When will someone hear?
I could rant about this topic for hours, the alternative being that I succumb to the fact that the press, public and government seem totally utterly unable to grasp two crucial facts about policing:
- Being "on the beat" is not some kind of panacaea of all evil. There's more to do than just kick police officers all out of the nick.
- It isn't "paperwork" that is the problem. It is bureaucracy, faux-accountability and endless hours of time wasted carrying out lengthy tasks to tick boxes and cover backs.
What we DO mind is writing out a 12 page illegible witness statement for a job that is never going to see the inside of a police interview room, let alone a courtroom. We DO mind filling out files for CPS that we know are going to get dropped for lack of evidence, because there just wasn't any evidence to gather. We mind very much spending whole shifts chasing down every last witness to an assault in a crowded pub, when none of the victims want us to bother and no one was badly hurt anyway.
Other things police officers mind include:
- spending two hours waiting to book a prisoner into custody whom we only arrested because someone in the Senior Management Team saw a crime with a named suspect and thought we could squeeze a detection out of it, when we know from the start that we can't.
- arresting people for crimes where "racism" or "religious hatred" is involved when if neither had been mentioned we wouldn't have bothered and in either case there is the same chance of ever getting the case to court.
- having to "no-crime" half the incidents we attend because the caller was lying, wasting our time or had changed their mind about reporting it by the time we arrived, with the option of telling them to shut up and go away having been stripped away from us.
- prosecuting kids for being kids because the crime is "on the system" and a named offender is a named offender at any age.
When I read articles like the above about how the police spend their time, yet again seeing the phrases "on the beat" and "paperwork" sprayed throughout it, I despair that the message will never really get across. It's almost a plaudit to this government that they've successfully made 21st Century Policing so complicated that nobody can actually understand what's wrong with it.
Good people are going mad trying to do the right thing with the wrong tools. The whole thing is rotten to its core.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.