The Corporate Copper
At the weekend I read a book entitled War PLC by Stephen Armstrong, which is sub-titled The Rise of the New Corporate Mercenary. The book is an excellent read and I recommend it to you.
The book chronology begins in the early 1950’s and follows the changing political landscape in the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Africa. This rapidly changing political and military tableau and decline of the British Empire plus its withering colonial influence, culminates in President Nasser nationalising the Suez canal.
The following debacle of deploying British troops into this theatre, in which the Para’s made their last operational drop into a battle zone, and the resulting embarrassment for the British Government and particularly the pro-invasion ex- ministers and back benchers in the Conservative government, resulted in the start of the modern mercenary or corporate soldier.
This genesis began in the fashionable area of Mayfair in London, when second world war warriors such as Lt. Col Neil McClean late of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Julian Amery, dyed-in-the-wool Conservative minister, and Lt. Col David Stirling gathered together. They began a number of activities to try and halt the downward slide of British influence, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. Add to this mix, a young aristocrat called John Aspinall at his Claremenot Club and Sir Alex Douglas-Home, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
Following a meeting of this group at White’s private members club, they persuaded the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, to revive an ancient military tradition by recruiting teams of mercenaries, without even letting his cabinet know. This was the nascence of the modern mercenary forces.
The 1960’s, the 70”s and the 80’s saw the use of mercenaries across the more unruly section of the globe. In many situations, the British Govt had a loose hand on this irregular military tiller. In others, it was the oil companies, despots, etc. Most mercenary units were deemed an unseemly bunch that nobody really wanted to have anything to do with. The darkest moment of this situation was, perhaps, the wars in the Congo’s, where British mercenaries fought and many were subsequently hanged.
In 1993 a company called Executive Outcomes (EO) was formed in London by Tony Buckingham, Simon Mann and a South African called Eeben Barlow. These names maybe familiar to some of you.
Executive Outcomes was like an iceberg breaking the surface of the crust that had hidden the mercenary soldiers and operators since the 1950”s. EO was a modern corporation with a mission, “to provide highly professional & confidential military advisory service to legitimate governments”.
The next ten years saw EO, its successor Sandline and a range of other privately military companies expand exponentially. By 2004 theses companies were embedded at the heart of western forces and the occupation of Iraq, providing corporate military operators working along side their government counterparts.
This got me thinking, especially as the reports of yet another unwanted and unauthorised visitor had trotted onto the roof of Westminster and the parents of three girls who slopped of to Syria were blaming the police. I then considered the start of the police in 1839 and its development over the last 170 years into what is now, a shadow of its former self.
Many of the existing police forces began as small forces that were either a city police or the county police, which, as time marched on, these smaller forces were consumed by the larger county forces.
The position of the police was and, hopefully, still is sacrosanct in British society. They were the bastions of maintaining order, patrolling the streets and thoroughfares, preventing crime and arresting offenders. The last 20 years has seen this level of service delivery almost disappear.
Sporting events are now expected to provide their own stewards, private areas both in the corporate and educational areas are expected to provide and manage their own security, which they pay for. The situation has now reached the point where organisers of public demonstrations must either pay for police attendance or organise their own security to “police” the event.
Throughout this period, there has been a dramatic rise in the private security industry, particularly manned guarding. This has been supported by the development of the Security Industry Authority, which is charged with setting, delivering & maintaining the standards and legitimacy of the industry and those working in it.
In comparing the demise of the British Empire and the attempt by those old guard to revive or secure its fortunes, from which developed the modern day corporate soldier, I began to wonder if we had unwittingly been witnessing the same re-structuring and genesis with policing in the UK.
The police in the UK are a former shadow of their former selves. The reasons for this are many and varied, not least of which is too much political interference, little or no funding, poor quality fiscal and operational management, etc., etc.
Combine with this, the movement to devolve political control and funding away from central government down to the larger cities within the UK.
So, what if we were to take the idea of the corporate soldier and create the Corporate Copper, with one or two slight variations.
What if, for instance, Birmingham was allowed to design its own police force, based on its own needs and remove itself from the control of ACPO and a national policing strategy.
Birmingham would define the budget for their force and, having designed the budget, they appoint a CEO, with a solid and successful commercial background to manage the budget.
They then appoint a Chief Constable, who has a good solid background in policing, preventing crime and getting villains off the street. This appointment does not have to be made from the existing plethora of senior police officers, but from those individuals who are present in the security world, and who knows how to run a police force operationally and efficiently and, effectively.
The CEO would have total responsibility to run the police cost-effectively and profitably. An experienced and competent CEO should do this with ease. It is what he has spent his working life doing. He does not need to know how to run a police force. That is not his job.
The Chief Constable would have total responsibility to run the police force efficiently and effectively, drive crime down and get criminals arrested and convicted. He would define the procedures by which his force runs and which are agreed by the council. He can remove pointless paperwork and do the job the police were designed to do. Prevent crime and arrest offenders.
An experienced Copper should do this with ease. It is what he has spent his working life learning to do. He does not need to know how to run a commercial organisation. That is not his job.
If you can add to this, the removal of the Crown Prosecution Service from the system, then you are on the road to returning an effective criminal justice system that serves the needs of the people, back to the people.
The CEO briefs to the head of the council on funds and profitability.
The Chief Constable briefs to the head of the council on operational effectiveness and results.
Part of this proposal must be the immediate removal of the Police & Crime Commissioner, a pointless and hugely expensive drain on police funds. The removal of all political interference is also essential and, thereby, the police get the freedom to do what a police force used to do.
I am sure there are many who would scoff at this idea and say it would never happen and could never work.
There would have been many to scoff at the idea of the corporate soldier.