Polic­ing di­vorced from the public

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Dreadful Secret Of Reed Pond -

In­ter­net pae­dophile stings are be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly com­mon oc­cur­rence. There have been two in Can­ter­bury in the last month, an­other in Faver­sham ear­lier this sum­mer and an­other at Blue­wa­ter at start of the year.

In light of such in­ci­dents, the po­lice nec­es­sar­ily have to warn against it. Ob­vi­ously, it doesn’t look so good when peo­ple armed with noth­ing more than a fake so­cial me­dia pro­file and a cam­era can do the job of iden­ti­fy­ing a po­ten­tial child abuser and gath­er­ing the ev­i­dence against him.

The sub­text to such ac­tiv­ity, how­ever, needs some ex­am­i­na­tion. Ex­cept where law en­force­ment agen­cies feel the need to make loud state­ments about their ac­tiv­i­ties – such as post­ing armed of­fi­cers out­side Can­ter­bury Cathe­dral or mak­ing self-serv­ing pro­nounce­ments on the “hate crime epi­demic” – we are wit­ness­ing them in­creas­ingly re­cede from view.

Step­ping into the vac­uum are pri­vate ci­ti­zens who recog­nise that they must now do some of the work them­selves.

Just look at the city’s le­gions of door su­per­vi­sors and the work they do in fight­ing crime.

They use body-worn video equip­ment to gather ev­i­dence, con­fis­cate drugs, break up fights, calm down peo­ple in ar­gu­ments and pro­tect women who may find them­selves be­ing ha­rassed or stalked.

We have two pri­vate pa­trols op­er­at­ing in busy parts of the city. The Street Mar­shals scheme aims to re­duce dis­or­der and noise as stu­dents make their way home through res­i­den­tial areas. The Ci­ty­watch scheme func­tions in cen­tral Can­ter­bury, alert­ing po­lice and CCTV op­er­a­tors to in­ci­dents or try­ing to defuse po­ten­tial flare-ups.

There are a va­ri­ety of rea­sons why the po­lice are, as I said, re­ced­ing from view. One is that we have over­stretched and un­der-re­sourced forces, of­ten lim­it­ing of­fi­cers’ at­ten­tion to the most se­ri­ous in­ci­dents. They also spend an in­or­di­nate amount of time deal­ing with peo­ple who have men­tal health or sub­stance mis­use prob­lems, as well as me­di­at­ing be­tween war­ring – of­ten drunken – cou­ples.

But one of the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors for this trend is cul­tural. Sir Robert Peel’s 1829 vi­sion of the po­lice as “ci­ti­zens in uni­form” seems a re­mote ideal these days. What Peel was ef­fec­tively say­ing was not just that the po­lice stand as close as pos­si­ble to the ci­ti­zens they serve and pro­tect, but that they are a uni­formed re­flec­tion of the public.

The sev­enth of his nine polic­ing prin­ci­ples states: “To main­tain at all times a re­la­tion­ship with the public that gives re­al­ity to the his­toric tra­di­tion that the po­lice are the public and that the public are the po­lice, the po­lice be­ing only mem­bers of the public who are paid to give full-time at­ten­tion to du­ties which are in­cum­bent on ev­ery ci­ti­zen in the in­ter­ests of com­mu­nity wel­fare and ex­is­tence.”

The trou­ble is that for the last 100 years we have seen the re­lent­less ex­pan­sion of the state and its bu­reau­cra­cies. His­tory teaches that wher­ever this has hap­pened, the state in­creas­ingly be­gins to pur­sue its own goals rather than what it re­gards as the parochial or petty needs of the pop­u­la­tion it is sup­posed to serve.

For ex­am­ple, speak to any­one liv­ing in cen­tral Can­ter­bury and ask them what they want from a po­lice force. Most just want vis­i­ble of­fi­cers to de­ter crim­i­nal­ity and deal with the van­dals, ag­gres­sive drunks and shoplifters who daily blight our lives.

Lis­ten, how­ever, to any se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer or pros­e­cu­tor or Home Of­fice rep­re­sen­ta­tive and you will hear not the tongue of the com­mon man, but the clank­ing jar­gon-in­fested lan­guage of man­age­ri­al­ism.

The di­vorce be­tween po­lice and public is wors­ened by politi­cians who de­mand that law en­force­ment bends to what­ever fash­ion­able causes they have adopted.

To­day’s “hate crime epi­demic” has been en­tirely fab­ri­cated by politi­cians and spe­cial in­ter­est pres­sure groups, most of whom were sent into parox­ysms of fury by last year’s vote to leave the EU.

As with so much else in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, we see with polic­ing the re­place­ment of what ac­tu­ally worked with what sounds good.

It’s time for the po­lice, CPS and Home Of­fice not to re­gard them­selves as above and sep­a­rate to ci­ti­zens, but to re-at­tune them­selves to or­di­nary peo­ple. Oth­er­wise, it’s clear that ci­ti­zens not in po­lice uni­form will have to do more and more of the law en­force­ment work they ac­tu­ally need.

Is that ei­ther fair or on them or what so­ci­ety re­ally wants?

Street Mar­shals on pa­trol and right, Sir Robert Peel, founder of the po­lice ser­vice, who stressed that ‘the po­lice are the public and the public are the po­lice’

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