Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Review: The Public and the Police

The Public and the Police
Harriet Sergeant
May 2008

This latest Civitas publication on the field of Criminal Justice seems sadly to be a case of treading water. It is gossipy and is the result of a whole host of interviews strung together for their anecdotal impact. Rather like an extended op-ed piece bemoaning the state of society at large. It points to solutions, along the lines of elected police chiefs a la US but not much more.

Yes Ms Sergeant hits all the right spots on the pointlessness of targets and the ineffectualness of the Crown Prosecution Service but to anybody who has read David Fraser or Peter Hitchens on crime and policing in Britain then nothing here feels knew. It makes a slightly more academic postscript to David Copperfield's 'Wasting Police Time'.

To be fair some of the anecdotes are priceless such as the CPS lawyer talking to a,
"group of incredulous police sergeants: 'Well of course I take disorder on our streets seriously. I have seen it on TV. It looks awful'.
Its key points are that nobody, apart from maybe some of the political senior police officers and their Home office minders are happy. The police on the ground are being pulled from pillar to post by the Sisyphean task of responding to targets and dictates. The public are utterly disillusioned by the way in which they are first ignored and then ill treated. The fundamental deceit of community policing due to resource reallocation and the hidebound way in which the justice system works when it is out of police hands.

It finishes with the Nine Principles of Policing, often called Peels Nine Principles but, we the author thinks drawn up by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the first joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in the years preceding 1850. They are of course unarguable, and therefore ignored.

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. 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.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that 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.

8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

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