I've heard a lot of tough words from political leaders of both national and local government over the last 24 hours. Heard a few from the Scottish National leadership too. I thought I ought to make that distinction as I wouldn't want to leave them tarred with the same brush as us south-of-the-border barbarians, after all they have their own reputations to preserve and protect - no offence Alex.
The general gist reaching my ears was that `the community won't stand for it`. Well I beg to differ, the community does stand for it and has stood for it for a couple of decades or more. In my police career I watched as social controls that me and my colleagues took for granted were dissolved in a series of stealthy moves. Just how this was affecting me and my officers was made very apparent just before I was promoted to inspector when I was the community beat sergeant for what was one of the largest concentrations in Europe of people receiving some form of housing, social and other benefits. The majority were good folks, struggling to make ends meet, as indeed I was albeit on my slightly different socio/economic stratum, but at least I had a secure job and the means within it, and myself, to improve my position when I chose to do so. As it turned out I was worse off once I got promoted to inspector and beyond, but thats another lesson I might go into some other time.
My reasoning behind saying that the community does stand for this disorder, theft and destruction has its origins, from my perspective, in the period of time when I was suddenly faced by the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would no longer take to court the cases that me and my officers were trying to prosecute and these were the cases that made a difference to the ordinary people living in my area. There were occasions that we reported people for what,from the macro view, would be considered minor matters. But working on those estates amongst the residents meant we were a recognisable face of the law that they could actually put a name to (it wasn't always a polite name, but hey, thats the way it goes). Having a brew with them, being seen daily, sharing their concerns and, most importantly, taking action on the things that blighted their little bit of life was what the majority wanted and I believe that goes for most of us.
But gradually the things that we were taking action over, things that our community wouldn't stand for, like disorderly words and behaviour outside the `7-11`, criminal damage, nicking bikes, not maintaining their vehicles and countless other `petty` matters, started to get rejected by the CPS. This creeping paralysis followed me up through the next two ranks to the point that on one occasion, in order to support one of my officers, I actually went to the court where his case was being heard and asked to speak to the bench in order to urge them to see through the `minor` charge and to explain to the magistrates about the hidden part of the iceberg that was sinking peoples dreams of a tolerable life. It was a total waste of my time as `the system` wouldn't, couldn't, wasn't even allowed to see it.
This erosion of the small stuff had the effect of `racheting up` the tension on the streets. It was a gradual process because what we were dealing with here was the subtle manipulation of society's behavioural patterns, but it most definitely was happening. More and more cases that my officers put before the CPS would be watered down or even rejected as `not being worthy` or `too costly`. One prosecuting solicitor actually said to me that a particular case was one that would really be suitable for `a clip round the ear`! I told him that this was now a myth and I was asking for a judicial clip round the ear in this case. Classic short term, short sighted economy. You buy a dirt cheap motor and it dies on you, quickly draining your bank account as it falls apart. It is a big hole into which you pour money.
Everybody knew that the British police were pretty damn good at dealing with major crime. Our training establishments up and down the country always had officers from all over the world on the various courses, coming here because we were a centre of excellence as were our procedures and strategies. If you were a foreign officer on a British police training course you had been selected for greater things by your home force. But as our legal system has abandoned the small stuff, taking the macro economic view, so they have taken their eye not only off the micro societal ball in order to save money in their own particular sphere of operation, but they have taken their eyes off the entire game.
Now, the game that is being played out is fuelled by the notion bred into the generation that grew up in the recent couple of decades, that society does in fact `stand for it`, that there's nothing anyone wants to do about it and that nothing will happen even if they get caught. I refer to the paraphrased words I cited in my previous post, words from the mouth of the thieving looting scum who I heard on BBC Radio news yesterday morning, recorded by a plucky BBC reporter in Manchester:
“Reporter: `Why are you doing this?
Scum teen looter: ` Cos I can get away wiv it man. I ain’t bothered. If I’m caught, this is my 1st offence, so what happens if I’m caught? Nothing. I'm gonna keep doin it till I'm caught`.
Reporter: "But what happens when you get home with new goods that you've stolen. What will your parents do?"
Scum teen looter: "Nuffink man. What are they going to do to me? If I'm caught I'm a first offender. So I get an ASBO"
So for any political leader who is tempted to make a rallying cry of, `society won't stand for it` I say they should take a good long look over their shoulders, because the succession of social and criminal justice policies that have seeped into our society is precisely what they and their predecessors have sanctioned and have, by their acquiescence, deemed we should `put up with`, `stand for` or just pinch our noses and swallow down whole.
I think most of them should now realise what `society` does and doesn't want to stand for. Now get on and give us what the majority really want - but don't let it take a couple of decades to take hold.
NB: See Maslo's triangle, 2nd tier.