Covid 19 – Highlights of a (minority) lawless anti-social society

Me outside the old Maghull Police Station. This was once a real hub of community policing.

In any society there will always be a minority, possibly a significant one, which will not play by the rules set down by that society. Looking at the UK lockdown of recent months I’m wondering if our significant minority are wearing their non-conformist views on their sleeves? And I’m not taking about non-conformism here in the radical and Liberal sense of the word but more in the two fingers up to society as a whole way.

Let’s look at 3 pieces of potential evidence from the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-53176717

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52370352

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52674192

We will do as we like, when we like and the rest of you can rot in hell, maybe one way of putting it.

From my perspective the the issue is clear. If as a society we decide to turn a blind eye to minor acts of non-compliance with laws (which we have in reality done) then we have started what amounts to a game where those willing to push at the boundaries will do so to see how far they can get.

The solution, as it has always been, is community policing where local Bobbies are well known and they know those in their community who are likely to be the cause of anti-social behavior and crime. And I’m talking about sufficient numbers of Bobbies and probably more significantly PCSO’s for there to be boots and cycles on the ground 24 hours a day, NOT Bobbies parading miles away and being sent out when there’s trouble.

Yes that means all kinds of laws which are presently being broken many times each day in most communities being enforced for the common good. Start with the little things and our society will end up respecting its own rules and those who are tempted to ignore those rules will think twice before doing so. Most law breaking and anti-social behaviour at a community level is done because those doing it know, almost for sure, that they will not be held to account.

My view is our society has lost respect for itself because we’ve adopted, almost by accident, an every man or woman for themselves attitude.

Here on Merseyside we almost got there in terms of community policing of the kind first advocated by John Alderson the former Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall in the early 1980’s. His at times one person battle to establish community policing was rejected by fellow police officers and ignored by government but eventually the Penny dropped and it became the goal of most police forces. On Merseyside we had specific officers and PCSO’s allocated to particular communities/local government electoral wards although the numbers were not high enough for it to work really well. However, it did work and just needed building on. Sadly it was abandoned on the high altar of austerity and probably because there was a feeling within the police that community policing was soft/not real policing. No fast cars, no drug busts, no big career opportunities in an organisation where getting up the slippery pole has always seemingly been the most important thing.

So we unlearned all the lessons we learned from taking Bobbies out of communities for a 2nd time. We did it first in the 1960’s and 1970’s as police officers were withdrawn from many communities into brand new central police stations in bigger towns and cities. John Alderson could see how that had failed communities so he tried to bring back community policing in the 1980’s. He eventually won the argument but we went and did it all over again in the 2000’s!

I wonder how long it will be before we adopt real community policing again? You never know there could well be promotions in it for police men and women keen for advancement who advocate it!

And there you have it that’s my potentially too simplistic reason for the state that we are in with anti-social behavior and crime and it’s an opinion I’m firmly stuck with. Covid 19 has brought out the best in most of us but the worst in others of that I’m also sure.

Oh and by the way I hope it goes without saying (but I fear it does not) that all community Bobbies in fact all police officers need to be recruited on the basis that don’t hold racist or homophobic views.

Policing – When it goes badly wrong

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52932611

I have thought for many a year that some people recruited to police our laws are fundamentally unsuited for such sensitive jobs. And I’m talking here about what is probably a world-wide problem across most if not all democracies.

Militaristic organisations like policing will always tend to attract people who enjoy being controlling, authoritarian, in charge, able to enforce etc. etc. but often of course some of them are actually the very last people a society would want in such sensitive jobs. Yes police forces across most societies have to be able to tackle hardened criminals in uncompromising ways, indeed we expect that of them. But and it’s a BIG but those very same officers are also expected to exercise discretion and to sensitively deal with other policing matters. It has long been clear to me that some officers can’t do both as it is not in their make up.

Some of the scenes from the US have been heartbreaking following the killing of an African American man at the hands of the police and the legitimate protests are no surprise. Yet the police seem not to be able to handle the need to try to keep public order whilst ensuring that legal public protests are given the freedom required in any democracy. Yes the looters need stopping/arresting but what on earth is going on when innocent protestors, by-standers, reporters etc. are in effect attacked by the police!

For policing to work it has to be by consent not by force and communities need to have confidence in it. If some sections of any society feel that policing is biased against them or even actively aggressive towards them then the police become a part of the problem not a part of the solution.

America is a violent society where guns are seemingly valued above life itself. An armed police force, which draws guns far too often, will be a job very unsuitable people will apply for and sadly get. We like to think that our society is not as racist or violent as the US but I fear that just leads to a complacent approach. I am absolutely sure that in the UK there are some unsuitable police officers out there and the fact that they are not armed we must be grateful for.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some great police officers in my time in public life especially those involved in community policing. However, I’ve met others whom seemed to lack the diplomatic skills and empathy required to deal with sensitive community matters. This is an issue which needs to be resolved during the recruitment process and via continual training.

Community policing was the first major issue I took an interest in back some 40 years ago as a fresh faced trainee Liberal politician and it was the work of John Alderson (former Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall) which I saw as a piece of policing fresh air – see link below –

www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/oct/11/john-alderson

That the progress made via community policing across the UK has all but been put in full reverse due to austerity and changing policing policies/priorities is a matter of great regret to me as Alderson was right all those years ago and he’s still right now.