I was astonished to find that the new BBC documentary about the Metropolitan Police Service isn't simply unrelenting propaganda. I expected the usual soundbites about how crime is down, there are more officers on the street than ever before blah blah blah...
But it isn't bad. I have mixed feelings about it.
I have no doubt that Sir Bernard and his senior management team attempted to dictate the content, in order to show the Met in the best possible light, but the BBC edited heavily. Let's take a look:
Mark Rowley at a public meeting – I do feel for him: it's hard taking that abuse from people, but also I can't help but feel rather embarrassed at seeing him and his colleagues – our bosses – sitting there like imbeciles, unwilling to stand up for themselves or for us.
They seemed to do nothing but keep avowing: “...we're listening to you and we know we have more work to do...”
Rowley and the others utterly failed to get across to people the crucial point, that if a person gives reason to believe he poses an imminent threat to life, he is likely to be shot.
It's easy to NOT be shot, for goodness sake. You simply don't evade police and you don't carry a gun or threaten violence. Most normal people don't struggle with this.
The critics seemed fixated with the question of how can a person be shot if he isn't holding a gun, which is missing the point.
It isn't about possession of a gun.
For example, if I'm beating a person to death with a rolled-up newspaper, because I can't afford a gun, and the only way to stop me is with a bullet (perhaps I'm on the other side of a fence?), then shooting me is justified if it's the only way to prevent an 'imminent threat to life'.
We heard Rowley make no attempt to respond to the heckling, to defend himself. I would like to think that our managers could at least affirm “We aren't murderers, and we aren't racist.”
But he didn't say that, or at least it wasn't shown.
Instead, these officers, with their crowns and goodness knows what else on their epaulettes, are paid a lot of money for mouthing a tedious litany that they obviously practice, and is probably part of a mandatory online training module for Assistant Commissioners.
Rowley could have tried to explain the reasoning process of armed police, and the framework they work under – that if a person gives us reason to think they pose an imminent threat to life, they are likely to be shot.
As a recipient of the Met's leadership courses, he should know that he needs to allow angry people to sound off, that it's after they've expelled their bile that we can make our points.
The decision that the shooting was lawful, was a verdict by the High Court, not the police. Did Rowley and the others explain that? No.
Even if the Metropolitan Police wanted to alter a court's decision, it wouldn't be able to do that. (Do you remember being taught at school the 'separation of legislature, judiciary and excutive?)
Our most senior managers appeared like a bunch of muppets, laughed at by the public. And when Rowley stood at the door of the High Court reading the Met's statement to the press – I have never seen a person with less presence...
Back in their office at Scotland Yard, it was interesting to observe the normal business of the Commissioner's senior management team. Public relations, unsurprisingly.
You might ask, if they believe their core responsibility is deflecting criticism, why is there so much public dislike and suspicion of the Met Police?
It doesn't seem that they're very good at it?
I'm glad to see that at least one borough commander – Victor Olisa – is a sensitive and respectful leader. He impressed me with his intelligence and sincerity.
I would choose Victor for our next Commissioner.
Sir Bernard comes across as a genuine, personable, and quite thoughtful person, but his monologue about the Met being institutionally racist is confused. He starts by implying that the public are mistaken, and that the term is bandied around with little understanding, but then actually states that the Met IS racist.
Sir Bernard himself seemed confused, saying:
“Society isn't fully representative of the people it's made up of.”
This makes no sense at all.
I believe he's well-intentioned, but certainly seems to have no loyalty to his 39,000 officers, nor to be able to generate intelligent comment or ideas – look at Sir Bernard's solution to the cuts: the Local Policing Model, a reorganisation that two years ago turned policing into an abomination.
The Met is a microcosm of society, therefore it's sadly unavoidable that there is bigotry and prejudice. However, as Steph pointed out to one of the youths, there is a tendency to generalise police officers, as if we are one homogenous mass. We are no more all the same than all office workers are the same.
It's a mistake of lazy thinking, to which all human beings are prone.
However, no matter how low my opinion is of some of Sir Bernard's decisions, during a walking interview with a journalist he was faced with a crime and he acted upon it.
Well, Mr Journalist, that's policing. Unlike other folk, we are on duty 24/7, and if we encounter an incident, we are duty bound to deal with it, whether in uniform or not. And that includes the Commissioner. Unlike employees – or journalists – we can never claim that we are outside office hours.
And it's because of that 24/7 obligation that everybody else can sleep safe in their beds.
Sir Bernard has his faults, but let's be fair with him, instead of these constant implications of incompetence dripping from the lips of the media – implications that implicitly extend to the rest of us.
The firearms officers appeared extremely professional and level-headed. Those men and women put themselves at risk of being shot, and at risk of having to pull the trigger, knowing that it will change many people's lives.
They do the job knowing they will have only a split-second to make a decision that will result in years of torture, media attention and possibly imprisonment. They will spend the rest of their lives knowing they've killed a person. They and their families will be under a spotlight forever thereafter.
How many of us would really like to work under that kind of pressure?
Unfortunately, by not showing any of the training the firearms cops undergo, the programme allows viewers to conclude that any of us can carry firearms. Actually all firearms officers undergo at least four solid weeks of intense training, exhausting physically and mentally.
The firearms courses are so stressful that candidates regularly drop out. Some are reduced to tears. Not everybody passes but, having passed, officers continue to be reassessed and trained at least four times a year.
Rounding up, at least the overt
propaganda and soundbites have been discarded on the cutting room
floor. We're given an inkling of the bizarre activities of the Met's senior management, and some limited insight into what it is to be a police forearms officer.
But I need to see more. Watch this space. Thanks for reading.