Chris Hobbs was born and raised in Hackney, London.
He served for 32 years in the Met. During that time, he worked extensively and openly with the Asian community as a Special Branch officer in the 80’s and 90’s during periods of high tension.
Chris was presented with a ceremonial sword by the UK’s largest Sikh temple shortly after retirement.
About one-third of his service saw him policing border controls in both the UK and Jamaica.
Over eight years, he spent a total of 18 months undertaking a series of deployments to Jamaica.
He is a trustee of a small charity which was set up following those initial deployments and supported by police, customs and immigration officers.
The charity both enables Jamaican children from the most impoverished backgrounds to remain in education and supports a refuge for abused children.
‘The contents of the recent Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report into the Metropolitan Police’s tactic of stop and search was as predictable as night following day.
When the IOPC announced it would be mounting some sort of review into stop and search, many naively thought it would at least be a structured investigation which would be looking closely at all the issues namely; police powers, the current level of violence on London’s streets, gang-related violence and rivalries, drill music and youth culture, drugs crime, stop and search statistics and successes with weapons taken off the streets, positive interaction with charities and organisations, media hostility towards the police, the agendas of political and quasi-political organisations, the risk posed to police, the effect of cutbacks, community policing, positivity in police responses-justice for victim’s families, lives saved via first aid and mental health intervention and in addition to deaths, the physical damage to victims resulting from knife crime such as evisceration.
I read the review and then went back and forth through the IOPC website looking for the detailed report and methodology.
Gradually, aided by police social media users, the penny dropped that the ‘review’ was based on five stop and search incidents including the ‘fist bump’ stop now more than two years old, together with some sort of consultation with groups whose antipathy towards police was wholly predictable.
Given the number of stop and searches carried out by the Met, resentment and some conflict are inevitable.
Constant criticism and little support inevitably lead to increased difficulties being faced by front line officers in terms of the resentment as mentioned above, obstruction and even violence.
Police officers, when announcing on social media, the seizure of knives, firearms and other weapons, will frequently say, with justification, ‘another life saved’ yet no-where in that review or indeed in similar reviews and reports is that mantra echoed.
Even the College of Policing report into stop and search several years ago concluded that stop and search had, at best, only a marginal impact on violent crime.
The IOPC did little to enhance its status by expressing its sympathy to the family of George Floyd in terms which suggested that UK officers may not receive fair, impartial investigations when racism and/or racial bias allegations are made.
Another factor seemingly ignored by the IOPC, is the issue of gangs and crucially, the ‘gang wars’ prevalent across London.
A ‘war’ in west London between rival gangs recently led to a carefully planned assassination of a gang rapper in Telford.
A day later another linked murder took place in Hayes.
According to gang social media, this was in revenge for the fatal stabbing of a rival gang rapper three years ago.
In the interim, there have been several stabbings and shooting as illustrated by …..a scoreboard.
Yes, scoreboards are kept involving rival gang feuds with points awarded for the type of injury inflicted.
Maximum points are awarded for murder.
In the borough of Brent, for example, gang war is also present, and gang rivalries have existed for many years.
Recently, in revenge for a fatal stabbing, gang members ‘rode out’ in a vehicle in what was to be a carefully planned revenge assassination.
Alas, for that gang, the potential assassin was himself shot dead and duly abandoned by his accomplices.
The vehicle in which they were travelling was found burnt out nearby.
In north London, gangs that stretch back to the ’90s are still very much in existence and are still very much killing and maiming each other.
East London rivalries abound as do those south of the river.
Those who follow these events are now aided by a couple of YouTube news channels that follow violent crime events and, in fairness, their reporting is accurate and objective.
Gang news ‘channels.’
Other YouTube contributors produce research into drill rappers who have died, drill rappers who have been ‘locked up,’ drill rappers who have been ‘violated’ by ‘ops,’ drill rappers who have been released from prison, drill rappers who have ‘bust their cases’ (been found not guilty) and drill rappers who have been ‘caught lacking.’
They are commendably accurate and attract thousands of views; of major interest isn’t so much the videos but the hundreds of comments they attract, which adds to the depressing picture.
Also, of interest are ‘documentaries’ charting gang rivalries and of course, the actual drill music videos themselves.
Amid the maelstrom.
Into the midst of this maelstrom are the police doing their best to keep people alive be it via emergency first aid as they frequently arrive at catastrophic scenes before paramedics, by arrests or by stop and search which results in hundreds of potentially lethal weapons being seized.
Added to the mix is the issue of county lining and it would be interesting if the police hierarchy actually kept statistical records of those youngsters who have been safeguarded as the result of being stopped and searched by police.
Of course, where tragedy strikes and a victim of street violence dies, then it’s the Met’s homicide teams who look to obtain justice for the victim’s family.
Their success rate was around 90% until the cuts, but despite increasing pressures, justice is obtained far more often than not.
The IOPC and the reality of stop and search
Much criticism in respect of stop and search revolves around training and supervision.
No-one would disagree that training linked to continual improvement and learning is an essential part of policing as is effective supervision.
However, there is a distinct lack of appreciation of the difficulties faced by officers on the street.
Many of those stopped and searched will be known to police.
They will be gang members and/or known criminals who will react with hostility regardless of the nature of the approach made.
One known tactic over the decades has been for those engaged in criminality to create a confrontational, public scene in the hope that officers will conduct a cursory search and miss their objective.
The other issue is that unremitting comment from the media, activists, politicians and some ex-BAME police officers that the police are racist will inevitably induce a hostile reaction from those who are model citizens but understandably believe they are being singled out because of the colour of their skin.
Considering the current level of antipathy, it is quite remarkable that there are not more incidents and complaints.
Sadly, the hierarchy of the Met and other forces tend not to place difficulties faced by the front line into the public domain.
The IOPC, also criticises the Met for not turning on their body-worn cameras at the commencement of stop and search intimating that the officers have something to hide.
In fact, turning on the camera can, in itself, escalate the situation.
The officer has to inform the individual that he is being recorded and the camera begins ‘flashing red’ which can exacerbate the situation which was originally calm.
Officers would previously only turn on the camera if the individual began to show signs of resentment at that which was occurring.
Handcuffing and the threats to police.
The instruction in respect of handcuffing will cause considerable concern.
As I’ve stated previously, as a young PC during my first three years of service, I attended about three stabbings; none of them serious.
Attending stabbings is now an all too frequent occurrence, and officers will have seen first-hand, the damage a knife or other bladed implement can cause within a fraction of a second of being produced.
Their ‘met vests’ provide only limited protection and the abundance of knives on the streets can only make officers even more apprehensive when conducting a stop and search.
Not handcuffing can only increase the risks to front line officers.
A delight for drug dealers.
As for the smell of cannabis, news that this can no longer be grounds for search will cause the champagne corks to be popping amongst those whose ‘employees’ move drugs around London and indeed out into the counties.
The Met, regrettably, don’t publicise records of those searched for drugs who are found to be carrying knives or even firearms.
Indeed, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on Twitter, suggesting that this is a regular occurrence.
Another question that IOPC has not asked and, even if they had, the Met would not be able to provide a speedy answer, is whether their officers are stopping the right people.
In other words, what is the percentage of those stopped and searched, who have significant criminal histories be it in terms of convictions and/or intelligence reports?
Perhaps the ultimate question that doubtless the IOPC never considered is whether this ‘review’ will ultimately make life safer for the people of London especially those within the black community who, statistics show, suffer disproportionately from gun and knife crime.
Officers could hardly be condemned if they shied away from stop and search given the allegations by the IOPC when it comes to the police deployment of stop and search.
It would be a repeat of the scenario when Theresa May insisted that stop and search be curtailed, which resulted in a substantial increase in violent crime, serious injury and death.
Clearly, in an ideal world, the recommendations made in a succession of reports on youth/violent crime since 2011, would have been implemented which in turn would see a reduction in stop and search if those recommendations had, indeed, been successful.
In the interim, as stated above, stop and search has to be the sticking plaster which, despite condemnation by activist groups, really does save lives’.
To read more articles regarding some of the many results which have come from the police use of stop and search, click here >
To follow Chris on Twitter, click HERE >
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