Review of “Wasting Police Time” by PC David Copperfield

The UK population has risen steadily over the last century or so, from 38 million in 1901 to around 60 million today (but it hasn’t doubled).

In the same period, the total number of police officers employed has risen from around 40,000 to close to 130,000 now (ie it has more than trebled).

What about crime? Well, the number of indictable offences known to the police in 1900 was 2.4 for every 1,000 of the population. In 1997, the figure was 89.1. I’d put my house on the fact that it’s gone up since then.

How is this possible? The answer put forth by this book, and the typical British cop who wrote it, is best illustrated by the way the average British cop now spends his or her day. According to this book, a typical day goes something like this:

Cop goes on duty.
Cop receives call from a person in a housing project complaining that he or she has received an abusive text message from another tenant in the housing project.
Cop reports to housing project to take a statement from the complaining tenant.

Cop fills out a series of forms to demonstrating that the complainer is not being treated in a racist manner.
Cop interviews the tenant who sent abusive message.
Cop fills out a series of forms to demonstrating that the abuser is not being treated in a racist manner.

Abuser says that the original complainer also sent an abusive text message.
Cop repeats the above process for this "new crime."
Cop returns to station to complete the mound of paperwork required to ensure that no one has been treated in a racist manner.

Cop’s shift ends.

The cop has spent an entire shift dealing with two "crimes" that have both been "solved." The result is that a lot of paperwork has been completed. The important thing is that no one has been treated in a racist manner.

The reality that emerges from the pages of the book is that modern police are basically social workers for the underclass. If you want to know why crime is up, it’s because police aren’t on the streets anymore. Instead, they’re filling out paperwork or looking for a kid whose mother is too lazy to turn off the TV and be a parent (and why should she miss her stories, if she doesn’t know where her kid is, she can just call the police).

The police also spend an inordinate amount of time documenting the fact that they’re not racist. After all, increases in the level of crime won’t get any of them fired, but an accusation or two of racism that they can’t refute could result in someone losing their pension. This war on racism has other consequences. For example, officers now have almost no discretion in determining whether something is a crime, whether to arrest someone, whether to interview someone, etc. The resulting absurdities make for a great book, which is often funny if you ignore how sad it is.

If you spend some time thinking about how bad policing has become, your perspective on other issues will change. For example, is the failure of the war on drugs really due to the inevitability of drug use or is it merely representative of the failure of the modern policing strategy?

In short, this was good police work. Policing has unfortunately changed since Peel’s day – and the results have been disastrous.

6 Responses to Review of “Wasting Police Time” by PC David Copperfield

  1. ScottS says:

    …or is it merely representative of the failure of the modern policing strategy?

    Could you elaborate?

    • Foseti says:

      Essentially the whole book is an elaboration. The police don’t try really try to stop crime anymore – this is a rather difficult idea to fully get your head around. However, we know what strategies stop crime and they are not the ones that modern police forces adopt.

      So, once you accept that police forces don’t really try to stop crime, you can’t conclude that the war on drugs has “failed” in any meaningful way. Is it fair to say that we’re fighting a war on drugs if we do so with obviously shoddy police methods? To the extent that your answer is “yes” you still have to admit that we’re not even trying to win the war – it should therefore be no surprise that we’re not.

  2. Taggart says:

    You could actually make a comparison to your earlier comment about whether any country had actually won a “limited war”.

  3. […] is modern policing. After much analysis, I’ve decided that modern policing strategies suck. This book was the best (and most entertaining) thing I read on the […]

  4. […] while back, I reviewed a book about what it’s like to be a cop in a poor, urban area of Britain. Mr Chalk deals with the […]

  5. offshore says:


    […]Review of “Wasting Police Time” by PC David Copperfield « Foseti[…]…

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