13th October 2014:
The further I sprinted, the lower the level of ambient noise became; replaced by the overwhelming surround sound of shouting, screaming and explosions. I bolted around the left hand corner, only a street away now, from where the other police units had been. Not much further. The shield on my right arm had become a dead weight.
The car hit me and everything went black.
“The foundations of the state began to be laid with the concept of a 'Big Society', hailed as a way to transcend religious and class division. It was designed to provide a feeling of everyone being in this together”.
The stage suited him. The flamboyant, intense, bloke I had known for years had finally found a home. The auditorium was full, a mixture of students, academics, coppers and the curious. The spring sunshine streamed in from outside and he paced as he spoke, the nervous energy I had always known on full display.
“In the first few years, the civil service and public sectors were brought in line with the goals of the Government. Albeit, that by strict political definition, they were radicals, driving what they called free market liberation. Political opponents were carefully either absorbed into the coalition and kept in line or, subjected to intimidation by ongoing leaks to the largely right wing media”.
He paused to make direct eye contact with a couple of the correspondents sat in the front rows, then continued with a mischievous smile.
“This was followed by changes in legislation, quietly at first. A freedom bill, which subtly changed harassment, opening it up to include those who criticised ministers or other officials via social media. All the while measures were introduced to bring local, political control to the police and justice system; the army became an increasingly regular sight on home soil and voting boundaries were changed. Redrawn to address inequities in the 'more difficult to win' north and Wales”. I caught his eye and he held it for long enough to tell me that he had been drinking. He was always on top form with one or two pints. Beyond that he got darker. This was one or two pints. He worried me but, by God, I was proud of him.
He left the police and his book exploded over the winter. We hadn't been in touch as often but I'd watched him, his increasing appearances on the television since being 'freed' as he called it. When I received the invitation to this university event there was no way I could miss it, I just wasn't sure they knew what they had let themselves in for. By the looks on faces across the room it seemed most of them had fallen foul of his mojo.
“The government made moves towards the restriction and abolition of unions and the Chancellor directly acted on the exchange of employment rights for compulsory contributions to pensions and a scheme of shares as a substitute. Those of lower income or unemployment were stripped of benefits from the state, always under the guise of the inherited debts of the nation from the previous socialist regime. Even the disabled were subjected to ongoing checks to have the level of their ability to contribute to the Big Society assessed. Returns to work became enforced, with many used to fill temporary posts without pay, in order to continue to receive any kind of funds from the state. All were eventually priced out of the housing markets”.
He stopped, looked down, looked around, looked anywhere but at anyone. Across the room I saw people leaning close to whisper. I heard one, saying that he'd lost his place, muttering about the curse of inexperience. I knew exactly what he was doing and when the silence had drawn out long enough to be uncomfortable he exploded back to life; his voice booming out, with a gleeful solemnity.
“This could be now. This could be next year. It certainly is a fair reflection, of the reforms and actions, of the current Conservative Government”. He paused just long enough to look across the crowd, seeming to make eye contact with every single person present. “It could be Nazi Germany, circa 1933”.
I was stunned. The room recoiled in horror, a physical leaning back by almost everyone there. There were several sharp intakes of breath.
I came to, on the floor, gasping. The shield was trapped underneath me and the helmet felt claustrophobic, but I could not feel pain exploding anywhere; the new public order armour was pretty robust. I rolled onto my back. My breathing was still heavy from the running. I couldn't have been out that long.
I risked it and sat up, still no major pain but I was a mess of adrenaline. I could feel it building in my muscles again, in nervous bundles. I'd feel nothing until tomorrow. At least.
I shook my head, pushed up the visor and then pushed myself cautiously to my feet. Everything seemed to be working. A few fireworks flashed in my eyes but even they subsided after a few seconds. I wobbled, then felt okay. That's when I saw the car. A Mercedes, with police markings. A command vehicle.
It sat idling at the junction. In the rear view mirror I could see the eyes of the driver, staring widely at me. I could also make out the silhouette of a passenger. A Merc meant it was a Commander.
I started towards the rear of the vehicle and as I did, the reverse lights came on.
18th of November 2012: The Dangerous Ideas Blog
I've asked myself this week how our society, how our democracy has come to this, the mess that we see laid out before us. The answer, as close as I can get to it before it runs out of my grasp again, is this:
It's not that we don't care anymore, not that we've given up. It's that we care when we aren't working, shopping, drinking, dating, sleeping, eating, exercising, holidaying or, watching the X Factor.
This has left our generation open to the exact conditions that make it possible for us to be swallowed, by whichever tide is strongest, while we aren't looking.
On the 18th of May 2010, The Cabinet Office published a PDF file entitled 'Building the Big Society':
“Our Conservative - Liberal Democrat Government has come together with a driving ambition: to put more power and opportunity into people’s hands. We want to give citizens, communities and local government the power and information they need to come together, solve the problems they face and build the Britain they want. We want society – the families, networks, neighbourhoods and communities that form the fabric of so much of our everyday lives – be bigger and stronger than ever before. Only when people and communities are given more power and take more responsibility can we achieve fairness and opportunity for all.”
On the 17th of November 2012, following the PCC elections, which it transpires had the lowest turnout in history, The Telegraph published this article about the inquiry which has now been launched.
“An inquiry is now being carried out by the Electoral Commission into the turnout, which averaged fractionally under 15 per cent across England and Wales. In one polling station in Wales no votes were cast, and in Staffordshire just 11.6 per cent of electors voted.
The new commissioners and Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, yesterday faced questions over the extent of their mandate, given that many were elected with the votes of fewer than five per cent of the people they represent.
Sir Hugh said: “The individuals have been properly elected in a democratic process and the issue of numbers is absolutely not one for chief constables. What we will be looking forward to is working with these individuals to focus all our resources on keeping the citizens safe”.
I find it quite odd that key supporters of this campaign are now claiming this as a victory for democracy.
For starters, PCCs are effectively unelected by around 95% of the population and yet will have absolute control over how 100% of the population is kept safe. This actually flies in the face of the principle behind PCCs being the people's voice in policing, speaking for the many.
Of course, the huge counter-argument has always been that the Police Authorities were unelected.
Newsflash: The Home Office have always controlled the police and direction of policing, by virtue of a majority in parliament; an election which always gets a decent turnout and is won on a 'first past the post' basis.
I've found a really good and easy to follow summary of the PCC election results, here and it shows the simple, end result as follows:
Liberal Democrat: 0
Liberal Democrat: 0
SHARE OF VOTE:
Liberal Democrat: 7%
English Democrat: 1%
Liberal Democrat: 7%
English Democrat: 1%
Note that there is an apparent skewing between vote share and elected post numbers. How has that occurred?
I'm not convinced it was broadly understood but, the PCC Elections used second preference voting, which is a derivative of 'AV'. The voting system is defined here on one of the election sites:
“Police and Crime Commissioner elections with three or more candidates use the supplementary vote system”
The Electoral Reform Society have a good explanation of second preference here. In essence, it is like Alternative Voting but slightly more questionable.
It's actually pretty odd that this watered-down AV system was used in the flagship campaign of the Conservative Party, not least of all considering the Party positions on electoral reform, at the 2010 General Election.
“The Conservative Party manifesto stated - We support the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections because it gives voters the chance to kick out a government they are fed up with (p67)”
In fact, in May 2011 there was quite a decisive public vote on the topic of AV, which had quite a significant turnout, as the BBC show here.
“The Conservatives backed keeping the existing system, while Mr Clegg's Liberal Democrats urged change and Labour was split on the issue. Overall turnout for Thursday's referendum was 42%, with 6,152,607 voters backing the proposal and 13,013,123 rejecting it”.
It seems that, despite the shared and declared view of the Government and the people, AV can still be used. But, only when it suits your purpose. Say, for example your purpose was something like this.
“Lord Prescott led after the first round of votes in Humberside, but when second preferences were taken into account the 74-year-old was overtaken by councillor and Tory candidate Matthew Grove”.
Very strange. I've never seen any benefit to democracy, in this 'second best' system. Very strange indeed.
Not, however, as strange as this, which I found during some reading, about the World Wars, over the remembrance period:
“Following his appointment as chancellor on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler began laying the foundations of the Nazi state, pronouncing the creation of a Volk Community (Volksgemeinschaft)—a society which would, in theory, transcend class and religious differences. The Third Reich became a police state, wielding increasing authority through its control over the police. Political opponents, especially those in the Communist Party of Germany and the Social Democratic Party of Germany were subject to intimidation, persecution, and discriminatory legislation. In the first two years of his chancellorship, Hitler followed a concerted policy of "coordination" (Gleichschaltung), by which political parties, state governments, and cultural and professional organizations were brought in line with Nazi goals. Culture, the economy, education, and law all came under Nazi control”.
This left me feeling incredibly sad for what our future may hold. However, neither this nor the PCC election has been the only thing on my mind.
This week Sean O'Neill wrote in The Times about the arrests of five police officers in Kent, relating to crime detection figures.
“The Times can disclose that the officers from Kent Police — four men and a woman — were detained at their police station and questioned over allegations of manipulating statistics in order to meet crime detection targets”.
Take a look across Twitter. Open and honest, front line police officers are screaming that the targets culture has become corrosive, that it is abused, that offences are downgraded to suit and, potentially, to feed careers.
It is important to explore if this is just anecdotal. It would appear, on just and initial exploration, that it isn't. For an example, let's take a look at the much hated crime of Burglary; topical again for reasons of 'use of force' by home-owners.
The 2010/11 British Crime Survey (BCS) estimates there were 745,000 burglaries against domestic dwellings in England and Wales
Just under a half (293,000) were attempted burglaries where the burglar failed to gain entry to the home. Of the 452,000 burglaries where entry was gained, two in five resulted in loss (298,000 incidents). Burglary against domestic premises formed a tenth (8%) of all BCS crimes measured in 2011.
Although many burglaries go unreported, incidents of it were well reported compared to other crimes. Overall, 43 per cent of BCS comparable crime was reported to the police in 2010/11 but, for burglary, over eight in ten where something was stolen (84%) and over three-quarters of burglary with entry (78%) were reported .
The police recorded 258,148 domestic burglaries in 2010/11 which formed 13% of all recorded crime.
For more information click Crime in England and Wales 2010/11.
This appears to mean that the police are recording less than 35% of the burglaries that are occurring. This immediately raises questions. A long list of them.
Since the first BCS results in 1981 the number of domestic burglaries increased, to reach a peak of 1,770,000 incidents in 1995, before declining considerably and steadily – in total a decrease in BCS estimated burglary of 62% since 1995.
The underlying trend in domestic burglaries has been generally flat since 2004/05 despite a small rise in 2010/11.
The police recorded 258,148 domestic burglaries in 2010/11, a fall of four per cent compared with 2009/10 (268,610) and:
Continuing the downward trend in recorded domestic burglary incidents since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in 2002/03.
Overall, since 2002/03 there has been a decrease in police recorded domestic burglaries of 41 per cent.
Other acquisitive crime has also seen similar trends. It is worth noting that 'Household Theft' as opposed to burglary and 'Other Thefts of Personal Property' are actually increasing. Could this be the manifestation of 'Crime Management' phenomenon, arising from the targets and promotion culture; the one which officers are so clearly concerned about?
To work out how best to reduce burglary, the problem must first be analysed. Once the problem is understood, an intervention that has a mechanism that is likely to have an impact on the problem can be chosen. There are a number of mechanisms through which a reduction in burglary may be achieved. These were identified in the academic study of Clarke and Eck (2003) and, constantly, by police officers; many of whom, it appears, are still not listened to.
Here we get to the heart of the problem.
The police record less than 35% of burglaries
It appears that there may be an issue whereby crime classifications are and have been managed, to meet targets, since 2003
Any analysis, that is being done to problem solve, may not be complete.
Worse, the data may be completely flawed through manipulation.
If you aren’t recording crime properly, the problem can spiral and you won't even know, or be able to target resources properly, to use the right method, to fix it.
One measure of the success of this is the detection rate (the number of crimes solved, of those recorded).
Of all Home Office Recorded crime, burglary has one of the lowest sanction detection rates by offence group, at around 13% 2009/10 and 2010/11. For all crime, the sanction detection rate was 28% in 2010/11.
I'd imagine that there would be some pressure to increase that figure. In fact, it's completely accurate there has been that pressure for years. You can even see the police detection figures themselves moving upwards, even as police recorded crime statistics fall.
I've spoken about it, others have spoken about it, it's been openly reported. The Times article is proof of it in action; that all is not well.
This target culture has grown and has become embedded in the promotion system, every aspiring leader must now 'evidence' positive performance to attain and maintain the next rank and pay grade.
I wrote an essay on leadership back in June, which touched on the very issue, of no person being able to serve two masters. You can read it here.
The questions we all need to think about are these:
How deep is this manipulation of statistics?
What has the true impact of this been on the ability to prevent and detect crime?
Have people gained from involvement in this and, where are they now?
We've had enough quick fixes and ideology. This is a matter of true reform and it's about time it was dragged out and dealt with.
Having started with one set of questionable figures I finish with another. More questions I'm afraid but these are the answers we must all now look for, openly, publicly:
Because it's right to do so.
As a society though, are we prepared to make the necessary amount of time to care, enough to make a difference? Or, are we going to look away and leave this legacy to our children?