So all of a sudden, despite months and months of individual serving Police Officers highlighting the issue and some subsequently finding themselves on their Chief Constable’s shit list, the issue of manipulated and “fiddled” crime statistics has hit the national media like a huge previously unknown scandal!
When the last crime figures were released to the public which conveniently proved that the Conservative Party’s excessive cuts to our Police forces were having no impact on crime levels, bobbies were chomping at the bit to get online and proclaim that the numbers were wrong and the stats were manipulated and massaged to meet a political agenda. Those who did so were either ignored or cast aside by most, especially those in power both inside and outside the Police, and after a week or so the matter was old news. The Government had achieved what it wanted too and manipulated the general public via its numerous media outlets into believing once again that the Police are just a bunch of cry babies and liars (I mean after all they did lie about Ian Mitchell and they lied about other big cases 20+ years ago so all of the cops today are the same obviously) and that the stats proved that despite “necessary and reasonable cuts” to the Police, which they want you to believe have NOT impacted on frontline duties, crime is in fact dropping.
Bollocks. I have been in the Police for 10 years and crime stats are so often re-classified or “written off” as a “non-crime” that on daily briefings at the beginning of our shifts when all newly recorded crime is looked at we joke about what it will finally be recorded or written off as.
A criminal damage to a shed or greenhouse with no witnesses or evidence? Probably just a badger or fox.
A purse dipping with no known location or suspect? Probably just a lost property report?
Mobile phone stolen in a bar? They must be after an upgrade. False report.
Of course I am not saying this is what actually happens, where a crime has reasonable lines of enquiry and/or evidence then it will of course be investigated fully. However, what I am saying is that it is now so common for actual crimes to be changed, altered or written off by the Police Officers or civilian employees responsible for overseeing crime recording (presumably following internal guidance and policy???) that bobbies are beyond getting angry at the situation and now mock the system by joking about it. The reason being that nobody likes a trouble causer and protestations go ignored or punished. After all who are we, measly Constables, to question a higher rank?
Experienced Police Officers can attend at what is quite clearly a burglary or a robbery but in an effort to keep the figures low, before they head back in and record the crime on the system they must first speak to a Detective Inspector, or in his absence a Detective Sergeant, and only they can authorise the recording of such a crime. Wherever possible these crimes will become a “theft in dwelling” or “theft and an assault”. Quite often they are not recorded immediately incase the victim decides not to pursue the matter or until a Detective (often with less service than the bobby) has looked at the report and spoken to the victim first. Not every time obviously but it does happen too many times in an effort to keep the numbers down.
It is nothing new. It has been happening for a long long time and the reason behind it is that the Home Office, despite publicly stating that red tape, key performance indicators (KPI) and bureaucracy have been slashed, still drive into the heads of all the Chief Constables the demand for reduction in crime. Rightfully so, we all want crime reduced and after all that is one of the key roles of the Police. However, when crime is NOT reducing and you are accountable for the performance of your force and the number of robberies or burglaries or any other kind of crime is higher than the Government “allow” then the options available to the chiefs are very much limited.
On the one hand they can be honest (after all they are still Police Officers) and they can tell the Government and the general public that crime has unfortunately increased in their area and even provide an honest and frank explanation as to why that is the case. However, this is likely to cost them their job or at least their high ranking position with the implementation of the Police and Crime Commissioners to oversee the roll of the Chief. The Government and the local and the national press will claim that the Chief is unfit for the roll and has lost control. There will then follow a call for him/her to step down from the post.
On the other hand, if the figures can be manipulated in the ways which we are now being told about in the press then the chief can proudly stand in front of the Home Secretary and get a pat on the head for keeping crime down and the public can be pacified by yet more political bull.
So whilst the bosses get a lollipop for being good little boys and girls and making the head mistress and her bosses look good, what about the public faces of the “Police” who subsequently get labelled as “liars” and “corrupt”? What about the boots on the ground who have to face the public every single day with all this crap floating around the media? Ahhh who cares about them eh? They’re complicit in it themselves anyway for not speaking out and protesting about it and facing the same stress, grief and heartache as the brave minority such as James Patrick.
Most importantly, what about the victims? The public do not deserve to be part of this number crunching game being played to make politicians look good. If somebody has been a victim of a burglary or a robbery then the Police should not be looking little loop holes or technicalities to enable them to record a lesser offence. If some little miscreant has committed a robbery then he or she deserves to be charged and sentenced for robbery and not an assault and theft. At the end of the day, the people who suffer through the manipulation of crime statistics is the general public.
The Police has long been its own worse enemy by manipulating stats, bending over backwards and driving themselves to exhaustion in an effort to make government driven policy and bureaucracy work thus making the smug gits look good. Instead we should simply be honest. If things are not working then let the public see so. If crime is rising then bollocks to the government and what they want, let them see the true impact of their policies and decisions. The Police Officers you see each day (or don’t see as often these days) do not want these lies being published. We want the truth to be out there so that the general public can see that things are tough and there is a struggle right now and then hopefully the Government may just come under some pressure to act. There are more than enough scandals and shameful incidents ruining the reputation of the Police throughout England without those in charge adding to it in order to sing to the Governments tune. Sadly at the moment the only way for the truth to be told is for brave officers to stand up and shout and subsequently face the harsh and unjust consequences or for anon officers to write blogs and tweet and risk getting caught and then face the consequences.
In order to stop this practice and prevent future similar issues I believe that more must be done to allow Police Officers to speak out and “blow the whistle” without fear of prosecution, disciplinary action or internal bullying. The Police whistle may no longer be standard issue but there needs to be much more support for Police whistleblowers.