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Middle classes losing faith in 'rude' police who go for "soft targets"


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Middle classes losing faith in 'rude' police who go for soft targets instead of the real criminals


By James Slack

Last updated at 2:10 AM on 30th May 2008

The middle classes have lost confidence in the police, a stark report has warned.

They fear they have been alienated by a service which routinely targets ordinary people rather than serious criminals, simply to fill Government crime quotas.


The attitude of some officers has also led to spiralling complaints about neglect of duty and rudeness.



Enlarge article-1022915-016C473C00000578-33_468x340.jpg The report warns that the middle classes have been alienated by a service which targets ordinary people rather than serious criminals

The report from the Civitas think-tank says incidents which would once have been ignored are now treated as crimes - including a case of children chalking a pavement.


Its author, respected journalist Harriet Sergeant, says she was also told of a student being arrested, held for five hours and cautioned for keeping a London Underground lift door open with his foot.


The report warns that a generation of young people - the police's favourite soft targets - are being criminalised, putting their future prospects at risk.


article-1022915-01A2FF9E0000044D-115_233x423.jpg Journalist Harriet Sergeant is the report's author and she says that a generation of young people are the police's favourite targets


Some offences being prosecuted are now so minor that senior officers have even begun talks with the U.S. authorities to prevent such a 'criminal record' stopping decent citizens obtaining a visa to cross the Atlantic.


Meanwhile responses to crimes such as burglary are slow and statements given by victims of serious crime are often left lying idle for months, the report warns.


An apparent emphasis on motoring crimes is another negative factor.

Miss Sergeant warns: 'The loss of public confidence is a serious matter.


The police cannot police without the backing of society. Without trust and consensus it is very difficult and costly to maintain law and order.'


Her report says: 'Complaints against the police have risen, with much of the increase coming from law-abiding, middle-class, middle-aged and retired people who no longer feel the police are on their side.'


In 2006-7, there were 29,637 complaints - the most since records began 17 years ago.


Miss Sergeant said this was due in part to the law-abiding middle-classes becoming upset by the 'rudeness and behaviour' of officers.

The report details how officers are expected to reach a certain number of 'sanction detections' a month by charging, cautioning or fining an 'offender'.






Arresting or fining someone for a trifling offence - such as a child stealing a Mars bar - is a good way of hitting the target and pleasing the Home Office.

Amazingly, the chocolate theft ranks as highly as catching a killer.


Miss Sergeant says performance-related bonuses of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year for police commanders depend partly on reaching such targets.



This leads them to put pressure on frontline officers to make arrests for the most minor misdemeanours.

Officers said at the end of a month, when there was pressure to hit the target for that period, they would pursue young men as the most likely 'offenders'.


Enlarge article-1022915-016C37E600000578-582_468x265.jpg

'Crimes' investigated by police have been criticised by the middle classes

Offences could include scrawling a name on a bus stop in felt-tip or playing ball games in the street.



One officer was so concerned he told his teenage son to be careful at the end of each month.


The pamphlet, parts of which were serialised by the Daily Mail earlier this year, says the police themselves are angry at the way they have to 'make fools of themselves'.


There were high levels of 'bitterness and frustration' and the targets were 'bitterly resented'.


One officer told how he was pressed to charge children playing with a tree with 'harassment'.


The same offence was used against a drunken student dancing in flowerbeds, who aimed a kick at a flower.

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