All too often these days, the media and public complain about how the legal system, social services, and most prominently the police, continually fail them as ‘victims’. Is this a valid observation and complaint? As a person who has served others (in one form or another) for the majority of my adult life, I find this public perception and/or belief somewhat concerning. Especially when it appears to be all too often true.
I often ask myself searching questions like; as a society have we descended to such a low-level whereby our own personal or organisational needs are, in some way, more important than those of the victim? Do we really know who the victim is any more and more importantly, do we really care? Are we more concerned about the subsequent critical examination of our actions (or inactions) by all and sundry, often made with the advantage of hindsight, than the needs and welfare of an individual? Is the likelihood of a media fuelled witch-hunt, or months of criminal/civil litigation, a more daunting prospect than any injury or death which may befall a fellow human being, simply because of what we have or haven’t done?
One example of these situations has been brought to my attention again today. Now it is highly possible the media only have part of the story, but still choose to report upon it for varying reasons and, again with the benefit of journalistic hindsight, they chose to castigate police actions. However and on the article’s face value, the way in which Essex Police appear to have dealt with (or failed to deal with) the following incident has raised all those questions once again…
Farmers fury after gipsy death threats 999: A frightened farmer who called 999 after gipsies threatened to kill her was stunned when the police who eventually arrived told her they would confiscate her legally held shotguns. Tracy St Clair Pearce, 50, was confronted by four men carrying a chainsaw and a knife, who warned her they would kill her cattle at her farm in Colchester, Essex… (Read more)
At the time of reading there were some 235 comments from the public. Many simply voiced the concerns I’ve raised above, some were simply anti-police, some were misinformed about correct procedures however; I found the following one of particular interest to me…
“The Police have become so politically correct over the past 14 years, that they do not have any fall back position anymore. Any common sense was educated out of the Police service by the increase in graduate entry in 90s.”
The comment although probably somewhat flipant, is particularly pertinent to the situation. Especially if you consider it in light of the ongoing debate about the Neyroud Report. A recently published document, commissioned by our government, which seeks to guide future police training and the development of police leadership.
I believe one of the major factors at play in today’s police service is; we (they) all tend to look on every thing as either black or white, we forget how the vagaries and diversity of the human species actually has the propensity to produce a lot of grey areas.
Having the ability to make informed, sensible and robust decisions about anything, let alone incidents such as the one above, requires a good deal of maturity, knowledge, training and experience. Some of which is sadly lacking in a lot of police leaders today, much of which can only be trained in part, and all of which will be subject to investigation (enhanced with hindsight) after the event.
We need to select and train our police officers correctly, we need to equip them adequately for the task and most importantly, we must trust and support their discretionary decision-making. In many ways, victim failure is the fault of our society; we spend our time constantly searching for scapegoats. We live our lives as individuals in our own comfortable and virtual environments, places where any meaningful human interaction is limited.
As police officers necessarily reflect the society they actually police, I fear the service will probably continue to fail victims from time to time, unless we choose to change things. How we go about that is still open to debate!
- Farmer’s fury after gipsy death threats 999 call results in her legally-held guns being confiscated ‘in case she retaliates’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Police ‘failed’ victim of yobs (mirror.co.uk)
- Domestic Violence Deaths To Be Fully Reviewed (news.sky.com)