A two-part post today, but not too long.
Firstly, reading about Sir Bernard's intention to double the number of Met firearms officers to 3000, I was reminded of Concorde.
When the fleet was mothballed, engineers removed the oil and coolant with the deliberate intention of preventing the planes from ever being restored to airworthiness. Of course, there is now a substantial will to do that, but it can't happen because of the short-term attitude taken when these beautiful aircraft were retired.
I'm repeating a point made in an earlier blog post, but here it is: we might now have 2000 authorised firearms officers (AFOs) in the Metropolitan Police, but we had more than 3000 until five minutes after the Olympics ended.
The Met, under pressure to make cuts, dimissed them:
"Guys, thanks for policing the Olympics. Bye!"
Until that moment there were well over a thousand AFOs working on boroughs, who were called up from time-to-time, but generally worked in standard borough policing, rather than armed protection roles.
Those guys and girls carrying guns, whom you saw standing at the entrances to the Olympic sites, were these 'Borough AFOs'. They worked sixteen hour days, six days a week, for five weeks.
9mm bullets cost around eleven pence so, for the sake of saving a few tens of thousands of pounds each year on the cost of ammunition, the Borough AFOs were dispensed with. Their authorisations were taken away. They stopped attending three month refresher days and classification shoots, and are now not available for firearms duties. To be used again, they would have to be completely retrained.
Sir Bernard has been telling LBC radio:
"What I’ve said is … we’re working on plans now so that in the short period of time we’ve got an extra third on top of the core provision."
The third that we already had until the moment the Olympics ended...?
He goes on to say:
"…we need to have a mobile reserve. And I’ve got a good idea how that can be achieved."
Oh, he has a 'good idea' does he? How about the armed officers Sir Bernard and his entourage decided to discard after using them at the Olympics?
It was the short-term view, as always seems to be the case with police managers.
I can still hear Sir Bernard's cronies:
"We won't need them again. Look, we can save eleven pence a bullet!"
So now, only three years later, we again need firearms officers to protect the realm, but we could easily have already had more than 3000 available. Why are police managers always interested in no more than the flavour of the month?
It's disappointingly predictable.
I once worked on a tasking team, dealing with shoplifters and drug dealers on one of London's less salubrious high streets. We brought in a lot of arrests, but we were disbanded the moment the level of shoplifting started to reduce.
"Not so many shopliftings reported this month? You guys have solved the problem! Thanks, bye!"
Of course, within a few days of us leaving, the shoplifters returned. No doubt our puzzled chief inspector and superintendent were scratching their heads.
To train up new AFOs, or retrain the discarded Borough AFOs, will cost millions of pounds. It costs several thousand for each AFO. All this cost, when the Borough AFOs could easily have been maintained as a standby, as they had been for decades until September 2012.
There's another point I want to make in this post:
According to the newspapers, the use of stop-and-search has dropped by 40%, although they don't make clear with reference to what time period.
It's also stated that the proportion of arrests has increased, from 12% to 14%. To my mind this is a negligible increase, and yet Theresa May considers this significant enough to justify saying that stop-and-search is therefore "more targeted, fairer on communities, and leads to a greater proportion of arrests."
Let me make a simple point of arithmetic.
A year or two ago, for every 100 people searched, 12 were arrested. (12%)
If we're now searching only 60 people, and 14% of those are arrested, this means the following:
For every 100 people who would have been searched a year or two ago, only 8.4 are now arrested.
100 x 60% x 14% = 8.4
12 - 8.4 = 3.6
Out of 100, we used to arrest 12, but now only 8.4.
For every 100 stop-and-searches, there are 3.6 people who should have been arrested, but weren't because stop-and-search 'has become more targeted...blah blah...'
Let me repeat this: nowadays, with pressure on officers to not stop-and-search, 3.6 suspects are out there with knives, guns, drugs and stolen property, NOT arrested, who should have been.
They would have been searched and arrested prior to Theresa May's anti-stop-search crusade, when officers were allowed to use their search powers.
Now, in a time of worse gang and knife-enabled crime than ever, more violent criminals are slipping through the stop-search net.
Far from being 'more targeted...' blah blah, the Home Secretary's public-pleasing stance on stop-and-search means that we're less effective.
Thanks, Theresa! Good work.
It's simple arithmetic, clearly beyond cabinet ministers. Or, the likes of Theresa May would prefer that people don't look too closely at the figures.