Police officers wasting time investigating wolf whistling instead of ‘genuine crimes’, says federation chief

Colin Drury
As this rugby fans demonstrates, not all wolf whistling should be treated as a crime: Getty Images

Police are wasting time investigating wolf whistling instead of solving “genuine crime”, a senior force chief has suggested.

Sergeant Richard Cooke, chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation, said stretched officers should prioritise public safety over following up incidents which may simply be rudeness.

“Let us focus urgently on genuine crime, supported by basic evidence,” he wrote in a column for The Daily Telegraph. “Let’s not encourage people to think we can solve deep social problems or give impolite people manners.

"Are we really going to be required to routinely record, and potentially act on, incidents like a builder’s wolf whistle or an insensitive comment towards an elderly driver?”

He added: “I do not believe for one second that this is what the public, outside of the politically correct court of Twitter, expects or wants us to do."

He spoke out just days after Sajid Javid, the home secretary, revealed he has asked the Law Commission to consider whether misogyny and ageism should be classed as hate crimes. His hope is that broadening the offence’s definition will give police more power to tackle those who deliberately target vulnerable groups.

But Sgt Cooke, who represents 6,500 officers in what is the country's second largest police force, said: “I fear a dangerous precedent could be set, where our scant resources are skewed further and further away from the genuine crisis in public safety taking place in our urban homes and streets.

"Nobody, especially police officers, would ever want to see any elderly person or woman subjected to any sort of crime. The same goes for any other innocent member of the community. But we do have laws to address all manner of crimes and anti-social behaviour already."

South Yorkshire Police recently came in for criticism after urging people to report insults that did not necessarily constitute hate crimes.

And just last month the newly elected chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter, warned so-called common sense policing was disappearing with officers forced to spend time intervening in trivial social media disputes. He said it was time for a sensible debate about what the public expected of its police service.

It is not the first time Sgt Cooke has courted controversy. In July, he hit out at “weak sentences” being handed out to criminals.

"It's often said that we are sending too many people to prison, but regularly we get violent and dangerous people who are coming up for the next conviction on the list and have never been to prison for any period of time,” he was quoted by the Coventry Telegraph as saying.

"Seeing the absence of punishment and criminal justice is something we share with the general public – we are frustrated.”