I came across an editorial review by Daniel Trilling recently.

Daniel Trilling is the author of Lights in the Distance, about refugees in Europe and in his article “Not Much like Consent: Crisis at the Met” published in London review of books Vol 45, No7 he reviews

Broken Yard: The Fall of the Metropolitan Police 
by  Tom Harper.
Biteback, 446 pp., £20, October 2022, 978 1 78590 768 5


Tango Juliet Foxtrot: How Did It All Go Wrong for British Policing? 
by  Iain Donnelly.
Biteback, 341 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 1 78590 716 6

it’s an interesting book review, although I don’t end up with what I hoped. I hoped to learn more about the two reviewed books but got a summary presented much like an opinion paper.

On the face of it I agree with a lot of the content but have an aside to some. Overall, the review has limited criticality and lacks the anchoring in peer reviewed academic research and literature that I am used to, but, it was readable and understandable.

Firstly, the only thing we can be certain politicians know about policing is how to spin the yarn that buys votes. It is however an important perspective to consider from a sociological perspective. Elite engineering matters.

I think researching and evaluating policing (or writing about it) needs to have the balance of caution when it comes to generalisation ( largely because we have 43 police forces and another 11 designated constabularies dealing with transport, channel islands, nuclear warfare etc) and the Met has 32 BCUs and then there’s another 3 units under City of London police.

Key point here is that the London BCU’s operate almost as individual sub forces and this muddies the scope for generalisation or generalisabilities when events occur etc.

In simplicity, in the last few months when I hear “the met” i get a feeling similar to that most Africans get when someone says “ africans”. The general comedic African response is a swift slap administered to the one who dares forget Africa is a continent accompanied by the important question…”which country” ?. In my view when these inquiries, reports and research or evaluative outcomes are presented, i feel it is important to state which borough/BCU or police force and to be balanced in evaluating the outcomes specific to the problems, successes, culture variant or rhetoric at that BCU (inside the Met area) or outside london which police force.

Beyond that and back to the first point, unfortunately sometimes the police don’t know what is going on themselves. In many instances they wake up to the gong of “all change” from political quarters without scope to explore feasibility, applicability, cost and resource implications and overall capacity to manage consequential increases to demand for their services and heightened levels of accounting and accountability. It’s not an excuse for misinformation, and more work and researching would be needed to determine why and what levels of misinformation and disinformation or well to call it what is is… why police are engaged in the business of ” telling lies”.

But, despite this, the article as a whole addresses a good number of issues, some of which I myself found in my research such as the quasi political culture of scapegoating, impact of policing in an austerity led environment and the impact of social order on policing (wherein police have a dichotomous position of being victims of the powers that exist as the political and the emergent social power due to the rapid pace of innovation, migration and diversity) even when politicians shouldn’t directing their steps.
Secondly police are in the precarious and complicated position of having powers which can be easily abused/misused or maladaptively expressed given limited funding and resources for training and supervision, pressures to perform, cultures of solidarity and unity and pandemonious responses to inquiries, the persistence of gongs to reform often leave little time for rational interpretation and leave the police in a emergent position of coping instead of functioning like a half wound up clock driven by political power and social pressures.

I also am in agreement with the views regarding the inpact of blanketing of issues by placing significant faith in inquiries that often operate in circumstances that don’t enable qualitative and in-depth insight into the perspectives of all involved. The way inquiries are done means that the resultant reports end up red marking and emphasising what their focus and terms of reference are. They often result in hasty policies and resources end up re-directed at whatever has been red marked or involve capitalisation on buzz words without really ever recognising the sub systematised and complicated organisation with diverse and dynamic work groups reform is directed at. It does often end up a mess like the article describes

Overall the article is an insightful opinion led analysis of several factors that are representative of the current rhetoric on the met and indicative of the work the new met commander has to grapple with when he finishes with the ongoing politically engineered “weed them out” mission.

It does also throw a damp cloth over the “defund the police” movement, highlighting the folly of austerity policing, failing to address dismal work conditions, pay gaps, limited diversity, attainment gaps and the turnover representative of unfavourable employment conditions. ( in fact in recent years, retirement age was raised, police pay has stagnated and pensions pots have been restructured) amidst the evident need for policing of crime issues although it does not mention the new responsibilities policing is foisted with such as filling roles that include emphasis on social harm and embed secondary emergency social service and healthcare delivery.

The article overall, presents a position that calls for the type of research and enquiry nobody in parliament wants ( a closer look at the home office., parliamentary groups and politicians responsible for spin doctoring the higher end of politicised policing outcomes). I doubt it will happen because stonewalling is an embedded parliamentary/political culture, as is racism, croneyism and a culture of silence and it is this very historical thing alongside political influence on policing that has infected and shaped a good part of police cultures that endure.

This much is evident from the example of the reaction of politicians to the child sexual abuse inquiry, despite their influence, making everyone comply took nearly half a decade and three chairpersons and characteristic of the response to Scarman, Birchsrd, McPherson and a host of others, scapegoats are chosen and lynched, choice meat is picked, dangled and the public are force-fed elite engineered political interpretations and sold solutions which they inevitably trust and believe (most citizens cannot and will not read hundreds of pages of an inquiry report, they trust the politicians to interpret it and tell them) .

The end result is traction for ill-considered policy changes and reforms fed by a blend of political manipulation and misinformed public opprobrium. Enough to sate one fire, never enough to douse the embers. As such fires rise again and again.

The article could benefit from thematic presentation to ease reading and fluid movement from one topic to the other/one book to the other particularly to highlight each point/related points on critical sociological concerns related to the re-structurisation of new policing and the complex and sometimes questionable reformative approaches and policies but I note it’s not an academic piece (neither are the two books) which may explain its content and structure.

Given its authoring style, it is a good read overall and insightful in terms of problems but with limited signposting to peer reviewed or documented evidence much of the content and acknowledge academic insight to strengthen points made it makes me wary of depending on it as a means of information. Beyond that one of the notable aspects of academic work involves adherence to some form of ethical scrutiny and I don’t know if the two books engaged one. Overall, I am wary when plenty is said and evidence isn’t explicitly cited. I believe anybody can say anything, but evidence anchored in enquiring from those involved, pavement pounding, reviewing literature and balancing views including acknowledging limitations and shortcomings is crucial if one is to be taken seriously.

As much as I was tempted to fact find to marry up content to source and evaluate conclusions from my perspective by going in with a toothcomb, I didn’t (mostly because it’s not a rabbit hole I want to burrow or need to burrow through right now). Instead of that, I am somewhat content to describe it as a good position statement type article review of two books that speaks some truths but needs specificity (in terms of which book does what).

In summary as it stands, it doesn’t tell me which book makes a good read and why which is a shame and the position piece needs backing up to hold water where it matters.

A helpful read for a sociology enthusiast, police critic/enthusiast or student who is seeking research ideas perhaps and a brutal but relatively okay overview of power, privilege and the impact on policing including snippets of expressions of poor policing culture.