AS a copper, Brian Humphreys spent nearly half a century trying to catch criminals, but now he’s exasperated how the wheels appear to have fallen off the British justice system.

With the nation’s police services under pressure like never before, the former senior officer in the West Mercia force has written a book giving his views on where  it all began to go wrong.

He said: “The pendulum has swung too far in favour of those suspected of committing crimes and to hell with the victims or those trying to catch them.”

Selling off local police stations, increased political interference and giving the green light to criminals are just some of the topics under fire in the very readable The Changing Shapes of UK Policing (From Dixon to Brixton).

Coupled with that, the requirement to investigate a broader range of crimes than ever before – from complicated frauds and “hate offences” to time honoured flashing and speeding – and something’s got to give.

Brian started his 46-year career as a cadet in Herefordshire Constabulary in the 1960s when the sole transport for CID was two Morris Traveller Countrymen and the city division had just one vehicle, a dark blue Bedford Dormobile van. He retired 46 years later as a chief superintendent, being involved with some of the latest cutting edge technology and in retirement with cold case reviews.

He believes the rot began to set in with the gradual abandonment of urban community estate and rural based policing in the late Sixties, when Panda car wheels replaced officers on the beat and the police stations and beat houses were sold off.

“In my view it was tantamount to selling off the family silver,” he said. “Being at the centre of any community, be that in the city, on estates or in rural villages was core to our policing initiatives. It wasn’t long before villages lost their police officers forever and bobbies walking the beat in urban areas would become rarities.


Chief Superintendent Brian Humphreys in 1991

Chief Superintendent Brian Humphreys in 1991


“The very presence of a police station will always be welcomed by the community it serves, so why can’t the powers that be see that? They can only see the benefit of not providing such resources and not the benefits to the people they are supposed to serve and protect.

“We were  also made to suffer a gradual decline in numbers and then when the general cry went up to put more bobbies back on the beat, the Home Secretary of the day, Theresa May, cut the establishment of English and Welsh police forces by 20,000. What crazy idea was behind that?”

Brian also has some stiff criticism for what he sees as the increased “politicising” of the police system, mainly through the introduction of elected police and crime commissioners, who replaced the old Watch Committees of local people and have the power to not renew a chief constable’s contract, in effect, to sack them.

He adds: “It is only right that police activities are monitored, but while there was a scattering  of ‘independent’ applications for these posts, almost without exception they were sponsored by political parties or were members of them beforehand, some even being councillors of particular political parties. This, in my view, was a huge black mark on the history of the police, who up until that time had held party politics and their politicians at arm’s length.

“It also begs the question: ‘Who is in charge of the police? Is it the Chief Constable or the Crime Commissioner?’”




Among a broad ranging critique – peppered with humorous anecdotes about life as a copper – there is also a swipe at police forces which have allowed the media access to criminal investigation methods and interview tapes as a way of making “reality” programmes.

“I cannot believe the police hierarchy had thought it wise to allow these tapes to be used for the production of such programmes,” he said. “ I would love to know how on earth that happened. What the public, including the criminals among them were seeing, was to teach them that all they had to do was sit back, often yawning at the investigator’s questions, and say ‘No Comment’ to each question. I ask myself :‘Is this justice?’” 

He believes the increase in “No Comment” interviews – to which he offers his own solution – has led to a loss of morale and camaraderie among officers, adding: “The system now has the appearance of deliberate obstruction to the police’s pursuit of evidence to catch those who do not care for the hurt they cause their victims.

“Criminals watching such programmes  will be rubbing their hands in glee to learn police methods. The tips they will have picked up are tantamount to attending a course entitled ‘How to evade being caught’. Let’s get the wheels of justice back on, please.”

• The Changing Shape of UK Policing (From Dixon to Brixton) by Brian Humphreys costs £12.95 and is available via Amazon.