It isn't easy being blue
Last year the youngest Alfer had some problems at school. He was bullied, subjected to racist language, followed home and had a couple of iPods taken off him. The school excluded a couple of the offenders for a few days, then excluded little Alfie Alfer - for his own safety. The police were called in.
The police liaised with the Alfers, who liaised with the school, who liaised with the bullies. The school suggested this and that, the police liaison officer tried that and this. None of it made Alfie any safer at school and none of it satisfied the Alfers. They demanded further action. Finally crime reports of assault, racist public order, harassment and robbery were created. The 12 and 13yr old offenders were arrested. They had never been in trouble before, they admitted parts of what they had done and denied others. They were given youth warnings and released. Several weeks later, the Alfers took their youngest son out of the school and now he's being home-tutored. When John Alfer came to the local nick to complain, the inspector reasoned that there was little more the police could do. John Alfer went to the media, who ran a few stories, and the Area Commander of Blandmore huffed and puffed in a few meetings. Now the Alfers hate the police, and the police aren't too keen on the Alfers.
Meet the O'Meegahs. William and Barney O'Meegah are 12 and 13, not evil boys but loud, pushy and confident. Last year they fell out with a class-mate and had a scrap in the playground. The school suggested they take a few days out. After returning to school, nothing was said for a few weeks. Then, suddenly, the police battered on the O'Meegahs door at 5am, waking the family's disabled grandmother and giving her an angina attack. The boys were arrested, had their shoes and watches removed, were shoved in a cell for hours and then grilled over their conduct in the playground. Bewildered, they explained what had happened and were given youth warnings. No one told them that these could prevent them getting a job before they turned 18, and would be held forever in local police files along with their fingerprints and DNA (albeit deleted from national databases).
Their father, Dave O'Meegah, made a complaint to the inspector that the process of children maturing had been criminalised. He might have raised his voice a bit. Finally he got arrested for public order, and now he has a criminal record too. The O'Meegahs hate the police, and the police take witnesses when they go to see the O'Meegahs.
The Alfers and O'Meegahs are the victims of National Crime Recording Standards, Youth Justice, the schools' system, Social Services and nationally set police targets. Should the police officer who turns up at the door, with all his life experience, values, prejudices and biases, be the one to decide who is right? Or should the decision be taken by a Parliament that is objective, distanced, dispassionate and inhuman?
When does the recording of a trivial crime cease being the police's fault, and become the fault of the person who reported it? When does the failure to stand up to low-level persistent crime cease being the public's fault, and become the police's failing? Where does a police officer become "the police"? Can you blame the police officer at your door for this state of affairs? Or this? Or this?
It's all one great big mess. Someone do something.
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