Police are too busy chasing PC causes to fight real crime The Times 18.02.20

The original article is here.

The popular consensus that deep and unprecedented cuts in funding are responsible for the crisis in policing has had the effect of obscuring another damaging issue: the police are losing sight of the actual job in hand, which is to fight crime and keep the streets safe. Far too many police leaders appear eager to earn political brownie points and curry favour with campaigning groups. This politicisation by stealth is hurting the reputation of forces up and down the country.

The latest example is the disgraceful decision by Humberside police to target a businessman who tweeted about transgender people. Harry Miller, a former policeman who founded the campaign group Fair Cop, took legal action after an officer told him that he had not committed a crime but that his tweeting was being recorded as a “hate incident”. The court ruled that this had unlawfully interfered with his right to free speech and the judge, Mr Justice Julian Knowles, warned that Britain was in danger of slipping into an Orwellian society.

The case centred on the designation of non-crime hate incidents. The operational guidance from the College of Policing, which sets professional standards, says that officers who receive an allegation of a hate crime should record it as a hate incident, regardless of whether there was evidence for the truth of the claim. About 120,000 non-crime incidents have been recorded by police forces in England and Wales in the past five years. Such incidents stay on record. While the guidance is lawful, it is clear that its application by officers is misguided and counterproductive. The sooner the college changes the rules, the better.

This sorry saga highlights a wider failure in policing priorities. The College of Policing was set up in 2012 as a successor to the National Police Improvement Agency. The Police Staff College in Hampshire was sold off, reversing more than 50 years of centralised training of police leaders. Too many police reorganisations are about short-term gains rather than any long-term strategic planning.

Free speech is one of the core values that defines us as a society. It is not the police’s job to interfere with the rights of people to talk about social and political issues unless they’re breaking the law. Police leaders need to refocus their efforts on training officers to fight crime and meeting the needs of the public, rather than persecuting tweeters merely for exercising their democratic freedoms.

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