Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Theresa May and That Speech

I am publishing below an article written by former DS Chris Hobbs. There are a few holes in his case but much of what he says is spot on! My sources tell me that the Federation response to this will not only be to take on board the Normington reforms. You should see an application to the European Court for the right to take industrial action. You cannot treat the police like any other organisation and then withhold those rights. The service can only take so much of your strap-on Mrs May!

Chris Hobbs

Can somebody please tell me what was so ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ about Theresa May’s speech last week at the Police Federation conference?

What was the worst that could have happened to the ‘fearless’ Home Secretary? Booing, heckling, slow hand clapping all of which should be meat and drink to any politician be they a local councillor, MP or cabinet minister.
She was in no danger of being shot at, spat at, punched, kicked, stabbed, petrol bombed or of being terrified that the mob she was facing would literally kill her if they were given the chance.
Many of those in the audience would have faced some or all of the ordeals listed above yet had to sit and listen to a politician clearly on a mission to enhance her potential as a possible future leader of her party.
She would know only too well the results of a recent survey carried out by the University of the West of England which shows police morale to be on the floor with nearly 50% of officers stating that they would move jobs if the opportunity presented itself. She would know that police staff surveys amongst virtually every force in the UK shows widespread disillusionment that should send alarm bells ringing throughout the Home Office.
Yet despite that, like a cowardly street corner thug, she ‘stuck the boot in’ to a world renowned police service which is already on its knees.
Of course there were the usual insincere platitudes uttered as is always the case when either politicians or the sections of the media launch an onslaught on rank and file police officers. Seasoned, opportunist politician that she is, she would know that it would not be the platitudes which would grab the headlines but the scathing criticism that could only damage shattered police morale still further whilst bringing cheers from those on the right who have joined with the left in berating the beleaguered police at every opportunity.
No-one would deny, least of all rank and file officers, that the Police Federation has become a self seeking shambles. Police officers pay the monthly subscriptions purely because the nature of their work requires them to be able to obtain legal cover. Yet even obtaining this is a lottery with applications for help frequently being denied despite the millions festering away in federation coffers.
The rank and file were disgusted by the sheer lack of resistance by those at the top of the Police Federation to policing reforms which have worsened pay and conditions and made their job far more difficult on the streets. Just one protest march was organised and rank and file officers watched stunned as their representatives supinely acquiesced to reforms that would have been unthinkable years ago.
It wasn’t as if the Police Federation were short of ammunition. Met police whistle blower James Patrick’s book, ‘The Rest is Silence’ forensically dissected the dubious machinations around police reform to reveal dubious practises involving conflicts of interest bordering on corruption. Sadly James’s careful research became lost in the crime figures furore that surrounded the book and his appalling treatment as a police whistle blower.
In fairness to the Police Federation, the report by Sir David Normington which provided Theresa May with so much ammunition, was actually commissioned by the Police Federation itself and perhaps had she simply stayed with her criticism of the Federation, she might have escaped the wrath of front line police officers throughout the country.
That however would not have grabbed the headlines in quite the same way as her self-promoting, spiteful condemnation of the entire police service which included her listing every alleged transgression that has occupied the headlines over recent months.
Incredibly she even included incidents which are still the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings and investigations where conclusions still have to be reached.
From Hillsborough to Plebgate, Theresa May did not miss a trick in turning the knife in the already gaping police wounds yet, of course this ignores the fact that of the 132,000 serving officers and indeed a similar number of retired officers, only a tiny fraction of those not even numbering three figures, would be involved in the ‘transgressions’ mentioned almost jubilantly by the Home Secretary.
She accuses the police or more specifically Special Branch’s undercover SDS (Special Demonstration Squad) of ‘smearing’ the Lawrence family when the only evidence appears to some from one former disgruntled undercover officer. Of course, in the aftermath of Stephen’s death, the police had to ensure that the tragedy was not exploited by violent extremist groups and to the Lawrence family’s everlasting credit they rebuffed all advances from groups that espoused violence.
The police also had to ensure that the Doreen and Neville Lawrence remained safe from possible attacks by right wing groups such as Combat 18 which necessitated some knowledge of the family’s personal affairs, which unfortunately would have included the Lawrence’s marital split. This was later used to smear the police yet I was in Special Branch during this period and can clearly recall the overwhelming sympathy for the Lawrence family and the determination to keep them safe.
Theresa May’s mention of appalling behaviour by officers in one domestic violence case of course failed to mention the hundreds of acts of kindness and compassion shown by officers dealing with all sorts of incidents including domestic violence, across the country on a daily basis.
Thrown into this diatribe of contempt almost inevitably was stop and search. Previously Theresa May used the term “absolutely disgraceful” when referring to the issue yet neither she, the Inspectorate of Constabulary or other critics seem to have considered the fact that front line police in inner city areas have an aversion to dealing with young people who had their whole lives in front of them, lying dead or dying having been shot or stabbed.
Officers attending murders involving shootings and stabbings are not immune either to the trauma or emotion that accompanies these incidents and whether the victim is a gang member or not that victim is someone’s son or daughter and police have also to deal with the distraught family.
All too often young people have died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or been wrongly identified. Kwame Ofuso-Asare, aged 17, Shaquille Smith 14, Agnes Sina-Inakoju 16, Joseph Burke-Monerville 19, Shereka Marsh 15 and Alim Uddin 17 are just some of the innocents who would be alive today if police had stopped and searched the perpetrator carrying that weapon through the streets before they reached their victim and who will forget little Thusha Kamaleswaren who was shot and paralysed in a gang shooting whilst playing in her uncle’s shop.
It also goes without saying that had the thugs who killed Stephen been stopped and searched by police he too would still be alive today.
These deaths are a tragedy too for those who carry out such heinous acts and who are almost inevitably arrested and sentenced for murder thanks to the expertise of officers so quick to be criticised by the Home Secretary; lives ruined by a murder conviction as opposed to one for possession of a weapon.
How duplicitous is it of Theresa May when she refers, in sections of her speech, to the ‘fall in crime’ to then, amongst the list of police transgressions speaks of; ‘Allegations of rigged crime statistics.’  It is of course these ‘rigged’ figures together with the hopelessly flawed England and Wales crime survey which provide her with the those very same ‘improved’ crime statistics of which she so frequently boasts.
Of course, one tactic by any politician whose country, party or department is in some difficulty is to a create a firestorm as a distraction and this particular policing firestorm is keeping attention away from the shambolic Home Office as it continues to blunder from one crisis to another under Theresa May’s leadership. Of course Mrs May’s political aspirations will remain unaffected as long as they remain out of the public eye or can be blamed on ‘something or someone else.’
Last week I attended the funeral of a truly exceptional customs officer who died tragically at the age of 46. He had become a living legend in his short life as, over the years, he and his team seized millions of pounds worth of Class A drugs at Heathrow.
Hundreds of his colleagues turned up to pay their respects in what was an emotional but nevertheless uplifting afternoon. Once proudly known as Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise the officers who worked on detection teams at UK ports have been passed around like an unwanted parcel, first being absorbed into the UK Border Agency and then, due to the pre-Olympic shambles of huge queues at airports, combined with Immigration into the UK Border Force thus terminating their proud history at the stroke of a pen.
After the Olympics the shambles quietly continued and after the funeral I spoke to numerous former customs officers who were now part of the border force and who are known patronisingly as ‘legacy customs officers.’
I listened to the same tale of woe time after time told by dedicated officers who I hadn’t seen for some years. I was astonished to find that since customs officers had been ‘absorbed’ into a more ‘efficient and effective’ unit the seizure of Class A drugs has dropped by a staggering 76%.
Officers complained that the priority was still queues and they were frequently taken away from detection duties to ‘stamp passports.’ Even when they were stamping passports, they were frequently unable to further question passengers they might be unhappy with due to ‘queues.’ Thus individuals are still entering the country in droves despite those individuals being of concern to border officers.
Many of these same officers have complained to their supervisors who, as former immigration officers, have little or no experience in drug detection and were less than keen to ‘create waves.’ According to these experienced officers, drugs seizures are no longer a priority and this view is supported by adverse comment by the Immigration Inspector, John Vine as to the lack of detection officers in the channels.
Amazingly many high risk flights are simply not covered at all and couriers are able to pass through the customs channels without even seeing a ‘legacy customs officer’ whose role is to detect passengers importing drugs. Little wonder that Britain’s drinking water is contaminated with cocaine.
After making their views known to their supervisors the complaining officers have no-where else to go. They are only too well aware that ‘whistle blowing’ will only result in them suffering the same victimisation as their police colleagues with the likelihood that they would lose their jobs.
This disgraceful situation is taking place on Theresa May’s watch; little wonder that receiving plaudits from her colleagues at ‘taking on the police’ is preferable to an exposure of her appalling failure in dealing with problems at the UK borders.
The standing joke however, is that if the true situation in relation to drugs importation were exposed then her spin would simply be that the fact that fewer drugs were being detected at the borders was as a result of ‘effective controls.’
So we have a situation where Theresa May is presiding over a totally demoralised police force, a totally demoralised Border Force and, a result, is being ‘touted’ as a future Prime Minister.
Storm clouds are however on the horizon. The commander of the Met’s elite firearms CO19 unit has publicly stated that 60% of his officers may hand in their firearms authorisations if the Home Office backed IPCC proposals as to procedures after shootings come into force.
What he didn’t say was that all CO19 officers are likely to refuse to carry firearms in any event if any firearms officer is prosecuted for the deaths of Azelle Rodney and/or Mark Duggan. This would result in the biggest policing crisis since the police strike of 1919.
It may of course be that Theresa May’s decision to mount such a ferocious attack on the Police Federation which is clearly designed emasculate it, may just have something to do with the recent decision taken by European Committee of Social Rights. This gives the Irish equivalent of the Police Federation the right to strike and clearly Theresa May would wish to ensure that there is no possibility of any UK police federation going down that same controversial road.
Over the last few years the federation hierarchy has incurred the wrath of its members by prevaricating on the issue of a ballot whereby officers would decide if they wished to legally pursue their right to strike. For that, Theresa May and her predecessors should be grateful.
One fact is certain; during the last few months many front line officers are making it clear to close relatives that if they are killed ‘in the line of duty’ they do not want ‘that woman’ anywhere near their funeral.