So the police isn't becoming more politicised according to the Labour Party, despite them being pestered to take on a public role in the argument over 90 day detention. The most worrying aspect of that entire debate for me was that the Government relied explicitly upon the argument that "we ought to listen to the police and give them the tools they need". The problem with this is that the moment the police become anything approaching lobbyists you have to take what they say with something of a pinch of salt. You have to question exactly why they're saying what they're saying, how they expect to influence you and public opinion by it and, inevitably, develop a sceptical approach to what they say. It's very difficult then to know where to draw the line. This is only exacerbated by the police's shift from impartial public body into the realm of public debate.
As such, this headline splash on BBC News
is most concerning. Militant Moderate, quite rightly in my view, identifies it as scaremongering
, but for me it is another worrying example of a political, lobbying police force. How much of what Sir Ian Blair says is exaggeration for political effect? How much of it is pitched too high because he knows "wishy-washy libertarians" will succeed in reducing the importance of what he's saying at least somewhat? How can we really trust him when we know he will do the political bidding of his masters in Whitehall?
Indeed, this series of statements could almost be the pitch of a press conference for a new political party. Imagine, say, David Cameron delivering these lines but replace references to the "police" with "compassionate Conservative solutions"....
"First, the agencies of community cohesion, the churches, the trade unions, the housing associations, the voluntary clubs have declined in influence.
"Secondly, the agents of social enforcement, such as park keepers, caretakers and bus conductors, have disappeared.
"The third was the laudable but under funded and imperfectly implemented decision to close so many long-stay psychiatric institutions.
"This has left many people looking - in the absence of anyone else - to the police service for answers to the degradation of communal life - for answers to the neighbours from hell, the smashed bus stop, the lift shaft littered with needles and condoms, the open drugs market, the angry, the aggressive and the obviously disturbed. "
Of course, the obvious corollary of this is clear. The police force is going to be political, so let's politicise it properly. Let's elect those in senior posts in the police and answer the Met Commissioner's "frustration" at the public "silence" on what it wanted the police to do. Let's make it truly accountable to the communities it serves. Then, Sir Ian might find to his shock, for all his pomp and arrogance about his position, the public just want it to catch criminals and stop crimes being committed. The press response to the killing of an innocent man and the subsequent lies which were, at the least, not discouraged by the police may be in Sir Ian's eyes "savage", but that might be nothing compared to the judgement of those he serves if he was really accountable.
UPDATE: It seems the Telegraph wouldn't go quite as far
, but still come from the same place!