PETER HITCHENS: It's time to shut down the failed, vast, arrogant monster our police forces have become

Like some dud bog-standard school, Britain’s most important law-enforcers, the Metropolitan Police, find themselves humiliatingly condemned to ‘special measures’. About time too.

Now we have also learned that one in seven police forces is in special measures. Quite frankly, I’m not surprised.

The howling, blatant failure of all Britain’s police forces to do the job for which we pay them so much has been a scandal for years. It has been at its worst in the capital.

Now, at last, even our political class has begun to notice. If we have the sense to seize it, the moment has come to replace our failed police, who have traded for decades on a reputation won by others many years ago.

Normally the liberal elite, cocooned by money and power, have little idea of what is going on in this country. They seldom visit anywhere outside their privileged enclaves, and dismiss reports from the real Britain as ‘moral panic’.

For years they have not cared, as most of us have, that the police are too politically correct, and too absent, to be any use against crime and disorder. Now, it turns out that the police are not politically correct enough, either. Everyone thinks they are useless.

Scotland Yard’s fall comes after it was subjected to the leadership of Cressida Dick – for years the liberal establishment’s favourite police officer, groomed and polished so that she could finally step into the Commissioner’s job. And then she turned out to be an utter flop on almost every measure known.

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick standing with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick standing with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

What are the police for? Why do we put up with them? If your car won’t go, or your hoover stops hoovering, or your fridge no longer keeps your food cold, you get rid of them and buy new ones. So what do you do when your police stop policing?

And they have stopped. Their response to burglary and car theft is now such a national joke that even official statistics have begun to reflect it. Their interest in quelling the nasty disorder that infects so many of our streets is zero.

As Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said of the Metropolitan Police this week, they suffer from ‘a barely adequate standard of crime recording accuracy, with an estimated 69,000 crimes going unrecorded each year, less than half of crime recorded within 24 hours, and almost no crimes recorded when victims report antisocial behaviour against them’.

The flat phrase ‘anti-social behaviour’ does not begin to describe a huge and horrible problem. For many years, in the long-ago days when people still had some expectation of police support, I was often contacted by despairing men and women trapped in their homes by menacing louts, intolerable noise, screeching persecution or incessant thefts from their small businesses, from which they could not protect themselves.

They knew that if they dared raise a hand in their own defence, the police – protecting their monopoly of force – would come for them. They, unlike their persecutors, were easy targets, not frightening, ready to co-operate with authority.

The Metropolitan Police of Wayne Couzens who was jailed for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard

The Metropolitan Police of Wayne Couzens who was jailed for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard

I remember a lawyer who wrote to me in a state of shock, having had his career ruined by the police after he grabbed a young vandal and tried to march him to the police station. He was the one who ended up in court. We all recall the horrible case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed her own severely disabled daughter Francecca and herself, after enduring ten years of unimaginable persecution from cruel neighbours – in which the police were barely interested.

We all remember Garry Newlove, kicked to death outside his home, after confronting a gang of youths he suspected of vandalising his wife’s car. The area had suffered for years from uncontrolled disorder of this kind.

But these events are not unique. They are among thousands of miserable episodes that never make the headlines, but which show the failure of the police to prevent this kind of thing.

Well, that problem only affected ordinary people, so the authorities, the BBC and The Guardian newspaper paid little attention to it and learned no lesson from it.

Sarah Everard, 33, was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London

Sarah Everard, 33, was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London

But the police reaction to the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer – pitiful, lumbering and stupid – probably turned the balance among our governing class. Here was something they could not ignore: a woman had been murdered by someone she should have been able to trust utterly.

How had he been in a position to do this? One problem is that the police, as they now are, do not always attract the right sort of recruits, or retain the kind of men and women they really need.

The killer, Wayne Couzens, was obviously totally unfit to be a police constable.

He should never have been hired in the first place. His blatant lewd behaviour should have made sure that he was got rid of very quickly.

Yet he stayed, and seems to have been too readily tolerated by some of his colleagues. Then came the lumpish, concrete-headed police treatment of a perfectly reasonable vigil in memory of Miss Everard. Once again, the questions began to form, in letters of fire, in the public mind: ‘Whose side are the police really on? What actual use are they?’

I could write a book about the crisis of the police. In fact, I have done. (It is called ‘The Abolition of Liberty’ and is still in print 19 years after it was first published.) I have pressed it into the hands of senior police officers and one Home Secretary, begging them to pay attention. Not one of them has even responded.

Former prime minister and founder of the modern police force Sir Robert Peel

Former prime minister and founder of the modern police force Sir Robert Peel

The police, I have argued now for almost 20 years, are doing the wrong thing. Their problems have nothing to do with numbers (they used to do far more with many fewer officers).

Their job is not to patrol Twitter, but to patrol the streets on foot, to prevent crime, to show that order and law will be upheld, to deter the first signs of bad behaviour so that it never gets out of hand.

This method still works (it was used to great effect in New York City a few years ago) and it was what they were originally hired to do by the great Sir Robert Peel.

Constables engaged in these simple, comforting activities do not need to get involved in politics or opinions. They rapidly become the friends of the law-abiding public, get to know their neighbourhoods, see trouble coming and pick up intelligence about all kinds of problems.

This kind of policing came to an end thanks to a few decisions mainly taken by the arch-liberal Home Secretary Roy Jenkins in the 1960s. We were never asked about them. Jenkins killed off regular foot patrols, and destroyed dozens of local forces that knew their areas and were respected there, replacing them with vast distant bureaucracies.

In Scotland, even more worryingly, local policing ended entirely with the creation of a nationwide organisation, which has unsurprisingly run into grave trouble since.

It would be just as easy to reverse these decisions, to begin next week to recruit and establish new, small local constabularies dedicated to the old Peel principle of prevention above all. And once they were ready, we could close down the vast, failed, arrogant monster which our police have disastrously become.

There is no longer any point in pretending that they have not failed. And when institutions fail, the best thing to do is to replace them from top to bottom. That would be a truly special measure.

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White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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