Monday, 15 August 2011

Old Bill, Bill Bratton, Boris, Brian & a load of balls

Some useful advice for Brian Coleman, AM, FRSA, on policing, American style

Well, here is a funny thing.

Mrs Angry's google alerts came up with a interesting item yesterday. (I'm telling you how I came across this story, incidentally, because I don't want you to think I read the Daily Mail regularly. Although I do, secretly, guiltily, online, when no one is looking).

According to Mail columnist Andrew Pierce, Bill Bratton, the American crimebuster extraordinaire that Cameron thinks has so much to teach the Met about policing in London, has, in fact, already visited London and already given us the benefit of his wisdom.

You'll never guess what Bratton got up to, in fact, over here on a visit back in 2006: he spent a whole day in Camden, in the company of one Brian Coleman. Yes, that Brian Coleman.

Nothing in his long career of fighting crime, gang warfare and antisocial behaviour could have prepared Mr Bratton for an experience like that, poor man. What impression of life in London must he have carried back with him to the States, after hanging out with Brian and his homeboys? I can see now where he got the inspiration for a policy of zero tolerance, mind you. I maintain the same position myself, where Coleman is concerned. Firm but fair, that's Mrs Angry.

According to Pierce:

"The rage from Labour politicians and certain chief constables over David Cameron’s decision to consult former New York police chief Bill Bratton on gang culture is utterly synthetic. Ken Livingstone, when he was London mayor, and John Reid, who was the Labour Home Secretary, met Bratton in London in 2006 to seek his advice on policing. Brian Coleman, a Tory member of the London Assembly, spent a day with Bratton in Camden, north London, in 2006 with Livingstone and senior Metropolitan Police officers including the then commissioner Ian Blair. ‘We have been employing Bratton’s safer neighbourhood techniques in north London for years,’ says Coleman. ‘It’s Bratton’s strategy, and Livingstone, the Labour Party, and the Met were completely signed up to it."

Mrs Angry is surprised but very pleased to see Brian so enthusiastic in his endorsement of Bill Bratton, and his strategy of safer neighbourhood techniques.

What a shame, though, that Brian has forgotten, apparently, that his boss Boris has forced through a scandalous reduction in police officers in the capital. By 2013/14 London is set to lose 1800 police officers: an average of 50 for each borough. And in terms of SNT officers, nine sergeants, the most experienced officers, will be lost in Brian's GLA constituency of Camden and Barnet: four in Camden, five in Barnet.

As Mrs Angry mentioned in a previous post, she happens to know that one of the sergeants who will lose his post is expected now to join, ha ha - the riot squad. His services are being dispensed with, even though he was part of a team which has successfully, determinedly, dealt with the problems caused by a local gang, using local knowledge and no doubt at least some of the tactics Bratton is now supposed to be bringing for the first time to this country.

An article in today's Guardian confirms the new plans to increase the size of riot police staffing in the wake of last week's events. This surely underlines the foolishness of the Tory response to the incidents: cutting back on frontline policing, preventative measures, and directly undermining the strategy they say they want to promote - whilst moving staff to the riot squad. That is a political statement: a decision to enforce the ability to respond to crime and civil disorder rather than put money into policies and strategies that can prevent such disorder happening in the first place.

Mrs Angry is appalled at the cynical appropriation of the issues raised by last week's riots for the political profit of the Tory led government. (Let's not bother with the LibDem side of the Coalition, shall we, as no one gives a toss what they think, or do, anymore?) The vengeful, salacious emphasis on such heavy punishment for the pathetic, anarchic looting of last week is coming from whom, after all? Eton educated ministers and mayors, who have no experience of economic deprivation or life in the farther margins of society - and by members of parliament who refuse to acknowledge that the moral decline they so abhor might have some connection to the lack of propriety in their own looting of the public purse: quite sickening.

But back to another fine example of service in public life: a wonderful role model for our young people, Councillor Brian Coleman, who tells us approvingly that we have actually used Bill Bratton's safer neighbourhood techniques for years, yet, as Andrew Dismore, his Labour rival for next year's GLA elections pointed out recently, in this press release:


Andrew Dismore, the Labour candidate for the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, has just received the response to a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police which has revealed that in the 3 years since he was last elected Conservative Assembly member Brian Coleman has not written to the Met. even once, raising concerns about Safer Neighbourhood and Safer Transport Police team numbers and deployments. (FoI attached below).

Mr Dismore said:

“It is appalling that the police have no record of Assembly member for Barnet and Camden having written with any concerns about the strength of our SNT and STT teams. It has been clear for some time that they have been under threat from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. The boundaries of the ward based teams are breaking down and we have just learned that the two Boroughs are to lose 9 SNT sergeants between them.

As for the STTs, when they were first introduced by former Mayor Ken Livingstone, Mr Coleman dismissed them as a “gimmick”.

Oh, really, Brian? Hmm. And er, despite the fact that Labour introduced Mr Bratton and his techniques to London, you actually seem to approve of them ... so why aren't you speaking out now, against the cuts which are going to fatally damage the effectiveness of this approach?

Mrs Angry grew up in a world where respect for the police, for law and order, was always an integral part of the Conservative philosophy. Incrementally, over the years, as the police and the courts have increasingly failed to follow the political agenda set by their government masters, so this bond has been broken, and the relationship between politicians, the police and the judiciary is continuing to fracture.

Nowadays it seems the more right wing the Tory, the more they mistrust the police and increasingly seek to undermine their autonomy and independence. How this benefits the citizen stuck in the middle of such arguments, is difficult to explain.

Cameron, Coleman, and all politicians, national and local, need to stop trying to score political points on an issue of complex causes and difficult solutions and start considering how best to help repair the damage of the last few days, last few decades. Nothing is going to get any better without support, without proper resources, and without a radical change of attitude by Tory politicians, up there, in the rarified atmosphere of central government and down here, down among the deadmen, in the council chambers of Broken Britain.

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