For some time I have been vociferous in my condemnation of the way in which policing is managed. Some have suggested that I may have some particular axe to grind, or I hold some hatred of senior police officers however, nothing could be further from the truth.
My sole desire has always and will always be; the drive for effective policing for the communities being served. It is what we all deserve, it’s the reason I joined the service and, it should be what we all demand.
And, to prove I hold no general disdain of, or malice towards, those of senior rank, past or present, it was interesting to read a piece on Facebook today by a past Deputy Chief Constable of mine.
Peter Walker, a previous Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police appears to agree with many of the points I have raised previously. The main difference being, he generally views the things that anger me from a more strategic viewpoint. That said, he also appears to hold a desire to see the correct delivery of policing across our county. A service that should be delivered for the benefit of the county and it’s communities, not for the enhancement of some senior officers’ CV or to promote a few local politicians.
Peter Walker says: IT’S TIME PEOPLE REMEMBERED WHAT THE IDEA WAS…
The front page of the Darlington & Stockton Times this week (Richmondshire & Hambleton) describes North Yorkshire Police as “hitting back” at claims from the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) concerning the lack of police response to metal thefts.
The CLA describes the Police response as “usually non-existent”. In turn a “North Yorkshire Police spokesman” says how seriously the force regards the problem. I tend to lose count of how many times such responses are given by the force – whatever the problem, it is being taken “seriously”. That’s OK then. Perceived criticism has been answered, we all move on.
Those of us who keep an eye on policing issues locally can, however, detect a trend.
There are about 150 fewer Police Officers in North Yorkshire and the City of York than a couple of years ago and the North Yorkshire Police Authority‘s financial plan envisages this reduction continuing over the next few years to the point where only 1270 Police Officer posts will exist. The last time the force was made up of 1270 officers was the mid 1970’s.
At that time, North Yorkshire didn’t just have three television channels and transistor radios playing the Bay City Rollers – the population was far fewer, roads were less congested, pubs closed at ten thirty during the week.
The culture was different in society – people didn’t see a life on benefits as acceptable, courts sent Burglars to jail, a sense of personal responsibility balanced the rights of individuals more effectively than today.
These (and other) societal issues reduced the demands on the police in themselves, but the massive increase in bureaucracy, the “target culture” of the last Government and the proliferation of “back office” jobs in policing hadn’t happened either.
It follows that to try and deal with 21st century policing without a critical mass of police officers in the force will lead to depletion of the patrol and detective workforce – to the extent that significant parts of both the city and county will suffer a severe reduction in the delivery of visible, interventionist policing that is necessary to prevent public order offences in the street and in the present context, opportunist crime – particularly in rural areas.
Given the North Yorkshire Police Authority has increased its own budget by some half a million pounds over the past few years whilst police officer reductions have been taking place, one has to wonder whether it has the maintenance of the number of officers at heart. It needs to be clearly understood that in this period of austerity, whilst budgets have been reduced, decisions about the numbers of police are not being taken by Government – these are local decisions, the allocation of the budget for policing North Yorkshire and the City of York is not set in Whitehall, but at the Police Authority office in Melmerby.
Locally, the reductions in police officers are not being matched proportionally in terms of the support staff who maintain the bureaucratic machine. At the same time, I understand that little or no effort is being made to reduce the time spent filling in forms – indeed, new ones have been introduced!
Whilst the CLA’s campaign is to support changes in the law relating to Scrap Metal Dealers, that is a matter for Parliament and the Government are on the case.
In the meantime, opportunist crime in both urban and rural areas is best interdicted by visible policing – Police Officers, with effective powers of arrest, operating with the confidence that when they stop people, reinforcements are nearby. Well trained, properly equipped, intolerant of criminality at any level – and benefiting from the enormous support and intelligence this community will give them willingly, if they only have time away from the police station to find out!
It is essential that the right issues are given priority when spending is being allocated by the Police Authority. The easiest way to do this may be to remember the idea is to deliver effective and efficient policing in North Yorkshire and the City of York – not the best Project Management or being renowned for great HR Policies. Police Officers are the number one priority.
Cut the bureaucrats – not the cops!
Succinct and to the point Peter… Being one of those who has watched and commented on the performance, or lack of it, and the sunshine PR rhetoric of the force, I have to agree with Peter. The strategic direction of policing, particularly (but not exclusively) in North Yorkshire, has lost direction. They appear to have lost sight of what policing is all about. But, it is the leadership and budget management that is failing the process, not the workforce failing the community they serve.
Decisions, of a strategic nature, can only be made effectively when those making them are supplied with accurate and factual information.
The problem often lies within middle management failing to explain to senior management how things actually are. In addition, many have no stomach to admit to their failings, especially to those in positions they aspire to…”All’s OK Sir, I’ve got it under control” when clearly too often they haven’t.
Many priorities in the police service have been skewed (and lost) by the self-important methods of those who actually manage the service. They have little or no real interest in policing per se, only their own career advancement!