When I graduated from university I decided to join the police. It came to me as a sort of epiphany. Several weeks earlier I had begun a new role as a researcher for a production company on Tottenham Court Road. My job was to find archive footage for a new Channel 4 documentary which consisted largely of watching old clips of Fanny Cradock and fetching sandwiches from Pret A Manger. One July day I was feeling particularly unenthused when a commotion sounded from the street four stories below. I pressed the pause button and left Fanny with her whisk suspended in time as I raced over to the nearest window to see what was afoot. Below there was an almighty scuffle as a band of, what transpired to be, plain clothed police officers wrestled a gang of credit card fraudsters to the ground. Why, thought I, should I content myself to watching re-runs of Dixon of Dock Green for a living when real acts of derring-do where taking place all around me?
You might have guessed already that this venture did not pan out exactly as I had hoped. After a 22 month process, with a score of 69% at the test centre (I am told that was pretty good) and a start date six weeks away, I was told that I had become surplus to requirements... woe is me. I felt particularly hard done by considering the somewhat questionable recruitment practices I had witnessed during my 22 months. Several months earlier I was asked to pass the fitness tests where I was joined by a group of about six male and two female potential police officers. In a surprisingly casual setting we each took turns to try and reach the mandatory requirements which comprised of a bleep test (think back to PE classes when you were 12!) and pushing and pulling a set weight. Each candidate was afforded several attempts and, in front of their fellow recruits, the two female candidates failed every attempt. Game over you might think? Well, the men were asked to leave the room and, having been left alone with the recruiter, the female candidates returned triumphantly several minutes later. Praise Jesus! They had managed to make the grade behind closed doors and, like Sampson with some new hair extensions they had found the strength that was so comprehensively lacking several minutes earlier.
Yes, I know I come across as angry and more than a little bitter. However, as a result of my experience, the revelation last week that the police had recruited yet another appallingly unsuitable candidate came as no surprise.
Seventeen year old Paris Brown was recently appointed Britain's first young police and crime commissioner. However, The Mail on Sunday has now reported that the new young commissioner has a twitter profile littered with offensive musings and remarks. The response from Anne Barnes, the Kent Police and crime commissioner, has been pathetic. According to Anne, "Social networking is probably a no-go area for most adults but it is life and death for young people. And they do say and they do ... the most appalling things that none of us would condone." This may have been a plausible excuse in the context of a charity shop looking for a new Saturday worker or a local village looking for a new Idiot but I am tempted to believe that even these recruiters would have been a little less naive than Kent Police.
I have never bought in to the knee-jerk reaction of police bashing but when they seem so utterly incapable of recruiting capable members of staff perhaps the question needs to be asked; are police recruiters setting the bar too low?