Pass the Prozac, Designer Amnesiac

PCP, a PC police victory

PCP, a PC pyrrhic victory

When I was young, PC meant police constable

Nowadays I can’t seem to tell the difference

– Manic Street Preachers, ‘PCP’

I try to vote whenever I get the chance. But I can’t find any enthusiasm for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections that take place this week. It is unclear what PCCs will actually do, and the whole thing seems like another layer of pension and patronage for career mediocrities in local government. It doesn’t seem like anyone else cares either. Turnout could be low as 15%. With such poor comms, no wonder. For some reason candidate information is only available online, cutting off the seven million eligible voters who don’t have the internet. These seven million have to ring a call centre that doesn’t work. A Home Office whistleblower told the Guardian that ‘The information is only being sent out this week and when people are receiving it, it is just a list of names and it has no information about the candidates at all. There is no way to get this information without going online and as a result whole swaths of the population are being disenfranchised.’ That everyone has superfast broadband and a Foursquare account is a delusion.

Low turnouts are never great and there is an obvious fear that in this case the far right could capitalise. If you think the police are ‘institutionally racist’ now, just wait until your local force is run by the English Defence League. From my point of view, up in Manchester, it’s even worse: no far right candidates at all. At least if my vote could hurt the BNP it would seem like there was some point to the whole exercise. As it stands, I don’t vote Tory or UKIP. There is a guy standing who has actually been a police officer – de rigeur in the US, but a rarity in these elections – only he’s a Lib Dem. I could vote for Labour’s Tony Lloyd, if he didn’t have a bizarre habit of hanging around with Hamas leaders. But I can’t not vote. And I resent the fact that this choice has been imposed upon me, and that my participation will further the careers of these toytown political timeservers.

What do the PCCs promise in terms of policy? Well, they like cops. They like victims. They dislike criminals. Which is all good. The Conservative candidate Michael Winstanley wants to ‘give residents a greater say in policing priorities’. I wonder if he understands why people call the police these days. Customer is king philosophy means that the police, like just about everyone else on the front line, have their time wasted by attention seekers and professional complainants. These are the people who buy houses in the middle of a city centre and then moan about noise from bars.

Top cop Inspector Gadget spent a long night taking complaints about firework noise. On his blog, he scribbled some thoughts he couldn’t say.

1. Where have these people been for the rest of their lives, or do they complain every year?

2. If so, for how many years? Do they do this every year for the rest of their lives? What happened last year when they complained?

3. What exactly do they think a police inspector can do about a national tradition, popular since 1606?

4. Even if we had the power or inclination to stop firework displays; on what scale do they think we could do this? The whole county? Just their street? And do they think I can just turn up and ‘make it stop’?

For Halloween; see above, and repeat as required for New Years Eve and any time we play a world cup match.

Of course this is all really our fault. More specifically, the fault of career hungry senior police officers. These are the people who have promised that the police can solve any problem, attend any incident and satisfy any request or complaint, no matter how insane. They have done this by supporting the so-called public satisfaction agenda, with glossy leaflets and at countless public meetings.

Quite so. And the picture gets darker when you factor in the rise of social media policing. Recently a man was arrested, apparently because he posted footage of a burning remembrance poppy on the internet. The Guardian’s Ally Fogg takes up the story:

It is of course just the latest in a succession of police actions against individuals deemed to have caused offence: mocking a footballer as he fights for his life on Twitter; hoping British service personnel would ‘die and go to hell’; wearing a T-shirt that celebrated the death of two police officers; making sick jokes on Facebook about a missing child, the list goes on. A few months ago, these could have been dismissed as isolated over-reactions or moments of madness by police and judiciary. Not any longer. It is now clear that a new criminal code has been imposed upon us without announcement or debate. It is now a crime to be offensive.

It doesn’t take much to make people offended, and police are supposed to be ‘responsive’. When you govern on majority sentiment, reason and due process go out the window. There will be many more Twitter joke trials under PCCs.

Update: A positive suggestion from Index.

4 Responses to “Pass the Prozac, Designer Amnesiac”

  1. Paul Murdoch Says:

    “It is now clear that a new criminal code has been imposed upon us without announcement or debate. It is now a crime to be offensive.”

    And personally, I’m steady in the conviction that the right to be offensive is one I’d defend to the point of the removal of my cold dead tongue. But nobody else seems to notice or give a fuck. Useless spineless ignorant ingrate bastards etc.
    The greatest historical motive at the moment is apathy. It’s a compromised dialectic churning the political classes’ baser dreams into actualisation.

    I’ve been reading terry eagle ton.

    Nice piece

    • awjlogan Says:

      I don’t think in this case it was really apathy, just utter rejection of the idea. Do you spoil a ballot (which takes no account of people just making a mistake, so hardly serves as an obvious protest), or not vote at all? In the absence of a “None”, or “Re-open Nominations”, there’s nothing to vote for. I hope people wouldn’t vote solely on the basis of what colour rosette a candidate is wearing (although this is depressingly widespread), but in the absence of any other real information what’s the option?

  2. Robin Carmody Says:

    Not saying this is universal, but I received full information about our candidates in the post several weeks ago. Perhaps this was because there are more older/retired people without the internet in Dorset than in metropolitan areas?

    • awjlogan Says:

      Sadly it wasn’t universal at all. Here in Oxford, we only got one misspelt leaflet from the Labour candidate (someone who can’t even be bothered to check their own advertisement is certainly not suitable to handle millions of pounds), and exactly nothing from anyone else. We had a look at the website, but without fail the “manifesto” for each candidate was almost identical with promises such as “reducing crime”, “no cuts”, “more police on the streets” with absolutely no information of how they would do this.

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