Monday 20 February 2017

"Rationing Police Services" - A Shot Across The Bows

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has delivered himself of the opinion that the Police will need to start "rationing" their services if budget contraints continue.  "Cuts meant police would have to pick and choose more often what they prioritise, and, more controversially, what they will not", in the Grauniad's paraphrase.

One's responses to this range from "statement of the bleed'n obvious", through to "could be pretty sinister".
  • All resources are finite and anyone who imagines there isn't some kind of prioritisation going on, in respect of any service provision, is deliberately kidding themselves.  The NHS gets fairly close to undiscriminating non-prioritisation in the way GPs and A&E are fairly much forced to deal with whatever fetches up in their system.  But after forced entry through the unguarded gate, the patient rapidly gets triaged and filtered and rationed, even if only in ways that are never articulated
  • As BH-H notes, the military and more recently the NHS have forced a bit of recognition of this into the public debate: and maybe the Police should be making matters more explicit in their own manor.  More openness in strategic decision-making has advantages over unaccountable private policy-making, which we all know is what happens
  • I could draw his attention to the situation at a cafe of my acquaintance which, every weekday morning, is home to three and sometimes four patrol-cars' worth of coppers enjoying an exceptionally leisurely morning coffee-break ...
  • How much openness is wise?  It's one thing for the military to state: we can no longer patrol in the Pacific Ocean; or for the NHS to say we can't afford this new cancer drug.  But what happens when the Police say: we can't patrol after midnight?   (Our local force has already unilaterally declared it will not enforce the new 20 mph speed limits the council has imposed.)
  • What happens when 'rationing' get really political?  When (say) a mayor with strong community affiliations tells the local police chief that laws he reckons aren't congenial to his community mustn't be enforced? 
What do we think?



david morris said...

Time to ration our tax & local council payments ?

Steven_L said...

The cops have rationed their service for as long as I have known them. An example from a good few years ago:

A local DI approaches me at an anti-counterfeiting event and arranges a meeting about joint ops at a local bank holiday market that is full of foreign looking folk selling knock offs.

We ask if they will arrest the three or four sellers we decide pick on, process them at the station, fingerprint the, ID them, let us interview them in custody etc.

No. It's a bank holiday and we can't spare the resources, all the cops will be in town arresting drunks. Selling knock offs is a 10 year max crime too, it's not a slap on the wrist.

Don't even get me started on their attitude to fraud.

tolkein said...

Is there a Budget soon?

Blue Eyes said...

It is a difficult question. However before any "rationing" takes place may I suggest that policing takes place more at peak times? Your café example is highly relevant. We also know that shift patterns are dominated by the police union's views rather than consumer demand. Safer Neighbourhoods teams generally work 9-5 Monday-Friday; is that when they think ASB is at its worst?

As to your final question, I wonder whether the police are legally obliged to deal with everything. So much is already politicised (see the peado investigations) and corrupt (how do the media get such good information all the time) what exactly is Bernard threatening? Things have always fallen down the back of the filing cabinet.

If we are only now getting to the stage when police cuts mean police cuts (and headcount has actually been rising) have we been overspending despite "austerity"?

It seems to me that there is a coordinated call from the state sector and local government to increase spending, at a time when tax levels are already at a generational high.

All I want is my bin collected, my street swept and the occasional police patrol. The rest I can arrange for myself thanks.

James Higham said...

Rationing police services. Utter insanity.

Steven_L said...

Safer Neighbourhoods teams generally work 9-5 Monday-Friday; is that when they think ASB is at its worst?

That's the best time to go around the off-licenses in the 'local alcohol action area' of whatever they are called this week, and check that none of the beer or cider is in excess of 6% abv in breach of licensing conditions.

What were you under the impression 'safer neighbourhood teams' did?

Anonymous said...

@ a mayor with strong community affiliations tells the local police chief that laws he reckons aren't congenial to his community mustn't be enforced? What do we think?

I think you might have someone in mind ;-)

Scan said...

The police - as is the same for all government agencies - has no incentive to prioritise the public's concerns and will therefore prioritise the politically expedient. The M.O. is to cut the most emotive areas which will then support their claims they constantly need more money to help the public. This is the trap of the big black-hole that is all encompassing government.

As for A&E: "The patient rapidly gets triaged and filtered and rationed..." 10am to 10:30pm with no eventual outcome last Saturday says otherwise. The words "pro-active" "initiative" and "autonomous" clearly are four letter words in that particular institution.

Nick Drew said...

Scan - 'rapidly' was the wrong word, I entirely accept (and have tales like yours to tell - I am sure we all have)

what I meant was, although there is the appearance of 'no rationing' at the door of A&E, a ghastly pragmatic form of rationing-by-inertia sets in thereafter

andrew said...

1 Fact based argument :-

Crime levels are generally falling.
This is not due to the police (various theories from no more lead in petrol to no more direct experience of war). There will be less need for police.

2 True conservatism - Less laws please and less police powers please :-

Time to treat drug users as people who need medical help.
RIPA should have excluded journalists, has been used to spy on people trying to get into good schools etc etc etc
The Prevention of terrorism act was used in (iirc) the 2009 lab annual conference on a 83 yo man protesting about iraq
There was a law explicitly crafted to stop that war protester camping in parliament square.
That man who got 18 months for talking about bombing robin hood airport after having to sit through a long delay (cf betjeman and slough)

3 Be realistic :-

We are generally law abiding because we all agree that it is better to be law abiding, not because of the police.

4 Be fair to the Police :-

They spend an awful lot of time working with the same small group of people and this is often more due to social issues / poverty / mental illness than what this white liberal would term 'criminality' and so should not be left to the police

5 Open Discussion :-

You want something like NICE for the police, who can enforce minimum standards.
Then again, perhaps not.
This would open the door for what you do in a rich area ( rigorously enforce property crime ) or a socially motivated one ( rigorously enforce the hate crime laws where is misused by your standards ), after all just about everything is illegal (see 2) undo some law.

6 This has always been done :-

Rape, domestic violence, investigations into racially/gay motivated attacks - all of these were not given a lot of priority in the 70s'80s
Now, we seem to prioritise offences that include violence against people (and that is a good thing imo).

Nick Drew said...

andrew - I like your characteristic overall sanity


I'm afraid I don't buy Crime levels are generally falling ... There will be less need for police

the corresponding claim may be 100% true for the Fire Brigade; and policing may well need to change (if, for, example, it's correct that various categories of 'traditional / direct / physical' crime are falling)

but e.g. by financal value, crime must surely be rising phenomenally, and nowhere recorded (see SL @ 1:24 above) - and with it, new-to-Britain levels of corruption

again, to take SL's example: what's it worth to the knock-off trade in a big city, to have the local police / mayor / commissioner decide that it's a whole area they just won't worry about ("victimless crime, old chap" ...)

Electro-Kevin said...

It's reckless of the police to openly declare that there is rationing.

Any police officer who does this is betraying the public and should be sacked.

My reasoning is this. The police service has always been thinly spread but always gave the impression that it could turn up anywhere, at any time and that it will seriously try to catch and convict Burglar Bill and Gary Grafitti (even if it knows it can't.)

Much of policing was always bluff and deterence was the main tool in reducing crime.

After all, an extremely small number of terrorists are able to give the impression that they are everywhere - an impression happily supported by police, train announcers, the BBC, government...

So why aren't they playing the same trick with our perception of the ubiquity of the police ? It can be done highly effectively through clever PR, so the terrorist hysteria generated by our very own empire builders proves.

Politics, power, money grabbing.

Oh. My policeman friend has just retired on a pension package that would require a £1 million pot to generate if produced commercially. (£18k a year and £130k lump sum for a PC) I know he paid towards it but no way did he put a million quid away - so the public is funding this day to day and that's why police authorities are broke.

Never mind cops in coffee shops - what about those retired at 50 who are now out running marathons and riding bikes in Iron Man competitions yet who are 'too old' to police ?

(At that rate of pension support I imagine a PC must be earning the equivalent of 100k a year.)

CityUnslicker said...

Rationing Police is a great idea. The less police we have the less crime will be able to be recorded by the fewer police available recorded. The less crime the less police we will need. By their own logic of rationing, we will soon need no police at all.

Elby the Beserk said...

Avon & Somerset police were found out not that long ago to be another authority that had turned a blind eye to Muslim under age rape gangs.

Their response?

To mount Islamophobia patrols.

Until the rossers divert themselves from prosecuting "hate" crime to prosecuting real crime, we might as well go without. In effect, most of us are anyway.

andrew said...


On general crime levels:-

Wikipedia : "Consistent with EU trends,[4] the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015 figures show that crime in the UK is currently at its lowest level since the CSEW began in 1981, having decreased dramatically from its peak in 1995 and by 31% in the past five years alone.[5] For example, 1.32 million violent crimes were counted in 2014/2015 compared to 4.2 million in 1994/95."

Now, admittedly, it is not all good news - knife crime is up in London - but _overall_ - the general trend is down.

Of course what goes down can also go up.

On financial crime:-

As we get richer, the value of financial crime will of course rise.
In the early 80s insider dealing and the recently completed RR bribery trials simply were not crimes.

The internet also makes things easier.

As does new technology (contactless payments).

Blue Eyes said...

Andrew I think ND is talking about "white collar" crime and IP crime, especially. Difficult to measure and even define.

EK I refer you to my point about the police union. My token GP friend had a letter warning him that if he carried on making the standard contribution to the standard NHS pension scheme he would hit the verboten £1m pot limit at some stage. He has dropped down to four days a week in response. And why not? But those of us who work for small private sector firms can only dream of having such a pension pot, while we seem to be the ones earning the cash that goes into them.

John in Cheshire said...

Is this the considered opinion of ACPO or just Mr Hoganhowedidhegetthejob's personal view?

Steven_L said...

Financial crime has gone through the roof. It's been open season on people's pensions for about 8 years now. It'll be the next big scandal.

In the pensions thieving industry they even have things called 'sweep up products'.

First you someone (via a bent IFA) to transfer their pensions into a SIPP (run by a bent trustee), then spunk it all architects models of villas on golf course in Bulgaria. Then they sell these leads onto people who sell parking spaces under skyscrapers in Dubai that will never be built. Five or xix grand a pop type products designed specifically to 'sweep up' the spare change.

It's all so brazen that there are people in the House of Lords sat on the boards of companies doing this kind of thing.

The Police response to fraud is very rationed. All they do is (usually after the horse has bolted) set up some kind of 'task force' with all the other regulators and agencies that should have been doing something a long time ago. Then they make a few symbolic arrests at one of the smaller copycat operations. All complaints are now notified to the 'task force' who sit around drawing little diagrams (that call 'intelligence products') of who is helping who rip folk off, what mobile phone numbers they use, their car registrations etc.

The count drawing these diagrams as action these days.

Electro-Kevin said...

Blue - As far as I know the Police Federation have not won the right to strike nor the right to work to rule. I recall being forced to attend court on my annual leave and leave being cancelled at will, once involved in a job you could not walk off shift. The Federation doesn't have much leverage - however, the public sector in general (or those over a certain level of service) have been guaranteed remuneration which is unsustainable and which frontline services are bearing the brunt of.

I think it was Gordon Brown who had most to do with this. Never mind the Credit Crunch - it's the unfunded-pensions crisis to befall us.

Electro-Kevin said...

Steven L - All minor fraud investigation has been abrogated to the banks and credit card company fraud investigators (and they don't look at anything under 10k seriously.)

Blue Eyes said...

EK yet as you point out cops do pretty well in the round. Many getting more years of pension than they had to work for. Plus the lump sum. That seems like good unioning to me.

Anonymous said...

" new-to-Britain levels of corruption"

In recent years, maybe. But consider the state of the Navy when Pepys took it over.

Don Cox

Electro-Kevin said...

Blue - In think circa 1990 things went downhill for new recruits. Loss of rent allowance, lower pay/pensions and I'm not sure if the retirement at 50 thing holds for them.

The good stuff was brought in when cops really were poor and a number of corruption cases (Operation Countryman) brought to light police moonlighting and theft to make a living (the fire brigade were worse !)

A big demographic retirement hit is coming about now - along with current retirees having taken a pension for longer than they were actually in the force (80 is not old these days) We could easily see the 100 year-old policeman with a 50 year pension paid for with 30 years service (or NOT paid for as previously discussed.)

It's coming round full circle. A source tells me that the local force has something like 70 officers on suspension for recreational drug use. Like they don't value the job enough to curtail certain temptations.

Nick Drew said...

the fire brigade were worse !

v.costly newbuild house near us now occupied by a 'fireman'

(and his 66-reg Range Rover)

andrew said...

Well, arsonist is a pretty high risk occupation.

... but I suppose he can put the car against tax.

Electro-Kevin said...

Nick - I don't think we have the wharehouse fires that we used to. A fireman (on an effective 2 day week) with a trade has plenty of time to build a property empire.

Lockers said...

They could start by laying off Twatter - both policing it, and tweeting. My local force even feel the need to tweet if a mole farts, it seems.

Nick Drew said...

Kev - I've heard of a warehouse ... and a whorehouse ...

Anonymous said...

BE - "All I want is my bin collected, my street swept and the occasional police patrol. The rest I can arrange for myself thanks."

Until you find your new neighbour is a professional villain with several unpleasant sons, or that nice country place suddenly has a large traveller encampment next door, and the authorities see you as the problem when you object to having your stuff nicked and your wife feeling afraid to go outside.

Or you give the finger to the wrong motorway lunatic ...

Raedwald said...

All tax-funded services are rationed. That's not the point.

What's important is who makes the rationing decisions, and in particular how locally the tax decisions are made.

In respect of the Police, well over 90% of police activity are call outs to disturbances and dealing with minor, non-indictable offences. Stuff that can basically be dealt with by bouncers. Maybe it's time for a 2-tier police force - a less-qualified and less-costly local force to keep the peace and a London-wide much smaller specialist Met say 20% the size of the present force dealing with indictable, serious, organised and serial crime?

Anonymous said...

"Until you find your new neighbour is a professional villain with several unpleasant sons........."

I decided the only option was to move away as the police don't seem to want to do anything.