Sunday 1 November 2015

A right old Poppy Show?

I have hinted a few times on Twitter and Facebook that I think Chief Police Officers are crying wolf a little bit about the cuts they face.  Not that the cuts aren’t real, or savage, or deep.  Just that, in order to emphasise their political point and to try to gain public support for their opposition to them, they are selecting examples that they think will have the greatest impact.  I suppose that is human nature.  They cite forensic examinations only at odd-numbered houses; not visiting every residential burglary; not investigating serious assaults; email us your own scenes of crime photos – all these have been chosen for maximum public impact and to shock.  Because the withdrawal of officers seconded to diversity outreach projects, or writing ‘Equality Impact Assessments’ (which, by the way, you really should search for on your local force’s website), or ceasing to cover for local authority agencies which refuse to maintain a 24-hour service just do not excite the vast majority of the population in the same way, do they?  Even if, truth be told, they should be the first place the axe falls.

They have though, now, gone too far.  By refusing to enforce road closures and thereby depriving towns of their traditional Remembrance Day parades the leaders in places like Essex and South Yorkshire (although I am sure there are others) have struck gold.  I can just imagine the gleeful grins at the Chief Officer group meetings when somebody came up with the idea.  Because not only does it strike at the heart of the community, not only does it give a hugely visible demonstration to everybody of the wickedness of the cuts but it also fits in neatly with the mistaken, but oh-so politically-correct view that Poppy Day, parades and honouring our war dead is just a little bit right-wing, nationalistic and of course, racist.  So it is a win-win: Demonstrate the effects of the cuts and wave the flag for how on-message and inclusive we are too, all in one two-line decision. And all the opposition will be turned on the cuts, not on the Police decision.  I mean, we aren’t going to see the Epping Royal British Legion instructing counsel for a judicial review, are we?  As much as I would love to. 

Obviously nobody had the wit to realise or suggest that the dishonour is equally applicable to the many black, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish men and women who have given their lives for this country.

I have advised reading this piece – – before.  It shows that our policing is ridiculously expensive, that it is the bureaucracy and the non-core activities which have added in the cost.  Strip these away, concentrate on policing and the available funds, even after cuts, will be able to provide much more. 

As a minor example, consider the ‘Equality Impact Assessments’ I referred to above.  My local force, Suffolk Constabulary, has 80 or so of these available on its website.  Covering many different policies and practices.  Each is a multi-page document, written by somebody, monitored by somebody and updated by somebody.  Who knows, maybe they are even sometimes consulted by somebody and found useful, but this might be fanciful.  They contain a few gems – my favourite so far is here:

It is an assessment of the impact of their traveller encroachment enforcement policy (which, as far as we residents see, in practice is to do nothing) on transsexual travellers resident on an illegal site.  Forgive me if I have an advantage here, but I have spent quite a few hours of my life on traveller sites, for one reason or another, back in the days when the policy wasn’t to do nothing.  And not only have I never seen a transsexual, the attitudes displayed towards anybody not conforming to their distinct lifestyle and principles was less than tolerant, so much so that I suspect Suffolk Constabulary’s policy might be the least of worries for that individual.  Where does all this utter garbage come from?  Well, there is a requirement in law for each Chief Officer (i.e. Chief Constable) to certify that all new policies have been assessed for their potential impact on equality.  Which of course is fine, except that it has spawned a whole new assessment industry, costing not just paper and ink but people and time.  

Now, staying with Suffolk Constabulary, there is a certain sharing of Chief Officer functions with its neighbours in Norfolk, but the salary costs for the joint top team will be at least £500,000 per year.   I do not begrudge them one penny of their salaries, but I expect that for our money we might expect a bit of leadership and responsibility, in all areas.  And one of those ought to be equality impact.  Why do they need a team, an assessment, a document written by others?  Surely they have the intelligence and experience to look at their new policy and decide that it complies, or needs to be changed to comply.  Why can they not just be a leader and do this, cutting out all the bureaucracy and cost of these documents full of drivel? 

Did anyone just shout out “Responsibility”?  Of course, how silly of me.  If the assessment is done by others and it is wrong, there is the corporate responsibility / organisational contrition / institutionalised incompetence defence still available.  If somebody puts his or her name to it then there is always the chance they might have to take responsibility themselves.  And 21st century Police leaders really don’t know how that works.  Perhaps they could outsource it?  The assessments I mean – they outsourced personal responsibility years ago.  That might save some money and we could get back to having Remembrance Day parades.