Police – Politics Promises and Tosh

This is in all probability going to be a lengthy article so if you cannot concentrate for ten minutes I suggest you leave it here. 

I read an article in the local newspaper the other day that on the face of it was very plausible – as most politicians are – but which however when examined closely was – now let me find the right words – utter tosh.

Now please don’t get me wrong I believe that the cutting of more than 21,000 police officers nationally by the Conservative Government is not simply wrong but quite frankly the height of stupidity.

And if ever a Government has scaled to the maximum heights of stupidity – allied to also being callous and cruel – then the Governments of Theresa May and David Cameron are it.

The nearest I can find to compare them with is the incompetent Governments – also Tory – who were in charge between 1932 and 1939.

But that’s another story for another time.

So let me get back to the article that was written by Louise Haig MP who is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Justice.

For ease of understanding I have put her article in italics and my take on them in standard font and I should say this is only my personal view on the articles content

So let’s start –

The article starts with…

When the most recent crime figures were released, they revealed that recorded crime had risen at the fastest rate for an entire generation

The last time our communities suffered a surge on this scale was 1992, the year of Black Wednesday.

In Devon and Cornwall overall crime is up 21% while violent offences have risen 29% and robberies have increased by 25%

What Louise is saying is that this is the largest surge during the generation of those know as the Millennials born between 1985 and 1994 and if the data is accurate she is unquestionably correct.

The reference to Black Wednesday is a neat political touch reminding those born before 1970 that it was a Conservative Government that crashed the economy.

As for the overall increase in crime figures she is absolutely correct that this is what the current data shows without of course explaining that she isn’t actually comparing like for like because the way in which data is collected and recorded was changed under both the Labour Government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as under this Government.

In fact the most recent change was in the categorisation of crimes that was implemented in May 2013.

Comparing apples with pears with tomatoes is a common political ruse which sticking to the fruit theme is bananas.

Nevertheless the level of crime is and quite rightly should be a major concern for everyone.
However let’s look at the accuracy of the percentages that Louise has used.

Firstly she doesn’t say “which annual data” she is using so I’ve – and yes it only takes a very short time to check – used the National Crime Statistics for Devon and Cornwall comparing January to December 2016 and 2017.

The comparative data is that the number of “recorded reported “crimes are:

Please note the wording because it is important because we can only go on what has been “reported and recorded” and they might not be the same.

I know there are those who justify their positions by claiming that this is only the ‘ tip of the iceberg’ and that not all crime is reported with between 5% and 55% going unreported.

But how do they know?

Without the evidence it is no more accurate than putting your finger in the air and guessing.

However the recorded reported data for Devon and Cornwall is :

Violent Crimes 28801 (2016) – 39220 (2017) an increase of 10419 or 26.5%

Robberies 391 (2016) – 485 (2017) an increase of 94 or 19.4%

Which means that even the figures quoted in the article are not accurate and have been – in the current political vernacular – ‘Sexted Up’ to make a political point which in itself undermines public confidence in the police.

What I find annoying is the use of percentages to make a political point – of which all political parties are guilty – when talking about crime and the criminal justice system.

What should concern everyone is that in the last year alone in the area I live there has been 39,220 victims of violence and 485 victims of robbery.

To put that into some kind of context the population of the two nearest towns to the village where I live – Newton Abbot and Totnes – is 26000 and 8,500 a total of 34,500

Imagine the uproar if every person in Newton Abbot and Totnes had been subjected to an act of violence in 2017?

The point is of course that it isn’t only the victims directly affected but their family and friends as well.

Anyway back to the article which goes on to say:

The Tories like to pretend it has nothing to do with them. 

They insist it is just coincidence that after they cut more than 21,000 police officers nationally crime is starting to rocket.

But ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a Bobby on the beat in your community?

For many it was along time ago, last year two fifths of people said they never see officers on foot patrol, and the truth is our communities are exposed.

Well where to start

To start with cutting police numbers isn’t necessarily the reason that crime is increasing.

The reason crime is increasing is absolutely – in my view – down the Conservative Government policies but it is their policies of driving people into homelessness, poverty and austerity that is the main cause of increasing crime through frustration and desperation.

Whenever the United Kingdom – even during the years of war – has faced austerity, poverty, poor housing and poor employment conditions crime has increased.

And yes cutting 21,000 police officers is nothing short of Government criminality but not because it increases crime but because it seriously restricts the police capability to detect and bring to justice the perpetrators.

And yet to their credit they must be doing something right because our prisons are full, in fact there isn’t enough prison places available which means every year ‘police cells’ and police resources are having to be used to house prisoners in police cells.

I always smile when a politician -of any hue – brings out the emotive Dixon of Dock Green (Millennials will have to look that up on Wikipedia) Bobby on the Beat card.

I’m of an age – Bloody Baby Boomers – who remembers Dixon and Z Cars and the good old “It’s a fair cop guv I’ll come quietly” myth of policing.

But here’s a clue – this is the 21st Century and criminals have access to vehicles that can travel above 100mph.

And guess what – unlike Constable George Dixon who was killed in the classic British film The Blue Lamp the on the beat “evening all” – bend knees – bobby is not going to be revived across the wide open rural spaces and villages of Devon and Cornwall.

Or for that matter anywhere else.

I’m afraid anyone who thinks a modern day “George Dixon” with his cape – and even if he has a bicycle – wearing all of the equipment they now have is going to be a match for a modern day criminal is living in cloud cuckoo land – or as I now refer to it – Westminster.

Police on foot do exist but they exist where the consistent and constant problems arise namely in towns and city centres especially on weekends when the British indulge in their favourite revelry of drinking to excess and getting into fights.

As for 40% of people never having seen a police officer on foot patrol I can only assume that Louise has carried out research that showed that 40% of the population has never visited a town or city.

That’s 26.4 million people across the United Kingdom and a paltry 666,000 of the population of Devon and Cornwall (is the number 666 a hidden omen) who have never seen a policeman on foot.

And so back to the article which goes on:

So with our police at breaking point, what have the Tories chosen to do?

Rather than give our police the funding they have asked for to fight soaring crime and keep us safe, the Tories chose instead to slash Home Office support to local forces by £100m across the country in real terms over the next year.

To put that into context, that money would pay for about 2,000 police officers nationwide.
To add insult to injury they expect hard pressed local taxpayers to cover the cost of those real term cuts.

Forces which have seen the biggest loss in officers will gain the least from this plan.

Now I agree – don’t be shocked – with Louise that our police forces are at breaking point.

I also agree that the decision to cut funding to forces by another £100m is ludicrous and the act of a Government that is completely out of touch with the reality of policing in the 21st Century.

However where an earth has the £100m equates to 2,000 police officers come from?

Did Louise or her staff not check – clearly not – because if they had they would have found that the maximum starting salary for a police officer is £23k.

Are they really saying that the on-costs of employing a police officer is £27k.

There is something seriously wrong if it cost £50k to employ someone who is only receiving less than half of that in salary.

And yes it is wrong to expect the tax payer to pick up the shortfall but it smacks somewhat of being disingenuous because that has always been the case.

Back to the article…

The Government cannot say they were not warned about the consequences of this.

The UKs most Senior Police chiefs wrote to ministers last year and told them in no uncertain terms that if the police were not properly funded it would “expose gaps in the protection of the public”, neighbourhood policing would all but fade away, and you can forget about the fight against anti social behaviour.

With this I have no argument with Louise Haig

So onwards…

Alison Hernandez the current Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, does not believe that things will get any better under this Tory Government either.

She predicts that funding will drop even further saying that the “projected budget gap in the three years 2018-19 to -020-21 is further £8.8m”.

Last Friday the Police and Crime Panel accepted her plan for an increase in the local precept, voting to add 6.8% to bills – the equivalent of an extra £12 a year for a Band D property.

This will bring an additional £7.2million to the police budget,

Apart from the fact that I have no idea how some of the Police and Crime Commissioners have reached the positions they have only Alison Hernandez can confirm if this is her view.

I did smile at the inferred criticism of the taxpayer having to pay an extra £12 a year to ensure at least the current level of policing is maintained.

Being asked – even as a pensioner – to pay an additional 25p a week doesn’t seem too high a price to pay.

Would this be a good time to say that savings could be made if the position and offices of the Police and Crime Commissioners was scrapped?

The article continues…

Today all Devon and Cornwall MPs will have the chance to vote in the House of Commons on Conservative plans for yet another year of real terms cuts for the police.

The occasion is MPs being asked to approve the annual grants to police forces and local government in England.

The police are dealing with soaring crime as well as filling in for cuts to other public services.

Labour are calling on the Government to urgently think again and come back with a fair settlement that properly protected the communities.

And we are calling on Tory MPs to stand up for their constituents by voting down Theresa Mays latest cuts to police budgets.

Tinkering around the she’s after nearly eight years in which they have undermined and eroded the police simply won’t do it.

This is simply a statement of political posturing.

I would have been more impressed if Louise had explained what she believes a “fair settlement ” to be.

Stay with me this is the final section of the article…

Labour has a plan to make Britain safer and protect our communities.

We would recruit 10,000 officers to fight rising crime and restore the model of neighbourhood policing eroded by the Tories.

The first duty of any government is to keep its citizens safe.

It is high time this Government remembered that.

The plan is to recruit 10,000 officers.

Let’s examine that statement for what it says, what it infers and perhaps as important what it doesn’t say.

What it infers is that the Shadow Minister for Justice and her party are content and agree with the cuts of 11,000 of the 21,000 police officers cut by the Conservative Government

What Louise doesn’t say is whether the proposed 10,000 officers are to be additional to the existing workforce or replacements for those who are leaving.

If they are additional then using her own figures – which I’ve already argued are nonsense – 10,000 police officers would cost £500 million a year if recruited in the first year of a parliament or £100m a year for every 2,000 if evenly spread over the period of the parliament.

The problem of course is that the 43 police forces are losing officers at an alarming rate.

Last year (2016/17) there was 7475 leavers (Death 57, Dismissal 289, Medical 587, Normal Retirement 4507, Voluntary Resignation 2035) as opposed to recruitment of 7526 giving a net gain across all forces of 51 officers.

What Louise doesn’t say is what she will if she becomes the Minister of Justice do to address the issue.

Louise Haig MP is correct in saying that the first duty of Government is to keep its citizens safe and that Governments should remember this.

However she should also remember that those citizens also include police officers and their families who under successive Governments have had their professionalism and morale undermined.

It would help if politicians whether in Government or Opposition if they want to be trusted by the public start by being accurate and clear in what they claim and what they say as part of their on-going “mock scoff and throw buns” criticism of other parties policies.

And before anyone thinks I’m only getting at Labour and the Conservatives the other parties are equally to blame for failing to support those who work in the Criminal Justice system.

And finally – sigh of relief all around – I suspect (but have no evidence) that this article with a few minor changes to mention the specific area has been circulated throughout the country and published in a number of local newspapers.

If it has please read it again and see if it relates in any way to where you live

You may be surprised – or not.