Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Kind of Police Service Do we Want?

We shall see. I am off tonight to watch the 30th Richard Dimbleby lecture when Sir Ian Blair talks on this subject in front of a live audience, (which includes me, and J, guests of the BBC, woo hoo).

This is a taster of what we can expect to hear, I will let you know. It is on BBC later at 10.40pm, after the BBC1 9.00-10.00pm programme on 7/7 - The day the bombs came (which I advised on in a very limited capacity). I am sure that it will be an interesting night.

I wonder if I will get to ask any questions?

I met Sir Ian Johnston, the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police at the Memorial Service. I didn't know who he was, I though he was just a random copper, albeit one wearing a lot of silver. I was a bit pissed. Here is our conversation.

I said ' Hi. Do you know Steve [name]? He was the police officer who rescued us all off our train at Kings Cross. We want to buy him a pint. Can you find him for us?'

Ian said ' Yes, I know Steve... I'll definitely tell him you are looking for him. Who shall I say is looking?'

Me: ' Rachel, from Kings Cross United. Cool. Don't forget. We really, really want to buy him a pint. He was a f*cking legend. Here's my number, could you get him to bell me if you see him? Or we'll be in [name of pub]'

Ian: 'Great, will do. I heard great things about Steve. I heard he's had a tough time since '.

Me: 'He was a bloody hero, you HAVE to get him to come to the pub'.

Ian: 'Were you on the train too?'

Me: 'Yeah, carriage one, the one with the bomb'

Sir Ian: ' Ah - I'm sorry...god..'

Me: ' Oh, I'm fine, cheers, but guess what? There's loads of us from the train - we're all mates - we go to the pub - we all want to thank Steve, we're all sitting together at the service. We'll be in the pub later. If you find Steve, that would be great. Come along yourself if you fancy it

Sir Ian: 'Cheers. That's very nice of you. I'll definitely tell Steve, and if I can get away, I will.'


Blogger Nosemonkey said...

That's the trouble with Blair (Ian, not Tony) - in person he comes across as a really nice bloke. I met him a couple of times when I was working at the Commons (my old MP boss was his history teacher at school, believe it or not), while he was still Deputy Commissioner, and he was a thoroughly nice chap. Bloody mentalist when it comes to his ideas, though.

It'd be interesting to see what you reckoned of the thing as a whole - from the BBC news site's summary of it he sounded (on terrorism at least) once again to be going off on one while making vaguely appeasing noises to his critics. Nice to know if it was the usual predictable nonsense, or if he's changing tactics in any way...

November 16, 2005 9:08 pm  
Blogger London Denizen said...

Blair's stuff certainly sounded like he was a reasonable man.

November 16, 2005 10:33 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

He was a superb speaker. And he continued to be very helpful, tonight I didn't recognise him, again, and this time I thought asked him where the ladies were, and he very helpfully told me.

I was shown to a seat in row 3 next to Igor, the Chairman of the National Criminal Justice Board and we had a very interesting conversation about streaking, and then about victim impact statements. I said justice needed to be felt to be done as well as seen to be done, but you couldn't hurl together laws or pass sentences because you felt sorry for victims. Justice and law making was too important for that. I was fed up with victims beign used as excuses for wild changes in the law. He quite agreed, we got on very well. He was just about to introduce me to the Chair of Victim Support, when I was whisked forward by BBC people and re-sat in the front row next to the DG of the BBC and Jane Root with Shirley Williams behind.

So my mum is thrilled, you can see me and J repeatedly.

And then Ian Blair got up on stage and said some very well-thought-through,thought-provoking stuff. Really, really good. Brilliant speaker.

Afterwards I met Mark from my train ( the very first person I ever met from my train, Imet him 3 days later) and Sarah his wife, and we all decided to get a cab back and have a drink at my flat.

We waited in a long queue for our coats.
I can reveal exclusively here Darcus Howe is an extremely rude queue-jumper.When we were all waiting for our coats, he pushed and barged.

I can also reveal ( this is now turning into Tatler) Kieron, Tony Blair's Special Adviser for Home Affairs was very charming and was sorry about the CICA - Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority - payment system
( rubbished in the Evening Standard by a fed-up victim of the Aldgate bomb, wonder if he had read it). I told Kieron that I didn't know anyone who was walking wounded who had bothered to complete the CICA form, it is pages long and full of stupid questions ( 'were there any witnesses? Why did you not report the event at once?' blah blah.) It is rubbish. But I knew that before I picked up a pen. I still haven't applied for compensation. So far the bombs have cost me £2560. Maybe, if I can prove trauma, I might get £1000. It will help pay for the taxis that I have been getting when getting on the tube makes me throw up.

Anyway. Ian Blair = very solid chap. I tried to tape the 7/7 documentary, and the video did n't work. Gutted. Knackered. Also got a headache. Going to bed.


November 16, 2005 11:55 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

Hi Rachel,

Yes I saw you and J quite a few times on the lecture tonight :). Glad you found it interesting.

I thought Sir Ian came across well and he made some interesting points and posed some good questions.

After the documentary tonight they gave a number to call for the NHS Trauma hotline and I was rather shocked that you had to pay to call it .. standard rates but some companies may charge more. I remember back in the day when helplines used to be free. I must be getting old!!!


November 17, 2005 12:18 am  
Blogger Clare said...

P.S: Typically I didn't tape the 7/7 documentary as I watched it and taped the Take That documentary instead. I hope you manage to get a copy from someone else.

November 17, 2005 12:19 am  
Blogger Dave said...

Does Kieron still wear his bloody stupid affectatious hat?

November 17, 2005 12:41 am  
Blogger Dave said...

And whilst Kieron might be a charmer, since the terrorism bill is a Downing Street production, rather than a Home Office one, he's all over the fuck up that was that Bill. Nice one!

November 17, 2005 12:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media still manages to unreport the real horror of the situation Britain and the US have caused in Iraq. Try repeating some of this on the BBC and you will soon be talked down.

November 17, 2005 9:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame you missed the docco last night.. I came looking specifically for your comments today. It was a wee bit tabloidy and emotional (tear-jerking music underlaid), but then it was telling an emotional story. Lots of Steve throughout.. and another policeman who's name I forget. It was all structured around their and Gill Hicks' stories. They told it well. Wish I'd taped it myself so I could have sent it to you. I'm sure somebody has .. ask on U75..
I can't set my video - it's too hard. That's why i've got kids!

November 17, 2005 1:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just read pretty much your whole blog (not a very productive day for me..). I fortunately missed the bombs due to being ill that day, otherwise I would have been at Kings X too.. the same story as a lot of people. When the news flash came up on TV I burst into tears immediately. I can't imagine the horror you and everyone involved went thru that day, I cannot bring myself to read stories or watch news coverage related to the bombings as I find it so very upsetting.
I just wanted to say two things; firstly, music making you emotional. This I completely understand, after experiencing a trauma myself, every song I heard no matter where I was (Superdrug was very bad for this...) reduced me to a weeping blob, but then I used this music in my own way to make myself grieve when I found it hard to do so.
Secondly, counselling. For me it has been invaluable, an opportunity to dump all your anger, fear and sadness in once place and walk away. You can bare your soul without the fear of not being understood or making people feel awkward. Its worth a try I reckon...
I hope things are improving for you and the other members of KCU. Its unfortunate that the press see fit to use 'The Victims' for their own ends, just so long as you guys know we are all equally as horrified by this.
Best wishes, Zoe

November 17, 2005 2:34 pm  
Blogger Will said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 17, 2005 2:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blimey, look who else has a blogspot blog..
(apols if you get popbitch and already know this)

November 17, 2005 3:35 pm  
Blogger TN said...

I've had a really good day, but the laugh I just got from this post was the icing on the cake!

November 17, 2005 7:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people with very very bad ideas are nice people socially.

Its a good idea to remember that charisma, speaking ability and plain niceness have no necassary link to intelligence.

November 21, 2005 12:28 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

True, Anonymous ( don't be shy. Leave a name!)

He was extemely adept at speaking, so much so that I was carried along by the whole experience, and found myself carried along on a wave on his self-belief ( plus I am genuinely grateful and thankful to the police due to a previous experience of a lot of personal contact with them. They were fantastic with me; rock solid and going well over and above the call of duty and actually becoming permanent fixtures on my Christmas card list with ref. to a different serious investigation that I was, erm, a key witness in. In 2002, not 2005.)

Anyway. As a police chief he is an excellent politician. And a damn good speaker. And he delivered a tour de force, in terms of delivery, presentation, passion, etc. But was it a tour de force in terms of content? And - this is the main thing- should a chief of police be quite so obviously a consummate politician? No. And the fact that he fits so easily into the world of lobbying and - gasp - policy - advising is not right. Is it. No. Not.Right.At.All.

I watched the speech again on TV but of course I'd had half a bottle of red by then and no dinner and when the programme was on I'm afraid I was distracted by constant screetching of 'Oooh, J, Rach, I can see your head !' in star-struck manner, so I have just read the whole script of the speech again.

Noted these points:
1. IB- 'the giant of personal insecurity, based on fear of anti-social behaviour, of crime and of terrorism, so that policing becomes central to our understanding of citizenship.'

Does it? I don't think citizenship is managing your personal insecuritoes. I don't think living in an integrated civilised society is simply a case of managing my fear. I like ot think it is a bit more active than that.

2. IB- 'For a long time, the police service was consequently the preserve of the striving lower-middle class, predominantly white, predominantly male.

There are now many more women - a third of our current intake - but class remains an issue'.

Race and class. Fair play for bringing it up. An impassioned plea that ' I need ...every race and creed, to be in the police.'

Slightly defensive tone from IB, but he bigged up the service - as a recruitment platform that must have had an effect.

3. And this brings me onto 'Citizens in uniform' - how the police were set up. WELL THEN SIR IAN SURELY YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE? If the police are citizens in uniform, what the bloody hell are they doing - are you doing, Sir Ian - lobbying the government and even phoning up recalcitrant MPs to support the Whips trying to bash through the Terrorism legislation? You can't have it both ways. Parliament is elected and reasonably transparent. Well, the decision makign process is reported. Not so with the police. We didn't even know they had a shoot to kill policy until they shot Jean Charles. Nobody voted on it. Police are people paid to do a job. They cannot be voted out of office. They are not politicians and they should not be acting like them. Robert Peel must be spinning in his grave.

The service has clearly tried to modernise, but it done so silently, behind closed doors. Blair is right to say that this must change. But it is not a trade off - we'll make decisions in puiblic but we'll take more power behind the scenes as well and become more like politicians, influencing legislation to a quite extraordinary degree. The principle of habeas corpus has held firm through far more dangerous times than these - through war with Germany, arial bombardment of London on a daily basis, genuine fears of enemy intelligence agents infilitrating society through 2 World Wars - and no police officer - no police chief - no politician either SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO MESS WITH IT BECAUSE ULTIMATELY HIS CAREER PROSPECTS ARE TOO TIED UP WITH HIM NEEDING TO BE SEEN TO BE TOUGH ON TERROR.

And this basic freedom is more important than people's careers. It might make both Blair's jobs easier, but that is no reason to play fast and loose in the short term with freedoms we have cherished and manged to live under even in the most dangerous times, for centuries.

4. It's not the police's fault. This Government has given them a ridiculouslyt over-arching, frankly stupid brief. Listen to this. 'to build a safe, just and tolerant society, in which the rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities are properly balanced, and the protection and security of the public are maintained'. That was from the the incoming Labour government in 1997.

That is just daft. The police are not the 'builders of society'. How ridiculous. Nor can they 'balance the rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities'.

How can anybody not be confused with that as a job description?

5. Ian Blair says 'Policing is becoming not only central to our understanding of citizenship, it is becoming a contestable political issue as never before.'

No shit Sherlock.

He is right to ask for debate and feedback. But I don't see the signs of any debate being listened to - to me, it seems is a bit New Labour - tell us stuff so we can be seen to have listened and then we'll go ahead and do what we were going to do anyway.

6. He is right that we need better community relations - more neighbourhood policing, local intelligence, and that is tru not only of the police but of neighbourhoods themselves - we all need to be less selfish and individualistic and more focused on what is going on around us - more engaged.

7. The 'national debate' about policing as a whole - how is that going to happen? If it all happens at local authority level, well, show me one person who has an interest in or a clue about what happens in local authority meetings.

8. IB:'It is a time for politicians and commentators of every stripe and opinion actively to consider how citizens can be involved in a debate about what kind of police service we want.'

Hum. Politicians and commentators eh? But that is hardly 'public debate'.

I don't see how this public debate is going to be facilitated and no-one has told me. Perhaps a focus group or two? Or a TV Q&A, like T. Blair does before the election, when he suffers public questioning.

Still. Nice man. Bit worried about who he thinks he is and who he works for/with, though.

November 21, 2005 9:19 pm  
Blogger ziz said...

Sir Ian of that Ilk matriculated at Christ Chruch. This is a semi mystical process where the novitiate student enters a room and signs a register of matriculation that has ahistory going back to Thoma s Wolsely. 17 (I think) Prime Ministers have signed it.

Ch Ch (The House) is the supreme forcing ground of the ruling elite, no matter their background, and Sir Ian of that Ilk is a prime example of the effortless superiority they portray and practice.

THat he raises questions about the role of the police does not mean he doesn't understand what the role should be. Endless food for the chattering classes whilst they secretly agree to shoot people dead in the street without any sane, democratic discussion or overview than from other Policemen (note the men). Cressida Jack will no doubt catch it in the neck.

Politicians - and Sir Ian is one , (although like the SS he wears a uniform), are bred to manipulate, they practice deceit and routinely employ dishonesty - which involves the arcane techniques and artistry of modern PR - the placing of people at funerals, public orations, the backgrounds, the lighting, even the colour / size of a hat no less contrived than the activities of Speer and Leni Reifenstahl.

It matters not, as the question you raise , "What Kind of Police Service Do we want". you will get the Police Service you are given.

Care to protest, well give us 4 weeks notice and don't do it anywhere near the HOC - and it it all gets out of hand we will shoot you, "render" you, ....extradite you to the US.

As my nanny used to say to me , "They must have been bad men , Teddy, otherwise the Policeman wouldn't have arrested them."

November 27, 2005 5:04 pm  

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