I wouldn’t wish mercury poisoning on them (Elected Police Commissioners)

I grow tired of the idea that electing people can do any good.    This is partly a fear that Colin Gunn might have been elected local police commissioner on the Bestway Estate, or we’d end up with Chief  Crackpipe on Gadget’s Swamp.  Reality probably isn’t much better.  Political parties will probably put candidates on the stump.  This is only likely to reinforce the unholy nexus of the one-party state and its ACPO toadies.  We need independent ‘Dirty Harrys’ who can stay honest.

I take the notion that we have a ‘one party state’ as read, given it’s obvious the political lot all sing from the same economic spreadsheet.  I wouldn’t quite wish mercury poisoning on whoever does stand in the latest waste of £130 million, put forward as a cure.  This makes some birds homosexual and depletes the population – see http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19784-mercury-poisoning-makes-male-birds-homosexual.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news

Yet something like this happens to our ‘leaders’ once they are off the stump and get neutered or corrupted by our political system.  It’s as sure as eggs is unfertilised eggs.  When a Clown fish leader dies, one of the small wimpy fish grows large and takes over.  I think the change there is male to female.  It’s ritualised in humans through promises which we should know never materialise by now.

I watched Ken Clarke in prison on Newsnight.  Pity his sentence was so short.  An ex-con made some sense about sentencing people to real jobs. One of the finest human beings I ever met, a charge office sergeant coming up to retirement, said he felt as though he was coming to the end of a long prison sentence.  A prison officer noted none of the prisoners going through the pace benefited at all.  Someone was given a few seconds to say that the communities the rag-bag of borrowers-from-shops were briefly extracted from got a bit of respite.  One governor got to say she manages to get her charges working, either in her prison or outside, but would need more staff to get this up to 40 hours.  She was talked down.

The real issues are work and enough people around to discipline and educate people into it.  The rest is about stopping the continual dumping of the problem into the same communities, and the vicious circle.  We have to give people the right to earn livings and support that right.  Life has to be more than getting pissed on the drunken mile, or drugs, ‘prostitution’ and cheap booze in a crack house.  We need to leap-frog the Dutch on this.

The answer is that we need to de-criminalise our society in a manner that gives us more control over nuisance.  This has to extend from bankers to the borrowers from shops, from politicians scamming expenses to the neighbourhood fence paying out in multi-cut heroin and boiled up and crushed prescription drugs.  Our cops do so bad things from time to time and they need to recognise this.  Yet anyone saying this also needs to know we need Gadget leading the Magnificent Seven to prevent the bandits taking over; and yet we need to bear in mind our police may be being ‘armed’ for all the wrong reasons – too simply suppress whatever the right protests we need to be able to make are.  The Suffragettes were militant and succeeded through ‘violence’, lest we forget and police were instructed to intimidate them.  We also disarmed police in Northern Ireland, some dying, some surviving only because they owned shotguns.

There is surely no answer in giving ConDoomed or Nulabour commissars tin stars.

Policing Beyond The Fairies

I stray over to The Thinking Policeman when he posts.  I’m usually late.  He posted a very interesting piece on ‘back room talk’ – readers of Goffman would be very familiar with the general gist.  Different stories being told by the same people in different contexts.  Most of us are at least aware of ‘talking behind people’s backs’, though many, despite  being active participants, don’t understand this is what we do as a rule.  Thinking describes goings on in an SMT situation I have been familiar with across organisations and the theories we use in trying to make sense of them.  The classic in my area is the difference between ‘espoused theories’ and ‘theories-in-use’ in the work of Argyris and Schon.  The chief constable ‘espouses’ by re-hashing ConDoomed rhetoric in terms of his force, and Thinking ‘wonders’ what any of it will mean in practice, generally aware this will not be the same thing.  The metaphors used are superb.

I’m busy doing other things at the moment, but would like to write a book that uses policing as a grand metaphor for what is going wrong in our society.  I generally want to support policing, and believe a good and honest police force may have a lot more to do with economic success and well-being than much written about in economics – though a strong common law is considered a vital part of any country’s ‘success’ in economics.  My current guess is that our cops are as out of control as the rest of our institutions, including the private sector.  I believe we can say ‘bureaucracy’ is the biggest culprit, but this is glib and more or less useless.  Most of us do not spend much time doing what is needed or worthwhile.  One could call this the Pareto Principle, but again what’s the point?  What we need is not labels, but ways to change.

My broad thesis for a long time has been, if you like, that ‘incompetence rules’.  The only way to deal with incompetence, personal or organisational, begins in being able to recognise and admit it.  These are skills we generally don’t have.  It may be so bad, that we only start to get to grips with incompetence in war, when we realise our lions are led by donkeys.  If I’m right, we need to look at our society in a very different way, including such matters as what our current education, recruitment, selection and training processes are really achieving.  Many of our ‘answers’ may be major parts of the problem.