Tuesday, 2 February 2010

I'm doing OK, you're doing OK

The Government has come up with a new measuring/whipping stick to gauge how well the fuzz are doing. Needless to say, after a decade of using crime stats, arrest rates, detections, sanction detections, convictions and taken-into-considerations (I wouldn’t dream of mentioning how the unsafe convictions don’t result in minus figures, that would be so churlish, wouldn’t it?) they found that the figures had gone a bit stale.

It’s a bit like a humungous person who decides that they were definitely, absolutely, undoubtedly going to lose weight this time. The first few stone pour off, but the closer you get to the ideal weight, the slower and harder it is to crack those last few grammes.

Crime is much the same. The police, with current resources and legislation - and a bar on returning to the days when a flight or two of custody stairs was so very influential in a suspect’s version of events – will only ever reduce the crime rate to a certain level. We’ll debate the "has crime truly gone down" argument another day, but currently the statistics show a decrease.

Let’s just say that like fire-fighters, the filth have hit on the idea of prevention being better than cure. So instead of just solving crimes, they've found it’s better to prevent them. Please note, particularly those of you who use the “comment first, think later” approach to The Herald’s website, that I didn’t say easier… just better.

So this new measuring stick is called… wait for it… “Public Confidence”. Ta daaa!

I know… inspiring, isn’t it? Roll it in glitter and you can make a turd glitter. It still smells like a turd, but hey, that’s politics.

Here’s the scenario:

Govt minister: “I say Sir Humphrey… we’re coming to the end of our time in office, got anything which we can use to prove to the public that we were indeed tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime?”

Civil servant: “Short of hanging Tony Blair as a war criminal sir, no sir.”

Minister: “No, suppose not. I mean how do we show that the public are happier with the constabulary – and thus us - than in the past?

Civil servant: “Indeed sir, it is all a question of confidence, is it not?”

Minister: “By Jove Sir Humphrey, I think you’re onto something… take a memo…”

And thus, the new measurement was created. A yearly gauge as to whether you were more confident in what the police did these last 365 days than the year before.

Basically, it’s the laundry detergent test: “Are you happy with your wash?”

However, these two questions quickly arise:

a) how do you measure public confidence?

b) how do you increase it?

And there’s the rub. Confidence is such an ethereal thing, can it be measured? I mean, it can undoubtedly be faked but how do we truly gauge it? When you argue with the Mrs, you may well be confident you’re right, but you’re obviously wrong. You’re arguing with the Mrs, after all. So your confidence is a hollow sham despite your thoughts to the contrary.

Up at police headquarters in Exeter, they appear to have their own theory as to how to increase public confidence. It includes the use of regular newsletters, micro-websites and door-to-door visits. Some are even working on the theory that a) reading about crime in local newspapers is making people fear crime, thus b) no crime stories in the paper means no fear of crime, therefore c) stop local papers know about crime in their town and happy days are here again.

Now, some of those who wear a uniform and don’t work at headquarters, and thus it could be rudely argued, actually work at being a police officer for a living, think that every time they nick some oily heap of effluvium and get them banged up, even if it’s only until a magistrate or judge lets them go again, it’ll play a big part in increasing public confidence. They are also happy to work alongside PCSOs who have a remarkably creative and inventive way of tackling crime, by getting those who commit it to - as the programme used to say - “do something less boring instead”. Between the two of them, and with a lot of free help from the Specials, they are undoubtedly at the coalface of increasing public confidence.

So, whether you feel happier and more confident in your local rozzers because they are out there feeling collars, bidding you good morning and keeping local scallywags out of trouble with a spot of footie or street dancing, or because you get a nice little newsletter three times a year through your front door and never read about another incident in your local paper, remains to be seen.

Either way, you’ll be hearing a lot more about public confidence in the future. I would advise you that when asked “do you feel confident in the police” you may as well ask yourself “is this a confidence trick?”

How about that, a whole blog and no Janner-bashing. Don’t worry, I’m saving meself…

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