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Bonkers Blog January 2013

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30 January (Part 2) - The most loved police force in the UK

Police ConsultationThat’s their mission apparently. It’s what came up on the slide show at last night’s Police & Crime consultation meeting at the Civic Centre. Surely that is an aspiration too far? Even 15 years ago, before I came to realise that only a fool trusts a police officer, I never got anywhere near loving them. They are going to have to work very hard to gain a modicum of respect let alone love.

The meeting was advertised as being ‘advanced bookings only’ but that was abandoned as the normal Bexley apathy went on show. I counted just short of 60 people who looked like they may have been ‘civilians’ and many of them proved to be ex-coppers and Neighbourhood Watch coordinators. There were many uniformed police officers in evidence, perhaps as many as 20, plus councillor leader Teresa O’Neill, two cabinet members, six councillors that I noted, and James Cleverly; all Conservative.

On the top bench was Deputy Mayor for Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, Assistant Police Commissioner Simon Byrne, Bexley’s own Police Commander Victor Olisa and a most extraordinarily belligerent chairman, Richard Mann from the Bexley Community Police Engagement Group.

MPS Twitter

Almost under my nose a young lady was Twittering the event on behalf of MPSBexley. You may read her efforts alongside. Bottom up preferably.

Stephen Greenhalgh in essence said the plan for 2015 was to get rid of buildings and provide more police officers. They will increase in number to a very precisely calculated 25,909, the largest number ever in London.

Simon Byrne said that instead of going to police stations his officers would “come to you’. Most of what the two guests said may be read on line at so there is not a lot of point in duplicating things here. However questions from local people may be more worthy of note.

Stephen GreenhalghA retired police Superintendent from Orpington was not impressed by the proposals and said that we should do what Kent Constabulary had done though he failed to say what that was. Perhaps his most telling comment was that if police officers had attended a traumatic event, he rather graphically described picking up body parts from a railway line, they wanted to go back to their station for a cup of tea to calm down, not to the local supermarket cafe where they would be pestered by people asking silly questions.

He went on to say that sending out solitary PCSOs at 2 a.m. wearing a stab vest is an invitation for any drunken lout to have a go at them. The sound of a “yep” came from the audience and I got the impression the source was leader O’Neill, but I could be wrong. Simon Byrne said he did not “want to see the powers of PCSOs move towards a fully fledged PC” which probably wasn’t the answer the ex-Superintendent was looking for.

The chairman of the Barnehurst Police Panel said he was “disgusted” with his local police officers and their bikes were all broken and not fixed. The crime rate, he said, had gone up “tremendously”. Commander Olisa attempted to answer the bike question but was rudely slapped down by the jumped up chairman, Richard Mann. An outbreak of audience jeering encouraged the Chief Superintendent to persist with his answer. He had recently spent £4,000 on fixing bikes. Deputy Mayor Greenhalgh obviously thought that was excessive as did I. Surely you can buy 20 new bikes for £4,000.

Another former Superintendent complained about the lack of CPS guidance after 5 p.m. which the Deputy Mayor appeared to have some sympathy with, referring to the need for “swifter, surer justice”. Ass. Commissioner Byrne was less sure. “Sometimes it is quicker to get advice from the central [CPS] resource”.

A lady in the audience didn’t think much of the plan to report police matters at a Post Office. “The queue in W.H. Smiths is quite long enough already.” And “How do the elderly with no computers report crimes? Reports on the 101 line don’t even reach the teams.”

Simon ByrneRay Hudson who is Chairman of Bexley’s Neighbourhood Watch believed the police was “hidebound with forms and we need to get officers out on the beat”. Simon Byrne was inclined to agree. “Every time we have a problem we introduce a new form. What we need is a bonfire of the Standard Operating Procedures.”

Another gentleman said that the aim to cut [by 20% according to the Mission Statement] crime might be an encouragement not to record it, he wanted some police to be behind their desks “for without that there would be no full recording. They seem more interested in producing data to boost their own confidence yet the Victim Satisfaction level in the Met. is the lowest in the UK”.

The Deputy Mayor replied to the effect that the police must focus on victim satisfaction while I cringed at his remarks because I knew who that questioner was. He has suffered massively at the hands of the corrupt and incompetent officers who infest Bexleyheath police station and gave him no satisfaction at all.

There was a reference to the recently closed Sidcup Police Station; Stephen Greenhalgh didn’t know that, and that according to the questioner, a former police Superintendent, anti-social behaviour had doubled in the High Street now that officers are tucked away in Marlowe House.

That pretty much wrapped up the meeting although the half hour that followed it was arguably more interesting. I’ll return to that another day.

For what it’s worth the two guest speakers came across as reasonable enough men but neither will have a clue of what really goes on at the grassroots of policing. All the questions from the floor were to some degree or another critical of their plans but apart from the vague reference to Kent, no one had a better idea. “Setting the clock back 30 years” as was suggested is simply not an option. The travelling duo will not have taken away anything from Bexley which might change their minds.

Note: This blog will be a hopeless mess when viewed in Internet Explorer 6 because of the scrolling graphic. What are you doing using a twelve year old browser anyway?


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