The Police Debate: Time to look Forward NOT Back!

Metropolitan Police officers on patrol in Lond...

Policing in the UK is changing beyond all previous recognition and much of that change (in my opinion) isn’t good for our society. For years there has been far too much political interference in the policing process and now it’s set to get even worse (see here).

The service has also been subjected to any amount of self-interested and/or lack lustre leadership and wrongly, the public have consistently been deceived by the lies and half-truths of politicians and police governance…

Masses of political rhetoric, public relations hype and manipulated statistics have provided the public with a distorted view of reality, mostly for self-interested reasons.  Media sensationalism and (unfortunately) I have to say, the attitude of many cops when dealing with the public hasn’t helped the situation. The raison d’être of some police officers, mostly reflective of traits prevalent within our society, is often worrying.

In short the British police service is actually being hoisted by its own petard. In addition we now see large rafts of largely unaccountable privatisation (see here) in a service that has also become a little too insular.

Policing has never been changing as fast and as much as it is today… While public demands for better policing continue to rise and the government pushes through a major police reform programme, the police find themselves striving to deal with new threats posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime while working within tighter budgets imposed by the recession…(www.police-foundation.org.uk)

You will note that I (unlike many today) use the term ‘service’ despite having joined it during the era when it was usually refered to as a ‘force’. Strange how the nomenclature is also at odds with reality? When policing was actually delivering ‘service’ we called it a ‘force’ where as now, it often does little more than apply ‘force’ in confrontational situations and we choose to call it a ‘service’ and it’s actually getting worse.

To my mind; any police ‘force’ must be in place to ‘serve’ the community it is responsible for policing but unfortunately, the divide between service and confrontation is getting even more prevalent (see here).

This week the debate about British policing continues at a pace, mainly thanks to the Police Federation Annual Conference (see here) but for how long? Next week after all the stage-managed and theatrical dust has settled we’ll be back to political rhetoric about policing from both sides of Westminster, all interspersed with the pieces of sensational investigative journalistic tripe. All in continuance of the mostly unintended consequence that is; undermining public confidence in policing.

Although the general change in tac from the Federation over recent years, from the individual to a more organisational based ethos is to be commended, I can’t help thinking it may be too little too late?

Vested interests from all sides of the divide will remain evident. But unequivocally, I have to agree with The Police Debating Directive blog, as the author points out – “Without healthy, informed debate we [the police] will never be the organisation that we and the public can be proud of.”

But, as with any debate, it’s far too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The current debate must be about the concept of British policing as a whole, not just ‘my job and my pay packet’ however; as much has revolved around this later area of late, it isn’t hard to understand the apparent waning support for the police officer’s cause.

Because of all the self-interest displayed by various groups in the debate, it’s also not hard to understand why looking for any effective change is like wading through treacle. The change that we seek (IF change is actually required) must however be solely to the benefit of our society as a whole, it has to be far less insular.

The Police Debating Directive: The Boys are Back in Town: I’ve been watching closely, the last few weeks, seeing how the police fight back against the proposed reforms develops… We are seen as the street-level face of the power, heartless agents of government; because we have been put there. We are often the only contact people have with authority and as such we are easy to hate, hard to love; the urge to fight us is overwhelming and it shows on many fronts…(More)

But it’s often far too easy to get entangled in the here and now, a prime example locally has been Maxwellgate… This week Grahame Maxwell, ex Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has left the force. He may have proverbially shuffled off with his tail between his legs but to many, the sickening last episode of this messy debacle is the fat wallet in his back pocket, that and the smug grin on his face…

As most in the area (and probably nationally) also know, Maxwell narrowly avoided dismissal last year after a charge of Gross Misconduct. He was subsequently given a final written warning at a secret disciplinary hearing. Now, to add insult to injury for his staff and the public of the county, he leaves his £133,000-a-year post with a handsome severance payout to the value of c£250K (see here).

Maxwell’s five-year tenure at North Yorkshire police was never without controversy however, the problems generated for the force by his leadership was nothing new and his predecessor also created difficulty for officers and declining public support. Many will remember how Chief constable Della Cannings was unrepentant about accusations of excessive spending and her £28,000 shower (see here).

But what of the legacy for policing in the aftermath of the politics, the media, rude and/or incompetent (sometimes but rarely) dishonest officers and the lack lustre leadership within North Yorkshire Police?

This week Tim Madgwick has taken over at the helm of North Yorkshire Police, following the retirement of Grahame Maxwell after five years in the job.

The temporary Chief Constable of North Yorkshire has said the force must move forward after the controversy surrounding his predecessor…(bbc.co.uk)

Commenting recently on Facebook about the above news I said; “Out with the old and in with the new – at least this ‘new brush’ was actually ‘built’ in North Yorkshire… Congratulations to Tim who is probably more likely than many to actually have ‘his’ force at heart. The public (and their officers) will find the proof of the pudding in the eating as they say!”

I for one am looking to the Police Federation nationally, the temporary new Chief Constable locally and indeed police officers as a group, to ethically and holistically drive forward the debate about the wider picture of British policing for our future. It’s possible but rest assured I won’t be holding my breath for too long!

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 18-05-2012, in Police, Public Service Babble and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jammy Dodger

    He may well be local, but to get to his position he has played the necessary political game of ‘do what the Home Office say is the way forward’. He will be another Home Office clone.
    Remember ACPO presented Winsor with all of the proposals that are Winsor 2 in order that they can show how with the programme they are and get their Knighthood or Damehood, screw the troops who deliver at the pointy end.
    You can’t be the hangman and blame the rope.

    Like

    • Knowing Tim personally I’m confident that he is actually the best of the rest for the post at present. However, as in the past, there is always a chance that his ethics will change with his new grandeur but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

      Like

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