trust – tolerance – self-sufficiency
While Education and the NHS limp along reasonably effectively despite continuous meddling by the Government, the Police ‘Service’, regrettably, can best be described as monumentally useless. The dominant attitude seems to be that crime is mainly our fault. House burgled? Should have had better locks/window bars/alarms. Car stolen? Should have had it alarmed/immobilized. Mobile phone/laptop stolen? Shouldn’t have been using them in public view. Attacked? Shouldn’t have been out after dark/worn those clothes. And, of course, we must not do anything about criminals. Detain a burglar? You’re arrested. Defend yourself? You’re arrested. Burglar trips on your loose carpet? You’re arrested then sued by the burglar. Gangs wrecking your car, your garden? Cower in your house and hope they will go away. The shrug has become the hallmark of any police ‘investigation’ and, to add insult to injury, no senior police manageocrat can speak in public for more than ten seconds without bleating for ‘more resources, greater powers’ etc – resources which suddenly appear in roadside swoops to catch Road Tax avoiders, or to provide gangs of manic armed individuals to menace some child with a water pistol. It is bad enough that society be marred by the tiny percentage of bad and inadequate individuals who choose to become criminals and vandalize, intimidate, burgle, rob, and generally behave anti-socially. It is wholly unacceptable that the Police ‘Service’ not only routinely fails to do anything about this but effectively defends and protects the culprits.
The blame for this deterioration in the Police ‘Service’ however, does not lie with the constables and sergeants – the foot-soldiers. They, for the most part just want to do their jobs but find themselves caught between a bureaucratic and blame-seeking management and a public increasingly, and quite rightly, less inclined to accept arbitrary authority. Initial responsibility undoubtedly lies with the politicians who have foisted political correctness and box-ticking management on the ‘Service’ in the name of ‘accountability’ and, more laudably, as a response to some conspicuous police failures from previous decades, but the bulk of the blame lies with an over-influential minority within the senior management who have embraced these ideas instead of opposing them. These individuals are mainly ‘fast-tracked’ officers with little practical policing experience and thus neither the experience nor the wisdom to lead those under them. They have risen to the level of their incompetence and their main concerns have become empire-building and the inventing of elaborate box-ticking ‘procedures’ that will ensure they are not blamed when anything goes wrong.
What to do?
- No society can be ‘policed’ – it can only police itself. Our police officers in particular are not an elite, isolated militia, they are ordinary citizens with special training and extra powers of arrest. Fundamentally, every police officer, from Chief Constables down, is a ‘Community Support Officer’ and it is the failure to understand this that is responsible for much of the poor policing we receive. Public goodwill and good intelligence are fundamental to good policing. (Indeed, given the added threat of arbitrary violence from so-called ‘terrorism’, the need for good intelligence and trust in the Police Service is more important than ever). Both these need officers, of all ranks, to be walking their areas and getting to know people in them, making countless small personal contacts – the great strength of many weak ties. This is not something that can be entered on computerized forms but without it, modern technologies and techniques for targeting specific crimes and criminals, are useless. The rationalization of the drugs laws, the penal system, rules of evidence, so-called Health and Safety and Human Rights legislation will reduce both crime and bureaucracy and will be an ideal opportunity for a radical review of the management of the Service.
- The first response to a crime, like the first response to an injury, can only be made by those immediately affected – the victims. Yet, for who can say what reasons, successive Governments have deliberately disseminated the fiction that the police can protect us from criminals and that not only do we not need to adopt any measures to protect ourselves, we must not. However, what are you going to do if you wake up to find an intruder in the bedroom, or if you are attacked in the street, or if armed men burst into the cinema, theatre, supermarket? Even if a policeman is nearby – which is highly unlikely – he is under no legal obligation to protect individuals from violence, though few people know this. Legislation should be amended to ensure that citizens can defend themselves against criminals without the fear of prosecution or civil action. Criminals must know that, having chosen to step outside the law, they lose much of its protection. The many bans and restrictions on weapons have not only failed to protect us, they have given criminals a near cast-iron, Government-backed guarantee that the law-abiding will be unarmed, passive, and pathetically hoplophobic – morbidly afraid of weapons. This is why criminals arm themselves – they are in no danger from their victims or witnesses. The very concept of legislating against ‘things’ is, of course, ridiculous and bound to fail. The law should address not the ownership and carrying of weapons, but their use, under, say, three headings – brandishing, threatening and using, each carrying successively heavier penalties. Being safe with a weapon is very easy and a simple education campaign would explain the practicalities and new legalities of weapon use as part of our recovering the concept of social responsibility in this area, namely that being prepared to deal with intruders and robbers is not only a right and a necessity, it is a civic duty. Allowing criminals to escape to commit further crimes against other people is morally indefensible.
Addendum – Reasonable Force
No one wants to be unreasonable and the inclusion of the phrase ‘reasonable force’ in legislation dealing with personal defence seems like a ‘reasonable’ thing to do. Except it isn’t. It denies the basic realities of personal violence and has given rise to the preposterous situation where ‘reasonableness’ is assessed in court by lawyers and judges coolly and calmly weighing this and weighing that over many hours as if this might provide a jury with an accurate insight into what happened during what was probably a scarcely remembered frenzy of terror and panic lasting perhaps seconds. But most of us have never experienced real violence so how can we truly understand what happened? How, as jurors, can we answer the fundamental question, ‘What would I have done?’
Firstly, forget anything you have seen on the movies – that is theatre and we all know that no one is hurt however graphic the scene. Real violence is horrible – messy, degrading and shameful – and for all concerned tends to have effects that continue long after the incident – even an exchange of abuse over, say, a car parking space can stay with us all day. Actual violence is often, quite literally, life-changing and, given that a simple fall can be fatal, it is always life-threatening.
Secondly, understand that, faced with close-quarter violence, your body will go into a state known as ‘flight or fight’. This is an automatic survival mechanism evolved over millions of years and quite beyond our control. You will have experienced a mild form of it if you have ever been nervous before an interview or a visit to the dentist. A whole raft of changes occur to our blood and hormones and muscles so that we can escape faster or be better protected if we are injured. Outwardly we go pale and clammy, our hearts palpitate, we become breathless, our mouths go dry, our stomach feels strange and we tremble – all very unpleasant, but very necessary. In addition, our minds become very clear, but it is not the clarity of civilized human beings engaged in ‘reasonable’ debate, it is that of a large primate doing whatever it must in order to survive. Close-quarter violence is inherently and unavoidably ‘unreasonable’.
So, what are you – or your wife – going to do when faced with an intruder or street robber? He is probably armed and just by being there he has demonstrated his willingness to use violence. Neither the State nor the police can possibly protect you here, (in fact, the police have no legal obligation to). You are on your own. Running away may not be an option, following the assailant’s instructions is folly in the extreme, and using bare hands, a blunt instrument or a knife is life-threateningly dangerous. So you reach for the trusty pistol you carry as responsible insurance against such events . . .
Oops . . . oh dear . . .
HELP AND INFORMATION WANTED
- Practical ideas from serving officers about a new structure for the Force.