Steve Bennett (thinblueline) has written an excellent book, currently available free via his blog. I agree with everything he says, a rare event for someone cursed with my kind of critical eye. Someone with my referencing skills could turn it into a PhD in a couple of weeks, but it’s already better than nearly all that kind of dross or the ethnography of Copperfield, Night Jack, Gadget and Bloggs, good as this is as elementary polemic. I can remember, as a young Plod, reading that my force’s detection rate was 48% and that of the Met 4%. How much better than our London cousins! I was playing regularly with statistical packages and mechanics as a part-time postgrad at the time, so we can assume it wasn’t lack of mathematical knowledge that allowed the, admittedly brief, glow of satisfaction on our rural detection superiority. I soon learned actual detections, through detective investigation were as rare as rocking horse droppings.
Steve takes a route that needs to be expanded. We might cal this ‘Wittgensteinian deconstruction’ – following apparently very different arguments to a set of common premises in order to rework. My view is that Einstein did this in inventing a new kinematics that brought together Maxwell’s equations and the varying experimental results of his time. Steve’s key idea is that there is no reason to trust statistics on crime. This may sound ‘obvious’, but his workings on this are not. I’m not trying to make the work academic – it doesn’t need padding out or to get up its own arse. This kind of argument from Steve is where we should be expanding from for real change. It will thus be likely to be ignored.
My own interest in this area is that I have come to want to develop a theory of skilled incompetence in organisation and how this is ‘hidden’ by false accounting across our society. I believe this prevents us seeing how easy organisation can be and how little ‘work’ we have to do to have far more decent lives. Our lack of honesty is killing people. What police recording of crime and the BCS do is ‘mark to model’ rather than ‘mark to market’ – the scheme banks use to pretend they have capital. The bank vaults would (and are) be found empty on real values and the same is true across our public sector, if they were not allowed to practice false accounting to a model we really know doesn’t work. 68% of our public sector workers polled more than ten years ago admitted to regular lying in producing figures at work. This year, I haven’t found a single mature student who does not admit this.