Police State

Or, perhaps the title should read, ‘The State of the Police’…

We need to talk about morale.

A couple of weeks back, I wandered into the canteen at Scotland Yard and spotted a former colleague from one of my old Boroughs. He was tucked away in the far corner – over by the drinks machines – staring intently at a weighty-looking book that was open on the table in front of him.

Studying for promotion maybe.

I walked over to say hello and have a catch up. I don’t know him well, but he’s one of the good guys – now working in a specialist unit at the Yard.

He was well in himself – but, evidently, all was not well with work.

And he wasn’t cramming for an exam or an interview board. He was reading a plumbing manual.

With a rueful smile, he told me that he was thinking seriously about moving on. The problem wasn’t his current role. The problem was policing.

He just wasn’t sure it was for him any more.

We talked about how things seem to be at the moment. We agreed that all is not well.

And we need to read the signs.

Earlier this year, the Police Federation published the results of its latest staff survey – based on responses from more than 32,000 police officers. The numbers aren’t pretty.

Over 96% of officers stated that morale in policing is low.

Now, Coppers have always liked to have a good moan – have always been inclined to find the grey wisp of cloud in an otherwise clear, blue sky. There’s a phrase that’s been doing the rounds for as long as any of us can remember. If you’ll pardon the vernacular, it goes like this:

‘The Job’s F***ed’

I heard it in my first few weeks as a PC. I suspect they were saying it in 1829.

Truth is, most of the moaners really love what they do – and wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. This is, after all, the best job in the world – and they are the heroes and heroines who police our streets.


Something feels markedly different at this particular moment in time – certainly different to anything I’ve experienced in the last two decades and more.

It is now our very best people who are speaking up: discreetly, professionally, constructively – but with immense concern. These are the people who care deeply about policing – about the public we serve and those we serve alongside. These are the people who are saying that all is not well.

I am saying that all is not well.

No one in society benefits when a critical public service has got its head down.

In a recent newspaper article, Will Hutton drew a current parallel between policing and the medical & teaching professions. He spoke about,

‘A collapse in morale… a storm warning that should be heeded.’

And we need to read the signs.

But why is this important?

Because we are – and always will be – the agency of first and last resort. We are – and always will be – found amongst the broken glass, the broken lives, the broken limbs and the broken homes. We are – and always will be – the thin blue line.

Who else are you going to call?

And there are other reasons why it’s important – not least of which is the impact all of this is having on police officers themselves. I know of more people operating under significantly more pressure and strain than at any previous point in my career. These are my colleagues. These are my friends.

All of the best of us have, over the course of our policing lives, worked endless hours that we’ve not been paid for; have come in on our rest days to get things done; have taken leave instead of going sick; have missed countless family occasions; have found ways to make the Job work; have determined to do our duty and do it well.

But everyone has their limits. And everyone has their breaking point.

This is becoming more and more apparent in a context of challenge and change that is entirely without precedent. Chief Constables and Commissioners are speaking out. Officers on the frontline have been doing so for some time.

And we need to listen.

Because policing still matters more than I can say…

– for the wounded victim
– for the grieving mother
– for the missing child
– for the fearful survivor
– for the sister seeking justice
– for the drowning man
– for the desperate and the stumbling
– for the endless lost souls
– for any one of us at any moment in time

And it still matters to those of us who do it.

It is still – and always will be – the best job in the world. It is privilege to do what we do: to stand in the hurting places and to make a difference – sometimes all the difference in the world. And I will never give up on hope.

But we need to read the signs.

The ones telling us that all is not well.


14 thoughts on “Police State

Add yours

  1. I have not read words that hit the mark as the policecommanders words have done. This time next year pcso’s might be a thing of the past. Back room staff have all but gone and now they are starting on front line officers.
    At one time we would see Police Officers and PCSO’s at all hours of the day and night, in all weathers which in itself could prevent a burglary or mugging at that time and there is still another £25 million in cuts to go, do they think they will achieve this when the force is already looking a shadow of its former self.
    The cuts mean that Police Officers and remaining staff have to pick up the workload of the ones who have gone. How are they supposed to remain efficient and be out there in neighbourhoods when needed. With all the extra work on Police and staff it is only fair to say things will be missed and errors will happen. In my opinion this is playing into
    Teresa Mays hands by making Police Officers look incompitent thus giving her more power to privatise the police by using G4S or other.
    We cannot let this situation carry on, we need our police, they are the first response in emergency and their numbers need increasing not decreasing.


  2. Wake up! Be the change you want to see. Start by making it a rule to combine challenging observations (as here) with at least one and preferably several specific suggestions for improvements you’d wish for or things you’d happily change yourself in how you do what you do. “More money” doesn’t count, unless you also say where it can be saved from.

    We can all see problems with policing, from kettling protestors, historical conniving with Murdoch, undercover officers seducing campaigners, lack of diversity. You just have to sit in in Holborn police station trying to report a simple crime sitting on a chair 18″ lower than the officer who’s behind bulletproof glass and isnt interested anyway to feel there is much that is not right. And yes, that we depend on the police in every way when all sorts of things go wrong.

    So: my specific suggestion is start asking youself and your blog readers “wouldnt it be better if….?” Collect those thoughts. Iterate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. At last senior people have started to shout but I fear it’s too late. Some of the genies have left the bottles and we may never see them again.
    Contradictory noises like a Home secretary who )occasionally) praises the police one minute and threatens them the next, thedrive for professionalism but allowing entry at very senior level. No other profession allows that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know that you’re aware of Alex Stewart’s excellent and detailed article detailing why he quit the Met only a few years after joining full of enthusiasm.

    What you might not be aware of is that the Commissioner was asked directly about that in one of the City Hall meetings by Jennette Arnold. She asked about disillusionment (and funding).

    BHH answered (I quote from the transcript):

    “First of all, just to start with the first point about the article in the newspaper, obviously we have an officer who is resigning and has moved on to another career. He is entitled to his view. I do not necessarily agree with him for the reasons I am going to give, but he is entitled to his view […] That is mixing just one too many strands into an argument that I do not quite recognise. Yes, it is true that we have removed managers and, frankly, we were the most managed but at times the least efficient police organisation in the country. We have done a lot about that. I do not agree that having more managers means better management.” (for the full transcript, Google something like: alex stewart commissioner jennette arnold)

    I remember watching this and was annoyed. Some weeks later The Met documentary aired. There was lots of amusement about his attempt at an arrest and butchery of the caution. Some people were outraged. Others were amused. I was in the latter camp at first. My view is that leaders can lead perfectly well from an office.

    But then the timings struck me. The Commissioner’s failing with the caution must have occurred within a few days of his blunt, dismissive, brush-it-under-the-carpet, this-is-just-some-bitter-quitter rejection of Alex Stewart’s superbly constructed, emotive article. The Commissioner very publicly stated that he disagreed with the viewpoints of a frontline officer despite having very publicly and symbolically showed his complete lack of touch, and thus empathy, with the front line.

    How dare you, Sir Bernard. How dare you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said and as we read the MPS staff survey will be published. Those given previews have said he results are dire. So the question is, What is the MPS going to do about it? If the staff survey highlights a unit with abnormally poor morale what , specifically, will the MPS SLT do?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I recently bumped into a DS I knew from my time over in West London, he had just retired and told me he had never felt better as a result – all the stress had gone. I knew him as a keen and enthusiastic DS who had run pro-active teams with good results. He told me of an MPS where individual initiative had been stifled and everyone was just expected to follow the process irrespective of circumstances, as a result a lot of experienced and keen officers were seeking alternative careers.
    At the moment crime is not seen by a lot of people as a problem as it does not affect them directly, I would imagine that as soon as we get an incident where lack of police resources is seen as a factor or we get widespread disorder then that will change. One thing is certain, the Home Secretary will be isolated from the consequences of her actions (or lack of them). We are fated to live in interesting times but I am sure HMIC and the IPCC will be on hand to give you the benefit of the 20/20 vision that hindsight brings.


  7. Perhaps its time that the Police joined the wider debate around scrapping trident, tackling white collar fraud and moving the focus to restorative educational programmes instead of complaining about change. Its time to stand up and me counted and speak up against the governments attack on the poor and middle class. Let fight together. Its great to read this Voice from the met and I just hope this blog isn’t another form of clandestine monitoring. Keep em coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Can we put our arms around what is not well?

    Is it the politics?

    The distrust of police?

    The bureaucracy vs. doing something worthwhile?

    I am facing much the same in my own job, which also has a high level of public service (though I don’t put my life at risk). I am wondering about many of the same issues in a corporate job, and am trying to figure out if it’s the culture of hopelessness, or if there’s something that can be done which would make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. In our democracy the police are all we have to keep the line between peace and anarchy. It would behove the Home Secretary to remember that salient fact and cease using them as a political football. Additionally, within the police, the contemporary fashion of micro-management needs to be replaced with firm but respected leadership if we are not lose the valuable experience of officers frustrated by the present situation


  10. Sir, as an ex serving officer, albeit only a Special, I can assure you of my wholehearted support, for what it’s worth. I too blog and have written one on the chaos I foresee happening to our country should the dismantling of our emergency services continue at this pace. Not just the police but fire and ambulance too. I understand the frustration of many officers since those I had the pleasure to work with were people I’d like to have with me in any crisis. They had a passion for the job and for the people they served. Anyone who serves society does it more out of social conscience, I think, than self gain. That’s my perception from the officers I served with anyway. Yes, i know there are some who cross the line. That happens in every walk of life….even politicians.

    Anyway, what I really want to say is you are supported.

    Liked by 2 people

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