Saturday, 31 March 2012

Police Privatisation

We are all now aware that West Midlands Police and Surrey Police have issued an EU wide invitation to companies to tender for policing services. If you look at the tender it covers everything from :
  • Managing Performance
  • Bringing Offenders to Justice
  • Patrolling Neighbourhoods
  • Dealing with incidents, major and minor
  • Leading the Service
  • Managing Public Engagements 
  • Managing Resources
  • Protecting the Public
It is quite clear that almost all policing services are up for grabs by the private sector. We are being told that not all of these areas of policing will be included in any contracts. The broad range of services is being advertised for tender so the expense of tendering does not have to be repeated should the need arise. Oh really!

One example would be that private companies would supply investigators working under a detective to attend and investigate crime. Some forces already work this model except that the team under the detective are permanent and employed by the police. Surrey already do this and they have one of the worst crime detection rates in the country. I can see where this is going. A poor detective will have a huge crime workload and each day an agency will provide different staff to turn up and carry out enquiries. No continuity. Little idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the investigators. The public will get a very poor service with a reduced chance of their crime being detected.

Another example would be patrolling neighbourhoods. Security staff would take over from PCSO's and some neighbourhood officers. These would be on minimum wage with no pension costs to the police. What kind of service would the public get from these staff? Where does the accountability lay? What happens when it all goes wrong?

The two architects of this scheme are Chris Sims Chief Constable of West Midlands and Mark Rowley former Chief Constable of Surrey and now Met Assistant Commissioner. This has been over a year in the planning and now the new Chief Constable of Surrey, Lynne Owens, has been handed the baby on behalf of Surrey. Chris and Mark are the sort of leaders Tom Winsor thinks we are lacking in the police. Chris is an Oxford graduate and Mark Cambridge. They have both shot through the ranks spreading their wisdom and ideas, never hanging around long enough to be held to account for the chaos they have left behind. They obviously have the vision and leadership that the police service needs.

Mark Rowley

Lynne Owens is a far more practical and pragmatic beast. She has no intention of following the agenda she has been left by Mark Rowley and is backing away from the project as fast as she can without openly criticising her predecessor.

Chris Sims

Chris Sims must have realised by now that he is on his own with this project. Good luck to West Midlands Police! Privatisation could however provide all sorts of management and consultancy opportunities for retiring ACPO officers, but I am sure Mr Sims will not fall into the trap of champagne dinners, health spas and free lunches from former ACPO colleagues Lord Condon at G4S and Lord Blair at Blue Light Global Solutions.

For years we have been cutting the fat out of the police service. There is nothing left. There is a permanent smell of ammonia as the muscle of the organisation is now being broken down. There is an assumption that privatisation will bring about savings and efficiencies with it's more effective management. In my experience, when you bring 'civilianisation' or privatisation into the police, the roles become more inefficient. By the time the company has taken it's profit cut from the budget there will simply be less to spend on the service and the public will suffer with lower levels of service and standards with less accountability.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Winsor 2. Pure Buggeration!

Tom Winsor the rail regulator. He wants to do to the police what Beeching did to the railways

A year ago now I wrote an article entitled Police Shafted following the publication of the Winsor report, Part 1. That was quite simply an attack on the pay and conditions of police officers. The outcome of which will be that police officers, who are already demoralised by a totally ineffective justice system, will become further demoralised. Part 2 has now been published. This report recommends further reductions in pay and further attacks on conditions but is largely an attack on the office of constable and on the police service as we know it.

Let's start with fitness testing and get that red herring out of the way. For years now the Government has been softening up the public and media. They have been feeding lies to the press regarding  pay and conditions, such as police getting half a days pay for answering the phone at home. This nonsense was swallowed up by shallow journalists such as those at The Mail. All this was done to ensure there was no public support for the police when the Government wielded the axe to castrate the police. Winsor himself has focused on the fitness testing issue to try and suggest that his report contained nothing but quite reasonable recommendations. As long as there are safeguards for injured officers I don't have any problem with fitness testing. Scoring 5.4 on the shuttle run is so easily achievable only the most obese and disgracefully unfit officer could fail it.

In Winsor 2 it is the recommended changes in the makeup and management of the service that are the real issues, such as direct entry at senior management level, compulsory severance, new pay review body, lower pay scales for constables and locally negotiated pay.

Winsor says that the police are paid 15% more than other public sector workers. Really? I would love to see the comparisons. There are some public sector workers, such as nurses, working shifts and dealing with the muck of life. Nurses should be paid more. But most public sector workers are 9-5 Monday to Friday and the worst thing they risk is a paper cut. We deal with violent, disgusting, abusive people. We scrape bodies off the roads . We deal with victims of horrendous crimes. We get called to deal with the difficulties that other public services cannot. We work shifts. We can be required to work at any time. We work 24/7. If we get only 15% more than the average office worker then, quite frankly, it is not enough.

Winsor suggests that there is no shortage of police recruits and so the starting salary can be dropped £4000  to £19000 without affecting the quality of recruits. This is less than the salary of a Police Community Support Officer. I think this gives you a clue as to the standard of recruit he envisages. He is right, there is no shortage of potential recruits but the quality of the average wannabe cop is pretty poor. A starting pay drop will only ensure that  there is no other choice than these wannabe monkeys who will do the job for peanuts. God help the public they will be unleashed upon. I have mentioned before that there is no shortage of capable people wanting to become MP's. They earn a basic £66,000 a year plus huge expenses, of course. Over £200,000 expenses in the case of Eric Joyce MP, the drunken head butting yob. There are now more ministers than ever. 108 paid ministers earning between £82,000 and £142,000. After all, it is difficult to pay school fees on a basic MP's salary. The point is, I have never heard it suggested that MP's should take a pay cut as there are no shortage of capable recruits.

Winsor also suggests, to reduce training costs, constables should only be recruited from existing PCSO's, Specials or those who obtain the policing certificate. At a stroke this will ensure that diversity targets remain completely unattainable.

Winsor suggests that the pay scale for constables is reduced from 10 years to 6 before the maximum pay band can be reached. What he tries to hide though is that progression along the pay scales will depend on skill sets gained and in most cases will take much more than six years. Most constables will never reach the top pay scale as they will never acquire the skill sets  required to get there. No officer of any rank up to Chief Superintendent will reach the top pay scale unless they have 'critical skills and expertise.'

The most controversial recommendations in Winsor 2 concern direct access to the ranks of Inspector and Superintendent from outside the police service. Winsor foresees that the vast majority of Chief Officers will  come from the direct entry Inspector level, in the future. So what he means is that the vast majority of constables joining the police in the future will progress no further than sergeant and will be the low paid grunts on the street. A few ranker's will be allowed to apply to be inspectors but the vast majority will be graduates groomed for the officer classes.

We already have many graduates in the police. Around one in three have degrees and some of those are on the High Potential Development Scheme. They can progress to Inspector in 5 years. Most of them struggle to cope with the knowledge and demands of the role within that time. To do it within two years will simply be setting these young officers up to fail . Some catastrophic errors will occur on the way. We will end up with an officer class completely devoid of reality on the ground.

Inspectors within two years is alarming but of even more concern is the proposed direct entry to the rank of Superintendent. I don't think Winsor understands that a Superintendent is not just a manager. They don't just have to learn management and combat tactics, such as an army major. They are the senior operational commanders who have responsibilities in a vast array of areas of policing including firearms, hostage taking, serious crime etc. I personally do not believe that anyone can successfully enter the ranks at this level and be effective. Again the risks to the public are huge.

Winsor is also recommending that pay is locally negotiated. 'Why should an officer in Durham be paid the same as in London?' He asks. He wants a new 'independent' pay review body set up. Another quango that will impose pay deals on the police ensuring the lowest possible pay, lowest quality recruits and low morale. He wants officers who are not fit for full duties to be given low paid police staff jobs or sacked. He wants Chief Officers to be able to make police officers redundant.

What we are going to be left with is a police force full of demoralised, G4S style, underpaid security guards, led by incompetent public schoolboys and girls who will be the lackeys of their political masters (Police Commissioners.) The position of police officers as servants of the Crown will be gone and Chief Officers will be able to sack officers at will every time they mess up balancing the books. The role of police officer will be no different to any other occupation. If this is where the Government want to take us then we should have the same industrial rights as anyone else. Winsor 1 was a good shafting. Winsor 2 will mean the police service is completely buggered.

The Federation may produce a lot of hot air criticising the report but the reality is that they can achieve very little when we cannot take industrial action. I don't want to sit around and watch this Government completely ruin the police. The time has come for action to stop this nonsense. When the call comes for action officers need to take it. As a start, every officer should write to their MP. With extended families we potentially have more than 1 million votes. Time to use them. Reluctantly, I urge you all to sign the petition for the law to be changed so that police officers can take industrial action. Sign here.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Justice System Fails Again

MP Eric Joyce

There has been a lot said already regarding the behaviour and sentencing of Labour MP Eric Joyce. Mr Joyce went into the Strangers Bar in the House of Commons. He was drunk. He was abusive and then attacked a number of people in the bar, headbutting at least two of them. He caused injury to more than one of them. When the police attended he resisted arrest and had to be forcibly restrained. He was charged with four counts of common assault, the lowest charge that can be put with regard to a criminal assault.

As we know, Mr Joyce has been fined £3000. He has to pay compensation of £1400 to his victims. He has to complete 12 months community work. He has a weekend curfew and he is banned from licensed premises for three months. In the circumstances the judge did pretty much all they could taking account of the charges.

Mr Joyce has announced that he has no intention of standing down as an MP and will continue in that role until the next election. Quite rightly commentators have expressed their outrage that Mr Joyce has not gone to prison and that he will remain in his job as an MP. Imagine the furore if a police officer behaved in this way and was still allowed to keep their job. It appears that law makers are not required to have the same morals and ethics as law enforcers.  There is still one rule for those 'above stairs' and another for those 'below.'

The real issue regarding this case is that Mr Joyce was never going to prison once the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had ensured, as usual, that the charges preferred were at the very bottom of the scale. They are an integral part of the justice system that tries to keep our prisons empty and ensure deterrence and consequences are obsolete.

Mr Joyce could and should have been charged with Affray. He could have been charged with Assault Causing Actual Bodily Harm, a more serious assault charge. He could and should have been charged with resisting arrest. Once the CPS had watered down the charges to four counts of common assault, Mr Joyce was never going to prison.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Failing Justice System, Failing Society

Over the last 50 years or so we have become victims of an experiment by liberal policy makers, exacerbated more lately by our attachment to Europe and the Human Rights Act. These naive policies, which have supposedly given individuals more freedoms, have in fact resulted in the majority having their freedoms eroded. In the case of crime, the decent law abiding majority are now fearful of leaving their homes and worried about becoming a victim every time they step out of their door.

Most sensible people understand the underlying issues we have in society but we seem to be completely impotent when it comes to addressing them. Until the 1960's behaviour in society was heavily influenced by peer pressure. It wasn't Utopia by any means, but somewhere the baby has got thrown out with the bathwater. The rights of the individual has now gone beyond all sensible boundaries and the impact on others is apparently of little consequence.

One factor affecting crime has been the breakdown of the family unit. Single parenthood and both working parents has meant less direction and control at home for young people. There are some very good single parents but we all know that many struggle to cope and their offspring are more likely to underachieve and fall into crime. We are not allowed to say this however. We have been brainwashed by the politically correct brigade that single parenthood is a personal choice and we should not criticise others choices no matter what it costs us.

All authority has been undermined by liberal policies. We are told how we should, or often shouldn't, discipline our children. Children need discipline and guidance but we have an ever growing number of feckless parents unwilling or incapable of bringing them up to behave decently. They breed away secure in the knowledge that the working taxpayer will pick up all the bills and society will be left to try and sort out the mess. Schools, children's homes, Youth Offending Team etc., have all been indoctrinated that children must be treated as adults. Treat them with respect and they will respect you. The reality of this has been that authorities are held in complete contempt by unruly and criminal young people. They behave as they like, safe in the knowledge that there will be no effective consequences for their behaviour.

This criminal justice system is now infested with these liberal policies. Successive Governments have allowed this to happen on the advice of civil servants and so called experts, academics with no real understanding of, or grass root experience of law and order. For decades now successive Governments have been easily persuaded to adopt these policies on the false premise that it costs less to do so. The policies have allowed an ever growing pool of persistent offenders to commit offences with impunity. Treating children as adults has just meant that many of them have never grown up and they become children in adults bodies with no idea of how to behave or of responsibility to society in general.

In 1986 the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) came into being. Until then, the police prosecuted for the Crown. The CPS was sold to the public on the basis that independence was needed in the process and a more professional service. The reality is that the CPS have targets to reduce the number of cases coming to Court. Cases are dropped or plea bargained to ensure that justice is is rarely done. Prosecutions are avoided wherever possible to save money, meaning even fewer offenders face any sort of justice.

You cannot become a Magistrate now unless you pass the liberal policy test that means victims are of no concern and your role in the criminal justice system is understanding the offender is the 'victim' and consequences and deterrent have no place when considering sentencing. Judges have likewise been brought under control by ensuring that only those who toe the line are appointed or progress. Both have their hands tied by the sentencing guidelines designed solely to save money by ensuring that no one goes to prison until they are so far down the road of criminality that there is no chance of reforming them anytime soon. When persistent offenders do get their first six week prison sentence it is of no effect whatsoever.

Unless it is a very serious offence, by which I mean murder, rape or manslaughter, young offenders will usually receive a reprimand  for a first offence and then a final warning for a second. On reaching adulthood they are eligible for a caution before finally being charged and put before a court. The average offender has six court appearances before they receive a custodial sentence. So the average offender is caught and processed by the police nine times before a custodial sentence is imposed. The police only detect around 6% of all crime (not recorded crime.) This means that the average offender will have committed up to 150 crimes before a custodial sentence is given. A first sentence will usually be just a few weeks. No time for any rehabilitation. Too little too late.

The public are frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the justice system in protecting them but don't focus their anger on Government, partly because they don't understand how appalling the justice system has become, but also because they have been brainwashed that prison doesn't work. They have been told that community penalties are more effective when clearly they are not. Re-offending rates for community penalties are higher than prison. Most importantly though, persistent offenders cannot commit crimes, and increase their tally of victims, when locked away . Taking account of the fact that only 6% of crime is detected the actual re offending rates for persistent offenders are almost 100% whether they are sentenced to prison or community penalty. Prison only fails if we don't lock people up soon enough or for long enough to protect the decent law abiding majority.

50 years ago crime levels were 10% of what they are now. It wasn't perfect but it was a far safer country than it is now. You could leave your house safe in the knowledge that when you returned to it there was little chance that it might have been burgled. That is now ten times times more likely. You could walk down the street knowing that the chance of being robbed was almost non existent. Now you are 20 times more likely to be a victim of a street robbery. We are one of the pariahs of Europe. Crime in the UK is double the European average. America and South Africa are portrayed in the press as violent countries. The reality is that you are far more likely to be a victim of violent crime here than in those countries.

Governments and the justice system have completely failed to protect the public from persistent offenders. By ensuring that these criminals almost never face any meaningful consequences it is actually rewarding their behaviour. Worse still, we have all been brainwashed that it is not the offenders fault. They are the victims of their upbringing and society in general. The message is that their offending is our fault and so the public should suffer the guilt and consequences of their behaviour. Offenders see that  crime does pay very well, so the number of offenders is increasing and the cost of tackling it is now prohibitive. We have been abandoned to the persistent offenders. Successive Governments have given up protecting us. We are told to protect ourselves. We should invest in alarm systems, better locks, CCTV. We shouldn't walk down dark streets at night or use our mobile phones in public. We should hide our valuables from sight. If we don't, then when we become a victim of crime it is our fault for being so stupid when we know persistent offenders are hovering like vultures waiting for their next prey. Taking these preventative measures simply ensures that someone else will become the next victim instead of you. Next time it might be you instead of someone else. We are also told that our fear of crime is imaginary, that crime is nowhere near as bad as we think. Government, Local Authorities and the police have invested enormous resources trying to convince us that our fear of what we see and feel every day is imaginary. This is inexcusable tosh.

In general, the police have kept plugging away, arresting offenders and doing all they can to get them into the system and hopefully, one day, some sort of effective penalty. There are signs now that police morale is failing as a result of the persistent failure of the rest of the justice system. This should be of major concern as the police are the only part of the system currently of any effect. They are the only reason our current prison capacity is full despite the best efforts of Government and every other part of the system to keep them empty.

Decent law abiding members of the public are rightly fed up with our justice system. They see motorists being given hefty fines and points on their licence which has significant consequences for them, while thieves, robbers and burglars walk away laughing with no consequences at all. Persistent offenders treat the police, like the rest of the justice system, with contempt. Decent members of the public are losing confidence in the police, as we are the public facing part of the failing system, whom they hold accountable. Some commentators suggest that more police officers are needed to tackle the current crime epidemic. I disagree. If the justice system properly incarcerated the persistent offenders that the police do catch and ensured there was some effective rehabilitation, crime could be cut by over 50%. This would then allow the police to focus on the remaining persistent offenders and allow the public to start enjoying a life without a genuine fear of crime.

We need to totally overhaul our justice system. For persistent offenders it is a laughing stock and rather than providing any consequence or deterrent it encourages them. Cautions, fines and community penalties have their place but once these have been tried and failed then persistent offenders need to be incarcerated to provide an effective punishment, rehabilitation and, most importantly, justice for victims and protection for the public at large. Persistent offenders need to understand that continuing to re offend will mean more of the same for a longer and longer period. CPS targets should focus on convicting the guilty. The sentencing guidelines and the liberal sentencing policies need consigning to the bin.

The riots last August were a wake up call. A warning of what is coming if we do not change the current failing system. The growing numbers of persistent offenders are becoming bolder in the current climate. Thankfully, the police have put a lot of resources into catching those responsible for the riots. For once, the Government, frightened by what they saw, demanded that the ludicrous sentencing guidelines be overridden. Many rioters have received their just desserts, to the consternation of the hand wringing liberals. This may give us some breathing space, but rioters aside, it is normal ineffective business in the justice system and so we can expect more serious disturbances on our streets.

We should use the recession as an opportunity to invest in prison building. Prisons should be reformed so that there are military style punishment elements moving on to education and learning prior to release. Sentences should be served fully and early release only considered for those that work hard, achieve and show genuine reform. All foreign criminals should serve a minimum punishment term and then be deported with no opportunity to return.

I understand that much of what I have said is heresy to some, including many brainwashed, ambitious, senior police officers. I honestly believe that unless we make changes our society will continue to decline on its present course. I for one am fed up with trying to defend the disgraceful justice system and conning the public that crime is lower than it really is.