Apologies in advance for the rant brought on by a number of recent news stories.
Some years ago each constabulary got a Police Authority in the name of efficiency; as with all new ideas it cost money to put in place and, from my perspective, hasn’t made any difference to the operational policing. Clearly the government agree that it didn’t work because we are soon to go American and get a set of elected Commissioners; and I have no doubt this will cost more than the Police Authority did to run (it always does)
They will come up with all sorts of ideas as to how to run the various forces but, at the end of the day, will not make any real difference to the real world. There are only so many Police Officers actually on the street and they spend most of the time being reactive rather than proactive.
The trouble, IMHO, is that there is no joined up thinking and too much consideration of cost: by that I do not mean just of the Police. The justice system includes the police, courts and the various means of punishment. Allow me to explain my thinking:
We have all heard the urban legend about the old time copper who, the first time you came to notice, gave you a clip around the ear and sent you on your way a wiser person; the truth of the stories is probably beyond verification now but I do know that at one time a policeman could give a youngster a caution for minor offences and record it in his pocketbook; if the individual got caught again it resulted in a visit to the court.
That system was replaced, for what ever reason, by the caution being given by ‘properly trained’ Inspectors; but of course the officer on the beat had usually given his caution first anyway – so now a miscreant would get two cautions before going to court; not being satisfied with that, someone decided that on first appearance in court the appropriate sentence was a caution; and we now have a situation where an offender can be taken to court several times before a custodial sentence is even considered.
In the UK sentencing does not fit the crime; you have only to watch one of the Police TV shows to hear how a driver of a car, already disqualified from driving and therefore also has no insurance, drives along at a really dangerous speed causing crashes along the way only to get a fine of a few hundred pounds and a further disqualification from driving.
Perennially we get the ‘prison overcrowding’ and ‘bad conditions in x prison’ stories, not to mention the ‘breach of human rights’ that is trotted out almost daily now; and I can’t help but believe the sentencing rule in this country are more to do with saving money than justice. The argument that prison sentences do not work and are often counter productive is, IMO, rubbish, except in the sense that most prisons in this country are like holiday camps. At least while someone is in prison they are not committing crimes.
I am not saying that prison is the answer for all crimes but until the police get backed up by sentencing that fits the crime (there is something to be said for the American 3 strikes system, after all if an offender is caught doing the same thing three times they deserve a severe sentence ) no amount of reorganisation will resolve the issues. In fact any politically motivated appointment will only result in politically motivated direction.