Perverting the Course of Justice

In the last couple of years there has been an explosion of blog books from anonymous insiders detailing the crumbling chaos of the public sector. The most famous is probably PC Copperfield’s blog: written by a serving police officer, this is a hilarious and eye-opening look into how police work has been superseded by administration. It was denounced on the floor of the House of Commons as ‘more of a fiction than Dickens’ and has been banned from numerous force networks. There’s also been angry state school teacher Frank Chalk and the paramedic Tom Reynolds, whose book is a treatise of lonely heroism.

The blogging professionals come from different agencies but have one thing in common: a frustration with the target-driven culture of the public sector, and a hatred of management speak and half-arsed ‘initiatives’ scribbled out for today’s headlines and with no reflection on how they will be carried out by the people on the front line. As Inspector Gadget says in his book, most people who make crime policy have never worked as a police officer, and some have never had a job outside politics. They go from student politico to MP’s research assistant to MP to cabinet minister.

The stupidity of target culture is summed up by Tom Reynolds in his post on the eight-minute target for ambulance calls:

It doesn’t matter what actually happens to the patient – just so long as we get there within eight minutes. For example – If we get to someone who has been dead for two days within eight minutes, that counts as a Success. If we get to a heart attack in nine minutes, provide life saving treatment and ensure that their quality of life is a good as possible, that is a Failure.

In one scene of Perverting the Course of Justice, the weary frontliner Inspector Gadget is sitting through an interminable training session. After hours of duckspeak about frameworks, models and strategies, he interrupts the trainer: ‘Look, I’m sorry about this, but can I just ask, when was the last time you actually policed?

‘The answer was twelve years ago,’ Gadget tells us, ‘in a big town when there were (then) far more cops on the streets than we have now.’

The public sector blogs are extremely addictive and Gadget’s book is no exception. Because he’s higher up in the food chain than Copperfield, he handles serious cases of assault, violence and suicide whereas Copperfield (to his eternal irritation) seemed to spend a lot of his time messing around with the petty problems of local scrotes. Not Gadget. He deals with irrational, violent, terrible men in irrational, violent, terrible situations. Typical sentence: ‘A dog team was called: he picked up the dog and threw it out of the window.’

To read the papers you would think that everything was great for the police. Politicians talk them up as heroes and pass through reams of crime legislation meant to increase their capabilities. I keep expecting to see a headline reading ‘Police given the power to fly.’ But as Gadget reveals, the picture is not that great. The sheer amount of bureaucracy means that when a police officer arrests someone he or she is off the streets for at least four hours – that’s how long it takes to book someone in.

There are more police than ever before, but many of them are in support roles, in Neighbourhood Policing or PCSO teams that only work nine to five (‘you know,’ Gadget adds sardonically, ‘when all the crime happens’) or tied up with admin. Promotion is achieved not through catching criminals but in fulfilling tons of identical ‘competencies’. Finally, pressure to achieve detection targets has given rise to what Copperfield calls ‘administrative detections’:

Administrative detections work on the basis that members of the public report crimes of such breathtaking triviality that they don’t wish to make a formal complaint and press charges. The police then create a ‘crime’ and set about investigating the matter as if there really was a formal complaint. When we gather enough evidence, we put all the papers in a file labelled ‘detected’ and hey-presto, a solved crime.

This is scandalous and one of the reasons why everyone should read the police books, even social liberals who don’t agree with them. Admin detections have gone now, but as Gadget says, each police officer now has a ‘detection target.’ ‘Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from occurring in the first place,’ he explains, ‘none of these count against your individual target.’

I mentioned social liberals because as the journalist Nick Davies says, the left has always had a blind spot about crime: many on the left don’t understand that crime is ‘not some kind of romantic rebellion by an alienated working class attacking their middle-class tormentors: it was a miserable plague which was overwhemingly likely to be inflicted on the working class for whom they claimed to speak.’

Poverty does create crime to some extent, I’d like prison to focus more on rehabilitation than punishment and I’m a believer in redistribution of wealth, but even in a perfect society there would be people who take pleasure in cruelty and killing and tyrannising the weak. People like the Mahoneys:

These are a family of Southern Irish travellers who like to pimp out their teenaged kids to businessmen in cheap motels near our local airport.

We bumped into them a while ago after our local child protection officers saw the 14-year-old niece of the family being offered up on an internet escort service, and happened to recognise her as a MISPER [missing person] from our briefing posters.

[S]he was in hiding – or being held – somewhere else. The Mahoneys agreed to hand her over to Social Services but only if we returned a sizeable amount of cash which we had seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act because the girl had earned it for them.

Gadget also asks: ‘How do we explain the many thousands of people who grow up in poverty, or come from broken homes, or have ‘poor role models’ who don’t turn to crime?’

Statistics cast more doubt on the root-cause argument. People say that the abused become abusers, but according to a Lancet study, only twelve per cent of abused children go on to abuse other children. Sometimes there is no excuse and in the best of all possible worlds there will still be worthless scum who need to be caught and locked up for the longest possible time. I’m glad there are people like Gadget around to do it for us.

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One Response to “Perverting the Course of Justice”

  1. Miss15 Says:

    I’m not the least bit impressed by celebrities. ,

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