Alastair Stewart: It isn't just Cressida Dick that's to blame for the Met's failings - the army of middle managers must shoulder some of the criticism too
Policing should be about protecting the public NOT social engineering
TV has a fascination with policing, from the ‘evening all’ days of Dixon of Dock Green, via the hard-drinking, tough talking stuff of ‘The Sweeney’, to the intrigue, corruption and internal tension of ‘Line of Duty’.They tend to reflect, like any good drama, the mood of the moment.
In the high drama of Cressida Dick’s sudden, but perhaps inevitable, departure from the Met yesterday, much of the talk was of racism, homophobia and sexism.
That, in no small measure, was due to the appalling revelations about Charing Cross and some of its officers.There was also a lot about bodged decision making over the investigation of the shenanigans at Number 10, the horror of the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, and the policing of the Black Lives Matter protests.What there was less about was coppers enforcing law and order.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said today the new commissioner must be "focused on the basics", including tackling the abuse of women and girls, drugs and knife crime.One can but hope.There wasn’t much, either, on how bad people get to join the police in the first place and even rise through the ranks.
There are also complex questions about the leadership of a force of 33,000 officers and thousands more support staff, and how the tone is set from the top in a way that it filters to the front line.
And what about who gets to be middle managers, running places like Charing Cross, and how are they chosen? The buck stops at the top, for sure, but if there are many villains in this piece - it isn’t only the Commissioner: it is an army of others, in the middle, who consistently make mistakes or allow folk, under their command, to make grave errors and even commit evil crimes.Finally, there’s the issue of who puts the very top people in place - the Commissioner and other Chief Constables.
Prior to 2012, a chief constable was responsible to a police authority. In England and Wales, the chief constable is now appointed by and accountable to the Police and Crime Commissioner of their service, or to an elected mayor, who may also dismiss the chief constable.Interesting to note that last night, commentary came from across the country. It isn’t just the Met that’s causing concern.
I saw many say ‘You should see Scotland, and what Sturgeon has done’.Others spoke of their concerns in their necks of the wood.The over-riding theme was “lets have less concern about race, homophobia and sexism and a bit more about law and order: doing more about knife crime and drug running, making the streets safe again, making folk feel safe in their homes and confident their car won’t get nicked and that they won’t be burgled.
And, if it does happen, that it might just get investigated, that arrests might be made and that prosecutions might follow.
Isn’t now a perfect moment not only to get the right person in at the Met - and that’s pretty urgent - but also to take the time to ask is this how we want the UK policed?
Do we want Police and Crime Commissioners or might the old police authorities with local voices to the fore be better? One comment summed it up, for me, the Met’s core problem:"The Biggest problem is the contamination of a once fine force with the toxic tenets of rampant Wokism. Policing should be about protecting the public NOT social engineering”.
Given the Met also has responsibility, with the security agencies, for the national effort on country terrorism should it not be a Government appointment, exclusive accountable to the Home Secretary? And might we even risk thinking about doing away with County constabularies and have a national police force?