What did you really expect to happen?
After a media led campaign of criticism which fuelled the ‘social commentators’ and ‘community spokespersons’ to stand on their soap boxes the police, in particular the Met, bowed to Government pressure and scaled back their stop and search tactics by their officers. This happened in two ways: Bosses panicked about cops being accused of racism and the frontline bobbies on the beat ultimately felt that it was safer for them to avoid unnecessary complaints by not searching people.
What has been the result?
Knife crime is up 18% in London. The media are now back-pedalling furiously and calling for the police to do something.
The problem is… we were doing something.
How ludicrous is it that so many young people have had to lose their lives at the end of a knife for people to realise this? In my humble opinion there are certain people with blood on their hands.
The truth is, stop and search is a very effective tool in deterring criminals. Not just from carrying knives but also from dealing drugs, stealing property that doesn’t belong to them, carrying firearms and so on.
By sections of the media creating a furore surrounding stop search which caused many people to jump up and down making lots of noise the police ended up backed into a corner. The feeling was, “OK, let’s give people what they want.” I’m fairly certain that people didn’t want to see this level of violence on our streets.
It’s not a matter of race either, as some would have you believe. In simple terms it’s a matter of the local demographic and attempting to you use local crime intelligence to target the right people… the criminals!
If you have a spate of street robberies being carried out predominantly by little green men wearing red baseball caps and hooded tops then common sense would dictate the best way to catch the perpetrators (or prevent them) is to patrol where these offences are occurring and try and disrupt the people who matched the description of the offenders.
I have been doing this job for just over a third of my lifetime. In that time I have stopped and searched thousands of people. At least 98% of which I would describe as being a criminal. They had criminal records and chose to live their lives by being sociopathic, self-centred and greedy. They saw something that they wanted and just took it with little regard for anyone else. They were the type of person who would target the decent people in society so I would target them. It was my job to disrupt them and prevent them from doing that. As I have previously admitted, I don’t work for the Met (although I’ve had a bit of experience down there). Most of my service has been spent policing a town where the demographic is predominantly white-British.
99% of the people I have stopped and searched have been white-British and although it’s fair to admit that most of those searches resulted in no evidence being found it also has to be mentioned that a lot of them were successful. I have stopped known criminals and found hidden on their person items such as:
- Drugs – Class A, B and C (sometimes in places you really wouldn’t want to look)
- Stolen sat Navs
- Stolen mobile phones
- Stolen meat and cheese – who on Earth buys stolen meat and cheese that has been hidden down the trousers of a drug user?!?!?!?
- A police style extendable baton
- Imitation firearms
I’m sure you will agree that all of the above things have no place on our streets – especially the scruffy trouser marinated meat and cheese! It’s also fair to say that none of those items are linked to any particular race. They are linked to criminals.
That doesn’t stop us from being generalised and labelled racist though.
Since moving into my current role, I spend most of time policing one of the UK’s big metropolitan cities. Understandably, it is hugely multi-cultural with many different communities calling it home. It’s now my job to police them all as best I can…. by targeting criminals. My mentality hasn’t changed at all.
I still stop and search people, the only difference being I get accused of being racist more often now. Quite often it’s just a tactic to try and upset my mojo. Sometimes I wonder if they do actually believe it or not? The truth is, every person that has ever accused me of being a racist is actually a criminal. Generally quite a nasty and prolific one at that.
Stopping those people and searching them is part of my job. I try to be polite and professional but if someone is going to start shouting and screaming at me in the street they will be met with a robust response. 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been questioned at all. Nowadays, almost every interaction we have is filmed by someone on a mobile phone hoping that they have the next viral cop video on their hands.
Now, this bit is important. You have every right to film or photograph just about anything in a public place. That’s part and parcel of living in a free and democratic country. But, just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s ethical does it? By our very nature, police officers are quite cynical and sceptical of most things. That’s what the job does to you. You can’t help it. That also means we can get defensive about a camera being pointed at us when we’re just trying to do our job. Not because we’re doing something wrong but because we’ve seen hundreds of clips on the internet that have been edited and cut to put a negative spin on things. Where are the videos showing us in a positive light? I can guarantee that today, somewhere in the country, a police officer will have done something truly incredible.
They will have shown bravery.
They will have saved a life. Made a difference.
That will never make it onto YouTube or Facebook. Twitter won’t be talking about them. It’s just part of the job we signed up for isn’t it? Not quite, but then I’m biased.
After so much time doing the job I hate to admit that cynicism sometimes gets the better of me. That’s partly because my world is constantly the worst that society has to offer. The minority but still the worst. It starts to get under your skin and affects you until you have a word with yourself and snap yourself out of it. And then you will be faced with one of these negative video clips doing the rounds and it drags you down again. You find yourself trying to justify the job to yourself again.
All of that is another factor for our collective morale being so low. We have spent so long feeling that we are being attacked and undermined with little or no support that it has become part of our culture. A negative black cloud constantly hanging over us because we feel that we can’t do right for doing wrong. That then undoubtedly affects the way we approach the job and probably the way we deal with people.
Which it shouldn’t.
I firmly believe in the key principle that the police are the public and the public are the police. Deep down I know the majority do support us and its you that I’m now going to appeal to. We need to hear you! We need to know that you’ve got our backs because that will give us the faith to keep plodding on.
This was brought home to me recently by my wife who still works on my old patch. Sat at the dinner table Mrs Ninja asked me, “Oh, I forgot to mention it… do you know Mr Joe Public from Generic Street in town?”
My response was a blank look followed by a suspicious question of my own, “should I?” (I know you should never answer a question with a question but, as a cop, I like to be the one doing the questioning).
“Well he knows you. He reported something to me earlier and upon hearing my name asked if I was related to you…”
At this point, my wife went on to explain how she didn’t know how to initially answer the question. During my time as a beat cop I had enthusiastically targeted the local criminals in an effort to be known as good at my job. It meant that our regulars often knew my name and didn’t like me all that much either.
After a bit of hesitation, Mrs Ninja confirmed that she did in fact know me and, for her sins, was actually married to me.
Mr Joe Public’s reaction was unexpected.
He reeled off the day, date and time that I’d had dealings with him… 6 years ago. He remembered my name and collar number and what I looked like. More importantly, he remembered in great detail the way I had dealt with him and his family.
He was full of praise for the police officer who had attended that day (praise is not something I’m too accustomed to).
In the 6 years that had passed, I have dealt with thousands of other Mr and Mrs Joe Public so I had to rack my brain to remember this particular person. When I did I also remembered the incident in great detail. It was the suicide of this gentleman’s brother. A sad job to deal with but a relatively standard incident for a police officer.
It then struck me.
Something most cops are guilty of.
We forget about the emotional impact these incidents have on your average member of the public. To us it’s just another incident. To them it’s a major life event.
Mr Joe Public’s life had turned upside down in that moment whilst, for me, it was a fairly standard part of the job. We all end up desensitised to the horror of the underbelly of life because we are the few who see it up close and personal every day.
What Mr Joe Public hadn’t realised when he spoke to my wife was just what impact his few words could have on me. Even I was surprised by the effect. It gave me a huge boost and made me feel good about the job again.
It reminded me why I joined the job in the first place.
If you are a fellow cop reading this then please take heart that there are huge numbers of Mr & Mrs Joe Public out there who support us and wish us well.
If you are Mr & Mrs Joe Public then please let us know that you’re on our side when you see us out and about. You’ll never realise just how much of a positive impact you can have on us.
Lastly, if you’re a politician or a journalist then start taking some responsibility for what you’re doing to this country and its society.