We are playing a football match and our goal is huge, in fact twice the size of the opponent we are playing. We pull our resources together and work as a team as much as we can, but it’s difficult to score in their tiny goal. When we do score, the rule book is pulled out and sifted through by the opposition with their free lawyers, and something is found to discount the goal. Not sure many would like to take part in a game like this, but it’s how the Police play the game against our long term opponent, the criminal.
There is huge uproar about the prospect of big brother sifting through our private emails. Like an intrusive parent who will judge us and expose our secret life viewing it disapproving. Are we turning into a big brother society which we should prevent at all costs? Having worked in armed response for approximately 18 years and mostly as a Sergeant, Tactics Advisor and Operational Firearms Commander, I can tell you the only reason why the government want to look into our emails, is to see who is becoming radicalised, and who is researching bomb making. They really are not interested in what you had for tea or how your mother is although I am delighted she is well!
If someone visits a known terrorist site, then it is useful to know that, as if they have visited once, that could be curiosity, but several times, and deeper into the site each time? Chuck Paedophiles in the mix and you can see how being able to view this sort of stuff would immediately lead to protecting us, not persecuting us.
Most nights, we are after someone we suspect of having beaten up their partner, or stolen a car, or who is carrying a boot full of drugs from up country to our Force of Devon and Cornwall. Now we can do it the way we did it in 1950, and use a police officer to watch the main road for 6 hours, or we can track their phone. Not to listen to their conversations, but to literally see which town the phone is, and therefore most likely themselves. We are able to do this, and you know you can ‘Find your phone’ using the tracking app on your smart phone, but the police cannot. We have to have a ‘Life threatening’ situation. In other words, if the suspect has left a suicide note, if we believe they are going to seriously harm someone then we can get an idea, not the exact location. When we allow ourselves to do this is strictly monitored and has to go though levels of strict authority. For the incidents I have listed previously, we cannot track their phone. We have the ability to, but drugs, guns, other criminals are making their way past our door step and even though we could do something about it making arrests and seizing unlawful contraband, our rules say we cannot.
The latest situation I had was with a suspected rapist who ran from the location and disappeared. Was he still in the location, or had he left the area completely? The information of the phone location would be used with other intelligence, and not just relied upon, in case he had given his phone to a friend or left it on a train to fool the police, however we cannot track his phone in this case, unless we believe he was going to kill himself. Yes, that’s right, as he did not murder his previous victim, he only destroyed her life, this is not considered serious enough to track his phone. If he was suicidal, yes, if ‘he’ was suicidal, then we could.
And this is why I have a little trouble with the Human Rights Act amongst certain other legislation. It seems to be there for the suspect far too much in the guise of protecting the innocent. I agree that 12 guilty people being released is more preferential than one innocent one being found guilty, but in the age where we expect a terrorist attack in mainland Britain, can we afford to give our suspects the protection they are currently getting? Surely there is a middle ground here.
It is often said there are no statistics to confirm that CCTV actually prevents or detects crime. This is because every time it does, there is no statistic collection facility to monitor the levels sourced by CCTV. Well let me tell you, it smashes it. How many ‘men squaring up to each other’ have I gone to and prevented a serious injury and numerous hours of investigation, how many, ‘He’s swaying and just got in his parked car’ have I gone to and arrested a drink driver that could have then killed your son or mine and how many vulnerable people have local officers asked CCTV, ‘Can you just keep an eye on them and make sure they get a taxi safely?’ to ensure the officer can then go to the next 999 response. It works, it prevents crime and misery and it catches criminals, and I don’t want to hear any more from people who have no idea of what goes on out there, but who think they are supporting civil rights by trying to reduce the CCTV levels on our streets. Quite simply, they are not protecting the public, quite the opposite.
Instead of looking at it as an intrusive big brother with bully tendencies, we should look upon it like a warm comforting arm from a parent, watching us as we make our way through the dark streets. After all, do we find it intrusive to have the warm glow of a street light showing our every move? Do we not feel comfort that we are in full view and not in the shadows? Are street lights not the early CCTV? Are we just not used to it?
So where do we go from here? We need to ensure we do not have the ‘system’ spying on us because the controller is bored and the legislation is tight over this already, but when there is real suspicion that a crime is being committed or that a criminal needs to be caught, why are we playing this game with one hand behind our backs, causing hours and days of unnecessary work by understaffed police officers and more danger to the public. Let’s drag ourselves into the 21st Century and get away from 1950.