Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime"

Britain's top cop has actually said something sensible for a change.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, believes there is "almost no public faith" in crime figures.

Damn right. There is also almost no public faith in the police doing their job and the public on the whole believe the police would rather arrest a soft target than catch real criminals as this is easier and looks good on the figures.

This is why Britain is becoming a "walk-on-by" society where people no longer bother to intervene when they see a crime being committed as they worry about being arrested themselves.

One of the reasons for that is the fault of the police themselves who have forgotten the basic Peelian principles on which their occupation was founded - notably this one.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Blair points to New York as a model - but not for how to deal with crime, only how to deal with statistics.

Sir Ian also said the media and politicians had weakened confidence, adding that there was more faith in simpler statistics in New York, US.

The Met chief said: "Few question the crime figures in New York. Residents largely accept that their city is safer than it was.

"And that is because New York has not fiddled about with how they collect crime statistics in the way the UK has."

And it is on this point that he is half right. Few people question the crime figures in New York because they can see the evidence for themselves. Residents accept their city is safer than it was because they see the police doing their job of preventing crime and disorder - not just trying to detect crime and completely ignoring disorder as our police do - and can see the evidence with their own eyes.

Once again - as all things relating to the police do - this comes back to the principles laid down by Peel. This time it is principle number 9.

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

New York has an absence of crime and disorder and that is why people believe the figures. London does not which is why Londoners do not. When Sir Ian Blair talks about belief in crime figures he is making the fundamental mistake which Peel warned that the police should not do. He is trying to use the crime figures as visible evidence of police action in tackling crime.

Sir Ian Blair shares a title with Sir Robert Peel - but that is about all they do have in common. What a shame he doesn't share Peel's vision or his ability to lay down in clear, concise terms what the police are about.

If Blair really wants to win back public confidence he should go back to Peel's nine principles and study and understand them. You don't need a degree in English language to read and understand this .....

"Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime." Sir Robert Peel


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