Artillery Row

Policing offence

There’s nothing like a beating stick to ram home a lie

On seeing the sinister nonsense purveyed by the officers on The Wirral, my first concern was not with the ten foot lie (Being offensive is an offence) but with the three foot long weapon in the senior officer’s hand.  There may well be an innocent explanation as to why a cop had brought a baton to a car park. Perhaps he was waiting for a marching band. Maybe he intended to entertain the shoppers with his Liza Minelli tribute act. Lord knows, in these joyless days of lockdown, we would all cheer the distraction.

However, Occam’s razor demands a less music-hall explanation. The Inspector deliberately posed alongside the misinformation with a display of weaponry because he was following the old East German adage that there is nothing like a beating stick to ram home a lie.

Pressure from saner quarters – notably Fair Cop, the free press and The Free Speech Union – eventually prompted a mealy-mouthed clarification from a Merseyside Superintendent whose message was that being offensive is not actually an offence, but it would help if we all acted like it was.

Lies told by uniformed officers about the laws they police would seem ripe for a decisive rebuke

One might hope to have heard from the College of Policing about such a widely publicised abuse of police powers. After all, the College, established in 2012, purports to be the professional body tasked with maintaining the contract of trust between the civilian police force and the public. Lies told in an Asda car park by uniformed officers about the laws they police would seem ripe for a decisive rebuke from the governing body along with promises of emergency retraining.

That no such statement was forthcoming will be of little surprise to those familiar with my ongoing saga with the College of Policing.  To summarise, I am challenging the legality of the police practice of recording non crime hate incidents without any need for an incident or any evidence of hate. Since 2014, when the Hate Crime Operational Guidance was issued, over 120,000 of these records have been made – mine came as the result of retweeting a feminist verse. Freedom of Information Requests reveal that not a single hate crime has been prevented as a result of this practice.  Naturally, on the back of this roaring success, the College has recently extended its policy to mandate that school children are placed on its vicious list, giving a sinister twist to Aristotle’s maxim, ‘Give me the child…’

The utilitarian attitude of the College of Policing is that noble ends justify ignoble means. If Merseyside Constabulary told a lie, the intention was good, so let it slide. Last week, the National LGBT+ Police Networks publicly cancelled the journalist, Caroline ffiske, because of her stance that sex is immutable. Again, the College remained silent. Chief Constables are beaten into uncritical submission. Police and Crime Commissioners are nowhere to be seen.

A year ago a High Court judge likened the police to the Gestapo

A year ago, the High Court ruled that in attempting to censure political speech, Humberside Constabulary had breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with the judge likening the police to the Gestapo. I have sympathy for the Chief Constable, who maintains that his officers followed The Hate Crime Guidance to the letter. Throughout the two-day hearing, the College of Policing agreed. When the judge eventually ruled that the guidance is legal but following it so assiduously is not, the College marched smugly away, throwing Humberside under the bus.

Following the betrayal, I asked the Chief Constable if he would support our challenge at the Court of Appeal, scheduled for the second week of March. ‘Why would I do that?’ he asked, having about him the wild-eyed stare of a man who had recently discovered a horse head in his bed.

The College of Policing is a strange beast. Part privately owned company, like Specsavers, part state agency, like the Stasi. Its annual accounts run to a hundred pages with the actual figures secreted between swathes of grandiosity. Page 86 of the accounts show that its trading income, generated by training delivery, assessment and exams, was £12 million. This seems about right, given it is responsible for the 43 police forces across England and Wales.

However, it is the cost of these sales which separates The College of Policing accounts from those of any other private limited company. Page 69 shows a loss of £38 million in the year 2018/19. A deep dive into the filing history shows this to be commensurate with losses made in all the years since its inception.

If the College of Policing controls the police, and the government controls the College of Policing, where is the separation of power?

The annual wage bill of £38 million is shared between 664 staff, giving a crude average income of £57,000 per employee. The average wage of a police officer is just over half that (Incidentally, the College of Policing accounts are transphobic. Despite its public insistence that there are multiple genders, page 37 of the accounts recognises only two. Awkward).

With a further £27million in running costs (including estate costs of £5.3 million), the College of Policing would be in the hands of loss adjustors were it not for the annual £51 million ploughed into it by The Home Office. As luck would have it, the Home Office is also its shareholder.

Accounts are brutal. They brought down Al Capone. Finances aside, these accounts raise a much more fundamental issue about what we imagined our police force to be. If the College of Policing controls the police, and the government controls the College of Policing, where is the separation of power? Where is the non-political policing we so pride ourselves on?

The College of Policing is to the Home Office what waste management was to Tony Soprano. It’s a shell company, a handy sock designed to distance the government from the political antics of the flag waving, stick wielding, name-taking, snitch-riddled gangsters of misinformation. The bad news is that politically driven coppers extend beyond the Wirral. Across the country, a state police force operates within a local police service. From PC Gul in Humberside to the Deputy Chief Constable in Cheshire, political officers have taken position across all ranks and throughout all forces.  And if they behave like they are untouchable, it is because they are. The College of Policing may have created a kinder, gentler Stasi. But it’s the Stasi, nonetheless. Cross them and see.

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