That unreliable Met Police

Today five former commissioners are claiming the Metropolitan Police cannot sustain more falls in numbers, especially in the light of knife crime and the rest of it. They have issued a statement which criticises the Government’s cuts in police numbers.

But there has always been the argument that more police equals more crime. Its a simple analogy. More people going shopping means more goods to be taken and more profits for the ‘ruling system’. More police going looking for criminals means more criminals and more ‘profits’ for the Criminal Justice System.

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ITV News today on the five former Met Police commissioners’ claims

The problem is of course instead of just looking for those who are the criminals, the ‘shopping expedition’ brings with it a lot of other results too. Its like running through the aisles and grabbing what one can from the shelves in the shortest amount of time. One sweeps up things they didn’t want as well as things they did want. Its Supermarket Sweep, Except this is instead Society Sweep. People who have never been involved in the criminal justice system and are not even criminals now find themselves a target of that system.

UPDATE 15.00: Knife crime strategy too focused on gangs says ex Met police chief.

Ironically I was doing some research this week on the Met police itself when I read of the five former commissioners’ claims – and thought to myself this isn’t right somehow – because what I found does rather contradict the police’s claims. I do not agree with the Government cuts (since I too am affected by those) and would never vote for a Tory government in a million years – however it would help if the police were a little more vigilant about their claims.

Everybody cites the fact the Met Police is at its lowest since the 2000’s and this specifically is why knife crime is on the up. Interestingly I found the Met Police officer count was also very low during the 1990s, and this at a time when knife crime, gun crime and the rest of it were dropping to their lowest numbers for years.

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The Met Police’s claims things were looking good in 1998. And that on a staff of just 25,500!

Does one ever wonder whether less police equates less crime? Less knife crime too? Or perhaps its the approach/strategy rather?

Interestingly the years following the Lawrence incident and the subsequent MacPherson inquiry, the Met Police were all too keen to rid itself of the label of institutional racism. The organisation was walking on eggshells and thus its stop and search prowess was being reduced or done in ways that didn’t impinge on the sensitivities of ethnic minorities. And yes the stats indeed showed crime was falling. Less police = less crime!

Lord Condon himself issued the following stats in September 1998 (which are taken from the Metropolitan Police Committee):

  • total crime in the Met was at its lowest level for nine years and burglary at its lowest level for 18 years. Street Robbery was down 8%;
  • two major challenges faced the Metropolitan Police: diversity and resources;
  • the Met were being asked to produced more for less. Police officers numbers had fallen to 26,500 from the 28,500 he inherited. Civil staff numbers had also fallen by 2,000. The Met had taken 29% of the national police budget. It now took 22%.

Lord Condon was proud of the fact the Met were able to do so much more with so much less and this was at the start of the Blair years.

It is essential that the Metropolitan Police demonstrate that they are taking value for money seriously and are building upon real achievements… the Metropolitan Police have been moving increasingly towards a performance and best value culture. The Commissioner and his senior management team have provided a strong lead. The challenge ahead is to convince a wider audience that the Metropolitan Police can deliver. (Source: Metropolitan Police Committee Annual Report 1997/98.)

It seems the police at that time too were yearning for new ways in order to be better, more effective and also fairer. This boils down into the following document ‘New Challenges, New Thinking’ (2000) which sets out how the Met Police is going to progress with an entirely new mindset.

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New Challenges, New Thinking. Introduction by Sir John Stevens, Met Police Commissioner.

The following is from the same annual report Metropolitan Police Committee Annual Report 1997/98:

  • traditional assumptions are now being questioned;
  • delivery of policing services is approached imaginatively;
  • internal benchmarking aids performance measurement; and
  • the cost of activities is better understood.

Factually one of the issues with low numbers was that people didn’t want to work for the police. Recruitment was difficult especially when ‘institutional racism’ was at the forefront. It was alleged the racist element was irrevocably linked to the ongoing corruption scandal. In other words racism equated a corrupt officer. People didn’t want to join the police because it was racist and corrupt. Not a pretty combination.

In 1998 we can see police numbers then were 26,500. Yet things like knife crime and gun crime were low too if the statistics are to be believed. Police numbers remained low for the next few years until 2002 (the year many are using in today’s news) when it was just 26,223. Three years later in 2005 it was at 31,073 thanks to Labour’s desire to see more police employed.

Therefore with these hugely larger numbers of officers recruited in the short space of a couple of years, there should indeed be a strong and positive drop in knife crime. And the stats in fact told us that was the case.

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Met Police claims in October 2004 showing a constant decline in crime including knives.

The Met Police made much of the fact knife crime was at its lowest for years. It launched an initiative in 2005 called ‘Operation Blunt’ This was to convey the idea that carrying knives was unglamorous. This used a mix of techniques – a positive charging policy for anyone found carrying a knife, an amnesty for knives, and a programme of education.

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November 2004. Met Police touts knife crime as falling.

Throughout the 2000s knife crime fell constantly, generally a thousand or so offences each month. It was on a continual decline from 1998 to 2008 and beyond.

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Met Police again – March 2005 – knife crime continues to strongly fall.

Yes there are other things such as terrorism (this has been an agenda since the 1990s as Lord Condon himself has pointed out and one in the forefront to the police’s minds so its not a new thing even) however the continual decline in knife crime from the late 1990s to the end of the first decade of the 2000s also came with a substantial reduction in police numbers during the first part of that period and then a huge increase in the number of new officers during the second part of the period in question.

But that begs a question as we will find more about it later. Did larger numbers of police really lead to a reduction in knife crime? Certainly one can see that the Met had truly been achieving less knife crime with the bare minimum of officers available. Yet when they gained a huge increase in officer numbers, something else was happening as we will see…

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June 2005 and the Met claim knife crime is still falling.

Clearly the police were telling us with the smaller numbers of officers they had many crimes were going down! In this case then one should expect the subsequent increase in police from 2005 onward to procure an even greater fall in knife crime. That appeared to be the case but as it turned out, it wasn’t the case in fact.

By 2008 police numbers were at 31,460 which isn’t much different from now yet the Met claim they were clearly able to sustain a continual fall in most types of crimes including knife crime. That year Operation Blunt 2 was introduced and it seems this was reversing the trend more.

Or had it? Let’s see….

First of all according to the statistics Operation Blunt 2 continued to procure a massive fall in knife crime. Throughout 2008 and 2009 the stats for knife crime were (these are not complete for each month as some sources missing) as follows:

May 2008: Knife enabled crime declined by over 15%.
July 2008: Knife crime fell by more than 1,600 offences or 14.1%.
October 2008: Knife crime is down by 728 or -10.2%.
November 2008: Knife crime is down by nearly 1,000 offences or 11.9%.
December 2008: Knife crime is down by nearly 1250 offences or 13.1%.
January 2009: Knife crime is down by nearly 1,350 or 12.6%.
February 2009: Knife crime is down by over 1,600 offences or 13.7%.
March 2009: Knife crime is down by 1,689 offences or 12.9%.
May 2009: Knife crime is down by 1,625 offences or 11.7%.
June 2009: Knife crime is down by 1,478 offences or 10.7%.

This is impressive! Knife crime constantly falling each month! The following stats from Parliament do seem to support this continual decline.

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Stats for violent crime across the country overall. 1981-2007. Source: Hansard

However by this time warnings came that there was an undertow to all this – and the warnings were from people within the Met Police itself!

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The Guardian for 28th August 2008 carries a knife crime campaign health warning…

I think a lot more could be being done as opposed to just a hard-edged enforcement around stop and search. We’re seeing a number of guys committing the murders are already marginalised, already excluded and we are trying those kind of tactics on those individuals, I fear we just make the problem worse. (Source: Guardian)

What it seems was happening was in this extra vigilant effort to reduce knife crime even further, including via the use of the controversial ‘stop and search’ it was essentially a ‘Supermarket Sweep.’ Grabbing everything possible but at the same time grabbing up the potentially unwanted stuff – people who had not been in trouble with the police before and likely had no intent of being in trouble with the police, were now being swept up. New wounds were being opened up and more people were looking for a fight.

It seems the fall in knife crime wasn’t really one the Met police were making it out to be… they might have believed their stats but it wasn’t borne out as shown in the next graph.

Consequently Parliament had a lengthy debate on knife crime and its causes, as well as what should be done to tackle the issue, including larger police numbers and whether communities were being racially profiled…

And the next graph shows something very shocking…

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The reality. Despite total stats showing a decline – knife injuries were in fact on the up. (Note this isn’t Met Police area specific.) Source: Hansard

Its clear from this graph that at the time of the lowest Met police numbers, knife crime was indeed on the down. When it came to the massive boost in Met officer numbers, knife crime began a relentless climb upwards.

It seems to me knife crime has had much deeper consequences than most would like to believe and in many ways the current onset could have plausibly been largely caused by the Metropolitan Police itself, especially in terms of its having larger number of officers on hand.

Apparently the rot had already set in and yes it takes a long time, but let’s think about it those children who saw wrongful things happen to their families, friends, are now grown up, in their teens, early twenties, and are very resentful, angry – and that is why we today see these numerous, almost daily, horrific incidents.

In fact this news report out today – the same day as the five Met Police commissioners’ concerns was made public – makes for troubling reading and one cannot help but wonder whether the police are really that irrevocably attuned towards racial profiling.

Naturally the range and scope of crime changes. It is a mistake to expect the reasons for crime will stay the same always. It changes from one day to the next, sometimes even several times a day I would say. But the police do not change from one day to the next. The police are much like knife crime itself for example. It takes a long time to change the very culture within, and to correct it too takes a very long time.

I believe the roots for the present culture of knife crime had been instilled all these years ago. It means any changes or mitigation the Met may have implemented since in terms of raids against communities, stop and search and the rest of it, hasn’t mitigated any possible enormous damage done to the communities in question.

Seeing its very likely this alleged racial profiling and insidious targeting creates untold damage way way way down a very long road, its pretty obvious its going to take a long time to correct the damage. Any sort of institutional racism by the police is often very difficult, if not impossible, to repair. And it could be quite easily why we now have this massive spike in knife crime.

Its clearly nothing to do with police numbers.

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