Overall, I am a supporter of cutting public expenditure; there is no alternative given the horrible state Messrs. Brown and Darling left us in. And I have some notion of equality which says that what needs to be done must be done without exception, the police included.
That said, I do not want to see policing quality reduced - I am not sure how far it can fall anyway whilst still being worthy of the name. I quite understand the associations, commentators and Opposition MPs seizing the opportunity from the last week's events to make a case for stopping the cuts but I have little faith they will succeed. Or at least there is a distinct opportunity that they won't.
Why not then also have a Plan B; using the same facts, the same public opinion and the same fear as to the future to campaign for something which might be much more achievable. That would be shifting the focus from palliatives to prosecutions, from counselling to conviction - indeed, using what became a dirty word in policing around 15 years ago, but one used in the House by David Cameron today, from Service back to Force.
This, I think, would include, but not be limited to:
- Restoring the right of a Custody Officer to authorise charges - saving thousands in CPS lawyers' wages and ensuring that many more of the guilty actually face a court
- Strict guidelines on when a criminal can be cautioned - and how often
- Repeal or wholesale modification of the our Human Rights Act - not, as promised by the Government, trying to get it changed at source by amending the ECHR - to prevent some of its perverse effects
- Removing all targets for detections, which skew activity away from what might be needed
- Exempting Police Forces from the provisions of the Health & Safety legislation, reversing the dreadfully paralysing effects of the Met's corporate conviction
I am sure there are many other measures which would help, these are rather off the cuff, but you get the idea.
Essentially, the Government, Opposition and certainly the public as a whole are asking for more robust policing. Those in the fortunate position of being able to lobby at this time should not be blinkered by the cuts. Concentrating solely on them gives the Associations the appearance of a Trades Union, concerned with the well-being of their members above all else. Police Officers are better than that; they should grab the chance to make a real difference to policing - and thus to the communities they serve - so that some lasting good can at least be born out of the terrible last few days.