Dear (next) Home Secretary………

I used to work with a Sergeant who had a teenage daughter who appeared to have an issue with deciding who she really wanted to date……he decided that he would no longer ask the name of the next young man to call for his daughter but would simply refer to them as `next`…. the post of Home secretary is starting to resemble this analogy.

The inevitable finally came to pass when Amber Rudd succumbed to the pressure on her around immigration targets and the Windrush scandal by resigning late on Sunday night. The next holder of arguably the most toxic government ministerial post is Sajid Javid who appears to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time looking at his progress through parliament & government. I hope he is equally as adept in managing his in tray as he seems to be with his timing and hopefully this home secretary will know what the Home Office are doing and saying under his leadership.

What does this mean for Policing and other public-sector workers though?

There always seemed to be a clear initiative by the former home secretary, no, not the most recent one but the architect and driving force behind the decimation of Policing, Theresa May, to drive through reform and tacit acceptance to her own ideals of Policing. We have seen drastic reductions in Police resources both in operational officers and equally as important, support staff which has arguably led to serious crimes increasing to dangerous levels. Amber Rudd did little to address these issues whilst she held the post but in truth she inherited the problems and budget reductions from her predecessor and appeared unwilling to challenge those policies that were doing so much damage to the Policing model. What of the new Home Secretary then? Is he going to be yet another non-confrontational devotee of the prime minister? It would appear from what I have seen and heard so far that may not be the case and there is a possibility of bringing policing back from the precipice. There could be a small chink of light in the tunnel of Policing and a ray of hope that we may have someone willing to stand up to Mrs May.

I doubt that my thoughts and views would ever reach the in tray of a home secretary and if they did, they would likely be forgotten quicker than a policy paper on immigration targets.

There are a few things I would ask and request of any serving Home secretary:

Protect the protectors – ensure serving officers receive suitable and adequate protection from the justice system when assaulted. Society loses respect for law and order when the very figures that represent that authority can be assaulted and abused with little effective deterrent. Courts should be given clear instructions that assaults on law enforcement officers should attract deterrent sentences which must include terms of imprisonment in many such cases.

Review the pay and pension regulations – Police pay has reduced gradually during the tenure of Mrs May and is no longer representative of the role they play in society or the special situations they find themselves in. Basic pay needs to increase to attract the best people into Policing and just as importantly, to retain them in a policing career. Policing has become a short-term job as opposed to a vocation and the professionalism of the Policing model has suffered as a direct result of Mrs Mays policies. Police pay should reflect the fact that Police officers are legally prohibited from taking industrial action to fight for fair pay and conditions. They can only negotiate & trust that government engage in any negotiations in a fair, honest and honourable way which has not always been the case.

Support your Police service – There has clearly been a well organised and practised negative approach towards Policing by certain sections of the media and most definitely certain sections of recent governments. Those actions impact on a daily basis on the confidence of Police officers and more importantly the confidence and trust in Policing by large sections of the public who believe much of what they read and are told. This undermining of law and order must stop, and it is a prime objective of any government to protect and safeguard their citizens which includes promoting trust and confidence in their police service.

Engage in effective dialogue – Mrs May did not listen to Police professionals and even accused them of crying wolf in 2015 when they warned her against further reductions and the likely impact on levels of crime. Strong and stable leaders do not do so by dictating but by effective communication which includes actively listening to those experienced and practised in Policing. The home secretary should be open to suggestions and proposals from those around them, but greater importance should be attached to those with personal knowledge of policing. I would urge him to visit operational officers and not just limit himself to stage managed photo opportunities with various senior officers and specially selected audiences. He will find the majority of police officers hugely dedicated, committed and thoroughly professional and quite capable of engaging in honest and open debate with him. They may even explain and demonstrate the benefits of effective use of stop and search if he is in any doubt.

Finally, I truly hope Mr Javid will find time to visit the Police Federation conference in a few weeks and listen to what he is told and start to build a strong and balanced relationship with those trusted to keep society safe. Policing should not be judged by spread sheets, balance sheets and selective crime statistics and it is not an income generation industry. It is much more important than that – it is about making society and the public safe and he was elected to serve the public not just the current party leader and prime minister.

 

Advertisements

The search to stop knife crime

This was a relatively shorter blog than normal which was posted on newsfeed after a request for my views on stop & search and knife crime. I could write another 800 words and probably more on the causes, impacts and problems that reducing police resources and use of stop and search has had on the rise in violent crime. In a sentence, it needs more Police officers on the streets doing more pro-active policing and engaging with communities to obtain information about those carrying knives and guns so they can be stopped and detained. There are many campaigns about preventing terrorism and reporting suspicious activities, but we lack similar initiatives around preventing knife crime and violent crime. This can only be stopped by a combined approach involving parents, guardians, communities, government and policing. It`s time for the silent majority in society to stand up and be counted or we will be left counting the increasing number of young lives lost, whilst we remain silent and let the violent criminals take over our streets and cities.

In simplistic terms, it is highly likely that more stops and searches by Police would impact on the number of knife crimes currently taking place. The basic deterrent of being caught with a knife by Police, being arrested and prosecuted and possibly receiving a conviction will no doubt deter some from carrying a knife in the first place, but the brutal fact is that stop & search has reduced and knife crime has increased.

The statistics, facts and figures have often been repeated by politicians, academics, social experts and policing analysts with varying interpretations of the assimilated data. We are told more young people are searched, more young people from poorer backgrounds are searched, more people from BAME backgrounds are searched and the general assessment seems to be the Police are therefore racist & ageist based on the statistics. In a similar way that stop & search is not the single answer to knife crime then the assessment that Police only stop & search because they are ageist or racist is also completely incorrect. The majority of knife crimes are being committed by young males and many are from a BAME background and deprived areas. It is ludicrous to expect that in an effort to balance the figures of people stopped by Police there should be more women aged over 50 or males over 50 stopped and searched for knife crimes. The same statistics indicate the age and ethnicity of those being stopped and searched match those being arrested for knife crime offences or identified as being suspected of them. The key for Policing is to obtain information and intelligence so they can target those carrying knives and committing these offences but where and from whom does that information come from?

It must come from parents, guardians and those involved with young people as well as from Police officers. The many initiatives and partnership projects that were carried out by Police and local social services in previous years have been largely eradicated as budgets across public sectors are reduced. There appears to be no desire or intention from government to increase funding to provide additional police resources or to fund a council backed youth scheme. Parents and role models are often missing from the lives of these young people and they then aspire to be like the older teenagers in their local area who have drifted into the gang culture or a life of crime.

I would suggest it is not solely due to stop & search being reduced that has caused knife crime to rise so rapidly and maybe these are the other causes that society and government are unwilling to address?

Prevention is always far better than a cure and stop & search followed by arrest is part of preventative tactics and solely the prerogative of policing. When you look at the number of police officers that have been cut over the last 8 years across the UK, then it is no surprise a pro active tactic like stop & search has been reduced. There is now far less time and opportunity for front line officers to conduct stop & search due to increasing demand and less officers to deal. Stop & search has always been largely carried out by uniformed police, so specialist units are unlikely to use it on a day to day basis. In simple number terms, less officers will prevent less crime and carry out less prevention tactics which has contributed to this worrying rise in knife crime.

Knife crime isn’t just a policing problem to solve and both government and society in general need to look at the reasons against carrying a knife for protection or to gain respect. In short stop & search is an effective policing tactic against crime being committed but you need sufficient officers to have confidence they can use that tactic and be supported when they do so.