The police are the public and vice versa


Police killed in attack in Mottram, Greater Manchester

One can see it etched on the faces of young bobbies just beyond the fluttering tape which marks the edge of the crime scene. The murder of two of their friends and colleagues has left them in deep shock and grief.

There is anger in their eyes too, but they know above all they must remain professional. Greater Manchester Police find themselves in the role of both crime investigators and crime victims.

The killing of policemen and women in the line of duty is mercifully rare on mainland Britain. A total of 76 officers have lost their lives since 1945, each one a tragedy but a roll of honour that reminds us these crimes are notable for their unexpectedness.

Indeed, before we consider how society might respond to the deaths in Manchester's Tameside district on Tuesday, it is probably worth reminding ourselves that homicide (murders and manslaughter cases) are at their lowest level for almost 30 years. Gun crime has been falling steadily for a decade - in 2011-12 there were 39 fatal shootings, 20 fewer than the previous year.

PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes were killed in the attack Police believe PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were deliberately "drawn" to the scene

What emerges from the police briefings and local chatter is that decent communities on the outskirts of Manchester have been infected by the toxic morality of organised criminal gangs. It is a cancer that senior officers admit is hard to destroy because the law-abiding are frightened to co-operate.

Even a substantial £50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Dale Cregan did not loosen tongues. People must have known where he was - he is a well-known and distinctive character - but in the end he gave himself up to police on Tuesday.

Indeed, there is evidence that Cregan enjoyed some popularity on the estates where he operated. In the warped world of gangland politics, the issue can be less about what is right and wrong and more a simple case of "whose side are you on?"

Police use of firearms 2010-11

  • Authorised in 17,209 operations, says Home Office figures for England and Wales - a decrease of 1,347 (7%) on previous year
  • 6,653 authorised firearms officers - (5% decrease)
  • 13,346 operations involving armed response vehicles (6% decrease)
  • Three incidents in which police discharged a conventional firearm (down from six incidents)

In thinking about how to break down what was described as a "conspiracy of silence", the Chief Constable of Great Manchester Police Sir Peter Fahy has told me that key is the question of legitimacy. Only if people in his city believe that the officers on patrol share the values of the communities they serve can one ever expect to break the omerta - Italian for code of silence - his detectives encounter.

He has spoken of his concern that, far from wanting to be armed, neighbourhood constables might consider whether the body armour they routinely wear risks setting them apart. Sometimes it is vital - a true life-saver. But Sir Peter once told me how he had seen bobbies among the T-shirted crowds of a summer community fete looking more like Robocop than Dixon of Dock Green.

There is a balance to be struck between minimising the risk to officers' safety and damaging the relationship between the police and the public they serve.

When GMP moved into their new glass-fronted headquarters recently, Sir Peter asked that the principles of Sir Robert Peel be written on the windows in letters that can be read 50m away. Perhaps the most important is the notion that the police are the public and the public are the police.

It is that, Sir Peter tells his officers, which gives the police the legitimacy they require. If the consequence of Tuesday's double murder is a display of militaristic toughness, the troubled inner-city estates may become even more difficult to police.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I must admit that the environment that we have to work in now is lot more dangerous compared to when i started 10 years ago, and i have had many incidents where my life has been on the line, though criminals trying to stab me. I have no desire to be armed. However would love to see more decent sentences for possession of weapons

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Taff1955 - There are more deaths in hotel rooms than in police Custody per annum. Considering they only deal with people with varying issues be it dependancy on drugs or alcohol, it is quite remarkable there are so few. As for the totally unrelated Tomlinson issue, the officer was tried in a Court of law and was found not guilty. That is the justice system you voted for.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Every single word DrKnow says is true. It's just a shame that our politicians and judges (who prove every day they are removed from normality) cannot see what the majority of the public know to be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Taff1955 Please stop talking or at least get your facts straight Mr Police hater. You don't get a pension if you are sacked! You are insinuating that officers have killed over 1400 people whilst in custody and such??What a disgrace. How dare you use the brutal murders of two innocent police officers to spew your rubbish nonsense! Shame on you. No wonder the country is in such a state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    For crying out loud people two innocent young women have had their lives taken and you two are on here arguing the rights and wrongs grow up and show some respect!!! taff1955 & JP

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I have been on holiday to Germany many times. The police patrol in shirt sleeves or jackets. No CS gas or pepper spray, no battens, no body armour and no fluorescent jackets. All they carry is a pair of handcuffs and a vital deterrent - a loaded pistol in a covered holster. They are is no way intimidating. Why cannot our police do the same rather than walking the streets looking like RoboCops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    taff1955 agreed but we need to remember the amount of change since the 80s and early 90s in policing
    both in the police and the public

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    16. Pesky, you miss my point, I am well aware they are not all murderers. But there have been instance, which questions have been raised and nothing ever happens. I actually support the police, but justice should cover all of the population not exclude some. Hillsbourgh will be very interesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I think 3 things would help.......

    1) A more stringent justice system... Laughable that a murder suspect was allowed on bail.

    2) Less comfortable environment for prisoners to live in. Heck, they get to play Playstations and god knows whether they are playing GTA to hone in their skills.

    3) More armed police presence in high risk areas. Intel in this case indicates the area is high risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    to marjay i assume you have had a negative experience, but how can you assume that there is a significant proportion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    To Taff1955

    Just how many lives have police saved or prevented since 1990?? How many murderers have they prosecuted and taken off the street?? As to how true your figures are, I don't know - but to imply they are all 'murders' is totally wrong. But as always it is easy to criticise - how about you actually become a police officer and show us how it should be done?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    What a shame we are only a few comments in and someone has felt the need after reading this horrific and upsetting headline to criticise the police. I know a few police officers, all work hard and do very long shifts and none of them have 'murdered' anyone!!!! My heart goes out to these ladies' families. Absolutely dreadful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    It is a sad day and we should not forget all those brave men and women who dedicate themselves to serving their community. They deserve and need our support. To expect them all to risk their lives by carrying weapons is an unacceptable response to this tragedy: it will only result in more violence and/or deaths as criminals will also believe they have a 'right' to arms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Completely agree.
    Police are members of their community and the community should make efforts to show those that want to ruin it all that together we won't stand for it. Even if it is a quiet word in a Bobby's ear it all helps

    Armour may set officers apart from others but a sad fact is it is often needed and I for one would rather have it and never need it than not have it and need it once.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Think we need to look at the judical system first and re-assess human rights. How come he was on bail after suspected of murdering someone , Human rights no doubt ! Dont think anyone wants to see firearms in general use but we need to stand up to these gangs. They are bullies nothing more nothing less ruling our country by fear we need to be assisting the police not running away in fear!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    They have already called for police to be armed but I hope that they don't.

    If the police become armed then the criminals will look to improve their weaponary, this is shown in America where police and criminals are shooting each other with assualt rifles.

    Over here at least our criminals carry knives and run like crazy when they hear sirens. Our criminals tend to be soft so why have guns??

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The policeman on the beat , or in his patrol car no longer has any authority, this has been eroded over the years by the stupidity of the Liberal left in this country. What we forget is that the policeman has few dealings with the ordinary public, he is dealing with the lowest forms of human life, often under the influence of drugs or alcohol , dishonest, violent and without any sense of morality

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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