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More words of wisdom from the Express and Star

June 26, 2006
No apologies for posting another article from the local paper. Sometimes the simplest things work, but it needs courage to do the simple things.

Any chief constables who may venture across this blog (or their staff officers surfing the net waiting for the next policy document to cross their desk) should consider whether they are really serving their communities properly with their “innovative” ideas.

Tony Blair goes into an inner-city neighbourhood on a “consultation exercise” on crime and comes away with a flea in his ear.

For the people of Bristol, like people all over Britain, are fed up with consultations, strategies, mission statements, focus groups and all the rest of the meaningless blather of Blairism.

While politicians, spin-doctors and so-called experts pontificate on crime and dream up ever-snappier soundbites (today’s Blair buzzword is “defeatism”), ordinary folk are in a state of siege.

The people of Bristol told Mr Blair exactly what he would hear if he bothered to speak to the people of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, West Bromwich, Stafford or anywhere else.

They are living in terror of feral gangs who, quite simply, have nothing to fear from the law.

One distraught resident told the Prime Minister how a local family had caused £10,000 damage to his property, forcing him to dial 999 more than 180 times.

The Government which promised to be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” has failed to deliver. Its gut instinct is to pass new laws instead of enforcing the old ones.

Meanwhile in Stafford, police are proving what everyone outside Whitehall already knows. Crime is not some terribly complex academic subject. It is bad people doing bad things.

And the best way to stop it is to put enough good people on the streets to deter the bad people. How simple is that?

In Stafford’s Highfield Estate police have introduced foot patrols from 8am until midnight. Anti-social behaviour has fallen by a quarter in a year.

The superintendent in charge calls it “Dixon of Dock Green with attitude.”

Here, in six little words, is the sort of policing Britain needs. Yet in ten long years New Labour has failed to grasp the point.

Forget grand strategies and new laws, Mr Blair. Just give us more bobbies on the beat.

Couldn’t have put it better myself, so I won’t bother!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr Dan H. permalink
    June 27, 2006 09:49

    Here’s another useful concept in policing: good and effective use of information technology.

    Say you nick a youth for something. In the local police station computer you create a new crime object in the machine’s database. This will have a unique key which if the youth has been caught before will be that key, else will be made up on the spot.

    Into the file goes all the details. Each field has its own set of permissions, so someone with low-level access only sees that it exists, mid-level access gets you something different and so on.

    The copper creating the thing only ever has to type in information once; after that all references to the thing are on the lines of “Refer to unique ID ####”. Once created the system then automatically prints out the info on paper, and sends it to a clerks’ office to be filed. This is necessary in case the computer breaks down.

    Where data can’t go into the computer, it gets logged into a warehouse, with a barcode on the box which corresponds to a look-up table entry (kept on disc and on file card, printed out at the same time as the box goes in).

    The essence of the system is to minimise the time the police officer spends doing paperwork. Paperwork is something clerks do; clerks can be paid much less than officers, and wheelchair users etc. can be used for this work, thus satisfying the top brass’ requirements for diversity, etc.

    This sort of system would mean employing a number of clerks for filing work, building a useful computer system (i.e. one with local servers backing up to central ones), and retraining officers. It would however put more police officer time back out on the streets, streamline processing of prisoners and likely save money.

  2. Stan Still permalink
    June 27, 2006 18:04

    I appreciate you taking the time to explain your theory, but to be honest with you, it is not anything that those of us at the front line haven’t already thought about, suggested and questioned.

    There are any number of systems out there that could do this job for us, but they cost money – big money. So we have to make do with legacy systems that can’t talk to each other, let alone talk to machines in another force or organisation. It is a truism that generally speaking, police IT departments are populated with IT staff who know nothing about police work and are managed by senior police officers who know nothing about IT.

    There is a national body, the Police Information Technology Organisation (although they may have changed their name recently – everyone else does) whose role in life is to develop systems that can be used nationally. In all the time they have been in existence, I cannot name one system or process that they have improved. They are a waste of time and money. They developed a Case & Custody system, which was rejected by our force, because it was worse than the product that we used before the current system we have. The current system is about ten years old, so that gives you some idea how poor the PITO solution must have been.

    If you go into most police stations these days, you will see the latest flatscreen monitors and sexy looking workstations, but they will be running programs that a ZX Spectrum would laugh at. It’s all about image, not practical usefulness. In addition, the very fastest machines will be located in the offices of people who have all day to do nothing, whereas the ones who need to access or process information urgently (ie those actually involved in police work) are given the steam powered machines.

    Another sweeping generalisation, but the best IT specialists would not get out of bed for the money available in the public sector, so we get what’s left. A similar thing happens with solicitors – The best ones go into private practice, while the also-rans end up in the CPS. Need I say more?

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