â€œI wonâ€™t have the police service as the place where all of societyâ€™s ills are laid out and blamed on us.â€ (Cressida Dick, Met Police Commissioner, AprilÂ 2017)
The painful privilege of policing is to venture into the hurting places â€“ and to encounter the lives being lived there: the damaged and the dangerous, the beaten and the broken, the troubled and the terrified, the abandoned and the afraid.
Iâ€™ve said it often before, but it bears repeating: police officers go where most wouldnâ€™t and do what most couldnâ€™t. Iâ€™m incredibly proud of the fact that they do.
But we expect an extraordinary amount from them:
And we expect a thousand other things besides.
But the Commissioner is right. We cannot expect them to bear all of societyâ€™s ills. Nor can we expect them to take the blame for things that stretch far beyond their immediate influence or control.
Crime is only ever a symptom.
Â Police officers will always do what they can. They will always be first in line to respond â€“ to the emergencies; to the crises; to the blood soaked scenes and heart-broken families. And that is exactly as it should be.
But they can only do so much.
We have got to understand that the situations and the lives that coppers encounterÂ are infinitely more complicated than we would like them to be:
None of these things is simple or remotely straightforward.
Take an average teenage boy caught up in the horrors of knife crime. His short life history is likely to be characterised by some combination of the following factors:
By the time the police are called for the first time, all of these things will have happened already. And there are no quick fixes.
But there is hope.
We just need to understand the limits of what the police service alone can do. And we need to resist the temptation to blame them whenever things go wrong. Then we need to roll up our sleeves and recognise that something more is required of all of us.
The easiest thing in the world is to walk on by. To cross the road. To wash our hands of any form of responsibility.
The road less travelled is the one demanding that enough of us care enough for long enough for things to begin to change.