About 2 years ago I responded to something on the Gadget blog in relation to the Flannigan report. . Many bloggers said their piece, but even now we are still awaiting the full consequences of Ronnie’s review.
One of the things he reported was, in my view, the move towards a glorified Force wide charging unit. This is not new and will be coming in via the back door. It happens on certain major events, football duty and large pre-planned events or operations. There will all sorts of ‘radical’ reforms aimed at increasing efficiency (saving money) and making the Police more organizationally efficient (saving money) to ensure that all Forces are fit for purpose and affordable (perhaps saving money again). The next few years will find ever increasing pressures to hit targets, set by political masters, to senior Police officers who hit the right political notes to get their chosen place in the system. All this with less resources and greater financial pressure against the expectation of producing more and more measurable productivity.
The Police officer comes across an incident and generates the need for an arrest, investigates an offence, attends a call or is called to a scene where an arrest needs to be made or deal with the arrest (s) if necessary. After transport to custody and justifying the arrest to custody officer a statement of evidence and/or note book is completed whilst other Police staff deal with getting witness details, losers/aggrieved person statements and any other statements needed at the time, preserving scenes, obtaining evidence left at scene, requests for CSI and property disposal/seizure etc etc. The custody based team of Police staff then take over to process the detainee, fingerprint, photograph, take DNA, and complete relevant admin/records. The trained interview team liaise with handover information completed by Police staff, including witness/loser statements and if necessary can speak to witnesses depending on time constraints. After this interview team begin interview(s) of suspect and follow up with liaison with Police staff file assembly officers.
The Police Staff will probably not be recruited from retiring or retired officers who have a wealth of experience and the relevant abilities to do the parts of the job needed within the full mechanism of what is needed. They will be recruited from people who will have to be trained to do the component parts because the system of recruiting this type of support will have to be compliant with the latest politically and non-discriminatory guidelines and will tick relevant boxes selected by people who do not understand the component parts of the processes involved. This will be open and transparent and will get people who are not really suited for the role into a post they do not understand and will take an age to learn how to do poorly and then after some time adequately.
Just think of how CID has been decimated in recent times and the loss of people with excellent interview techniques, excellent prosecution file assembly skills, excellent skills when speaking to witnesses and obtaining detailed and accurate statements that reflect what has been seen. This is a loss and a waste of a great resource that has the necessary training already and the experience level to take this in their stride. The right system would allow the good body takers more time on the streets where they are best suited and needed without the countless hours bogged down under the administrative legal processes. They would be required to complete note book and/or statement and then back out onto the streets again, unless there is a pressing continuity problem eg. serious offence, The remainder of the machine does the job for which it is intended: Prisoner handling and processing. Offence investigation, evidence handling & property retention. Witness/loser statement taking. Prisoner interviewing. Charging decision & relevant matters, bail, ID procedures etc etc. Quite often one person does all this and he/she can say goodbye to a whole shift most of the time, even with enquiries left to following shift and other statements to take. Arresting officer then is back out on the streets after note book completion.
Sadly we have moved away from the most important asset we have being the operational constable on the street. Every other department were there to support these officers. Most have now been removed and replaced with uniform response because beat officers on foot are deemed a waste of resources. After all, why leave an officer on foot, in the community, the same community, for each hour of their shift, walking around when the same officer can be put in a car, cover umpteen more square miles of area and answer more calls because of this mobility ?
Simple answer and it must be better, so say the number crunchers and statisticians who see a failing brand. The real problem is that it removes Police Officers from the community and also takes away the time they would interact with the community on a one to one basis during their shift. This is all about time and the perception of time from people who cannot find ways to measure what a community beat officer does during their shift. It cannot be measured accurately so it must be bad because there is no way of measuring anything that is perceived to be good. The conversations with members of the public, the intelligence gained, the crimes investigated in an area, the bond that is made over time with some areas of the community cannot be measured in real and beneficial ways by someone who doesn’t understand the basic principles of Policing in the community. Uniformed Police Officers should be at the hub of what we do. Everything else is there to support this. Uniformed special constables and uniformed police community support officers are only part on the answer but not the answer to everything as the promotion of the pcso brand was when rolled out. It appears that the police and the public have learnt to cope with the necessary adjustments.
Ask yourself this question. Why there has been such a decline in career beat officers ? Those who have spent their entire careers or almost all of their careers as beat officers, on the same beat, in the same community. The ones where a CID officer or an officer investigating a spate of crimes would visit this officer as a first port of call because they were almost certain to come up with a name or have put a name into the intelligence system. We have lost this because it is deemed wasteful and inefficient to have this type of officer in the service. The accountants cannot measure what he or she has done so its time for goodbye. Every crime that is reported, no matter how serious, a uniformed Police officer attends in the first instance. From there he or she decides the next step in the process of investigation. This may be delegated to a supervisor but it is uniform who are the first line. The learning from this type of experience is not complete after 1 year, 2 years or even 10 years. It is continual over the length of service. It is vital to learn what to do and what not to do, even at very minor crimes. Too many officers come into the job and either leave to go to a perceived more popular group or department, leave the job altogether or seek positions away from what we should be doing far too early in their careers to have learnt and understood the wide appreciation and experience of how we do this thing called Policing. Policing has changed because of the political interference and constant financial measuring of ever-changing performance targets. The sceptics amongst the ranks claim for best practice, for giving value for money as a deflection from the responsibility of giving a practical answer because promoting the brand is a win at all costs venture. The cascade of promoting short-term winners appear far more important than a constant and consistent approach. The need to change or to be seem to have changed things for the better provide the short-term justification of those in position of rank but not necessarily expertise. The skill of Policing has not really changed that much. It does not benefit from such constant changes. We have become reactive and response led because we have lost our finger on the pulse of the community. Everyone wants to change things when their chance comes. To make brave statements of intent, to show they know what they are talking about and to be seen to make it different and perhaps a little better, but for who exactly ?
A Police officer is one for the duration of their service. A constable can be a constable for all of their service. An officer away from the rank of constable may possess the responsibility and status of rank for only a short-term in comparison. Over 30 or more years an officer can do a lot of good if they choose to stay where they joined. Some of the best and most rewarding work cannot be measured and put onto a spreadsheet or included within a business scorecard matrix. Away from the real art of Policing, within the management and leadership mechanics, in the space of a few years, no matter how much they try to justify what they do, they can cause an awful lot of damage until the next one comes along to fill their shoes and change things again even more to try to justify their own position. Change can be good, on the occasions that something effective and beneficial comes out of it. A more practical uniform for example. Change can also be un-necessary and damaging, like targets, like leaders who instigate their own personal brand of direction simply because they have a pet hate or they are responding to the need to increase a perception of positive performance in a given area.
I must go and find a darkened room now.
The thought of all these different teams, all these different empires being built, all these different targets that will come into place, all these different areas of targets and statistics that will compete to see who is doing best and not want to finish last. Itis clear that this utopia of a well oiled machine working together in unison is a complete work of fiction or the perception of a deranged mind.
Add to all this the endless mission statements, values and other quirky catch-phrases that are somehow expected to identify how we have changed, become more customer focussed and endlessly better. Dire consequences come to anyone who foolishly fails to promote the brand.
Click………………darkness at last.
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