Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Ancient target set for the police - please don't get here in time
Watching the non-surprise-of-the-year departure of the current Home Secretary (there will be another following shortly) and the mile-wide oil slick in her wake, made me recall a previous one and how there is a clear history of setting unrealistic targets for the police, even at the very basic street level. Of course, in those days we had no facts at our disposal about second, third or fourth homes, floating duck islands, phantom mortgages, soft porn films (there was no satellite TV then) or the mysteries of allowances - we just always assumed there was a great big pot from which they could scoop out nice supplements to their wages. On that occasion, our assumptions were wide of the mark and thanks now to the Telegraph and the Freedom of Information Act I now know that we'd seriously underestimated things. Yet somehow they mostly all seemed likeable, in fact some seemed positively `likeable rogues` although I will not use that latter expression in respect of the Hon. Peter `Duck Island` Viggers whom I had a professional working knowledge of in my latter years. I don't know about him being a `rogue`, but likeable he definitely wasn't. Come to think of it, neither was Tom King - perhaps none of them were likeable after all? No, surely not. Willie Whitelaw was a gent and I really enjoyed the occasional word with Merlyn Rees - oh dear, is this how time clouds ones memory? I mean, with the news just in this morning, of the resignation of Hazel Bleary, I can't even remember how a Prime Minister is supposed to re-shuffle an incomplete pack of cards? I mean, is there any point, particularly when you can only play `snap`? Anyway, back to my rather dull anecdote. The late Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, had his registered main residence in the Notting Hill area of London. We had a very strict timed response to certain very sensitive premises if their alarms were triggered. The Home Secretary's was one of them. We had a 3 minute deadline but at any one time we could be a few miles from the venue. Anyone who knows that area of London also knows the nightmare traffic. Most police Area cars in central London would spend part of their journey up and down kerbs in order to make rapid progress to a 999 call, but ours was an armed response to a specifically high risk government minister and so we had to motor. Depending on the time, our 3 minute response was nigh on impossible to achieve, but our drivers usually achieved the impossible. After a spell of `accidental` alarm activations a memo arrived in our base, from the Home Sec's personal protection officer, via our commander in New Scotland Yard. It requested that, with immediate effect, we stopped using our emergency siren when responding to the Home Secretary's alarm activation as it was annoying the Home Secretary and upsetting his neighbours, which was a bit rich as it was him who kept setting the bloody thing off. Now a silent approach is a tactic that police can use under certain circumstances, but on this particular job there was absolutely no tactical advantage without specific additional information. Our deployment in the immediate vicinity would definitely be tactical, especially as we were inadequately armed with mediocre firearms and with no body armour, but in order to scythe ones path through a mass of traffic and indifferent drivers there was no time for discretion and politeness. We were not much amused. Still, compared to the `targets` set for the police these days by the Government's bright young Home Office `think-tankers` (bit of `Nu Cockney` there?) , it now seems like a very reasonable request. [The picture is of a car I actually used to crew].