Some common sense from the police, please

What do an MP’s arrest and denying Temple Fortune CCTV have in common? Foolish bobbies.


At first glance, there is little that Sir Paul Stephenson, the acting head of the Metropolitan Police; Bob Quick, Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations; and Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Tucker, the acting borough commander of Barnet police, have in common. They don’t even all have the word ‘acting’ in their title.

Sir Paul, after all, is a police high-flyer and has one of the most taxing jobs in the country: Deputy Commissioner of the Met. Mr Quick is a former Chief Constable of Surrey and is now in charge of the Met’s counter-terrorism operations. Both men are — or rather, were — in the race to succeed the unlamented Sir Ian Blair as Commissioner.

Mr Tucker, on the other hand, is a local commander, in a far less difficult job.

But they do indeed all have something in common; something quite profound, in fact. Stick with me for a moment, and it’ll become clear.

Mr Quick is the man who decided to arrest Damian Green, the Conservative MP who had the temerity to publish leaked documents which showed the chaos at the heart of the Home Office. Sir Paul is the man who approved the decision. Precisely what motivated them, we do not know.

We don’t know if they were seeking to curry favour with the government, which in Mr Brown’s image seems to regard any opposition as somehow beyond the rules of permissible behaviour. We don’t know if they were acting on their own initiative, and thought it was a sensible use of anti-terror resources to arrest a man who had exposed the existence of an illegal immigrant working in the House of Commons. And we don’t know if they were acting under instructions, whether direct or “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” hints. In fact, we don’t know nuffink, guv.

Apart, that is, from a couple of things. We now know that neither men appear to understand the proper role of the police. The police are our servants. They exist to protect us, not to keep us in check. And they most certainly do not exist to act as the enforcement arm of the state.

We also now know that both Sir Paul and Mr Quick lack the most fundamental requirement of high office in any organisation: common sense.

Did it really not occur to either of them that taking counter-terrorist police to raid Mr Green’s two homes and his offices, seizing his phones, grabbing his BlackBerry and then holding him for nine hours might not be the most sensible way to deal with his alleged crime? He wasn’t exactly likely to abscond, further perhaps than the chamber of the House of Commons. Might a meeting not have sufficed?

And that’s where Mr Tucker comes in: common sense. As we have reported in recent weeks, there has been a spate of vicious attacks and robberies in Temple Fortune. Now, Temple Fortune is far from unique in this respect. But you might expect that the police commander for the area might wish to convey at least the image of concern for his patch. As if.

As we report, he was almost contemptuous in his dismissal of the demand for CCTV cameras to be installed: “There is not a high volume of crime in Temple Fortune. There are two shops which have suffered crimes…” You can almost see him snorting with derision: two shops! Who cares?
Barnet Council have already made clear that they certainly couldn’t care less about crime in Temple Fortune, blithely announcing that there is no reason to bring forward the introduction of CCTV from 2011.

It is not the job of the police to tell the public not to get so hot under the collar and to be grateful for the policing they get. The travails of the victims — and potential victims — of crime in Temple Fortune might seem parochial. But they go to the heart of the malaise which lies deep within the police, who sometimes behave as if the public was an annoying hindrance to the otherwise smooth running of their affairs.

The application of some basic common sense would go a long way, both in Scotland Yard and Barnet.

    Last updated: 11:34am, December 4 2008