The Metropolitan Police – the one that all the others look up to, right?
It seems that almost any absurdity you can imagine has been perpetrated by the Metropolitan Police. Conjure something crazy to mind, and well...the Met management has probably already implemented it...quietly...
Especially if it saves money in the short-term.
So what's the latest?
Until recently student officers spent their first year, on and off, learning law and procedure. In my day it was a twelve week residential course followed by six months of intermittent courses. We were totally immersed in learning during that period.
And there's a lot of material – I had to absorb something like the contents of a six inch pile of A4 paper. Some people actually failed the exams.
And what is it like today, dare we ask? My friend Steven has recently been through the process at world-famous Hendon.
“On the first day,” he told me, “the instructor said 'Don't expect any input on criminal law.'”
“Those were the first words that came out of the instructor's mouth.”
“We weren't exactly impressed,” he continued. “What then followed was weeks on victim care, diversity, and a whole load of other nonsense likely to be useless on the streets.”
“We were told that as specials we should already know the legislation, even though we were taught less than half of the relevant material in our special training. As a special I worked only two or three shifts each month, and needless to say, I used very little of that knowledge. The staff even admitted that this was poor, but told us 'Shut up and get on with it. You chose to be here.'”
Steven told me that there is even talk of offering specials direct entry into the regulars – with no extra training:
You've done two hundred hours as a volunteer. Well done! Here is a proper warrant card. You're now a full-time constable.
I would hope that police officers know their powers – that they know when they can and can't arrest, otherwise, what is the point? Will we see a rise in arbitrary arrests for made-up offences? By junior officers who aren't certain of their powers?
It would appear that Met senior management have twigged that most applicants are former specials – volunteers – who must have received a rudimentary coaching in the basics of criminal law (theft, assaults, criminal damage), although years before.
Sir Bernard and his entourage have realised that this might be an opportunity to save a few pennies on training.
Bringing specials in directly, with zero extra training, would certainly reduce costs.
From the point of view of senior management, it makes sense to emphasize diversity and victim care, and de-emphasize the need to know your grounds to arrest.
Because arresting criminals is a source of criticism and complaints. And police bosses cannot abide criticism.
Prisoners routinely claim they have been assaulted, wrongfully arrested. They claim that officers have lied or stolen from them.
Therefore new coppers are taught to avoid getting hands-on and only stop-search when it can't be avoided. Sir Bernard and his team are desperate to avoid complaints and media attention.
Hence the abundant training in victim care and diversity. It's an arse-covering and craven methodology of police training. It is training with the purpose of winning popularity contests, as if cops are sales assistants.
Incidentally, police specials do a great service. Full-time coppers appreciate having a second pair of eyes, hands, and a different brain focused on a problem. Specials work for free, so they are motivated and keen by definition. Additionally, I always enjoy the opportunity to chat with a person from the outside world, fresh and lacking a copper's cynicism.
Even within the mindset of police bosses, a new generation of constables are on the streets now, who have less knowledge of their powers and responsibilities than ever before.
Every day I see this change in the rank-and-file: the young boys and girls now out there are full of enthusiasm, but they know they'll only stay for two or three years. The pension is poor – they would have to chase drug dealers until the age 67 before they can collect the pension – and their starting pay is so low they may as well work in Burger King.
Under Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model, every Local Policing Team sergeant is actually a constable acting as a sergeant, hoping for promotion. And many are under 25 years old.
Last week I overheard one of these acting-sergeants running his team's morning briefing. He seemed more suited to leading a boy band than a police team. His people spent more time talking about WhatsApp, and the pretty girls and boys they're stalking on other teams via Facebook, than about policing.
We're looking at a scary future: management have dispensed with experienced cops, and replaced them with completely new and, most importantly – cheaper, officers fresh out of school or university. Although enthusiastic, they receive little or no training in criminal law, and plan not to stay longer than a year or two.
I've seen many quit after only a few weeks on the streets. They are graduates and expect supervisors to treat them civilly. Quite reasonably they expect the policies and guidelines to make sense. But it doesn't take them long to realise that they've been conned by the Met's marketing department.
And so they resign. Often.