Knife Crime – A Faux-Academic’s View

I confess, I have never been an ‘academic’, I left school with two A Levels and a Jamboree Bag. In truth, I’m never likely to be an academic either. I have had three jobs since leaving school, and every one of them involved being a practitioner of one kind or another. I’m not intimidated by ‘maffs’ and ‘riffmatic’ though. A set of numbers is just another challenge.

As most of you will know I have a ‘thing’ about Knife Crime and somehow seem to be at odds with some of the more established academics about Knife Crime and its prevention.

So, I wrote to all 43 Forces in an attempt to get a true picture of the scale of the problem across England and Wales. Then I thought, I can draw some pretty graphs and charts too. I won’t feel so left out.

It has to be said I got a colourful variety of responses, some Forces even went overboard and gave me far more data than I had requested. Some gave their results in Calendar Years, and some in Financial years, but at least they gave me something I could work with. One Force that shall remain nameless suggested that I contact the Coroner as they couldn’t tell me how many persons had been killed by knife or bladed object. A small number haven’t yet replied, so where you see value of zero on a graph, they are almost certainly one of those.  In the case of the Met I am still waiting for the figures for the second half of 2017.

With 5 Forces still to provide me with ANYTHING the total number of people killed by knives or other pointed objects in England and Wales was

2015 – 158

2016 – 177

2017 – 173

The total number of people injured by Knives etc (e.g. non-fatal stabbings etc) was

2015 – 9272

2016 – 9922

2017 – 8719

I expect all of these figures to rise, especially the 2017 totals, once I finally get the outstanding data.

Where did all these attacks happen?  Are there any unexpected hotspots?

As a faux-academic I think it’s quite clear that there are only maybe half a dozen or so Forces that have a real problem with Deaths and Injuries by knife etc. However any death is one too many, whoever the victim is, whatever his/her background is and whichever Force it is.  The killing simply has to stop.

One point that I feel I need to expand upon, I have heard figures quoted that are massively bigger than those above.  In the main they refer to knife-enabled crime such as robbery, aggravated burglary, any offence where a knife is produced but not used to cause injury.  We must definitely not forget those crimes but here I am concentrating on deaths and injuries.

What can we do about it?  I have written about Knife Crime many times before, and unless anyone comes up with another, better, suggestion, I still see the two ways forward as a) Education and b) Stop and Search, preferbaly in conjunction with each other.  I have read ‘proper’ academics papers that suggest that Stop and Search has no effect on Knife Crime.  I don’t have anywhere near enough pieces of paper to argue with that effectively, but I simply don’t agree.  Any weapon used in the commission of an offence is carried through the streets at some point.  During that time it, and its carrier, are always vulnerable to a Stop and Search if sufficient grounds exist.  I have always maintained that to retain its credibility Stop and Search should be used, but used lawfully and ethically.  I have previously written about the reduction of Stop and Search instigated by Theresa May, and the main post can be found here.

Finally, I have heard it said that ethnic minorities are unfairly targeted by Stop and Search.  I have always maintained that if you test the ‘available population’ that is no longer true.  Last night I happened upon this post in The Spectator which not only appears to support my view, but states that government knew this but had it spun differently.

Police Chiefs – Let Me Introduce You To The Hymn Book

This is the Hymn Book  

 and we should all be singing from the same one.

For the last 5 years Rank and File Police Officers, Retired Police Officers and a large number of members of the Great British Public have been pointing out to an unheard get, uncaring government that enough is enough, you can’t cut the number of Officers across England and Wales to the degree that is being proposed without subsequent consequences.  I think that is quite realistic.

Some time later he Federation got on board and kicked off what, in my opinion at least, was a highly effective and informative #CutsHaveConsequences campaign with huge billboards and a series of videos.

Finally, just in the last few days or weeks really, the ‘Chiefs’ have begun to speak out, but what they have to say really is too little, too late.  They should have been shouting from the hilltops 5 years ago, not leave until the absolute, critical, last minute.

What bemuses me is this.

In a situation where everybody outside of government is agreed that there aren’t enough cops why, oh why, would anybody even consider making cops Compulsorarily Redundant.

The fact that NPCC are even having a vote on the issue speaks volumes.

You do not solve a critical shortage by making people redundant, so why do we need to vote on it.

What we need to do is to be as efficient as we can be, save money wherever we reasonably can, and when that limit is reached TOUGH. When the money finally runs, and it will, the government of the day will have a choice

a). Properly fund an adequately resourced Police Service or

b). Allow the Police Service to fail, pack up and go home.

Our Police Officers are Warranted Officers, Servants of the Crown, answerable and accountable to The Queen. They are NOT, and should not be treated like, Political Puppets.

You can bring in G4$, $ERCO or T$G Policing, but they are all private companies, answerable only yo their shareholders.  The Queen doesn’t get any say in their activities whatsoever.

Whilst certain politicians, for whatever reason, might want to include and involve Privatisation in Policing, but do any of them really want to be responsible for its total collapse and death?

For the Front Line there is the #DoItRight approach.

For NPCC there is the approach of “doing the right thing” and steering the Police Service as best they can, looking after it and keeping in as good a condition as the government will allow. Their consciences will be clear and they will have earned the respect of their troops in doing so.

Or they can just vote YES to Compulsory Severance, then we will all know who’s who and where we all stand.

Get the hymn book out before Wednesday and make sure we’re all on the same page.

To Stop Or Not To Stop – The PCC’s Answer

After my earlier post on Stop/Search I forwarded a copy of it to Adam Simmonds, the Northamptonshire PCC.  To be honest I didn’t expect a response, but to be fair, he engaged with me on the open medium of Twatter and offered his explanation and referred me to the relevant report on his website.

Reproduced below are his words, verbatim for fairness.

I cannot agree with much of what he said, but here is his explanation of the policy;

Nowhere in this dialogue does he explain where it is that he and the Chief Constable get the legal right to withhold this statutory power from any officer no matter how bad they are at Stop and Search.  He also had no answer to my being horrified at his assertion that one third (26%). (I know, his maths not mine) of all Stop Searches have no basis in law.  When I pointed out that Stop/Search was an officer’s Bread and Butter and it was incomprehensible to me that they couldn’t use this power properly and needed retraining, he again had no answer.

The whole basis of his policy seems to be based on this;

The OPCC’s report, which is based on interviewing over 1,000 people in Northamptonshire to understand their attitudes towards the police’s use of stop and search, reveals:

64% of people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire were aged between 13 and 24.

Of the respondents who had been stopped and searched, half (49%) thought the police officer had no justification in stopping and searching them, 41% disagreed that the officer/s treated them with respect and 39% disagreed that the officer treated them fairly.

57% of survey respondents said that they did not receive a copy of the stop and search form and they were not offered one.

68% of survey respondents said that the officer did not give them their details (name, ID number).

The above figures were based on 1,000 respondents to a survey. 1,000. Out of a TOTAL population of approx 700,000, less than a quarter of a percent of the population responded.  Statistically valid?  Possibly not.

The one thing that did warm my soul was reading the report on his website and discovering that no less s personage than Duwayne Brooks will be conducting a review of Stop and Search for Mr Simmonds.

In addition to publishing the findings of his report into stop search and the police response to that report with their dramatic changes, Mr Simmonds is also today launching a further review into stop and search to ensure that practise matches up to policy; that proposed changes are implemented and an examination of public confidence and awareness in this crucial police power.

Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence, who was with him on the night of his murder, will be carrying out the review for the PCC.

Some time later he reappeared on my Timeline, in response to a suggestion that Body Worn Video might be useful;

But didn’t seem to have a reply to this

So I guess the jury is still out, but by no means a convincing performance from the PCC in question, and no explanation where the authority comes from to suspend an officer’s rights.

To Stop Or Not To Stop, That Is The Question

I saw and read a whole load of ‘stuff’ yesterday about Stop and Search.  Some of it was, quite frankly, bollocks in my opinion, much of it was supportive and well-intentioned.  A very small percentage was just plain lunacy. I’ll leave you to work out which was which.

It all started of with Adam Simmonds, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire and his view that Police Officers who abused their right to Stop and Search suspects should have that right taken away from them.  Northamptonshire police has quietly introduced the sanction that has already seen eight police officers banned from being able to use the power on the streets.   Simmonds, a Tory PCC, said officers would have their stop-and-search powers removed if they had conducted searches that were deemed inappropriate on three occasions.

My initial reaction (the polite one) was “who on earth does he think he is that he can remove a lawful power granted by statute?”  No less a personage than @InspectorGadgetBlogs reminded us all of this.Denning

Oh, but then it got so much worse.

“If someone is stopped for no reason or inappropriately then that person is a victim. I want the restorative justice approach for cops. I want a cop to say sorry.  This will make the police more accountable and give the public confidence in the police. It’s a good opportunity for cops to step up their game,” Simmonds said.

My thoughts on this, for what they are worth, are that

1)  3 ‘Strikes’, as it has been referred to, should not mean “You’re Out”, it should mean that the officer is facing some kind of disciplinary enquiry and sanction, not a removal of his/her lawful powers.  What use is a Police Officer on the streets who can’t Stop/Search someone when appropriate because they’ve been Red Carded?

2) If the officer has acted with good intent then the Police and Crime Commissioner should be supporting that officer.  It seems like another Tory PCC buddying up to Theresa May in her war against the Police.

3) 3 unethical or inappropriate Stop/Searches indicates a lack of supervision as much as anything else.  Tighten up the supervision, problem goes away, everybody happy.

4) Why on earth has the Chief Constable not put the PCC right and come out fighting on behalf of his officers’ powers?

5) EVERY single time an innocent person is stabbed, shot etc by  a weapon that has clearly been carried through the streets I want Mr Simmonds to think on that and hang his head in shame.  The job of the Police in containing knife crime in particular is NEVER easy, you don’t need your own PCC making it twice as hard.

6)  Apologise for an ‘Inappropriate’ Stop/Search?  Who is to determine and assess ‘appropriate’?  Almost every officer I ever knew would offer an EXPLANATION as to why somebody had been stopped, and that was normally sufficient.  To haul an officer in weeks later to apologise to that person is more akin to Ritual Humiliation than Apology.  If the officer has been disciplined for his conduct and found ‘Guilty’ then an apology MIGHT be appropriate, but in the absence of a formal Finding of Guilt, or conviction at Court, then I would suggest that this policy does nothing but weaken the image of an already beleaguered  Police Service.

I have no idea what the local and national Federation make of this lunacy, but perhaps local Fed can work with Mr Simmonds and the Chief Constable to come up with a solution to a perceived problem that is less half-baked.

#DoingItRight

It sounds boring.  “What has it got to do with me?”

Doing it right is an excellent piece of advice and becomes more relevant by the day.

Policing is under attack from any number of directions. High Profile cases are being lost at Court that really should have been won.

Cruella and friends are constantly chiselling away at Stop and Search.

Our new best friend Sophie Khan is constantly waiting in the wings to sue us when someone gets Tasered.

Doing it right doesn’t even stop at the Front Line. Every aspect of everything we do should be done right. The Home Secretary would love to cut back on Stop and Search, even in the face of the seemingly rising volume of Knife Crime. If Stop and Search is Done Right and properly checked and supervised after the event we can robustly defend a) the individual Stop/Searches and b) the practice as a legitimate tactic. WE know it’s vital, but we have a better chance of retaining it if we Do It Right.  I’m in no way saying that you don’t, just putting my thoughts together.

When the evidence stacked up against a suspect is so very overwhelming it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and assume that the quantity and quality of the evidence will see it through the Courts.  When the evidence is all-conquering it’s time to challenge the procedure. How galling is it to get a case thrown out at Court because there has been a slip up in procedure or something has been forgotten?  It’s becoming more and more important to make sure the procedure and paperwork are 100% as well as the evidence.

It’s absolutely VITAL that Professional Standards Departments Do It Right.  Morale is at an all time low, we don’t need to be fitted up by our own.  If wrong-doing is found or suspected it’s perfectly right and appropriate for PSD/DPS to investigate that wrong doing, and prosecute if appropriate, but they too need to Do It Right. We’ve heard too many instances where PSD/DPS have not done it right, particularly in relation to Disclosure.  This does no good for anybody, is unprofessional, unethical and quite possibly unlawful. #DoItRight PSD and you’ll have much more credibility, support and possibly more satisfaction.  If it is possible to DISPROVE an allegation why would you not do that?  What possible satisfaction can you get from stitching up your own? #DoItRight and everybody benefits. Stop chasing targets and chase the truth for every allegation.  I have no problem hearing the truth, however unsavoury, but it gives me no satisfaction hearing stories of malpractice within PSD/DPS.

Authorising Officers, you Inspectors and Superintendents, you also have a duty to #DoItRight.  Every application from anything from a simple Subscriber Check to intrusive surveillance, don’t just sign it. Read it. Make sure it’s appropriate, make sure all the boxes have been ticked. Don’t just automatically sign it and move on, then we might not be where we are today, appearing in front of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and even if we do we can defend it robustly and confidently.

Finally, it is only by Doing It Right that we can demonstrate, with confidence, how time consuming certain activities (like prisoner processing, report writing, Crime reporting etc) are and the true effects of budgetary cuts are having on routine Policing.  I know how tempting it is to cut corners. I know what it’s like to have the Duty Inspector bellowing at you to get back out on the streets, but sometimes that’s the wrong thing to do.  Sometimes it’s vital to finish what you’re doing before you move on to the next call.

Nobody likes “No Unit To Deal” but we didn’t ask to be put in this situation.  A call only becomes your responsibility once you’ve accepted it. You’re assigned, from that very second you are responsible for its outcome.  Once you are free to accept the next assignment, fine you’re in play. Let “No Unit To Deal” become the Management’s problem. It can become one of the statistics they’re so fond of to help show that we actually need more Bobbies, more Tecs, more Dogs, more Horses, more Cars.

I know it’s a pain in the arse. I know it doesn’t sit easily with the Police desire to get the Job done at any cost, however difficult. I know it doesn’t sit well with our desire to serve the Public well, but maybe by #DoingItRight we are actually serving the Public well, if that helps to justify the demand for More Not Less.  We all KNOW that all you get for Less is Less. The only thing you can achieve with Less is Less.

Work Smart, be Efficient, do your very best, but Policing still needs more Cops, not less.

In my humble opinion #DoingItRight in EVERYTHING may just help us to achieve that long term.