Friday, 10 April 2009

‘Quotum’ of Justice

In the local Isle of Wight County Press, 6th February 2009, the following article was published:

Police officers target town’s terrible ten

POLICE have reduced anti-social behaviour in Cowes by targeting ten individuals responsible for causing most of it, residents were told last week.

At a packed meeting, organised by the town’s Safer Neighbourhoods team, residents were told police resources had been used to crack down on the ringleaders of anti-social behaviour by banning them from shops and pubs in the town.

Two people have also been issued with ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders), including a man in his 50s, according to acting Insp Julie Cocks.

The meeting heard crime had fallen overall in the Cowes, Northwood and Gurnard area by nearly 23 per cent between April 1, 2008, and the end of January this year compared with the same period the previous year.

The number of public disorder offences and assaults were down by nearly 20 per cent, criminal damage had fallen by 33 per cent, house burglary by 19 per cent and the number of incidents of rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour, 13 per cent.

Acting Insp Cocks said: “Resources focused on individuals have proved effective in an area where there are a small number of known criminals among a population of more than 13,000 people. Safer Neighbourhoods officers are familiar with those likely to cause trouble and their backgrounds.

“This detailed knowledge allows police to take the most appropriate and effective action to tackle their behaviour and its impact on others.”

She added: “A vital part of our approach in dealing with anti-social behaviour by youths is gaining their trust, respect and understanding. It’s important young people get to know us as people and feel comfortable speaking with officers on first name terms.””

I wrote a reply, which was not published:

Isle of Wight County Press

10th February 2009

Dear Editor,

Guilty before the crime

How many men make a tiger? How many police quotas make a crime wave?

In a civilised society, men are innocent until proven guilty; in New Labour’s Britain, men are guilty until the local police force has filled its quota; whereas here on the Island, thanks to mainlanders acting as Inspectors, Wightmen are guilty before the crime.

If “the terrible ten” of Cowes were “causing most of the crime”, then how can the expense of a wilful act of pre-emptive policing be justified on any grounds, ethical or financial, when the sum result was a poultry 23% improvement upon the same period during the Cowes mafias free-range crime spree?

Ignoring the confounding influence of small number statistical fluctuations (as is becoming more common in statements emanating from uneducated civil servants), either new villains stepped forward to fill the vacuum left by Don Corleone-Matey and his cohorts, else we would expect a much more significant improvement in crime statistics in line with the expression “causing most of the crime”; or Julie Cocks’ rhetoric was carried away by the fairies. And as for the illogical and vile hubris inherent in the conclusion: “Resources focused on individuals have proved effective…”, as Julie Cocks would have us believe, we should insist that the Wightmen were not as guilty as the police wanted them to be, in which case our brothers in Cowes are due a public apology at the very least.”

Reducing policing to a quota filling exercise is to have justice write its own obituary. As an act of begging the question, the quota presumes that which is to be proven, and the system forces the evidence to fit the conclusion in a post hoc ergo propter hoc fashion. The quota system must add an element of arbitrariness to policing, as an arrest will now depend not only on behaviour of the suspect, but also upon the running total of the quota at that time. W.C. Fields said “I always carry a flask of liquor just in case I see a snake… I also carry a snake”.

Compare Julie Cocks’ policing with that attributed to Robert Peels principles of policing:

  • Every police officer should be issued a badge number, to assure accountability for his actions.
  • Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
  • Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount.
  • The police are the public and the public are the police.

PS if you want to know the time, ask an agent provocateur:


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