It’s good to talk! And Sir Ian Blair, Met Police Commissioner, wants to talk to us – the people – to engage with us on what sort of policing we want. Now Sir Ian is a very clever man. Sir Ian will only want to be talking if he wants something out of us.
My guess is that when Sir Ian says that we need to think whether we want more police teams on the beat; or more police put on the fight against terrorism, or better detection of identity fraud, or stopping trafficking and drug dealing, prostitution, car crime and graffiti and all, he knows it’s not ‘or’ – it’s ‘and’ – the whole caboodle.
So call me cynical, but I suspect his ‘conversation’ is all about a public mandate to ask for more resources. And if that’s what the public say they need – then we may well find that we the public are then asked to pay more for it.
First though, credit where credit’s due. Ian Blair’s recent major speech came over as thoughtful and showed more understanding than the Government seems to have about fighting terrorism – such as warning that the London bombings shouldn’t lead to a wholesale transformation of policing attitudes.
His point that crime-fighting policies attract a lot of interest, but relatively little serious discussion or research compared with health or education is also a good one. And it was good to hear him make a point I’ve often made – that far too often the police are left to pick up the pieces when society fails to care properly for those with mental health problems.
But then there’s the not so good: Ian Blair’s appearance on various news bulletins whilst seemingly not in possession of the full facts about the unfortunate shooting of Mr de Menezes and the revelation of his alleged attempt to hinder the Independent Police Complaint Commission Inquiry into that shooting have brought his judgement into question.
Sit this alongside the recent attempt to lobby politicians by the most senior police officers over the 90 days detention without charge and right now, you will find that many are very, very angry with Sir Ian indeed.
To many – including me – this has crossed a line. It is undoubtedly the police service’s duty to brief politicians – but when that briefing turns to lobbying it oversteps the mark.
During the general election he also overstepped the mark when he made a public statement as to his views on identity cards. It certainly seems that we are dealing with quite a different and far more political animal than his predecessor. Perhaps what is needed is a bit less show time and showbiz from our Commissioner.
It’s striking also that his concept of modern policing involves more police and more police powers and that’s pretty much the end of the story so far. Now – I’m all in favour of the new local police teams, putting more police on the streets in our communities in Haringey. But where’s the joined up thinking when at the same time Labour is wanting to axe the funding for so many community wardens in Haringey? And where’s the broader conception of the police service? There’s still too much of a drift away from local police stations to remote, impersonal centralised sites – with many police stations nearly impossible to easily contact on the phone.
The tragic recent shooting of two women police constables on duty is a timely reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that the police are called, thankfully rarely, to make on our behalf. It’s a reminder of the brilliant job they do – day in, day out – in fighting crime and protecting us from harm.
The respect and gratitude we feel and owe to our police force must not be compromised or tarnished by poor judgement or decisions by those at the top.