21 December 2016 / by Crime/ in
Degrees of Force
A number of years ago I was sitting at the bar in a pub in Southend watching the England rugby team play Wales in that year’s Six Nations. Next to me was a young Detective Constable with whom I had had a fairly testy interview a few weeks earlier. We quickly forgot our differences as the match began. About 20 minutes into the game shouting and the sound of broken glasses came from the corner of the pub. A fight had broken out. The DC calmly put down his pint, walked straight into the middle of the fracas, looked one of the pugilists in the eyes and said ‘you – sit down’. He repeated this to the other participant, pointing to the other side of the pub. They did exactly that – no questions asked. The DC had not said he was a police officer or shown his warrant card but had just quickly, fearlessly and confidently resolved the situation. The DC walked back to the bar, picked up his pint and watched the rest of the match. There was no more trouble.
It was therefore with interest that I read reports in the press that police constables will be required to have or to obtain degrees. The argument from the College of Policing is that modern policing and offences are becoming so complicated that tertiary educated people are needed to investigate and make decisions in today’s cases. Police officers are required who can handle complex crime such as online fraud and child exploitation rather than the traditional staples of ‘fighting and stealing’.
It is certainly true that both technology and society’s expectations have made the job of a police officer more nuanced and challenging. Nevertheless, ‘fighting and stealing’ are still offences that affect and worry huge numbers of people and the ability of the police to deal with physically intimidating situations should not be eroded. The way the police officer in Southend handled an escalating and violent situation did not come from sitting in a lecture hall learning about esoteric theories but from experience and ‘on the job’ training.
After the 2011 London riots there was criticism of the police for being too hands off and not dealing directly and effectively with the rioters before the situation escalated and spread. I am not sure that making the police force more academic is going to help.