Tom Richmond: Facebook fool should eat his words over police ‘doughnut’ jibe

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FAIR play to the Leeds ‘community cop’ who took umbrage at the ignoramus on Facebook who claimed that police officers “spend time eating doughnuts” rather than catching “real criminals” – their riposte showed that they have a real passion for the job which should be cherished.

They also showed a sense of humour, ending a long roll-call of the incidents attended in the previous 24 hours with this slightly sarcastic message: “And yes maybe the odd doughnut did get consumed in between all the crime, fights, road accidents and paperwork. We even locked up the odd drug dealer too!”

Inadvertently, this Facebook fool has performed an invaluable service to West Yorkshire Police: many law-abiding members of the public will have been enlightened by the plain-speaking officer’s no-nonsense response which cut through the layers of procedural bureaucracy which invariably leave tongue-tied superiors mumbling jargon because that is all they have been taught by the staff training manual.

Yet it was depressing, and probably soul-destroying for some members of the police, that were still a significant number of misguided individuals who appeared to endorse the ‘doughnut’ jibe without appearing to appreciate that there is far more to 21st century policing in Yorkshire than patrolling the streets – the growing preponderance of internet-related crime and associated offences means there will never again be a return to yesteryear when beat bobbies could be spared to every parish or neighbourhood.

As such, this episode is a reminder that policing should always be a partnership with the public – and that much needs to be done to rebuild the trust which has been broken by a succession of high-profile scandals such as Hillsborough and Orgreave as well as those forces which have adopted a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to the most minor of motoring offences.Action is needed at all levels. First local officers will find their easier, and more fulfilling, if they do engage with residents where possible, including on those social media platforms which are now omnipresent and which shape so much public opinion.

Second, chief constables and crime commissioners need to look at the language that they use – they, too , need to relate to people if they’re to have the confidence of the communities that they purport to serve. They also need to ensure that the police do respond to incidents like burglaries, rather than fobbing callers off with a crime number, and that victims are kept informed of the progress of their case.

Third, politicians such as Home Secretary Theresa May need to show their appreciation for the police – and especially those officers are expected to make ‘life and death’ decisions in a split-second. She must not allow her dislike of the Police Federation to cloud her judgement. Her problem should not be community officers; it is actually with those career penpushers like Sara Thornton, the head of the newly-formed National Police Chiefs’ Council, who tried to justify her £185,103 a year salary (plus perks) by saying that the public should no longer expect to see the police attend burglaries. Really? I’d like to know Ms Thornton’s response if she suffered her home being ransacked and the local constabulary declined to investigate.

Perhaps Ms Thornton, a former head of Thames Valley Police, might like to spend a day in the real world on patrol with the Leeds community team – and then take part in a forum with local residents. If she did, she would soon realise that policing is not just about crime-rates and ticking the appropriate boxes on endless forms to satisfy the bureaucrats; it is also about winning over hearts and minds so those making ‘doughnut’ jibes can be compelled to eat their words.

THE Charity Commission announced this week that it will launch an inquiry into the financial management and governance of Kids Company , the controversial organisation run by Camila Batmanghelidjh and which went bust shortly after receiving a £3m emergency grant from the Cabinet Office.

What I, and many others, want to know is the extent to which the Commission – a public watchdog – scrutinised the finances of the so-called charity in recent years and whether it should have done more to ensure that money from private donors – and publicly-funded bodies – was being spent on the wellbeing of vulnerable young people. Ms Batmanghelidjh will doubtlessly disagree, but the mismanagement of Kids Company will make people think twice about supporting such organisations in the future – even more so after chairman of trustees Alan Yentob, the BBC’s creative director, sent an email to the Cabinet Office saying there was a “high risk of arson attacks on Government buildings” should the charity close suddenly. Not only does it show a very low opinion of the young people being helped by the ‘charity’, but it also smacks of emotional blackmail.

MORE hypocrisy from Andy Burnham as the Shadow Health Secretary’s bid for the Labour leadership begins to implode. Having begun his campaign by stating the need to expand the party’s membership, he’s now crying falling foul because most of the new supporters appear to be backing his rival Jeremy Corbyn.

Irrespective of whether infiltrators from Labour’s rivals have made a mockery of the leadership rules put in place by Ed Miliband, at least they know where they stand with Mr Corbyn. That’s why his candidacy is so appealing to so many old school socialists – the veteran left-winger is a man of principle while the floundering Mr Burnham changes his tune every day of the week in order to suit his audience.

I look forward to Mr Corbyn’s contributions to foreign affairs in the House of Commons – gone will be the days of a cosy acquiescence between the Opposition and the Government that led to the ill-fated Iraq invasion of 2003. His election would also lessen the likelihood of Britain becoming involved in further military action in the Middle East without serious scrutiny of the objectives.

GEORGE Osborne tried to brush aside criticism of the ‘pause’ to the electrification of the TransPennine route from Leeds to Manchester because of cost concerns by saying “I’m not a railway expert” during a campaign visit to West Yorkshire this week.

How odd – that’s certainly not the impression that he gave prior to the general election when he, and David Cameron, repeatedly stressed that this scheme was a priority and that engineering work was already under way. You can’t have it both ways, Chancellor. As one of your former Cabinet colleagues told me at York Races last week, your credibility on the Northern Powerhouse has been shattered.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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