Just Lock Up Baddies
The evidence for this is that "some forces do very much better than others" and it is therefore a matter of "culture and discipline" if we're snowed under with paperwork. As it happens, I totally agree with Mr Straw. My force, for example, is one of the best in the country at recording crime, auditing custody records and thinking up new ways to keep criminals out of court. The culture of Blandshire Constabulary is to meet targets, provide a never-ending audit trail of everything we do, and produce endless reports and policies explaining how it's never our fault if someone dies. All under the banner of "No Targets. Just Lock Up Baddies." * As a result of our efforts, Blandshire is rated pretty highly at the moment.
Funnily enough, what activities do you suppose are the ones that keep police officers tucked up indoors in the warmth? Might they perchance include auditing/audit-trail-creating and policy-writing? Might they include attending strategy and risk assessment meetings, pie-chart creation and poster design?
Police officers don't care about having to fill out forms, complete files and write lengthy statements, where they are clearly vital pieces of evidence forming part of an investigation. We care about having to do these things, plus a dozen others, for no good reason whatsoever. We care about doing things in order to tick boxes that trick people like Jack Straw into thinking that our force is one of the ones that is "up for it... really motoring".
Here's an officer who nicked someone to get tucked up in the warm.
(Scroll to about 3min in if you get bored)
I know where the Justice Secretary drew his conclusions about police officers wanting to stay in the warmth. All over police blogs, in the papers and in the canteens (the ones that are still open), officers have a language that includes talking about "nicking someone to get back inside in the warm", or "tucking ourselves up with a file for a couple of hours and a cup of tea". My book is full of anecdotes about trying to get off the streets and into a plate of cookies. Well there's one anecdote like that. These stories and this language are part and parcel of a job that should entail being 90% ON the streets and OUT in the cold - that's why we talk about it so much.
So Jack Straw's comments are insulting on a number of levels:
Because they infer that his government's way of measuring successful forces bears an actual relationship to reality.
Because he has utterly missed the point of what frustrates officers about the bureaucratic culture in Britain.
Because he has inferred that front-line police officers have some kind of control over how they spend the majority of their time.
Because he has unwittingly (or God forbid wittingly) echoed the deep feelings of a portion of society who always suspected police officers might secretly enjoy paperwork.
Finally, because he seems to have no clue, despite his position, what life is really like for a front-line bobby under his government.
If his are the words of the man partly responsible for choosing the way forward for the British police force, what hope is there?
Happy New Year, Mr Straw. I'm working.**
* This slogan has never and will never feature in a Blandshire Constabulary propaganda campaign. Because there are and we can't.
** By the words "I'm working", one should not infer that I am, at the time of writing, working. Merely it is meant to imply and inform my good reader that I will be, over the festive period, working some or all of the hours of the bank holiday day/days/nights.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.