PETER HITCHENS: It’s time to view the police just like other failed industries

I know it takes an effort, but it really is time to view the police just like any other failed industry which simply does not deliver value for money. 

Either they have to be reformed from top to bottom, or they should be replaced by something better.

Simply for saying this I will now be subjected to a tornado of abuse and falsehoods, delivered by people claiming to be police officers but hiding their identities, all over the internet. 

Police claim they lack resources to help the law-abiding. But despite recent cuts, they are far more numerous than they were 50 years ago [File photo]

Police claim they lack resources to help the law-abiding. But despite recent cuts, they are far more numerous than they were 50 years ago [File photo]

Police claim they lack resources to help the law-abiding. But despite recent cuts, they are far more numerous than they were 50 years ago [File photo]

Perhaps they really are police officers. Despite their hairy-chested, aggressive language, they are invariably as politically correct as any student union. 

They are frightened that the public will eventually wake up to the fact that they are paying for a service and not getting it.

And when they do, then they are going to have to change their ways very radically. So they want to shut me up. 

I’ll get a lot of personal abuse. Well, there’s a surprise. The idea that the police are the polite servants of the public died long ago.

I’ll be told to go out (please, not again! I’ve done it) on one of their useless ‘patrols’, where they react at high speed to crimes they could and should have prevented. I’ll be told that I am accusing the police of being lazy. I am not. 

Police, who had done almost nothing to curb anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their area of Warrington for years, were, of course, swift to act once there was a murder to investigate

Police, who had done almost nothing to curb anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their area of Warrington for years, were, of course, swift to act once there was a murder to investigate

Police, who had done almost nothing to curb anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their area of Warrington for years, were, of course, swift to act once there was a murder to investigate

I am saying that they do the wrong thing all the time, pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom, and however hard they work at it, they will achieve nothing. Prevention, not reaction, is their job.

I’ll be told that I show no respect to police officers who risk their lives in the line of duty. I respect them absolutely. 

But I should point out that even in my own trade of journalism, there are people who risk their lives, and are killed or kidnapped, and their courage does not make the rest of us immune from criticism where we fail or misbehave.

Interestingly, I’ll also hear from some serving and retired officers who completely agree with me that the job they signed up to do has been destroyed. 

I am writing about the police this week because of a rather neglected report from Helen Newlove, the Victims’ Commissioner, who was put into the House of Lords by David Cameron after her brave husband was kicked to death in the street by louts.

Police, who had done almost nothing to curb anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their area of Warrington for years, were, of course, swift to act once there was a murder to investigate. 

I am glad to report that Baroness Newlove has not been fooled or bought off by her peerage. In her final report, she has excoriated the authorities for treating ASB as unimportant.

Yet this – the gathering of louts in the streets, the noise, the open consumption of drugs or drunkenness, the vandalism and menace, the powerlessness of the gentle against the selfish – is the front line of the war for peace and order in our country. And the police have abandoned it.

Here’s a sample from Helen Newlove’s report, which seems to sum up the combination of political correctness and uselessness which so many find when they ask for help: 

I’ll be told to go out (please, not again! I’ve done it) on one of their useless ‘patrols’, where they react at high speed to crimes they could and should have prevented. I’ll be told that I am accusing the police of being lazy. I am not [File photo]

I’ll be told to go out (please, not again! I’ve done it) on one of their useless ‘patrols’, where they react at high speed to crimes they could and should have prevented. I’ll be told that I am accusing the police of being lazy. I am not [File photo]

I’ll be told to go out (please, not again! I’ve done it) on one of their useless ‘patrols’, where they react at high speed to crimes they could and should have prevented. I’ll be told that I am accusing the police of being lazy. I am not [File photo]

‘One victim told us that the medical and mental health needs of prostitutes in her local area are considered and taken care of by authorities and local charities, but the effects on the local victims suffering from soliciting, kerb crawling and drug taking in their neighbourhood are not. 

‘All we got off the police was, “We’re working with the prostitutes, we’re looking after their welfare” and I said, “What are you doing for the residents?”

And the policeman said, “Well, we’re short-staffed, we can’t be everywhere.”‘

In another case, the rights of illegal tenants delayed the council from evicting ASB perpetrators, while the victim had to suffer months of abuse when waiting for the eviction notice to be served.’

So there you have it. Police claim they lack resources to help the law-abiding. But despite recent cuts, they are far more numerous than they were 50 years ago. 

They are weighed down with expensive equipment. They are supported by tens of thousands of office staff.

They no longer have to run prosecutions, a job handed over to the CPS. They no longer have to secure commercial premises, a duty taken over by private security firms.

They no longer have to enforce parking laws, and as far as I can see they have entirely given up traffic patrols. 

As for regular foot patrols, you might as well hope to see King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table bicycling up Oxford Street.

It’s not that they’re lazy, nor that they are short of staff. It’s just that they don’t any longer do what it says on the tin. 

It’s as if the Post Office was still called the Post Office but actually didn’t deliver letters any more. They are not the police. 

They are a state crime-reporting agency which does quite a bit of social work (some of it rather noble) and which fiercely enforces equality and diversity codes, especially on Christian preachers.

Well, they can hold a flag day for that and see if anyone puts money in the box. But I really don’t see why we should be forced to pay any taxes for it.

Brilliant Kate ignores the dragon in the shadows

The thriller series The Widow, starring Kate Beckinsale, was nearly very good. 

I must have been one of very few viewers who has actually been to the filthy mines of the former Belgian Congo, where ruthless gangmasters scour the ravaged soil of abandoned 1930s mines for metals that have recently become ultra-precious.

And the terrifying feeling of stepping off the edge of the known world was well portrayed. I have no plans to return. 

But I saw only a tiny hint in the programme of the force which lies behind so much of this misery – China’s relentless pursuit of economic power, which is spreading fast across Africa. 

I am still baffled that we remain so wilfully ignorant of Peking’s scramble for world power, the greatest global issue of our age.

The thriller series The Widow, starring Kate Beckinsale, was nearly very good. I must have been one of very few viewers who has actually been to the filthy mines of the former Belgian Congo

The thriller series The Widow, starring Kate Beckinsale, was nearly very good. I must have been one of very few viewers who has actually been to the filthy mines of the former Belgian Congo

The thriller series The Widow, starring Kate Beckinsale, was nearly very good. I must have been one of very few viewers who has actually been to the filthy mines of the former Belgian Congo

How long until they abolish rape juries?

Do you ever hesitate about getting someone else punished, either in case you are wrong, or because you can’t bring yourself to ruin someone else’s life? 

It seems to me that you have to be very sure indeed about something before taking actions which might end up with someone else being locked away for many years, and eventually released into a bankrupt, burned-out life.

No doubt some people, rapists for example, do deserve this. And if you are quite sure that they do, then I can’t see why you should object too much to being asked – not compelled, asked – to allow police to access your mobile phone records.

I’m dispirited by the fuss about this sensible precaution against wrongful conviction, being spun as a gross intrusion. 

Those asked for these details remain entirely anonymous and need fear no public exposure. I believe in the punishment of wrongdoers. 

That imposes a duty on me to be very sure that the right person is convicted. But there is now a fierce campaign to get convictions for rape regardless of any safeguards.

Its supporters already presume that anyone charged with rape is guilty. It is politically driven. 

And I fear that this campaign will start demanding that rape charges are no longer heard by independent juries, but by state-appointed assessors (probably all women). They may well get their way. 

And if they do, how long will juries last in other cases? The politicisation of justice is a threat to us all, and we won’t realise it until it affects us personally. 

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