The UK's official threat level for international terrorism was raised from 'substantial' to 'severe' on the 29th August. The threat level system is run by the Security Service for managing terrorist risks. 'Severe' implies that an attack is highly likely.
Since the threat level was raised, police officers have been exercising more care and diligence during their duties to protect themselves. We know that there are certain terrorist groups who would merrily murder soldiers or police officers in public.
Also you know – if you have read my older blog posts – that all police managers have a constant concern with covering their arses. They make decisions based on the need to protect themselves from criticism and protect their hopes of promotion.
So what happened in our police station when the threat level was increased to 'severe'?
Our inspector, probably desperate to be seen to be doing something, put out an order:
All constables are to wear their yellow high visibility jackets at all times when outside the police station.
If the terrorists are out on the streets carrying loaded guns or stabbing implements, they'll surely not hesitate if they see a whale-shaped yellow blob lumbering along inside a shirt and tie, fleece, body armour, yellow jacket and silly hat?
With a high risk of a terrorist attack by fundamental Islamists, I feel like I'm on show, my bright yellow attire screaming out:
“I'm here! Shoot me! Me!”
Are we supposed to now be protecting the public by literally mopping up all the bullets? Instead, while the threat level is this high, shouldn't we perhaps adopt a lower profile?
Worst still, my inspector insists upon 'single patrolling'. This is the bizarre practice that former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson made one of his key policies, together with (1) learning 'The Five Ps' catchphrase, and (2) wearing name badges.
The idea of single patrolling is that it gives the public a false impression that there are more cops than really exist. In other words – an unrealistic expectation. And, according to unquestioned orthodox police thinking, this is a good thing.
Single patrolling is also unproductive (I don't stop and search people when I'm alone), demoralising for us, potentially dangerous (it was cast aside when the London riots started) and it worries the public when they see a police officer walking alone – they tend to assume that the reason we are alone is because budget cuts have reduced our numbers.
And I especially don't want to be waddling along by myself, under my blimp-like yellow jacket, when a terrorist attack is 'highly likely'.
I'm sure you've got my point by now.
Police sergeants and inspectors do seem to like their
people walking around in high-visibility jackets, but why?
how will that help us or any member of the public?
know the thinking - I can hear their cogs slowly turning - my
inspector, like all police managers, assumes that a visible presence reassures people. He wants people to enjoy that special euphoric glow of reassurance.
Nope. That doesn't work.
My experience is that people worry – when they see coppers near their homes they assume something bad has happened in the vicinity.
They ask us:
"Officers, what's happened? Is it anything I need
to know about?"
Obviously I dislike the fact that my inspector has chosen to put his team in danger simply in order that he is seen to be taking action of some kind, but what disappoints me most is something else.
Like so many police managers, he can't think for himself. He also can't reason through the obvious consequences of decisions. He might work from a desk, but I'm out there walking around and hoping not to get beheaded or shot.
Not only can police managers not think for themselves, but instead of doing nothing – something they should try more often! – they do the only thing they can think of, which is to copy the tried and abandoned ideas of previous commissioners, including ones who performed poorly and resigned in disgrace.
I don't write this because I enjoy disparaging police managers, but because it just isn't good enough.