Remember speaking to the old lamp-swinger at your station about how things ‘used to be’…
We all had one – the 25 year plus bobby who still had a cape stashed in his locker alongside the paperwork that really should have been shredded years ago. They regaled us with tales of days gone by – when Policing was valued by public and politicians alike. The ‘olden days’ when we actually chased the baddies (albeit in a Rover P1) and justice was administered just as robustly by parents as it was by the courts.
15 years used to be the qualifier for something to be classed as old school as that was the pace things changed back then. But as time rolled by, the speed at which the wheel revolved increased and our ability to do things properly gradually started to evaporate.
What is Policing going to look like in 10 years time used to be the canteen topic. Now though we don’t even know where we will be in 18 months time.
It’s certainly looking up for the bad guys. With the latest news from NPAS (National Police Air Service) indicating that a 14% reduction in budget will result in the loss of four helicopters from a fleet of twenty-three and the closure of ten bases. The choppers are to be replaced by fixed wing aircraft operating from Elstree and East Midlands Airport.
Ch Supt Ian Whitehouse put a beautifully ‘on message’ spin about improvements to efficiency and effectiveness on the situation, but we can all read between the lines. Less appropriate aircraft + longer eta = more baddies get away.
Planes may be cheaper to put in the air and may also have a slightly longer operational time, but they are far from ideal for the kind of work that Policing requires of them. Baddies hide from aircraft – it all part of the game. A helicopter can contain them by hovering at an appropriate altitude – sometimes even landing to deposit a copper in a flight suit – and make sure they don’t get away.
A plane has a real limitation on altitude, and a real problem with hovering.
In reality, it will probably end up doing a big circle over the area where the baddie was last seen. This is bad as anything remotely resembling a solid object more than ten feet high (let alone a house or a tower block) will mean that there is a regular window of opportunity for the quarry to flee – or at least move – and a comparatively good chance of evading the incoming ground patrols.
In the olden days this was still not the end of the game as there would be a willing team of officers backed up by a Police Dog or two who could contain the area a flush out their suspect. Now though there might be two or three bobbies and the dog can regularly be twenty miles away dealing with an immediate response job (because there was no one else – or they happened to be the nearest callsign) and so it might realistically be half an hour or longer before an effective containment can be implemented.
Worst case scenario is that the baddie is caught and detained by a lone officer. This may sound like a good thing, and it would have been 10 years ago when others were not so far behind, but now this can play out really badly for the officer if the balance of power shifts against them.
Police officers will always run toward the problem, it’s what we do. We all get the training on risk management and dynamic threat assessment and it’s great in theory – but how many of us would actually stand back and let the bad things continue because there is a risk of getting hurt. We wade in and do our best in the hope that it will all work out ok in the end.
Sometimes this doesn’t go as well as we hoped. I shared a story from Sky News earlier this week (http://news.sky.com/story/1431286/bodycam-captures-vicious-attack-on-officer) regarding a Sgt who was violently overpowered by her prisoner (even though he was cuffed and sitting in the back of a Police car) in June last year. Thankfully he chose to run once the initial attack had incapacitated the officer. However, this could have easily proved fatal had that been the will of the offender and the assault had continued after the officer was on the ground.
Where will we be in 18 months time? I can honestly say I don’t know.
We have a General Election in May which will, no doubt, result in more political tinkering with budgets and legislation.
We are just over a month away from the implementation of a shiny new pension scheme – yet I have still not met anyone prepared to give a full picture of what this will mean when I finally come to retirement.
Forces throughout the UK are still looking for ways to save millions and, with most viable assets already gone and the corners of the square rounded off so far that it’s practically a circle, it is hard to see where else the cuts can come from except the payroll. Some forces are already facing viability issues and more will undoubtedly follow.
All we can hope for is that whatever actually happens, the result is not the death of an officer or member of the public we are desperately trying to protect.