Friday 5 September 2014

Rotherham: what has to change

My local police station. Or what's left of it.

My first flat was an attic bedsit in Manningham in Bradford. At the end of the street was St Joseph's Catholic College, one of the very last schools in Bradford where the kids wear proper uniforms. I had a Pakistani family living next door. The noise levels were at times intolerable. One afternoon I knocked on their door to ask if they wouldn't mind not playing their music so loud at night. The young mans response was to brutally beat me around the face.

I called the police and the man was arrested. The following day two Honda civics were waiting outside and as I left my flat they made throat slashing gestures at me and followed me at a slow pace every time I left the house. You know how this story ends: Me moving out in a great hurry to somewhere safer and the violent thug walking away with no punishment having been too afraid to testify.

It was reported to the police, but the answer was the same one we always get. "There isn't much we can do". Which begs the question, if this is not most basically what the police are for, then why have them at all? Those same thugs could often be seen loitering outside the gates hurling abuse at the girls leaving the Catholic school and spitting on them. Never a plod in sight.

The narrative is that the police are too afraid to arrest Muslims because of "multiculturalism", yet while Muslims represent only 4.7 per cent of the population in England and Wales, according to the most recent Census, one in seven prisoners (14 per cent) in England and Wales is a Muslim, according to the statistics.

It is not they don't arrest Muslims. The thug who battered me was arrested immediately and swiftly. But these gangs of young Muslim men were never once dispersed because the police were never there to see it. They apparently haven't got the resources to engage in this kind of community policing, but they evidently do have the resources to mount huge blitz operations to harass ordinary people on their way to work, with dozens of officers at peak times sitting by the roadside with radar guns picking off victims one at a time.

This is not policing. How often do we see the words "police blitz"? These are high visibility operations that clear the monthly quotas, but they do not represent proper policing. Good policing is measured by the number of arrests they don't make, but the system is entirely statistics driven and policing priorities are set by officals and politicans, not the public.

If a crime has not been investigated I can complain to the local plod who will investgate himself and find himself innocent, as I discovered during my recent council tax campaign, or I can make an official complaint through a long-winded process that will be equally futile.

We can of course complain to the "local" Police Commissioner, whose patch covers, Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, North Devon and Yeovil (which is two hours away by car). She has the power to sack the chief constable, yet town councils don't have the power to sack useless district constables. Democratic accountability this is not. The police are not in any way duty bound to do as their communities tell them.

It is for this reason Ive been watching the phenomenon of privatised crowdfunded policing in the United States, whereby communities procure and sack their own police forces, comprising of individuals with the same rights and authority as everyone else. They are as obliged to obey the law as the public are. I see a place for this model in the UK where the police force becomes an overseer of private community forces to ensure they themselves are not overstepping their authority. Consumer choice being the best regulator.

As it stands, our local police forces are at liberty to ignore us, they answer mainly to central government and they answer to pretty much nobody. If your local police station inspector's pension and mortgage was dependent on mounting regular street patrols and dispersing the gangs waiting outside schools and colleges, you would find their fretting over political correctness would soon evaporate.

But as it stands we no longer even have local police stations. We have district managers assigned to a community, many of whom don't even live on their own patch and commute in from miles away to central police call centres located miles from crime hotspots. This is not local, and it isn't policing.

If we want effective public services and we want to avoid another Rotherham, then we need public services who answer directly to us.

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