We Don’t Need A New Commissioner
Last Updated on May 7, 2022 by RetiredAndAngry
Oh, I’m going to get so much stick for this post, but it’s not in my nature to say nothing.
Before I begin I ought to point out that I’m no fan of Dame Cressida, but that doesn’t stop me thinking that she’s being unfairly treated.
Policing in general, and the Metropolitan Police specifically, have their problems. Instances of officers being prosecuted for a variety of offences or being dismissed for Gross Misconduct are making national headlines almost every day.
Let me be quite clear, some of these criminal and disciplinary offences are horrific and the proceedings are totally justified. Is that the Commissioner’s fault? Of course it isn’t.
I don’t know what it is that attracts such criticism of Dame Cressida. Is she personally responsible for any of this? No, I don’t believe she is.
There have recently been cases in the press involving misconduct or criminal behaviour by officers outside of the Met, including one case where an officer caused the death of an ex footballer. Are the papers swamped with calls for the Chief Constables to be replaced? No, of course not.
I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1972 and it was a very different animal to the Force we see today. Firstly, it was the Metropolitan Police Force, not Service. I, and all of my colleagues, were subject to some very stringent conditions of service.
Just a few were
We could not live in our chosen house until it had been approved by the Force. I once had to pull out of a house purchase because I would have ended up living next door to a Bank Robber.
If I wanted to go and visit my parents for the weekend I needed to ‘book out’ and leave the contact details of where I would be staying overnight.
When I went on Annual Leave I had to leave details of where I would be staying. On holiday in the wilds of Snowdonia one year I was once visited by an officer who’d had a round trip in excess of 100 miles just to tell me that I was required at Court, after I had got back from my holiday.
Many of the conditions imposed upon us affected our wives/partners/families just as much, if not more so. My wife was never employed by the Metropolitan Police but she was still affected by their Terms and Conditions just as much as I was, or possibly more so. I think it’s fair to say that all these years later my wife still feels quite aggrieved by some of it.
As I said earlier I joined in the early 70s. People can make their own minds up whether or not they would have put up with some of the conditions we served under, but to me, that was just the way it was, and I certainly don’t resent it. Truth be told I preferred it that way. By the late 80s I began to notice the winds of change. Constables were beginning to call their Sergeants by their first names. I’m not pretending that I’ve never done that, but never in company, in public. If I did it was between me and him or her, and nobody else’s business, nobody else knew. To do it in public, in front of one’s peers was just wrong in my view. I know there wil be others who disagree with that view and that is your/their right, but that’s where I stand on it, That was just the beginning, then we progressed onto officers who would “rather not” carry out their alloted duties for the day and could they please have something different. It wasn’t common, but in my opinion opinion it should never have happened in a disciplined service.
Recently we have seen some of the happenings at Charing Cross Police Station. I don’t know any of the officers involved, and I know nothing more than I have read or seen on TV. I don’t know any of the officers involved or any of the circumstances. However I can form a judgement that those comments were in no way acceptable, either verbally face to face or in an encrypted Wassapp conversation. What were those officers thinking of?
I very much grew up in the ‘Canteen Culture’ and we have heard a lot about that. Personally I am in favour of it. With the stresses of what Police Officers encounter (and I’m sure it hasn’t got any easier since I left) it was the perfect scenario for letting off steam and ‘unloading’.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t, and should never be, carte blanche for saying absolutely anything unchallenged, but years ago officers had their ‘filters’, knew where the lines were drawn. They almost invariably went right up to the line but seldom crossed it, and my experience is that if they did they were quickly slapped down by their own colleagues.
‘Banter’ has it’s place, always had, always should do, but what we saw coming out of Charing Cross was definitely not banter. In my 30 years I NEVER saw or heard any comments quite like those. One man’s banter is another man’s insult, I get that, but nobody could pretend that was any form of banter.
Personally I would be mortified if any of my ‘banter’ had ever caused offence, distress or upset to a colleague, particularly a female colleague, There are many people on Twitter in particular who seem to believe that every male officer is a misogynist, and state that openly and frequently. I will dispute that till my dying breath. I can’t say I ever liked EVERY female officer I encountered, and I doubt that they liked every male officer they encountered. I didn’t always like all of the male officers I encountered either, but if any of them EVER needed help on the streets they got it, from everybody who was free. Nobody ever said “Oh it’s only a Plonk/Doris, let her get on with it”. It just wasn’t like that. I am still friends to this very day with some of the WPCs I worked with, and I call them that because that is how they would describe themselves. If I was so very sexist they wouldn’t still be friends with me, and all that applies to my former colleagues as well.
The current behaviours seem to have crept in in recent years with recruiting standards being lowered, vetting (which is very expensive to do properly) being relaxed due to pressure of numbers. Even the modern days methods of recruitment will tend to allow ‘bad apples’ to creep in undetected.
Robert Peel famously said “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence” and that is very true. When you recruit openly from society you will get a cross-section, and that has major benefits, but also some very obvious pitfalls,
I and my former colleagues are frequently chastised on Social Media by current, serving, officers and have been told “you know nothing about Policing today”, which may or may not be true, or, famously, “at least the curent generation do the Job properly” which I personally found highly offensive. Maybe we should all shut up and go home, but before we do I am totally unaware of any of my former colleagues killing anyone. Neither I nor anyone I knew took ‘selfies’ at a crime scene or photographs of murder victims. Nobody ever used the kind of language we have seen from Charing Cross in my presence, not even once. We never complained about working Nights or weekends etc.
When I first joined we worked a shift system that involved 3 weeks of Nights with single days off in the middle. For example, it was quite common to start 3 weeks Nights on Monday, Tuesday was a Day Off, back to Nights on Wednesday and then be required at Court on Thursday. Finally, at the end of the 3 weeks, Nights on Sunday night, back to work 2pm Monday. But we did it, we might have moaned about it over a cup of tea in the canteen, but only in the way that Policemen are always moaning about something.
Getting back to the topic in hand, none of these things were the Commissioner’s personal fault. I saw several Commissioners come and go, but I never saw one of them blamed for somebody else’s bad behaviour. Officers need to take responsibity for their own behaviour. Sergeants and Inspectors need to remember that they are Supervisors long before they can ever be regarded as friends. Let them explain the appalling conversations coming out of Charing Cross, they’re much closer to it than the Commissioner is.
And while I’m on the subject, the Press can do one as well. They are not really helping by digging up all this crap and plastering across their front pages and attempting to destroy public confidence in Policing. Yes, these things are wrong, yes they need to be dealt with, and firmly, but I don’t see many advantages to plastering it across the front pages of the National Press, Neither do we need the slanted reporting so beloved of some sectors of the press. The Press are meant to report the facts, not their version of the facts, and without their own delightful spins and opinions.
As much as I would like to blame the Tories for this mess, they are certainly not responsible for all of it, but they do need to acknowledge that under Cameron and May, the numbers were slashed and that affected the Police Service’s abilitties to do a number of things. Standards slipped due to shortage of resources, and for that the Tories are responsible.