Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 02:47 pmReading Time: 6 minutes
Canteen Culture This Culture That Culture – Why Policing Is Doomed, is it doomed? Is there an agenda out there to aid its demise?
The problems in Policing go back a very long way.
After the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence the Lord Macpherson labelled the Met Institutionally Racist. That was in 1999.
An awful lot of people interpreted that as meaning that every Metropolitan Police Officer was personally racist, and very little was done to disabuse the general population of that misconception.
Along came Social Media and that misconception spread to the Police Service across the country. If something is stated on Social Media it must be true.
So what is Institutional Racism then? How does it manifest itself in Policing?
Sir William Macpherson, in his report on the Met described it thus “The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.“
Nothing there about every individual officer being personally racist. Nothing.
The next stick that Policing was hit with was the “Canteen Culture”. What’s all that about then?
A “canteen culture” refers to the way in which people working in a particular workplace can develop a shared set of values and prejudices. The workforce in question is the Police Service. A conservative canteen culture is sometimes suggested as an explanation for police discrimination and the lack of fairness sometimes displayed in police discretion.
I freely confess that I don’t have a Degree in Policing, Linguistics or anything else. However to my mind a “culture” within an organisation suggests that it is something widespread within the organisation, the norm, something that new staff members are expected to join up to.
I spent 30 years inside the Metropolitan Police plus a further 3 years as a Forensic Auditor within the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that was, then, responsible for running the behemoth that was the Met. At no time was I ‘expected’ to partake in racist, sexist, misogynistic or corrupt behaviour.
At no time did the MPA, my employers, request my department to conduct an investigation into such cultures, and I’m totally unaware of any misgivings on the part of the MPA. Neither am I aware of any external enquiry or investigation into such ‘cultures’.
The Scale of the Problem
I’m neither blind, deaf, naive nor incredibly stupid. I have always acknowledged that some officers can be racist, corrupt, misogynistic, perverts or even murderers.
The important question is “but how many”? I don’t really know, and I don’t think there is even a dataset that is publicly accessible that will answer that question. The College of Policing’s Banned Officers List (whatever it’s official title is) would give us an indication of how many officers have been sacked for it, but serving officers? No idea.
1,000, 5,000, all of them? No idea, but I would stick my neck out and say not all of them, not even the majority, and certainly not the norm. There’s almost 140,000 of them, that would still be a small percentage
I shudder when I hear of officers taking selfies at crime scenes, the murder of a poor innocent woman by a serving officer stunned the entire Service, serving and retired officers alike. Not only do we not recognise that behaviour but we don’t condone it either.
Not only that but the Supervisors (Sergeants and Inspectors) wouldn’t condone or tolerate it either. But life was very different in those days, we didn’t have Mobile Phones (except ‘official’ ones), and certainly not Social Media with the dreaded Wassapp etc.
Recruitment and Vetting
Recruitment and vetting are two areas that definitely need looking into. The thought that a person can get all the way through the recruitment process and into being trained without speaking to a single human being is ridiculous. I had hoped that wasn’t true, but I have heard the same from too many different sources now. Vetting, done properly, is very intrusive, time-consuming and resource-heavy, not to mention expensive.
Many candidates simply won’t submit themselves to the appropriate level of vetting because of family skeletons (not necessarily their own), or simply an objection to being probed.
Why do we have so many perverts, rapists, misogynists in the Police Service? Simply because they are ordinary people who happen to wear a uniform and have certain powers.
As the founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, said ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’
They are no different, no better, no worse, than anybody else. They are the Common Man in the street.
Indeed, Robert Peel’s 5th Principle of Policing states this
To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
You may not agree that is still current or valid but I can assure you that even up to this day I have seen or heard of many examples of ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life. Those racist cops in London are frequently going home soaked in someone else’s blood because they have tried, with varying degrees of success, to save the life of some poor kid, often black, who has been stabbed on the streets of London.
No banter there. no standing back saying “it’s not my job, let the Ambulance do it”, they get stuck in while they wait for the Ambulance/Paramedic. Their reward for that? To be labelled racist and thugs, perverts or murderers.
Let’s get back to Supervision. In March 2010, before Theresa May’s onslaught on Policing, the Police Service of England and Wales had 107,873 Constables with 22,852 Sergeants and 7,222 Inspectors to Supervise them. Then we had the cuts, and we all know how that ended. Boris’s Police Uplift Programme is attempting to restore the numbers by recruiting and ‘extra’ 20,000 officers. So how does the Service look now?
The latest Home Office figures are for March 2021 and they show that the Service had clawed its way back up to 106,790 Constables supervised by 19,211 Sergeants and 5,941 Inspectors. 3,641 fewer Sergeants and 1,281 fewer Inspectors.
Since March 2021 the Police Uplift Programme claims to have recruited a further 2,286 Trainee Constables, but won’t have recruited a single additional Sergeant or Inspector, it isn’t their remit.
Add in the secretive nature of Wassapp Group chats, and the like, is it any wonder that supervision is lacking?
Morale is going through the floor and I’m hearing of many officers, who, if they’re not in the Pension Trap, are seriously considering leaving. You may think ‘Good’, but I don’t.
Adding to the plummeting morale, or even accelerating it is the constant criticism of Police by Newspapers, BBC, ITV (can’t speak for Sky, I never watch Sky News), politicians of all sides, athletes, footballers and the like.
Before you openly brand all Police Officers as being as bad as the worst, ask your local, or any other, Police Station if you can spend a few shifts seeing what it is they have to contend with, how they deal with it, and what they really say to each other. See first hand how much support they get (or not) from their senior officers. Then write an honest piece on how it went, and whether you still feel the same.
I have no idea who the next Commissioner of the Metropolis will be, but one thing is for certain, it won’t be anybody who is popular with troops he or she commands.
Add it all together and it just means that the whole fabric of Policing is destroyed, or rapidly heading that way. You may think ‘Good’ and that is your right, but that opinion should be based on actual reality and not the witch-hunt that certain high profile politicians, both local and central, have been conducting, ably aided and abetted by the Media, but, interestingly, not so much the local media. I wonder why that could be?
Where Are We Now?
I apologise for this long-winded rebuttal of some perceived truths but I couldn’t sit by and see the profession I was proud to be a part of be destroyed on the back of half-truths, innuendo and exaggerations. Policing is not perfect, it never has been, and the day it becomes perfect will actually be a sad day.
Those little bits that aren’t perfect are what keeps it going, Stop officers from throwing in the towel, allows them to go home at the end of their shift feeling that it has all been worthwhile.
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wants a Service full of Racists, Sexists, Misogynists or Murders. But before you hound me out of town, take a dispassionate look at where you work, Pete the Nerd in the corner looking at topless women in his lunch break. The bunch of ‘lads’ who go out to a certain type of club and whistle at the women, or try to cop a feel. I could go on but I’m sure you get my point. How is YOUR workplace and what do YOU do about it?
I will leave you with the prospect that this may well be my very last piece for a long time (what do you mean “thank ****”?), I can’t change anything, and I certainly can’t divert what is coming down the pipe, but I do beseech you to be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.