Thursday, May 18, 2006

Qui custodiat ipso custodes

From today's Gruaniad:
Rank and file police officers yesterday launched a pre-emptive strike against radical plans to reform their service by claiming that up to 25,000 full-time officers would be lost in the change...
According to the claims, forces would take on cheaper police community support officers, under plans being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers...
"We would end up with a paramilitary force only dealing with confrontational situations. That would be a tragedy for British policing. If disaster happens and we don't have the response, we are going to take the blame ... the public will be put at risk. This is cheaper policing not better policing."
More than that, as a lawyer acquaintance tells me, the legal status of constable is significant, constitutionally, these community support officers (who amount to a parrallel police force controled, in some instances, by local councils not police authorities) do not have the same legal standing - they have no more power than you or I (a good thing in my opinion, a democratic principle is at the very least that police should not have powers of arrest distinct from Joe Citizen).

The problem is that the loyalty of the police has been bought for decades through terms and conditions and pay increases, raising the cost of a copper means that it is very expensive to get full coverage to put police on the beat, rather than in vans swooping out of nowhere to grab what they see as offenders. A review I saw yesterday of this book
The Making of a Policeman: The Social History of a Labour Force in Metropolitan London, 1829-1914 / Haia Shpayer-Makov. - ISBN: 0754603377
suggests this isn't a new phenomenon:
Strikes were rare and harshly dealt with, but concessions soon followed — in 1872, and again in 1890 — in the form of pay increases and heightened pension provision. Thus, major concessions at moments of strife helped to preserve a paternalistic regime and paved the way for a growing feeling of professional identity and the ‘crystallisation of an espirit de corps’ (p. 266) within the ‘Met’
(Labour History Review, 70.2)

Labour have backed themselves into a corner - in an effort of sound and fury to make themselves appear tough on crime and to lower the perception of crime they have committed themselves to massive extension of the police and policing powers - police powers of arrest have been dramatically broadened under Labour - as have on the spot fines (i.e. extra judicial punishment). They can appear no tougher without effectively declaring martial law (and plenty of folks would welcome that).

The megaphone of security is drowing out any discourse of liberty of of social advancement - the anti-social will always be with us, and only a boot stamping on a yobbos face forever will save us.


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