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It doesn’t fit the bill

Owen Jones has called for an end to the Metropolitan Police.

Unfortunately he doesn’t go on to show his working out in any constructive way – he’s right about the symptoms, but not the disease.

The Met has structural and functional problems at its heart, and the two are intrinsically linked.

Functionally, as an all functions police force, covering everything from anti social behaviour to anti terrorism, it lacks focus, and lacks accountability – the Commissioner has to be across every line of work, and can all too easily overlook a line of work because it is not his specialism. To counter that obvious weakness Scotland Yard has grown, on the last thirty years a top heavy bureaucracy of senior officers between the divisional commanders and the Commissioner who enable plausible deniability and  fail to deliver accountability. The fact that there are six tiers of rank at Chief Officer status in the Met is probably two too many, and a comprehensive de-layering of the organization’s management is probably long overdue. That there are about 40 officers above Chief Superintendent is also, probably, 25% too many, and is evidence for the proposition that the Met is too large, and also for the proposition that there are no economies of scale in policing (as opposed to, say, procurement of equipment for policing, in which case there almost certainly are economies of scale.)

The second structural problem though is one that perhaps reflects the changing functions of policing, and which has a certain national applicability that set the travails of the Met in context. Local policing, of anti social behaviour, domestic crime, the break ins and burglaries, the pub fights and pissed up punters, is best done locally. Some aspects of policing though, like serious crime, traffic, air support and scientific services, is best done regionally. The 1960s reorganization of policing, to eliminate borough forces and impose robust management, was probably the right solution then, but looks increasingly like the wrong solution now. Do we really need all function geographically located police services now,or a collaborative family of policing services that are flexible and problem oriented, not obsessed with boundaries and hierarchies?

As an aside, the police policy of single entry recruitment, with a fast track for ambitious graduates, looks increasingly like a nineteenth century solution to a problem we no longer have. The way in which the police service’s career path is structured is narrow, cluttered, and obstructs diversity in favour of a military obsession with physical fitness for the front line policing role, manpower and resources that no longer reflects the world we live in.

Abolising the Met is the right idea – replacing it with something more flexible and twenty first century is the reason why though, not just because of te symptoms of its structural and functional malaise.


2 comments on “It doesn’t fit the bill

  1. stripeysquirrel
    March 10, 2014

    Yes, all the yes.


  2. serafinasamadhi
    March 10, 2014

    We hope that changes are for the better- sometimes though- it just causes more or different problems.


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This entry was posted on March 10, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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