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« A dedicated Detective, a deflated Balloon and an empty Box 6.2.07 | Main | Eeyore visits London CrimeStoppers 5.2.07 »

What Eeyore learnt about London Police and Magistrates 6.2.07

So, before telling you how Eeyore went to London to see justice done in Westminster Magistrates Court on Horseferry Road, I will entertain you with what I learnt from a closer look into British (London) Police practice from an urban redevelopment viewpoint.

Like Stalin used to say: "To be concise and short, comrades, it is an awful MESS." Whole lots of police tasks in the public sphere have been farmed to private, profit-oriented, businesses, like the parking management and the perception of parking fines. Permanently, 6 to 11 % of the force is on longtime sickness leave, while another average 6% is present, but on 'restricted duties', recovering from sickness (the Daily Mail, 5 February 2007, cited from The Guardian's Ros Taylor's daily 'Wrap'):

"The biggest bill is faced by the Metropolitan Police, which has 1,744 officers on restricted duties - 5.7 per cent of the total force strength."

Being on restricted duty, means, that one is confined to paperwork and telephone answering, doing often the same things as civil employees who are paid much less. Of course, the Mail, conservative, decries what it sees as a "waste" of public money, implicitly accusing the officers in question of parasitizing, and inviting its readers to say so (Which they do obediently: 41 indignant comments published, so far).

Living under such working conditions, with the new constraints of terrorism prevention coming on top, MUST produce such an epidemic of sick leaves. And the Mail's denunciation will absolutely not help to lessen the stress under which those people have to do their work. The wicked ways of many representatives of the the British press are evident in the following 'citation' of Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, well known in the world as the man who kept us informed about the murderous terrorist attacks on London public transport last year (The daily Mail):

"Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said it was an issue that must be tackled. He warned that, in some cases, police are receiving a full salary for as little as one hour's work each day."

Imagine: You are a police officer, suffering from a burnout, but having decided to do whatever possible, to overcome it quickly
and go to work on a 'sunrise' scheme, proposed by your employer, just to do what you can to help out your colleagues and be able to rejoin them at the shortest term. And then, you feel abandoned by your own commissioner in chief, who is presented as someone who denounces you as a parasite! I am sure, Ian Blair's remarks have been distorted by the Daily Mail, and I am also sure that most police officers, knowing their press, will not believe a word of what the paper says. But to the general public, who have (unjustly) no 6 months' 100% paid sick leave- and 'restricted-duty' reinserting schemes, the damage has been done.

Meanwhile, it rains reorganisation schemes: New absolute priorities every month. Yesterday, it was neighbourhood patrolling, establishing relations of confidence by small teams with a given urban area, be accessible night and day - here is our telephone number. Today it is a new priority: "Respect Zones", which means: integration into a local task force, singling out families with 'anti-social behaviour' in 40 areas in England. (Guardian, January 23, 2007).

Blair 5927 Reuters.jpgTony Blair himself announced it in his inimitable reverend's style:

" I think it's to do with drugs and the drugs culture and, it's a difficult thing to say, but there are a small number of very dysfunctional families where the kids are not properly brought up."

The local Councils, made powerless by Thatcher policies, and not much re-empowered by New Labour since, have to bear the brunt of this new, potentially divisive, 'crackdown'. They make, if I understand the Guardian report from several targeted neighbourhoods well, the best of it, engaging, like in Bolton, Greater Manchester, an experimented Charity to work with the new government money. And, which is still more significant, in my eyes, stating:

"The respect agenda is not just about tackling unacceptable or anti-social behaviour, but is about taking this further and reaching more people and communities," said Cliff Morris, Labour leader of the Bolton Council. "It aims to create a modern culture of respect by working on the underlying causes of bad behaviour [...]" [My bolds, HR]

I read this as an implicit critic of the spasmodic government initiatives, which neglect the necessity of a broad, holistic and sustained approach over more than 2 or 3 years to the community and it's environment. For, what is the sense of forcibly 'rehabilitate' families, if, at the end of the project, there is no job, no caring community, only street- and pub-life for the rehabs?

Imagine again: You are a police officer. On Monday, you get a training as a terrorism combatant and (I hope) learn to avoid killing innocent Brazilian immigrants; on Tuesday, somebody comes over to teach community patrolling; on Wednesday, the CrimeStopper Consultant celebrates his evangelium of New York "zero-tolerance"; on Thursday, the Respect Zones commissioner announces a reorganisation of the neighbourhood patrolling; and on Friday another somebody from Justice tells you, that there are no laws to support either community patrolling, nor Respect Zones, so that you have ultimately no means to impose the things the other ones said that are your targets. That leaves the day of Saturday to do your work. And,  was it by chance?, it was on a Saturday morning, that Detective C. managed to get hold of a member of the criminal gang who stole my bag.

Let there be no misunderstanding: My reconstruction of a metropolitan police officer's week is NOT based on any interview of an actual policeman, but only and alone on my personal 'long way' through government bureaucracies. I even fear, that actually, it is even worse. To me, even to me, the surrealisms, created by bureaucracy, are always above imagination. It is a new kind of creative, but utterly counterproductive, art. Heavily subsidised too. - Take note, dear friends at the Daily Mail!

This is the second part of an article, posted on February 5, 2007 in Huib's Urblog at e-urban ThinkTank website. Updated for huibslog om March 20, 2007. 

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