As promised, here’s my blow by blow response to Peter Hitchens explaining why he is so very wrong, including examples to publicly accessible websites.
Now I apologise for the clunky way I’ve attached the screen caps but I refuse to link back and forth to the website seeing as the newspaper receives advertising funding with each visitor. With that out the way let’s deal with this article.
Peter starts this article asking what use the police are in the UK. Well in the 2011-2012 financial year they detected 1,075,927 offences. A million and a quarter offences were ‘solved’ by one way or the other. Considering there were 134,100 full time equivalent officers in 2012 that means that on average they solved 8 crimes a year (roughly). That doesn’t sound all that impressive I know, but please bear with me. You see while there are 134,100 officers that doesn’t mean there are that many officers on the beat. There are considerable number of police officers in control rooms, training departments, custody units, licensing departments (both alcohol and firearms), prisoner processing units, public protection units (comprising of units formerly known as domestic abuse + child protection + offender management units) as well as any number of units and departments that I’ve forgotten the name of. As you can see there are many officers out there who do a hugely important job that needs to be done and in some cases is a statutory requirement. My local force may only have 10 officers purely to deal with response duties for 120,000 people. You may ask what ‘response’ duties are – these are the officers who will come running when you dial 999, these 10 officers are responsible not only for responding to 999 calls but also to managing the inquiries for crimes they attended in other shifts as well as looking for missing people, taking part in ‘constant observations’ when vulnerable prisoners require it as well as escorting prisoners to hospitals etc. All this means they are very busy indeed, so yes Mr. Hitchens the officer you spoke to may have had far more important things to do than deal with something that is not a criminal offence.
You mention that the police stay indoors an awful lot. Well yes, they do rather but I can assure you that’s not through choice. This is a manual of guidance. It details what the police have to do with every prisoner when they’re arrested and the forms they have to fill in, generally by hand. In addition all the actions an officer undertakes have to be recorded in their pocket notebook, as do all movements of property, evidence and prisoners. Speaking of prisoners, this is their manual of guidance. This generates mountains of paperwork to state that all the risk assessments and statutory processes have been met. All this takes time and if the prisoner process unit is busy then it’s down to response to deal with this.
Mr. Hitchens complains that there are too many firearms officers around. Unfortunately a quick google search only shows me 2011 Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs) there are, they stood at 6,653, this is a rate of around 4%. It sounds an awful lot, but once you take into account those on rest days, those who are on shift at a point other than ‘right now’ today and those in non-public facing roles (those protecting Royals, VIPs, sensitive buildings etc) then there aren’t that many to go around for the public to see. It’s also worth remembering that just because an officer is authorised it doesn’t mean they carry a firearm at all times.
I’m barely going to deal with the ‘terrorist’ remark. Terrorism has been a feature of British life for many years now, if Mr. Hitchens cannot see that then I worry about his ability to gather data correctly.
Mr. Hitchens moves onto a recent story. One where the supposed aggrieved party has already accepted that the police have a difficult job to do. There are any number of reasons why the police failed to recognise the Prince, ranging from weather, to clothing, to glare – dealing with intruders isn’t easy nor is recognising someone in a split second and seeing as the police were on high alert after a recent security breach it’s only correct that the police challenge someone they don’t recognise straight away.
The next topic for discussion involves an ongoing investigation – because it’s an ongoing investigation I’m suprised he has decided to weigh in with his opinion, after all we wouldn’t want a jury tainted by information that isn’t presented at trial now would we? For that reason I won’t be responding.
Now onto the next rant. So Mr. Hitchens doesn’t want any of the police to be armed. Well that’s all very nice but what happens when (as happens now) criminals arm themselves? It won’t be the police who respond to you when you’re screaming down the phone but he wants to send the army instead – I’ll deal with this in a moment.
He also wants to get rid of body armour. Body armour that saves the lives of police officers up and down the land, not only from sharp and bladed instruments but also protects vital organs from blunt force trauma. It’s nice to see how much Mr. Hitchens values the lives of those who serve him, but that’s another point I’ll be coming back to in a moment.
He also wants rid of helicopters and cars with ‘go faster stripes’, whatever that means. I don’t think he realises that should helicopters be removed then people will die. While I can find no FOI requests at this time a google search for “police helicopter missing person found” brings up a huge number of articles where vulnerable, elderly or injured people have been found simply because of the police helicopter. So remove the helicopter and its infrared cameras and missing people will die before they’re found. Nice to see how much Mr. Hitchens views the lives of those more vulnerable than he.
If you remove cars then response times will be hugely increased. Oh it may work in densely populated areas such as London, but any rural county will fail to get anywhere in any decent time. In addition lives will be lost. With no traffic enforcement then people will break the law and as a result lives will be lost. If you want to see what traffic is like with no enforcement then search youtube for ‘Russia car crash compilation’. If that’s what he wants then sure, take away all the cars.
I’m not sure what he means by ‘proper British uniforms’ however I imagine he means tunics and wool trousers. Uniform that’s so expensive it’s no longer routinely issued to frontline officers and instead a small pool of which is retained to be issued on an ‘as needed’ basis. But hey, if he wants to increase funding to police to be spent on this I’m sure he won’t mind an increase in his council tax.
One final point though, with regards to being a public servant. Police officers aren’t. They’re Crown Servants, they serve the Queen and their job is to keep the Queen’s peace. This means that while they sometimes help individual people it’s not their primary role – especially if a persons actions impinge on others or cause harm or suffering (as defined in law) to others.
Mr. Hitchens, if you have read this then I’m impressed but I implore you to do one more thing. Seeing as it appears you have so much knowledge and expertise to share why are you not a Special Constable? Furthermore why are you not practicing what you preach and patrolling single crewed with no body armour in a sink estate of your choice? Once you’ve done this for a career then you can deliver your lecture with a little more authority.