Friday, August 12, 2011

The nature of our problem

There is just no end to the EVM, but today's prize for fatuosity, if not downright stupidity, has to go to David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and a former shadow police minister, writing in the Failygraph. In common with the man pretending to be our prime minister, this man is a fool – his sin in this case being to prattle about bringing in ex-armed forces officers to lead our police forces.

In fact, that has been tried before and failed dismally – right up to having retired senior officers taking on the posts of police commissioners. Few remember that Lord Trenchard was one such, he of hunger march fame – a man who did much to sour relations between the working classes and their rulers.

That aside, Ruffley, tells us that as a result of the defence cuts, many officers are leaving the Armed Forces. "They have commanded men in life-and-death situations, often with limited resources. Why shouldn’t they enter the upper echelons of the police service?", the fool asks.

Back in the 1980s, he reminds us, Margaret Thatcher flirted with this idea, but was eventually persuaded that "Army types" would alienate existing policemen, and had no experience of policing by consent. "Try saying the same of today's officers, who have secured the streets of Ulster and the bazaars of Afghanistan and Iraq", Ruffley then says.

Well, indeed one can. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we see egregious failures, not least in intelligence, where the Army misread the situation, failed to understand the politics, and acted inappropriately, all in a culture of secrecy, where the dogma of "op sec" prevented even ministers finding out what was going on. Why should we allow them to repeat their failures here?

And, of course, from their "successes" in Ulster, we could readily see how ex-Para officers would go down a real treat on the streets of Tottenham.

However, even fools sometimes have the glimmer of a good idea, and Ruffley talks about creating a new "Police Reserve". But he then spoils it all by bureaucratising the idea, calling for it to be "similar to the retained firefighters or Territorial Army".

To give him his due, the man does have the brains to recognise that using a reserve "would make the police more representative of the public, giving new meaning to Peel's dictum that 'the police are the public and the public are the police'". But he then destroys the idea by making it a bureaucratic adjunct to the existing police. The issue here, of course, is precisely that that "the public are the police". The uniformed branch are merely there (or should be) to assist the public in maintaining law and order.

And that it what it is about (see video above). If you or I go for a walk and see a child attempting to break a window, we intervene ... or we used to. If we see someone committing an offence, we try to stop it - and report it. We are the police, and we already have the power of arrest.

What has happened though, is that the "professionals" have eroded the powers and responsibilities of the people. "Leave it to us", they say – and worse - and then make a pig's ear of it. The only way to restore the situation is for people to reclaim the powers which have been usurped by the professionals.

Ruffley does not understand that – which is what makes the man a fool. Peel understood it. None of the stupid, craven bastards in police uniforms do. And that is our problem, Mr Ruffley - or one of them.  First of all, we need to change the attitude: we the people are in charge. You are there to help us.