the past, if there was a group on the corner looking as though they were up to no good, if there were no phone box, then nothing would be done by the public and therefore the police didn’t attend.  Now we get a call, and police have to attend, because if they didn’t, and something happened, then the police will be blamed and dragged through the media, and probably the courts.  Multiply this a thousand times  and you see the problem in work load.  We can’t magically go back to the ‘good old days’.

There are approximately 125,000 police in the UK. Over the past 25 years we have got it wrong sometimes, and sometimes very badly wrong. But if the public can only mention a handful of high profile cases in that time, then all those police officers we had, over a period of 25 years didn’t do too badly.  But that high profile criticism means the police have to cover their backs, and ensure the mistakes or just poor policing is kept to a minimum.

For example, when police attend a domestic incident in 2015, they treat each and every one of those at the same level from the beginning. Each one is treated incredibly seriously, with a full risk assessment done on each one, along with full details of all the children in each house and those that live elsewhere.  This could be a fight, or an argument called in by a neighbour.  There is a positive arrest policy. That’s because one of those shouting matches or arguments could end in a murder, and statistically speaking, a high proportion of murders are from domestic incidents.

We also do this because there are some incredibly vulnerable people involved as victims in these domestic incidents, and people we can try to help.  But there are an awful lot of domestic incidents to go to and if one is not treated with the full seriousness of another and a tragic event happened, then questions are asked.  This takes officers off the street, with at least 2 hours spent on each incident at minimum.  They could easily attend 3 domestic incidents a night, as I did last week as an Armed response Sergeant and with a queue of jobs to go to, and with Chief Constables having to prioritise the types of incidents their officers attend now, it means the days of hoards of officers on foot patrol probably aren’t going to return very soon. Lets be honest, ever. Incidentally, I attended as a police officer, not as an armed response Sergeant but we all have to muck in.

I am not permitted to say how many police will be working in an area on any one night, for obvious reasons, but it is clear that people generally think there is more fat on the goose than their actually is. And here’s a surprise, it’s going to get worse, because there is less money and with 80% of the police budget on wages, this means less officers.  Just like for the plumber, he’s having to work harder for less, as does the road worker, and so should the police.  But this means the police can no longer be all things to all people and as PCC’s and Chief Constables are saying loud and clear, we are having to priorities types of incident we send officers to.  There simply aren’t the officers to deal with it.  It doesn’t mean they are lazy. it doesn’t mean the officers don’t want to help the people they joined the police to help, I can promise you that.

I simply know that if you are running out of jam, you have to spread it thinly to cover your toast, but you can only be efficient with your jam spreading to a point, before you run out of jam and can no longer cover your piece of toast.  All I ask is that some of the arm chair experts with their black and white opinions, just trust a little that the officers know what they are doing, and let the plumbers plumb, and let the police, police, and give the headlines a rest for the day.


5 thoughts on “Should the Police listen to the critics?

  1. So very true. Police are highly trained and motivated to carry out their duties, they are intelligent & thorough in their knowledge of law. What audacity for any member of the public, politician or person from any walk of life to think they know better! I would not volunteer to advise a surgeon etc., therefore I would never think I knew better than a warranted Officer trained specifically to uphold the law. Let the Police carry out their very arduous duties and, public, stop interfering in matters you do not fully understand and are not trained to comprehend. Police are Professionals.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Policing is a difficult and sometimes dangerous job, but unlike plumbers or road workers, what they do plays an important role in shaping society. Their work is highly visible and governed by a set of standards agreed by society and enacted by our legislators. Plumbers do not have the right to lock people up or use lethal force in the course of their work. Police enjoy privileges and powers not afforded to the ordinary citizens and sometimes – thankfully infrequently – those powers and privileges are abused.

    All of those who hold and exercise power should expect to be held to account for their actions. They might be held to account by the courts, they might be held to account by the media, they might be held to account by ordinary people. Criticism is not always right or justified, but the freedom to express ourselves is a fundamental right of a free society. We should celebrate the fact that in a democracy the ordinary citizen has the right to question the powerful and the institutions which hold power over them and shape their lives.

    Should the police listen to their critics? Damn right they should. Thoughtful criticism has prompted many beneficial changes in many fields. Society changes and the way police go about their work should reflect those changes.


    1. Thank you David for taking the time to read and answer my blog. I agree with your point exactly. I answered my titled question within by saying we should take notice, but my point was that too many critics in too many influential positions make very sweeping statements giving easy solutions to policing when they are so off the mark it is quite frankly a joke. Regards, Harry


    2. Thank you David for taking the time to read and answer my blog. I agree with your point exactly. I answered my titled question within by saying we should take notice, but my point was that too many critics in too many influential positions make very sweeping
      statements giving easy solutions to policing when they are so off the mark it is quite frankly a joke. Regards, Harry


  3. So true Harry. Who are the greatest arm chair experts – politicians. Nothing like putting a complete novice blinkered by ideology in charge of something important?

    Liked by 1 person

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