Sitting at home contemplating life and the universe, and everything has suddenly come clear to me. I have solved the meaning of life and not a drop of alcohol has been drunk, only copious amounts of coffee from a new machine that kicks out caffeine drinks two to the dozen by means of hateful non recyclable plastic capsules. That’s a battle with my conscience I am going to have to tussle with later.
Looking through the fuzzy gaze of coffee house prescribed drugs, Cappuccino being my staple favourite, I have looked over the topics in policing that have raised their heads a little. But there really is no point in getting too excited as I have found when plummeting down the rapids of change, you can only dip your paddle in now and then to change the course of your travel just a little bit. You can merely add your tiny pearl of wisdom for a slight change in course, but you certainly won’t be able to change course entirely on your own, and for that you will need an outboard motor, with substantial horsepower.
Officers on the ground tend to know what’s what with crime, it’s sort of what we do, and we tend to know what works and what doesn’t over the many years we police, but every now and then for example with stop and search, a new idea is brought about. Because of community breakdown and ‘lack of confidence’ with the police in certain parts of the UK it was decided to tighten up on our free for all Stop and Search techniques that we police used with such merriment and delight.
The assumption was that we enjoyed dipping our hands into often filthy pockets and risking pricking our fingers on needles with untreatable diseases in order to collect yet more complaints from the criminal fraternity which are looked into on the same level as if a bishop had made the same complaint.
The whole atmosphere in briefing used to be ‘I’m going to catch some bad guys tonight’. As far as I remember it wasn’t, ‘I’m looking forward to persecuting some innocent members of the public tonight’ but then I am sure that one or two of the 150,000 other members of the Constabulary were probably thinking just that. They inevitably got found out but then I used to go out into the villages, towns and cities and search several not so delightful characters skulking around the shadows at 3am with conviction lists as long as your arm and leg put together and find all sorts of incriminating items. I found this rather satisfying as it meant I had stopped their trade for that one night. A burglary? A stabbing? Enticing another youth to try some hard drugs perhaps? I can tell you there is little stomach for this anymore. The support officers feel for stop and search has gone. Politicians who seek favour with their loudest critics put forward demands for change and indeed the change has been brought in. No doubt with much co operation between all factions of the community, but I know the advice of police officers probably wasn’t requested and therefore the one sided argument won the day.
So here we are with knife crime now rising again after a very real and constant fall, and here we have the police despondently doing the ‘I told you so’ dance again. So incredibly inevitable. We can often be looked upon as the enemy in a lot of aspects, especially with certain parts of the national media. We are not looked upon as who we really are… a very carefully selected part of the great british public, of varied ages who have been screened and tested for our integrity, our honesty, our morals and beliefs, our ability to be practical and to not shy away from conflict or trauma, and it is only then that we are taught the law. We are not selected from a dark hole of deviants who have proven themselves to be corrupt and untrustworthy as the loudest of the few shout from the rooftops. Those often with hidden and some with very visible agendas who are given so much air time. Why do we listen to them?
What we have in Britain is a Police Service of front line officers who are currently riding those rapids and if one or two fall out of the boat, through no fault of their own, they can often be left to fend for themselves. Those police know for example, you can do all you can with the resources you have to safeguard as many vulnerable people as possible, but as we are human and we are incredibly busy dealing with an array of incidents in just one night, as we are having to prioritise on how we help people, and as we are tired and can miss something in 30 years of service, night after night, shift after shift, this can lead to a mistake. Or just in the fact that we are dealing with people who carry guns, and carry knives and have a life of criminality which automatically puts them at huge risk when the police have to have contact with them, and when this happens and a shooting occurs or when a pursuit ends in tragedy, or when a repeat missing person dies, or when a suicidal person slips the net and when this happens, then the investigations start as they will and as they should.
And each and every police contact with that person is scrutinised, and it is criticized with fresh eyes that woke up at 8am that morning and had a leisurely breakfast before coming in to the office. And it will be found that this should never happen again, and there will be apologies from Forces to say that mistakes occurred and that lessons have been learned and this is important unless just routine, and it is crucial to ensure that methods are improved and that we don’t get slack, but the officer on the front line will tell you, it will happen again, that missing person will be found dead after 30 contacts with police. That a prisoner will be found dead in his cell, and if you live by the sword, you may even die by the sword, and it’s because life is as it is, and we are all humans trying to make some sort of sense of it. We can only do, what we can.
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