For some considerable years now, I have made my opinions known with regard to our Police Service Standards.
In our London capital especially, I honestly believe that image is critically important. Not just a physical and visual image, but a professional and knowledgable image too.
I know it's not pc these days (pardon the pun), but I squirm when I see these four feet high coppers patrolling our streets chewing gum, with their boots dirty and shirts in need of an iron !
Smartness and personal deportment is of course no effective way to catch terrorists or burglars, I know. But, it's the image or lack of professional and visual image what I find so discomforting here.
I was sitting on St. Pancras rank one day last week. A male Met officer came up the side of the rank accompanied by two of his colleagues. I'm not joking, he must have been no more than five feet high.
I felt embarrassed for him. I felt embarrassed for our police service too. Any other profession he could have chose. A jockey maybe or a chimney sweep or a pot hole instructor, or a million other professions.............but he chooses to go into what used to be one of the most respected police forces in the world. There is of course nothing inferior about a person who is small in stature, but I believe it to be dangerous and risking the safety of his colleagues, in a career where physical strength and advantage in size is crucial for the role to be undertaken.
Now, I know that this remark will cause outrage amongst many people who say physical shape and size should be no bar to selection. As long as the officer has passed the test, and all that,.................which leads me on to my next step.
I can categorically tell you, that when I left school, this candidate would never had made the grade. First of all, he would not have been tall enough, and his application would have been rejected at that stage. But even if it had progressed past that stage, there is no way that his physical strength would have been enough to pass on to the next part of the selection process.
That doesn't always necessarily work in favour of the bigger chap though. With a history of National Security behind me, I applied to serve with MI5 some years ago. I passed all the initial tests, all the phone interviews etc. I was on the official interview for 5 minutes ! As soon as they saw I was 6' 3" tall, they tore my application up. I was unaware at the time that they would not accept anybody over 5'9" as they may have attracted unwanted interest ! But I took it on the chin, and understood their objective entirely.
I took the Metropolitan Police Recruitment Fitness test after that at Aybrook Street in Marylebone, prior to Hendon, and trust me, it was extremely demanding over two days.
I don't care how strong the officer I refer to at St Pancras is, or how young he is, I defy him to put a pair of handcuffs on me on his own if I didn't want to comply. And I'm nearly 60 !
But it's not just the physical vision that rattles my cage either. It's the general professionalism of the forces these days.
I pulled up at Holborn the other day and went into the mini Sainsburys there for a sandwich. Two Met coppers tailed me in to get something too. These weren't PCSO's, these were proper, fully fledged Metropolitan Police Officers.
I was astonished at the physical state of them ! They looked like they had been working on Crossrail for a week ! Some will say that they can't be expected to keep smart and clean whilst on call in London dealing with a whole range of incidents. I know if a pair of boots have been in contact with a tin of black Kiwi boot polish or not ............and their boots certainly hadn't ! Not just for that day, but for at least a fortnight !
Again, I hear critics say that they are not male models but Police Officers. But again, it's image, professionalism and personal pride. They go hand in hand, surely? Police Officers have always had to deal with dirty and messy crimes, but did you ever see such a scruffy lot of coppers years ago? What happened to the Sergeant's inspection prior to going on patrols ?
And for some reason too, it seems to be the general police constables who I refer to here. Take a look at how smart the Firearms Officers are outside the Saudi Consulate in Curzon Street, or the older officers who have been in the service a while.
To me, I believe the rot set in for good when the doors of the world famous Hendon Police Training College closed it's doors in July 2007.
Police recruits learnt a whole range of training skills at that venue, since way back from 1934. Every facet of police officer training was taught, and a newly qualified police officer had everything under his belt on completion of the course, other than experience.
Naturally, experience has to be learnt over many years, and comes in time.
However, when Hendon closed due to financial restraints, a new course took it's place, namely the Initial Police Learning & Development Programme. Now I wont bore you with the contents of this course as it is irrelevant to my point, but it consists of ten mandatory units, and as far as I can see, passes out the new candidate with nowhere near as much training as the old Hendon College.
For those getting bored and wondering what the point of my post is, please read on, I am getting to it.
For our London Licensed Taxi Trade, a lack of enforcement from both police and TFL has always been an issue. To be fair, Hackney Carriage Law is a specialised field of policing, and it would be unfair for the average copper, either poorly or well trained, to have a thorough grasp of it.
But that said, a "general" idea of what a Licensed Cab is, a Mini Cab and a Tout, should be understood by all rank and file police officers from a Constable to a Chief Constable.
And that certainly isn't the case, is it ?
Imagine my disappointment then, when I read this morning a report saying that a new code of practice is to be published by the College of Policing, are planning to allow convicted criminals to become Police Officers !
On looking at this further, I was outraged to find a report as far back as 2012, claiming that the Metropolitan Police had 2 Detective Chief Inspectors, and a Chief Inspector, currently serving with criminal records !
Furthermore, the report stated that over 1000 officers were currently employed in serving police forces, with crimes recorded against them for assault, burglary, drug dealing, robbery, fraud and perverting the course of justice !
What's going on here, as the current Government guidelines on police recruitment still insist on "a proven integrity " ?
According to the College of Policing, these changes are in answer to "increasing diversity within the Police". You can say that again !
I am assuming that you or I would be refused a Hackney Carriage Cab Licence if we had been convicted of any of the above felonies ? So why are the Police different then ?
Is it me? Honesty, please tell me if it is, but is it me ? Our police service is going to wind up like the Old Bill in South Africa if we ain't careful here !
And in Ronnie Corbett style, I still haven't come to the point !
Which is of course........How on earth are we to expect ANY kind of reasonable anti- tout enforcement, when our police officers are not just poorly trained, not just ignorant of the important differences, not just totally unaware, but probably shinning up a drainpipe to rob house near you, on their days off on Saturdays and Sundays !!!
They probably don't even know what an illegal mini cab tout is doing wrong, for Christ sake !!
TFL are only allowed by law to implement Enforcement on drivers and vehicles which they have licensed by virtue of a licence fee.
When licensed mini cabs are touting, TFL's Enforcement Team can act (CAN being the operative word !)
However, it is only the Police who can act on an Enforcement basis where it is established that an illegal tout is working an unlicensed car.
But honestly, be fair, what are the odds of that ? I understand fully that our police services are overstretched, of course. But in these volatile and perilous days of global terrorism whereby the UK is under real threat, the role of the mini cab tout is a perfect vehicle to furnish and assist the terrorists movements.
For some reason, mini cab touting appears to be very low on the list of London's security priorities. And to me, who has spent my lifetime in security, this is ludicrous !
With today's revelations from the College of Policing then, and the fact that for the last 14 years we have had no adequate taxi and mini cab enforcement of any value whatsoever, surely it's time to form a specialist team of trained Police Officers ? If for no other reason than to protect London and Londoners from terrorist activity and sexual assaults ?
Housed in their own building in London. Full powers of arrest. At least 200 officers. 24/7 seven days a week enforcement.
But with a THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF HACKNEY CARRIAGE, ILLEGAL TOUTING AND PRIVATE HIRE LAW.
Course London can afford it ! It's a matter of National Security anyway ! Put a few of the poorly focussed bike projects on hold to finance this important requirement in London AND GET CRACKING WITH IT !
One thing is for sure, if we think Enforcement within our trade has been inept over the years, the news of dropping already piss poor police training standards even further, cannot be good news for us !
I'm didn't get my education at Jesus College Cambridge, by any means, but you don't need that formidable level of academic prowess to realise that these ridiculous drops in professional standards within our police service, are going to go seriously wrong, do you ?
With the busy Christmas festive period almost on top of us, and with UK National Security at it's highest for many years, the lack of specially trained officers will be dangerously obvious.
And the way things are going, the Yorkshire Ripper could be allowed parole and turn up either driving a mini cab, or wearing a police sergeant's uniform !!
I wouldn't be surprised at either.
It's a 50/50 chance !!
Be lucky all. Stay safe and God bless.