Intel Intelligencer Supplemental: Wasting Police Time

Posted on 9 May 2011 by

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Any reader of the wonderful book, Wasting Police Time: The Crazy World of the War on Crime by David Copperfield (a pseudonym for a former Staffordshire police constable), will have noted that American cops who complain about COMPSTAT meetings have nothing on our British cousins.

In WPT, which started as his personal and anonymous blog but was expanded to book form, Copperfield set forth in great detail the wondrous workings of the UK police bureaucracy with mind-numbing stories of spending eight hours dealing with (that is, filling in forms about) a neighborhood bully who kicked a fence, and other top crime-fighting tips from the Home Office (which supervises all things police in the UK).

Now the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, has made a speech in which she updates The Deal, entitled, The deal: one year on. In it, she says that the government is making progress in getting bureacracy off cops’ backs. Local meetings give local people the chance to scrutinize the work of the local cops.

People will be able to raise their concerns: what are local officers doing about the drug dealing in the local park? What’s happening about the pub where all the trouble is? And the police will have to respond.

Beat meetings will make the new sense of public accountability a day to day reality for people up and down the country. And they’ll make public accountability a day to day reality for tens of thousands of police officers as well.

To make this accountability work, we have already given the public access to the country’s first-ever nationwide street-level crime maps. She said that the police.uk website, which provides this street-level crime mapping, has had 410 million visits since its establishment last year. “Armed with this information, people will really be able to hold their officers to account for their performance.”

Then she addresses bureaucratic issues head-on:

I’ve responded to incidents like the Cumbria and Northumbria shootings, not with a gun crime summit, or some hasty new legislation, but by respecting the operational independence of the police.

And I’ve responded to the violence at protests in London, not by criticising the police or coming up with some new draconian anti-protest Bill, but by letting the police get on and do their job. Indeed, the police do an excellent job, as we saw again during the Royal Wedding.

…And I’ve scrapped the Policing Pledge and confidence target, the PSA targets, the key performance indicators and the Local Area Agreements. I want police officers chasing criminals, not chasing targets. So I’ve given the police just one single objective – to cut crime.

My favorite line:

That’s why we’ve scrapped the national requirement for the stop and account form, and cut the reporting requirements for stop and search, saving up to an estimated 800,000 police hours per year.

They were spending eight hundred thousand hours annually filling in forms that, from all accounts, were not being properly used to fight crime.