Whilst this is a well explored topic these days, I have been prompted to write this by comments passed by a serving police colleague. Apparently one fifth of all calls to the police these days are neighbours reporting people for apparently breaking the Covid rules. I am staggered. When did British people become like this? We used to scoff at stories of East Germans reporting on their neighbours to the secret police. We would never do that would we? Well, we are and it’s a very worrying trend. The government has repeatedly expressed concerns about “social cohesion” i.e., people falling out with each other. Their encouragement of people to report on their neighbours is the exact antithesis of a harmonious functioning community. Many police forces have dedicated lines for reporting Covid breaches. What does that say about policing priorities? You will struggle to get the police to attend a burglary, but more than 6 in a group and a blue light is guaranteed.
Why do people do this? Bottom of the list I would put the concern about law breaking. I know from my own police experience that the police will be used to settle scores if an opportunity presents itself. There is some evidence that this is what is motivating some reports. It really riles me to see the police misused in this way. The job is difficult enough without being involved in neighbour disputes.
A further concern is the way the police, and I have to say not all, but far more than I would expect seem to relish in over-enthusiastic enforcement of the laws. Sometimes the police are just plain ignorant of the Covid laws and are making it up as they go, leading to some embarrassing retreats. I wonder what sort of training they get these days. My basic police training overwhelmingly focussed on knowledge of the law accompanied by the mantra that if it is not illegal, its nothing to do with the police. We were law enforcers not social engineers. Not only do current officers appear badly trained, but there seems to be a high number of thuggish bullies getting through the recruitment process. An even temperament was one of the key attributes you looked for in a recruit. It seems that doesn’t matter anymore. I wonder if the drive to recruit so many more officers after the service was decimated by Theresa May has led to a lowering of standards. It certainly seems so.
More recently we have seen the British government and in particular the Home Secretary attacking the Russian government for the behaviour of their police in dealing with demonstrations in support of the Russian Opposition Leader Alexi Navalny. There was identical behaviour by our own police in breaking up anti lockdown and anti-grooming gang demonstrations last year and the protesters were judged to be offenders. But of course, it is those nasty Russians who are really bad. By the way, does the Russian behaviour of finding a way to drag political activists to court and locking them away in prison have any parallels in this country? I don’t think you need to look far.
Relationships with the public have deteriorated in recent years, so much so that it can longer be assumed that the police have unconditional public support. That support was earned over decades when the police were seen as fair, impartial and proportionate. Now they openly support some groups against others, embrace political campaigns and relish in policing our thoughts. Things are really bad.
For Britain conducted a poll of its members over a year ago about whether the police should be routinely armed. I voted in favour. I viewed the bobby as someone who deserved every protection to carry out their job in a society which is becoming more violent and criminal by the day. My vote was based on the conception of the street bobby battling against the odds, risking his life to defend British values of impartiality and fairness. I think that image is now misleading. The police are actively taking sides and I do not trust them anymore. When we revisit that vote later this year, I will no longer support routine arming.
We have come to a sad state when the police cannot rely on the trust of the public, but they and the government have themselves to blame. The McPherson report, the introduction of “Hate Crimes”, the creation of the “College of Policing” as the driver of wokeness and the adoption of political causes into the police agenda have all done damage in the public eye.
For Britain would fix this by removing the current Police leadership, abolishing Hate crime, disavowing the McPherson report and getting rid of Police and Crime Commissioners in favour of non-political local accountability. It’s a big task but we have the vision and energy to do it.
Retired deputy Chief Constable
Law and Order spokesman.