Intrigued about the reality of life as a Police Officer, and the potential impact of present and upcoming policy, I decided to interview a Police Officer for their own eye-witness take on the situation. In what follows, the Officer gives a first person account of various aspects of life in the force and their personal view of the impact of current and future legislation. For obvious reasons, the identity of the person in question has been protected. I hope you enjoy reading!
I’m a Police Officer currently working for the CID (the detective branch of the police) in a particularly diverse part of a major city. My main role is to investigate crime and if appropriate, help bring cases to court. I mainly interact with teenagers and young adults (although I can be dealing with adults on occasion too), investigating varying types of crime.
As well as investigating criminal activity, I also get involved in areas other than criminal activity, dealing with mental health issues and social service matters for example.
As a result of this we interact with a number of different public sector bodies. A significant part of my job requires me to assess the risk individuals pose for instance, and as a result I’m inevitably required to interact with other organisations in order to gain the necessary information.
Obtaining this information whilst sometimes being quite bureaucratic is usually straightforward. Essentially, because we’re the police, public service individuals and organisations do often give us the information we require as long as we have a lawful reason to request it. We’re also able to submit Court Orders within the public sector to assist us with our enquiries.
There have been times however when I haven’t been especially satisfied with the interaction between the police and public sector. In instances where we take children into protective custody for example, we often ask social services to get involved in supporting the children. I haven’t always been too happy with how this process works in terms of getting social services involved once we take them into custody.
In regard to the cuts that have taken place across the public sector, the police haven’t yet taken the full brunt of what they’ll have to. From what I can see there’s going to be significant alteration to pay, conditions and pensions.
The plans that have been announced (by Tom Winsor in his recent report for example) look quite dramatic in terms of the effect they’ll have. I think it’ll significantly reduce morale across the force and I think we’ll see a lot of police staff leave (I’m considering this myself) due to the remuneration offered in regard to what we do as not being sufficient.
There have also been many redundancies already, primarily affecting back office staff. Whilst I personally feel that some of these redundancies have the potential to improve efficiency, I and many others have been required to take on increasing workloads. As a result, many of the officers I work with have been signed off on medical leave due to stress, and I fear this could become increasingly common.
All in all, the Government and General Public need to ask themselves what kind of police service they want. I don’t think many realise that at present we take on many issues and problems that relate to areas other than crime, filling in the gaps that others in the public sector don’t. If this is still what is required, then there has to be the funding for it. We can’t be expected to deliver what we do now in terms of a broad service for less revenue, it just isn’t possible.
In terms of targets, the Government have come out and said that the police don’t have them. Whilst this might be true externally, the story seems to be quite different internally in that information like number of arrests, and number of crimes solved is recorded centrally.
Whilst I don’t think targets are necessarily a bad thing I’m not sure they capture certain realities of working for the Police. In my role for example, it can take a very differing amount of time to solve a shoplifting case in comparison to a complex fraud case, and this isn’t captured very well by the targets.
In investigating diverse areas such as these, it’s become my view that the current sentencing system just isn’t effective, both in terms of the length of sentences often given out and in terms of the type. In my experience, there just isn’t a deterrence effect. It’s clear with a lot of the people I deal with that there just aren’t any boundaries, and many don’t seem to care if they’re convicted!
It’s also clear that as soon as many people are released they go back into the same dysfunctional system they were in. In my view, there’s a definite need for more severe sentences combined with greater rehabilitation within prisons. It’s also crucial to look into social breakdown, which transcends many different public policy areas.
Overall, whilst there are certain benefits to working in the police, in terms of the broad outlook on life it gives you, there are also definite challenges to overcome and I fear these could be exacerbated by current Government plans.