Thursday 12 June 2014

Police on the retreat

UK Police: Now an occupying force

A Bristol MP has said plans to close 27 police stations across the Avon and Somerset force area leaving no police presence in some areas is "a mistake". Something of an understatement. This marks a total retreat from neighbourhood policing - and not just in Bristol. This is happening everywhere. Across the nation, local police stations are closing and police are moving into mega-fortresses out in the sticks, changing their operations from neighbourhood policing to being an occupying force.

One of the more alarming examples is Bath. With Bath, a city in its own right with its own policing needs, losing its own police station and instead being serviced by Keynsham near Bristol, much of a police officers time will either be spent processing criminals or making the 30 minute journey between the two cities. Criminal lawyer Ed Boyce said the move could turn police into "expensive taxi drivers". That is exactly how I see it.

Bath Police Station is a main station in the very centre of Bath, near to a very busy railway station. Under the plans anyone arrested, instead of being held in Bath, will be taken to one of three new "police centres" at Bridgwater, Keynsham and Patchway (not within walking distance of any major population centre), which house "custody suites" - even though stations with perfectly adequate "custody suites" are to be closed.

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, said "the new police centres would enable officers to serve people better". Which people exactly? Certainly not the vulnerable people that police thugs lock up for speaking out of turn, and certainly not the taxpayer. As much as local police stations are necessary for obvious reasons, they are also places of storage for equipment not carried by patrol cars. Ms Mountstevens seems to think that having police fighting through rush hour traffic to central booking stations at excessive speeds (in pimped out BMW's), causing a noise nuisance, to retrieve equipment in an emergency, somehow better serves the public.

"People are not using some of the buildings we have got - the public are not visiting them," she said. In fairness in the age of internet and smartphones there are fewer reasons to go to a police station, and in an emergency, the telephone is the first point of contact, but even so, it is unlikely that police stations will be used to report crime when for some years they have been keeping irregular desk hours. Further to this, when reporting crime largely means a fat tattooed thug issues you with a crime number, why on earth would you bother? But supposing you were in central Bath and been mugged or raped and your phone stolen, are the citizens of Bath supposed to walk to Keynsham, or use one of the non-existent payphones?

But this is about more than just bean counting. This is about a retreat from our neighbourhoods. The excuse used is that police have faced cuts since 2008 but in reality, this has been the direction of travel for a very long time.  It has been happening so slowly that few have noticed. It is only now that local and central police stations are closing for good, being sold or demolished, coinciding with the opening of police fortresses like Patchway, that the retreat is visible.

Rather than policing being integral to the community, policing is now abstract to the community - and is set only to get worse.  The policing tactics now more resemble an occupying force, similar to that of the Iraq occupation. We will now have central heavily defended police barracks with flex-squads sallying out at night to do snatch operations - probably to arrest people who said the wrong things on Twitter.

Neighbourhood policing has died a death, with day to day offences and minor breaches now dealt with through use of fixed penalties and fines, rubber stamped by magistrates court computers, without any intervention by a human being, enforced by private bailiff companies (who have free license from the police to break the law), the public henceforth will be the cash cow by which to finance their para-military operations.

Ms Mounstevens would argue that this reconfiguration makes for a more efficient police force, but one would ask "more efficient at what"? It is an efficient way to manage livestock but it is not an efficient way of policing a community. And for all the "efficiencies", why are council tax bills going up? Now that the police are totally divorced from us and our communities, offering a figleaf of community policing over a Twitter account, it creates a separation that makes policing an "us and them" equation. This is totally at odds with the Peelian principle that the "police are the public and the public are the police".

Of course our police commissioners may pretend they have an influence in this, but this was decided long before Police and Crime Commissioners even existed. Being that the case, there is no way we can pretend that the appointment of a commissioner through a voting ritual (based on less than 10% of the electorate) is democratic - and certainly not for a region larger than a hundred countries in the UN - with a population several times larger than Iceland. They are overpaid press officers in place to pretend there is some kind of democratic accountability, and to manage expectations when complaints are made.

This all makes me wonder if this retreat coincides with the purchase of water cannon by the London Met. Now that the police are retreating into their mega-fortresses, it suggests the police are preparing a move into a defensive role - and that they are afraid of us.

Just this week I had a visit from a policeman who himself was a fat, ill-mannered, tattooed thug, just itching to start a fight, who had come to my house not to offer any help, but to reiterate that the police will not investigate an epidemic of fraud I have complained about (even when government guidelines have categorically specified that fraud by state enforcement agents should be reported to the police and treated as a criminal offence). Said police officer was clad in riot gear and bulletproof vest (as far as one can tell the difference).  Just now I have seen three obese plod in bulletproof vests crammed into a Ford Focus, and recently I saw a policeman at the local Tesco filling station carrying a sidearm. Does this suggest community policing to you? This is Filton, not Camp Bastion. 

The picture this all paints is that the police are being re-tasked not as servants of the public, but the defence force for the oligarchy that now rules us, with a slick PR operation designed to give the impression they are still public servants, who will serve the public if it serves their PR needs, but only if the victim fits the demographic of their latest targets.

In most cases now, certainly reflecting on my own experiences, the police profession has been slowly hollowed out to the point where any decent, moral and capable individual would never want to join the police. Consequently we are now at the stage where police lapel cameras are being rolled out to officers because the police simply cannot be trusted, and calling the police now has the potential to make a bad situation much worse and the public need the footage for protection from the police.

For most people, they who live largely apolitical lives, pay what they are told when they are told to pay it, and rarely encounter any serious crime, this gradual shift in the make-up of our society is barely noticeable. It is the result of a decade of salami slicing public services. It only becomes noticeable when you stick your head above the parapet and stop behaving like docile cattle.  It is then one realises that the police are not public servants. They are policy enforcers who, when not serving the oligarchy, are serving themselves. They are the enemy. Perhaps then it is better that the police are retreating into barracks. It makes them all the easier to contain when the people wake up and realise what is being done to them. We do not want this filth in our neighbourhoods.

No comments:

Post a Comment