Last week, I was listening in as a senior Met officer suggested that they could think of no other organisation in the UK that is the subject of headline scrutiny as frequently as the Police Service.
‘Every day except Christmas day,’ they remarked.
Policing is being tested and challenged – invariably in the public domain – as never before.
Rightly so, you might say.
It set me thinking about my time working for Sir John Stevens – when he was Commissioner of the Met.
One afternoon, he walked into the office and asked my colleague and I to draw up a list of the institutions and individuals to whom, in one way or another, he was accountable.
I suspect he wanted to make a point.
I don’t have the original paperwork – but, written today, the running order looks something like this:
• The Queen
• The Home Affairs Select Committee
• The Home Secretary
• The Shadow Home Secretary
• The Policing Minister
• The Shadow Policing Minister
• The College of Policing
• Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies
• The Independent Police Complaints Commission
• Police & Crime Commissioners (the Mayor’s Office for Policing & Crime in London)
• The Judiciary
• The Media
• Independent Advisory Groups
• Community Police Consultative Groups
• Neighbourhood Policing Panels
• Stop & Search Monitoring Groups
• Independent Custody Visitors
• Community Safety Partnerships
• Independent Safeguarding Children Boards
• Independent Safeguarding Adult Boards
• The Surveillance Commissioner
• The Information Commissioner
• The Audit Commission
• Public Inquiries (e.g. the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry)
• Independent Inquiries (e.g. the Inquiry into undercover policing)
• The Police Federation
• The Police Superintendents Association
• Police Staff Unions
• The National Police Chiefs Council
• Internal Staff Associations
• Victims of crime and their families
• The Great British Public: the people we serve
(Personal view – it surely has to be those last two groups who matter most.)
It’s quite a list – particularly when you consider the fact that I’m almost certainly missing some names.
And here’s the thing…
They all have their own views about policing: about who we are, about what motivates us – and about what it is that we are here to do.
And they don’t all agree with one another.
Some are for us and some are against us; some consider that we need to reform in one way and some have a preference for a different way – some would pull us in one direction and some would push us in another. Some believe in us and some are deeply suspicious of us; some are relentlessly critical and some are more supportive.
But they all have a view.
And, as the wise old sage once suggested, it’s difficult to please all the people all the time.