It's thirty years too late, but at last their is an acknowledgement from the police that their retreat from the streets has been disastrous for Britain. Or rather, there has been an acknowledgement from the man who inspects the police that this is the case - from what I've heard so far from the police themselves is the usual denial that there is a problem or, if there is, that it is their problem.
For me, this is one of the most frustrating things about the modern police force - not so much their inability to tackle the problems of crime and disorder or even the inability to recognise that the problems exist and are theirs to deal with. It is the constant denial that the problems of crime and disorder that we face as a society come as a result of deliberate decisions and policies made by the police themselves and their refusal to accept that those decisions and policies have failed - completely.
If the police were ready to admit their failings and the disastrous consequences of past policy decisions I could accept their current inability to deal with the problem of crime and, particularly, disorder. At least we would know they are, at last, getting serious about dealing with them. But they are not. They are still tied to the idea of the police being a primarily reactive force rather than a visible deterrent.
Part of the problem lies in the fact of creeping "newspeak" which infects modern Britain. Rather than calling disorder what it is - disorder - we label it now as "anti-social behaviour" and the police believe that anti-social behaviour is a problem for local councils, not the police. But they are wrong. Anti-social behaviour is just the pseudo-intellectual way of saying disorder but using more words - the common mark of modern jargon infested language - and the mission of the police is to PREVENT crime AND disorder.
Please note those words - "prevent" and "and". When Sir Robert Peel laid down his nine principles of policing these were the words he used to sum up the mission of the police force. They are not there to simply to detect or react to crime - although these are also important requirements - their main purpose is to prevent crime taking place and to bring order where disorder reigns.
This can not be done from the confines of a CCTV room or a tin box on wheels whizzing past at 30 miles per hour. CCTV can be fooled by a simple device known as a "hood" or a "hat" and everyone who has ever been either a passenger or a driver of car knows how hard it is to assess what is going on around them from a moving vehicle. No matter how hard you try to keep your eyes on the houses or the pavements your eyes are inevitably drawn back to looking straight out in front through the windscreen.
What is more, being inside a moving vehicle or a CCTV control room prevents police officers from having contact with the people they are supposed to be protecting and policing preventing them from making the connections which will reassure people and provide the intelligence that the police need. Attending monthly or even weekly meetings with the same bunch of community activists - many of whom have personal agendas and motivations - is not going to provide that connection.
The inspector of constabulary said that resolving this problem will require "boots on the ground" and that is the only way it can be solved - by proper police officers patrolling neighbourhoods on their feet by pounding a beat. It works. It is proven to work and it is the only way we will ever tackle the problems of crime and disorder that blight Britain today.