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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Statistics and the general copper
Police officers
Police officers are under pressure to meet government targets
An experienced police officer tells how his experience of "general coppering" does not always correspond with calls for better anti-crime statistics.

Pc Mike Roberts, 41, from Gravesend in Kent, is a response officer with Kent Police, responding to incidents called in from the public.

He believes that "general coppering" can often deal with situations without the need for taking matters down the route of criminalisation.

I have running battles with my audit team at headquarters over not criminalising incidents that I attend.

For example, someone calls in reporting a domestic incident. It could be a serious case, of course, but what often happens is that they want someone to say 'Calm down'.

I'll turn up and say 'Do you want to make this a criminal offence?' The woman will say 'No, I just don't want him here tonight'.

He'll go and stay with a mate for the night and it will all calm down; everyone loves each other tomorrow.

Common sense

I'll get back and then get asked by the audit team why this hasn't been criminalised and turned into a 'sanction detected' - basically that means having gathered enough evidence to go to court and mostly refers to low-level crime.

The audit team say that when the victim rang up she complained of being hit. But when I get there she just wants someone to calm it all down.

People who call in crime don't want someone arrested every time. What they want sometimes is someone with a bit of common sense to come in and mediate.

But management want to criminalise every single incident that's called in.

They want me to write a formal crime report for most of what I go out to deal with, and often expect someone to be arrested.

Even if it's just giving someone a caution or a reprimand, they want something done, even if the victim doesn't want it.

Another example is neighbour disputes.

Often, one might say to the other that they're going to smash their face or break their window, but no damage has actually been done - and are they really going to do that?


It could be off-the-cuff comments. After all, no-one's going to move house and they'll still be living next to each other tomorrow. Do they really want me to land them in court? No, they don't.

I'll tell them to keep away from direct contact for a bit and cool off.

But the audit team will ask me why there is no crime report resulting out of such an incident.

I've had x number of years training, I've been a policeman for 19 years and do my general coppering but I'm not always allowed to do that.

Government demands on management is the reason for this, because they want to be seen to have detected more crime by having crime reports filled out.

Younger officers are pressured into following the party line, let's say. They will be more likely getting a 'sanction detected'.

Having this difference of attitude between me and the management makes me feel unloved and unwanted.

I've got a fair amount of experience in policing and in life and I'm finding it harder to use it.

That's what the public really want me to do - arrest those who need to be arrested, but don't arrest those who don't need it.


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