Management is the modern problem. The origins of the word are shaky, possibly in a term meaning ‘the handling of horses’. It’s some kind of ‘Spanish practice’ anyway. There’s the odd rotten apple in all walks of life, so this doesn’t help much in thinking about our cops. One has just been nicked near me – an Asian guy perverting the course of justice ac cording to the papers. Our justice system works through ‘credibility’. This hapless and has a very dirty history, including the ‘Straw Men’ (who hung about with straw showing outside courts waiting to lie for someone), wager of law (the one with the most liars wins) and access to lawyers that only works for the really rich or very poor (to some extent).
Discipline systems like the law and management are rarely fair. They involve power and power is corrupting. We know this and build in checks and balances, but these tend not to work well. The notion of personal virtue ain’t much good either – it’s too easy to feign. There’s an important notion in all this I remember Hogday pointing to – the system is partly deterrent because you might get an unfair clout if you challenge it. There are good reasons for us not to give lip to cops and teachers, not to be able to choose to go on holiday when being ordered to go over the top.
What we are witnessing at the moment is a failure in society to make honesty an even liable option, let alone the best policy. The corruption is widespread, managerial and ‘regal’, in the guise of meritocracy supported by ranking rather than discursive education.
None of this helps in the short-term, if you are dealing with a bent or useless set of cops. Judicial Review might, but this is the preserve of the rich. This is referred to as ‘working with a judge on your shoulder’ – interestingly we often say we can’t have our cops and public sector people working as though this were the case, as it would hinder them.
It’s worse and later than we know. It’s all performance management. If we were running the company, we’d want facts, reliable figures, benchmarking against other systems, accounting to tell us where the money is spent and critical quality analysis. If our people failed in the job, we would want to know why in order to improve. This seems simple enough, until you know how organisations and behaviour in them work. Success stories quickly evaporate on close scrutiny.
It becomes possible to say almost anything. A rise in the number of complaints becomes a vindication of the complaints service being more accessible. We know the form. This is not something specific to policing or the legal system.
What’s surfacing now is obvious evidence that our cops lie. This should hardly surprise us as they are human, drawn from the same society as the rest of us. Video evidence is key in this. What’s disturbing is that may only be the tip of an iceberg. This is not to think most of our cops are bent, but to wonder to what extent the whole of our legal system relies on evidence that is not the best now available. It relies on many fictions, not least that of the reliability of police evidence.
There is a massive mis-match between what we now know scientifically as evidence and that used in the legal system and its dark ‘times immemorial’. Cops and lawyers get to know how to bend evidence to the system and what they can get away with. I have mates who teach this. It’s expected. You have to do it.
The arrested inspector is from Bolton West neighbourhood policing team, not some drug squad. I know that another ‘man’ at the same rank committed the same offence with other officers. They were white and got away with it. There is sickness involved in this. It’s caused by always dealing with ‘evidence’ that isn’t the actual evidence or the best that could be put together. This is difficult to lay out, but imagine what we could do with video tape of Blair discussing Iraq, rather than his ‘recall’ – or how Watergate came out.
The ‘Harwood saga’ is a good example. But it is only an example of the wider malaise of denial across our society. Go back to the ‘Guinness saga’ and you find a court accepting an ‘early onset of Alzheimer’s’ – and a later, impossible recovery exposes the lying. The Suez Crisis is perhaps the paradigm case of official lying and conivance; these days we just ‘sex it up’.
My guess is most of our cops beat the average, but two bent neighbourhood inspectors in an insignificant town like Bolton and lack of any statistical investigation makes me worry. In principle, it shouldn’t matter who is giving evidence. I have copies of much of Einstein’s work, and sometimes compare it with long and apparently logical and detailed arguments against – it’s often difficult to tell how and why utter rot is utter rot. It’s not physics I compare (mine is undergraduate), but argument. The rot relies on tricks of ‘logic’ remarkably similar to much in politics or defensive denials about police misconduct. The most glaring concern access to the actual evidence and openness of decision to critique.
Oversimplifying to the extreme, my local inspector (who is a good chap) and I might be out having a couple of pints and vying for female attention. She might give me more credibility as a bloke. The situation in court and (wrongly) through investigation processes more or less automatically reverses the credibility issue in a manner that is almost impossible to challenge. This is fine as long as authority is really legitimate and he is straight and competent.
Of course, just as we learn ‘techniques’ in ‘swooning’, we learn them ‘professionally’. Indeed, we do the latter to increase our chances in the former. We are not good at spotting the bent practitioners in either, and worse, generally believe we are. We only have science because we are generally such suckers to believe evidence on ‘personal credibility’. No one would spend money on advertising if they did not believe this.
Next to us in the pub, there might be one of those idiots who believe all cops are bent. She is the biggest danger of all. For anyone trying to prove a real case risks being dumped in that “box”. This is precisely what the Police Action Lawyers Group claim is likely to happen to anyone complaining about police. It is this scurrilous tactic, which finds a ready strategy in place that is the problem. It happens across our organisations. The police would be a good place to start investigations to move us on from dark age reasoning, but attacks on them, are really misguided attacks on the wider problem.
Focus is always on the individual case, not the wider issue of legitimation. We regularly submit to unfairness at work, in personal relations and so on, taking the rough with the smooth. And if you really look, bent practices are everywhere. Scientists find complexity everywhere, marveling when simplexity emerges. When Harwood knocked down a vulnerable man, he did it in front of cops who didn’t arrest him, and a massive cover-up ensued and is continuing after two years. Bento was convicted on ‘evidence’ a primary school moot court would have rejected. What we need is a scientific review. What we get resembles a mad neighbour dispute, running in its own devices.