Cutting the right things
Even where the offender is known and has been charged, these leads need to be followed to iron out any possible defences for the suspect or accusations of "tunnel vision" by the police, and to keep an open mind that we might have got the wrong guy.
All of this means that detectives will be seconded from all over the force for weeks at a time, to tackle this veritable onslaught of minor enquiries. A lot could be done by civilians, but if you use trained detectives they're more likely to pick up on the one snippet of information that opens a new line of investigation, and as police officers they are more accountable if they fail.
It is quite clear that the Met's investigation into serial sex attacker Kirk Reid did not follow this "gold standard" of investigation. Whoever allowed targets and minor offences to distract them from hunting down this scumbag is rightly now in the spotlight of the IPCC.
But what is also clear from the IPCC's findings is that no matter how much of a stranglehold the number crunchers of the Home Office gain over the police, no matter how much government pressure is loaded onto us, no matter how trivial and how wrong the focus of those holding the purse-strings, nobody in Whitehall will ever be prosecuted for a failure by the police to do our job.
If budgets must be cut and resources limited, as a citizen of this country, I know where I want the police's attention. Not on my Neighbourhood Action Group or the endless spats between mutually abusive families. Not on brawls between drunks in their own home, or the one-up-manship of a street of neighbours. I want it on vile domestic abusers, recidivist robbers or burglars, and the taxi driver who offers me a lift home, only to take another route.
If the police are to deal with any of the above in these hard financial times, it is time for us to say "No" to some of the people at the other end of the phone. That means upsetting a good proportion of the public, and attracting some negative victim satisfaction surveys from those who think the police has nothing better to do than stand outside their house protecting their parking space and trimming their neighbour's privet hedge. It also means ignoring unachievable government pledges and taking direct control of what, how and when the police approach the tasks laid at our door.
If I were a Chief Constable, I'd run my police force exactly how I saw fit. And I'd take anyone to court who tried to stop me.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.