Another un-H-A-P-P-Y day for British police officers
Reflections on the Casey Review
Monday the 20th of March 2023 was International Day of Happiness. (https://www.dayofhappiness.net/). However, for me, and I suspect most dedicated, professional serving and retired police officers in the UK, the last couple of days have not been happy ones. Not even one tiny little bit happy. Several times yesterday, I stalked around the house, swearing and cursing like a man experiencing sudden onset Tourettes syndrome.
So, why was that?
It was because we could now see the full, sickening, gut-wrenching horror of the Baroness Casey Review into the culture and standards of the Metropolitan police. The report was focussed on the Met, but in fairness, anyone who knows anything about UK policing knows that many of the issues highlighted in the report could equally apply to most forces in England and Wales.
(Note to Chief Constables outside London: This isn’t just about the Met, so don’t be feeling too smug right now.)
Firstly, just to get this important point out of the way. I do not doubt or feel defensive about the criticisms currently being levelled against the Met. I wrote a book about the demise of the British police service for God’s sake. I’ve done eighty episodes of a podcast called Tango Juliet Foxtrot (The Job’s Fucked). So, I get it. You won’t get any arguments out of me. I was the canary in the coal mine when no-one wanted to hear this stuff.
However, having now had twenty-four hours to actually read the report, (rather than simply the worst bits that the media like to fixate on), I will consider the three pillars of International Day of Happiness and see how they stack up against the Louise Casey report.
For clarity, and in the unlikely event that you didn’t know, this year’s theme of International Day of Happiness was:
‘Be Mindful. Be Grateful. Be Kind’
First up then….'Be Mindful'
I am now relaxing my breathing, unlike yesterday when my breathing was not relaxed. Not relaxed at all. It was rather unrelaxed actually.
How am I feeling right now? Well, yesterday I was feeling a combination of anger, sadness, frustration, (a bit more anger) and a sense of hopelessness about the state of the organisation that I loved and to which I had given thirty years of my life.
Today I am just feeling sad, and often the best way to channel these feelings is to write them down.
I have invested a lot of my life in policing. I have experienced the joys and horrors of what I think is (or can be) the best job in the world. I am still heavily invested in policing, having helped to develop Aquila, which I believe to be the best digital investigations platform in the world.
However, like so many of us, I have watched over many years as a combination of three things has destroyed British policing.
1. Mean-spirited political meddling and cost-cutting since 2010 that has screwed public safety. What did they think would happen if they took away 30% of staff and resources, simultaneously trashed pay and pensions from a profession with zero right to take industrial action and increased demand by about 40%. What could possibly go wrong?
2. Weak, frequently bullying and self-interested police leaders who failed to push back and who acquiesced to Point 1.
3. A hostile media that only ever focussed on bad news stories, demoralising the majority of frontline police officers who try and do a good job with everything stacked against them.
Net result? A demoralised, inexperienced, underpaid, ill disciplined and badly led organisation that feels abandoned and unloved by everyone.
Those who are very quick to damn an entire profession could do worse than being 'mindful' of the three points above that led to this horrible situation.
Next up, point two….'Be grateful'
I have many, many things to be thankful for. A loving family, a wonderful wife and four beautiful children. A warm comfortable home.
But this isn’t about me, it’s about policing, so here goes.
I am thankful for having had the great privilege of working alongside some of the very best human beings in society in my long career in policing. Brave, funny, kind, hard-working, selfless and determined to put the needs of the public before their own needs.
People who sacrificed Christmases, birthdays, school sports days and nativity plays to be at work to protect the public. People who frequently sacrificed their physical and mental health to do what often feels like a thankless job.
I am also thankful for a career that provided me with a good income and which now provides me with a good pension. Two things that no longer exist for those working in UK policing thanks to this government.
I am also thankful to Baroness Casey for shining a light on things that needed to be exposed.
The terrible impact of austerity on policing and public safety.
The impact of clueless police managers who bully anyone who challenges them into silence.
The poor bloody frontline officers who have been betrayed by this government and by their own organisation.
Finally, I am thankful that creatures like Wayne Couzens and David Carrick are now sat in a prison cell where they and their like belong.
And now the last one…..'Be kind'.
I know it’s not being kind, but I’m going to start with who I’m NOT going to be sending love to any time soon. It’s probably not in the spirit of International Day of Happiness, but stuff it, it’s my article and I’ll do what I like.
Firstly I’m not going to be sending love to those on the following list.
1. David Cameron and Theresa May for fucking up British policing. If time and distance make people forget what you did; don’t worry. Me, my book and my podcast will always be there to remind them.
2. Too many hopeless senior police ‘leaders’ who conspired in Point 1. "Oh yes Theresa, don't worry, we can definitely do more with less...leave it with us." (Spoiler alert.....you can't. Anyone who thinks you can is either mentally ill or approaching his/her next police promotion process.)
3. Any journalist who has written an attack piece on British policing in the last ten years without also writing something positive to balance out the hateful bile poured on the majority of good police officers trying to do an impossible job.
4. Police officers who abuse their authority, stalk women, bully their colleagues for any reason, act in a dishonest way and bring shame on the organisation. (N.B Police officers have to deal with enough arseholes in the general public without having to work with them. Just saying.)
The people I REALLY want to send my unreserved love and virtual hugs to are;
British police officers past and present who joined to serve and protect the public and who put themselves in harm's way day after day with little or no acknowledgement or thanks for what they did and what they continue to do.
Happy belated International Day of Happiness everyone.