Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Panic on the streets of London

GOD ONLY knows what the citizens of London must have made of it all. After years of illiterate teenage hoodies running free to stab and shoot one another - and us - with impunity, suddenly 20,000 policemen appear on the streets of the capital and it all goes a bit quiet.

Of course, they weren’t actually working. They were there to demonstrate about their annual pay increase being pegged to 1.9 per cent, rather than the 2.5 per cent they think they are due under a previous agreement.

(Funny this, but for some reason the Met Police riot squads on duty didn’t see fit to steam into the crowd outside the Palace of Westminster, batons flailing, as they did with the Countryside March the other year. And is it only me who was willing to pay for a couple of coachloads of tenner-waving ex-miners to be bussed down to provide a bit of sideline abuse?)

Now it’s in our nature to be supportive of the police whenever possible. They are, after all, the people we turn to for protection from the feral mobs roaming our streets. But I sense a recent change in attitude. For a variety of reasons, I don’t think they can now rely on the unthinking, automatic support of the normally law-abiding middle classes any more.

There are a number of factors behind this change. Let’s start with the job itself. Bog standard bobbies begin training on £21,000 a year and can soon rise to £32,000. Sergeants are on £37,000 and Inspectors on £45,000. Add to that a gold-plated, index-linked pension, a retirement age for many of their early forties (and that’s if the notorious ’bad back’ doesn’t get them first), as much overtime as they want and, according to street legend, all the free drugs they fancy, and you can see why it’s an enviable career for many.

Then there’s the more serious point of the dislocation of the police from society, and the subsequent support of that society. This begins in an almost insignificant way with the introduction of speed cameras, but results in the widespread criminalisation of the middle classes and the resentment that engenders. At the same time, the mythical bobby on the beat and the cop car on the motorway disappear from sight. For most of us, our only exposure to the forces of law and order these days is the sight of a fat girl in a fluorescent jacket waddling down our High Street sticking parking tickets on cars. And that’s when they’re not standing by watching our children drown in lakes because they haven’t completed the ‘getting wet’ module of their Health and Safety training.

And when we do come across the real thing in operation, it isn’t always a pleasant experience. I went to a football match in Birmingham the other week and was horrified by the way ordinary, middle aged, middle class fans were bullied and harassed by the assembled massed ranks of Robocops, complete with masks, helmets, body armour and shields. Old school football fans often complain that their game has been gentrified by the prawn sandwich brigade. That demographic change clearly hasn’t made its way into the thinking of the West Midlands Police (whose chief constable, incidentally, earns £163,908 - considerably more than the Prime Minister).

And then we have the mayhem on our streets. It currently seems that hardly a night passes without an innocent father-of-three being kicked to death by a gang of feral hoodlums, most of whom seem to have been released on bail for similar offences the previous day. As with the onset of speed cameras, this isn’t entirely the fault of the police, but once again our confidence in their abilities is undermined.

Even the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (salary just over £100,000) openly states that she’d be scared to walk the streets at night, conveniently forgetting that a couple of burly, gun-wielding bodyguards accompany her wherever she goes. Maybe she’s frightened of Wee Gordy Broon’s body snatchers lurking in alleyways waiting to relieve her of her vital organs without her permission.

Perhaps she should be more frightened of the police. Company director Andrew Wilson collapsed seven miles into the Great North Run last year and began thrashing around as he was having a seizure. A policeman who came to his assistance was accidentally head-butted and promptly arrested Mr Wilson for assault and carted him off to the nick before he could receive medical treatment. After 13 court appearances - at a cost of approx £20,000 - Mr Wilson was cleared of all charges.

Even worse, a chap who went into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds last year was shot twice with a Tazer by armed police because he “failed to respond to their orders”. Their precipitate action was excused because the suspect, a white male bistro-owner and son of a magistrate who has been dependent on insulin for 20 years, was carrying a rucksack and may have been planning to blow up the … err ... empty bus.

So there we have it. The distance between us and them increases, as does our disenchantment and fear. (I think I’ve told you before how I tried to report a suspicious character lurking around the village at our local police station - opening hours, 2pm until 4pm, Tuesday to Thursday. The copper behind the desk wouldn’t open the door because he was “eating his sandwiches”.)

And so you get distinctly unhelpful columns like this appearing in local newspapers while every sensible householder hides a golf club behind their front door and a machete under their bed. It’s not great, is it?

Mind how you go.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong about the (non ill health) pension in their early 40s Bazza. that couldn't be achieved unless they joined when they were about 12....oh, hang on a minute though.....

2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dead right about the distancing aspect though and the govt are only too pleased for this to be the case having carefully nurtured it by steadily removing autonomy and discretion. After all, they don’t have any militant union problems to contend with so they can treat old Bill how they please.
Of course it’s only natural that the negatives are loudly reported and it’s no wonder that Joe Public is by and large totally ignorant of or just do not want to hear what real policing entails. One such aspect is working with families who have lost a loved one for a variety of reasons e.g. RTA, cot death, suicide.
I recall going to a home where a young child had suddenly died. The distraught mother was unable to give up the lifeless infant she was cradling, so much patience and tact was required. When she eventually handed the child to her husband he turned to me and said that he couldn’t face handing his daughter to the undertakers but felt more comfortable handing her to me as we had built a rapport. So, I had entered that house as a total stranger and now I was entrusted with their precious child.
Later when I stepped back into the outside world I felt dazed but as I was the only copper on duty for the entire rural section, the calls had been piling up. The very next job entailed a bloke bleating about some pathetic drivel which was in no way a police matter. It was all I could do, not to belt him in the chops or at least tell him to F..k Off.
This is all part and parcel of an ordinary copper’s lot and I personally never had any time for harassing motorists (unless they did something bloody dangerous).
I would say to anyone moaning about the Police, “So why don’t you join if you think it’s such a breeze?” The reality is that most would fall at the first hurdle.

3:14 AM  
Anonymous skydog said...

''“So why don’t you join if you think it’s such a breeze?” The reality is that most would fall at the first hurdle.''

The reality is becoming that if you are white-Anglo, hetero, male ... you won't even be allowed to enter the race, never mind reach the first hurdle. And that's not just in the police force.

There's many a true word spoken in jest, but the jest is becoming the truth.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

"The very next job entailed a bloke bleating about some pathetic drivel which was in no way a police matter."

..such as a gang of youths outside his house, or maybe he had been burgled or mugged. The TRUTH is that if you are victim of any of these situations the police will not be very interested.

The police have gradually lost the support of a large proportion of the public as people who do speak up for them become victims of crime and see how hopelss they really are, or these people get done for doing 31 in a 30 limit and realise the harrasment of motorists is at best misdirected and at worse an extorsion racket.

The trouble is that those inside the police cannot or will not see how others perceive them, and why.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

Re the pension, police can join at aged 18 1/2 and can retire after 25 years service. So they can retire at 43 1/2. If they stay to put in 30 years service they get a better pension, but many of them take up another job after "retiring" and can easily have 20 years of drawing their police pension while also earning a salary and accruing another pension. A lot of them take up office jobs with their local council - good luck to them, but it's not such a bad deal really is it?

Also, do the police stll get free travel on London buses and tubes? They used to, and this has got to be worth a few quid if you commute into London every day.

I do actually understand why they feel annoyed by their pay settlement, if they were promised one thing and were given something else, but they are on a very good deal and pay rises for the past 10 years have averaged double the rate of inflation, so maybe they ought to keep it in perspective.

4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little correction here Al, your copper could 'retire' at 43yrs but wouldn't be allowed to draw the pension until age 50. Still, pretty young granted, but then they did pay 11% of their pay towards it.
I can't go along with your opinion that muggings etc are treated as trivia. I only retired 3 years ago and in my time there was no way that you could have got away with 'cuffing' something as serious as a mugging. It would have been monitored and picked up, resulting in you being in deep shit.
The public perception is that nothing gets done because there is often no detection which is down to there being insufficient useable, admissable evidence. Factor in the CPS (Criminal Protection Service) binning jobs where they would have to put up a fight in court and it's no wonder it seems that nothing is happening.
Of course there are those who let the side down and don't help in the public perception stakes but you have to understand that there are a lot of hard working coppers out there doing their best on behalf of vulnerable people but they are just banging their heads against a brick wall.
Skydog, you are so, so correct on that hetero, ethnic comment.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plod are worthless Bazza! Three people I know, including my elderly aunt, have all been viciously assaulted (in London). In each case the jobsworth scum couldn't be bothered with gathering evidence from CCTV. In the case of my aunt, actually arresting the assailant - an illegal 'mentally ill' Somali immigrant - who had been detained at great risk by the driver of the bus on which the assault took place. "He probably won't turn up for the court case if we nick him" said the subnormal who attended. OK, that was one of the purposes of remand I thought, but perhaps better to let him about his way to go beating up more elderly women.

It might not be the fault of all of the *people* who work in the force - the blame is clearly with our useless government - but why should we have any respect for them when the protection of life, limb and personal property seems unimportant compared to the protection of political correctness and the political elite?

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, the general perception is that the UK Police are utter shite. Well, if you found yourself under arrest in any other country in the world, you'd soon bloody wish you were back in dear old blighty. (having taught and monitored police in various global hot spots I can speak with authority on this)
Granted, it ain't perfect here in the UK but you could be a lot worse off.
What must be most galling for officers back home is the fact that Gordie and his scottocratic pals have chosen to give the porridge wogs the full monty pay award, That has to be deliberately antagonistic.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not settle this debate on the effectiveness of the police by allowing them to go on indefinite all out strike.
The cry will go out "nobody would notice the difference" but anyone who really believes that is simply deluded.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's always three sides to a story.
What A says, what B says, and somewhere in between, the truth.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"..such as a gang of youths outside his house, or maybe he had been burgled or mugged".....
or more like,"my neighbour's cat keeps shitting on my lawn" or " when I walks down the street 'e gives I a funny look" and other such bollocks that people are want to phone 999 for.
What a nation of whingers the UK has become. Me old grandad who survived the trenches would be spinnin' in his grave if we hadn't cremated him.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's always three sides to a story..."
If we're on the subject of old adages, here's another, "The public gets the police force it deserves"

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know your elderly aunt. She's always mouthing off and probably deserved it.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Cliff said...

The protesting plods will get no sympathy from the general public who have suffered years of pay reductions (in real terms) and who have suffered roadside intimidation from these overpaid tax collectors with speed guns.

Why should the police be a special case? They no longer protect us from violent muggers or “happy slappers”, they can’t be bothered to investigate burglary, they shoot innocent civilians, and they fiddle crime detection statistics by booking motorists.

They failed to avert three terrorist plots, but they shot an innocent electrician and some guy who wasn’t building a chemical bomb.
If they worked in the private sector they would soon learn that incompetence, laziness and figure fiddling leads to the dole office.

We could reduce taxes by making the police redundant and transferring their workload to the traffic wardens. Even those vegetables could operate a speed gun.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous PC YOUNG said...

Has any other policeman noticed how law-abiding members of the public seem to be getting older every day?

8:46 PM  
Anonymous skydog said...


Simon Heffer gets it!

5:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Has any other policeman noticed how law-abiding members of the public seem to be getting older every day?"

And more miserable. Load of whingeing softies! Fine, let the moaners have a reduction in council tax but withdraw ALL police support to them. Then the police could concentrate on those people who appreciate the help given to them. There are plenty of them out there but they don't tend to gob off.
Get a life you clowns...how would you have coped in WW2 like my generation did?

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to keep things simple myself. So lets consider the basics of the Police pay squabble: Our Police force is there as a way of ensuring and enforcing our laws. Our laws are nothing more than a set of principles translated to specific situations. They boil down to truly basic stuff like not stealing things, not killing people and so on. They're dressed up as acts of Parliament and written in excrutiating detail but most of us could answer questions about "is it legal to... or not" and be right most of the time.

So let's try one out: If you say to your mate OK, if Johnny says I owe you a fiver, I'll give you a fiver, you have my word, and then Johnny duly confirms the debt at a fiver and you say you'll only pay three quid, how do you expect your mate to react? Now, ask your mate to go and collect on some debts you think you may be owed elsewhere. Classic labour behaviour (sorry), do as I say, not as I do. (Tories would probably do the same thing but with different excuses!)

Finally, telling the police they have had large rises recently and thus they shouldn't get the full amount now is lame. They received those rises as they were so poorly paid before. Cutting back on the annual rises simply, inexorably, slowly returns them to the same poorly paid position.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous ANON said...

Something worth bearing in mind is that coppers very often bear an uncanny resemblance to the people they tend to arrest.They even look like them. Now let a mental image of that sort of "citizen" flit across your minds, and let those of you who are old enough remember the ranks of riot shield rattling coppers having a field day against those fighting to save their jobs (i.e the coal miners). Consider the "I couldn't give a f*c k" attitude of the underclass, and translate to copperdom. It's not hard. Truth is, very few coppers join to "serve the public" or, at least, if they do, it doesn't last. Most coppers are firmly entrenched: it's "US" (the public) against "THEM", the police, and strangely enough, many coppers actually have more respect (and more in common with, see point 1) for the criminal. Traditionally, at least, you knew where you stood with the criminal, and once upon a time, he didn't moan (much) when he was caught. Joe Public? Who knows why, for example, the bloke at number 21 grassed up him at number 27 for having no tax on his car? Was number 27 banging number 21's wife? His daughter? Does 27 have a nicer car? Did he do the same to number 21, a month ago? Imagine trying to make sense of the myriad of reasons and motives Joe Public has for getting the Fuzz involved: the criminal is infinitely more straightforward.

In other words, the words and deeds of Joe Public are largely unfathomable. Hence, the police do not respect the public, and looking at it rationally, it's easy to see why. But this is not right.

Add to this the fact that what's always been the blight of the police is the low intelligence of the average officer. You don't need much in the way of brains to be one, and let's face it, penpushing and going to politically correct "diversity" courses and a firm grasp of career ladder scaling will gain an officer promotion far quicker than will an exemplary record for law enforcement and the respect of the public.

Yes, modern coppers are useless, but so is modern law. More laws equals more criminals, and people end up NEEDING more laws to tell them right from wrong, because LAW is now the only arbiter of what IS right or wrong: if it's legal, it's right: if it's illegal, it's wrong, whereas a truly moral society doesn't NEED laws to tell it this.

Example: if people had the brains to drive properly, we would not need speed limit sign posts everywhere: common sense would dictate that on passing a built up area, it is right to go slowly, whilst out on the open road, with good visibility, the stupid 70 mph limit would be unnecessary. But we have speed limits and endless signs etc because we are now a culture than needs to be told right from wrong. Another example is pedestrian crossings: motorists stop if the traffic lights tell them to, but utterly ignore ordinary "zebra" crossings, where we're supposed to stop when someone simply looks like they're going to use it. Before traffic lights told us to stop, we did it ourselves.

Being a copper must be a little like being a doctor: you spend your time giving out good advice and guidance, but it fails utterly to change anyone's behaviour. I admit, I'd be disillusioned, too.

What I think is that yes, coppers are tossers (and always were: they'll get no sympathy in any strike from me, quite the opposite, I still remember the Miners Strike), but Joe Public has become far worse, and no matter how many coppers we have, or what quality, the main onus for decent and lawful behaviour lies with us. The expression "law abiding middle class" is far from truthful, but, like the police's indifference to "low level crime", is the middle class's definition of criminality any better? I think not: it's not really crime, it's perks, everyone does it, it's hardly bank robbery , is it?, etc etc. From tax dodging to insurance fraud to parking in "disabled only" spaces at the supermarket, few see these "offences" for what they are: but taken as a whole, as an attitude, they're one good reason why society has worsened. If we want coppers to have zero tolerance, then it's time we (the public) practised what we preach. Besides, manners and thoughtfulness cost nothing, and are the oil that keeps society moving smoothly.

We can't really expect the police, assuming they somehow get their act together, to reform society and to apply every law to the letter of the law, when wider society is so intrinsically corrupt and selective about their own criminality, however small.

It's a bit like blaming Teacher because the kids in her class are horrible little dragged up bastards with no socialisation and no manners or respect. Oh, hang on, we do that, too......

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Dodgy Geezer said...

I had a kebab once. My mate said it was shashlik, but I thought it was okay.

If anyone comes near me in the street at night I kick the living shit out of them anyway, just in case like, so who cares about the old bill.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see some intellectual discussion after the Sun and Daily Mail readers had their say.

8:18 AM  
Blogger El Casareño Ingles said...

All of which confirms in my mind that I made the right decision six years ago to leave the UK.

Strangely, over here there is far less respect for the police (who have in the past been repressive extensions of the state), yet there is much more respect for society and its "rules".

Laws of course are broken every day, speeding, parking, tax evasion, etc. The last burglary in the town I live in was before I moved here, over four years ago. Should any paedophile show up, the townsfolk would quietly deal with them and the police would be three monkeys wise.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for some parenting laws.

Where are all those violent teenagers coming from?

6:10 AM  

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