Saturday, 30 August 2008

Unjustified Complaints

I've just copped a proper complaint. Now I can't remember the last time I had a real one through the complaints department, but it must have been over 10 years. As usual I've done nothing wrong but will have to go through the usual processes before being informed no action is to be taken against me.

The allegations are rather unclear - complaints departments aren't like they used to be, but from what I can make out I'm in the frame for assault and leaving an address in a mess after a search warrant execution. If it's the one I'm thinking of I attended on crutches whilst off sick to identify possible wanted individuals. Now once cautioned do I inform complaints of this or follow federation advice and say nothing. I think I'll be helpful and write them a nice letter. No doubt this will take 6 months to clear up if I'm lucky.

People in the street think we all close ranks over complaints. Let me tell you what happened when a minor whinge was made against me. I turned up to assist officers after a stag party of merchant bankers (literally) went a tad bent. The stag (Asian) had racially abused the doorman (Black) and got rightly nicked. This had all started over one of the party being rude to the cloakroom girls making her cry because he'd lost his ticket and couldn't get his coat back.

I turned up as the stag departed to deal with the aftermath. Loads of braying drunk idiots who literally used the phase we're merchant bankers as if that excused their conduct. I layed down the law having been sworn at and the next step would of been arrest time. The original catalyst to this whole incident a middle aged chap was most obnoxcious drunk demanding that that I obtain the name of the doorstaff as it was his right in law. He knew this because he was a banker. Now believe me I resisted the temptation to make a comment on rhyming slang.

He attended the station in the same vein and I sent him on his way, however he rang the next day to speak to the Inspector as he didn't like my attitude. Minor stuff, allegations of rudeness etc are dealt with at the station by a designated Inspector, and cleared away as a consilidated complaints. The Inspector mentioned this in passing in the canteen and I filled him in as to the facts - and that the stag accepted a caution for racially aggravated disorderly conduct. I wasn't bothered as I'd done nothing - do your job inspector and square it away.

A couple of weeks later my Inspector hands me a file, where the complaints Inspector has asked her to speak to me about my conduct. In the file is a letter he's written to the complainant. In this he outlines the basis of the complaint as a fact (stroppy blokes version) and apologises for my conduct before promising that I would be spoken to about my future conduct. So you think we get treated fairly.

I had been clearly libelled by this Inspector who had not spoken to me formally or even spoken to anybody else at the scene who would have confirmed my version. This is the reality of how we get treated. Did I get spoken to - Of course not I refused - We eventually had a facilitated meeting to clear this up, where he explained he had to treat the complaint as the man's version and deal with it accordingly. Load of bullshit - I deal with these matters all the time myself and it's an art how you clear them away. The correct way is to say I'm sorry you've felt the need to come to the station and I 've brought your grievance to the attention of the officer who does not accept it.

He did at least apologise for libelling me and write another bland letter to the complainant stating there had been a meeting. Some honour retrieved but the fat obnoxicious complainant still got what he wanted - or he thinks he did.

Did I say I'd be helpful and write a letter - I've changed my mind - lets see what happens.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

We lead the world in thuggery

With all this Olympic hype going on about Team GB and all the excitement about London 2012, give a little thought to really what's going on.

Have a look at the picture above which just about sums up the licensing laws in this country at present. This man was asked for a cigarette before being set on by three thugs and if he survives may be brain damaged. It could easily have been me or you.

I don't know if the bar this happened outside is a problem premises or even involved, however licensed premises must be made to take more responsibility. I hate policing outside these venues. At closing time people stagger out and vomit onto the pavements and the managers just wash their hands of it.

I was outside one last year and some guys and gals drunkenly carried out a young woman. The door staff kindly held open the fire exit. They left her unconscious on the steps of the bar before asking me where they could get a cab. Now I've seen some drunk people (don't forget I'm a trained soldier) but this lady wins the career prize for a licensed premises. I had to take control and call an ambulance as she was a non-responder. Even the Ambulance Service, god bless them didn't pull the usual waste of my time face and got to work to stabilise her.

It would appear it was her birthday and after a meal and drinks she entered my local late night drinker, where copious amounts of tequila shots disappeared down her throat. This one couldn't even vomit properly it had to be an on your side job and let it drain out. I summonsed the duty manager to show him the mess on his steps, but all he could muster was "we wouldn't have served her in that state". Nice line in stating the obvious.

We monitored this place for months and compiled statements of like incidents, fights etc and took them to review which we won. They were ordered to have their hours reduced, but the law allows them to appeal straightaway and continue on the same hours until the appeal is heard. No doubt they will string it out for months (February has been mentioned) when all the police witnesses will have to appear to give evidence. They will then make a submission that 6 months has passed and it would be "disproportionate" to curtail their hours. We will then be back to square one.

It's all about making money whilst society picks up the bill for extra policing and the costs of treating the above and occasionally the costs of prosecution. And while I'm policing that I'm not in your street when your car gets done.

London 2012 doesn't it just give you a little feeling of dread.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The truth will always out

118,000 formal cautions for violent crime offences have been issued in the last five years nationally meaning that even fewer cases are being heard in court. Read Here

Professor Morgan's report suggests that police are using cautions, penalty notices and formal warnings (cannabis seizures) more often, so that offences brought to justice (sanction detections) has increased from one million in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2007. Nearly all the increase was not through convictions but “quick justice”.

He quite correctly points out that marginal criminal activity is now being criminalised by the use of these powers. What he means is urinating in the street being treated as disorderly conduct. The issue of a Penalty Notice for disorderly conduct shows a detection and a £80 fine. Really this is drunken and disorderly behaviour and although worthy of punishment and the same fine £80 – no detection for Drunk and Disorderly.

So is it our fault for playing the game? When custody officer in the past, a low level drunk and disorderly would have been allowed to sober up and go on his/her way with a drunkenness warning. (no further action). If I deemed the behaviour too extreme they were charged to court. This ensured the apologetic idiot in the morning had a fair crack of the whip whilst the serial offenders and aggressive toe rags were dealt with. No chance nowadays always a ticket or caution for disorderly conduct to get that detection. My discretion has been removed in almost all cases except for the street drinkers brought in drunk and incapable, but then no detections at risk there either.

Personally I believe that most of us think it a waste of time sending the matter to court where the sentence imposed is no greater than a Penalty Notice for Disorder and sometimes less. The CPS will mostly withdraw not in the public interest thinking a night in the cells sufficient punishment. Do they really think we send undeserving cases to court. Compare this to driving matters where usually speeding at court is dealt with more severely than a Fixed Penalty Ticket.

Dominic Grieve the shadow home secretary thinks the public are sick and tired of the government pursuing easy targets instead of going after real criminals. Well Dominic they are not as sick and tired as the front line – We are still waiting to hear what your lot are going to do once you get in.

I am at least encouraged that people in the street are waking up to this charade

Monday, 25 August 2008

I wish to report a Burglary

Where I live there is a big political row over getting your bins emptied. Due to recycling the local authority is only going to collect household rubbish every two weeks. No doubt this will save them money to waste on some politically correct scheme elsewhere. (I don’t live in a Tory controlled area yet!). The point being most people want to have their rubbish collected weekly.

Now I’m all for time and motion. I’m old enough to remember the bin man walking all round the alleyways behind our house, picking up a heavy metal dustbin and carrying it on his back to the dustcart. He then had to return it to our back gate. Now I just leave my black bag on the drive to be collected. I do however pay for this service and want my rubbish collected weekly.

If you were burgled you might just call the police and expect a police officer to attend to take the report. Well don’t expect that in the metropolis. The organisation totally committed to customer service has decided that we have been wasting resources. If the offender has obviously fled why send a police officer. The main report details can be taken over the phone and a Scenes of Crime Officer will attend later, do their stuff and update the report with anything else. The local community team (PCSO) might just get in touch later to offer crime prevention advice.

As a patrolling officer I wouldn’t even know this had happened until the next day on checking the previous days crimes. I’m sure this new policy scores countless points on time and motion surveys, but was the public consulted and what would you prefer? Of course if our “real customer” base screams for police and puts a racial slant to their neighbour dispute good old plod is there within the hour to meet their needs.

I tell you why it matters. All people are different, and should be treated according to their needs. We’ve all been to a burglary and stayed longer than necessary because the victim was upset and needed us to. We’ve all done that little extra either calling for a relative or popping back a few days later to see if things were better, giving added reassurance.

I preferred to report all burglaries on my patch. The reason being I could get a full report. Not just of the main items stolen, but the little things like the sports bag taken to transport the electricals. You will always find the main stuff is fenced quickly, but the little things you will come across. They must however be on the report. You can also build up a mental picture of the properties they target and really get a feel for it and become involved.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve kicked in somebody’s door and found items from a burglary that I’ve actually reported. Rare designer sunglasses and tat accessory jewellery and receipts in bags always comes up trumps.

I think we are getting it wrong here, even if it does save resource time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Fighting a losing battle

Police Pay talks have broken down again and we are off to arbitration. After last years betrayal and a tightening of the credit crunch the government is looking to settle for a low percentage figure. They will just pay what they want to and impose a settlement.

After much hype by the police federation last year we still wait for them to push for a right to strike. My view is that if the government wants to treat us like the rest of the public sector then we should have the same right to strike as the others.

People are all feeling the pinch of raising prices. A couple of years ago it was the same old faces volunteering for overtime, but now everybody is looking to get a share.

This year the federation hint at a work to rule. Well I don't know where we stand with that - I suppose they mean impose regulations so we receive agreed financial reward. Most of us give to the job to make it work. I think currently, I am owed well in excess of 30 days where I have voluntarily worked my days off to work on operations just receive the day back to take in lieu.

I tend to work on covert operations away from my place of work. As I am unlikely to be released from my usual place of duty I either have to go after shift on overtime or re-roster my days off. The job should of course pay me if they want me but budget restraints make this impossible.

It will much of the same this year. We will probably get around 3% well below inflation. In the future if we did win the right to strike would the public notice a difference? I assume that there would be a skeleton emergency cover in place in all areas. As most core shifts are already running a skeleton service there would be little difference. It would just be like a Sunday service.

My motto is don't fight battles you can't win. This year's is lost already and until the federation actually does what it's members want and takes steps to win a right to strike nothing will change.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Technicalities and grey areas

Oh boy am I back or what? Forget that holiday and my relaxed state - I'm well and back into the grind. Had two court cases, one where I sat around all day and was not called but he pleads, and the second a nightmare day in court.

It would appear I've made an unlawful arrest and of course that equals money time for the other side. What crime have I committed? You be the judge.

Cutting the story down - I arrest a male for disorderly conduct who calls me a cu*t in a busy bar. He is going to kick off (I'm alone) so I call for back up before I make the arrest. He's horrible, spitting in the van, calling me racist (love that race card) , and is apparently going to do nasty things to my mother.

As I take him into custody he kicks open the first door. He is handcuffed to the rear but still a danger. I'm now in like an airlock void and he kicks hard the entrance door to the custody suite which is closed. I'm trapped in the void and decide to take him to the ground. We both end up on our knees and he takes the opportunity to butt me in the face. It hurts and he gets further arrested for assault on police. He continues to be horrible but is interviewed the next day and bailed for CPS. He is subsequently charged with disorderly conduct and assault on police.

I'm there for the trial and he doesn't turn up. His defence call him and put up a sob story he's dropping off a child and will be there in 10 mins. He's not but eventually turns up and we start 1 and a half hours late. If I hadn't turned up the case would have been thrown straight away.

The prosecutor's only comment to me is shame we didn't have another witness to the assault. I think this is his way of saying it's my word against his and we're onto a loser. "Lucky job we've got the doctor's report of my injury then" says I. "Oh well there is that, we're give it a run anyway".

He has already pleaded to the disorderly conduct and we are only trialing the assault on police. I give evidence of the whole incident and am ready for cross examination. I am asked about the arrest again and the words used. Here is what I said to him on arrest.

"I am arresting you because you are drunk and have called me a cu*t in a busy bar. You are under arrest for disorderly conduct, your arrest is necessary for you to account for your actions". - cautioned - reply "You are a fcuking cu*t"

Now the district judge picks up on this asking why is his arrest necessary when he's called you in the bar it's obvious why he's been arrested. I try to explain the legal requirement and that human rights means we have to show necessity. There's much hoo haring about this and I can't see the problem. I just love the district judge giving the defence ammunition to fire. It's a hostile cross exam I'm out of order, his client wasn't drunk, I was out to spoil his night, and any injury I sustained was an accident as his client never headbutted me. Oh and I used unreasonable force on his client.Yeah whatever.

Prosecution finishes and the judge breaks for lunch wanting medical notes of the prisoners injuries. They are not in the file. I have to trudge back to the station to hunt them down. There are two reports, one where the prisoner was so stroppy that he couldn't be examined and the second stating he has a swollen wrist and needs an x-ray once released.

The defence drooled on seeing the wrist injury. So he's up for a submission of no case to answer, this is for the arrest. The district judge starts off by saying we're into a grey area. He's been reading up during lunch. This is where I've put a spanner in the works. When I've said to him his arrest is necessary for him to account for his actions - By saying this I've meant for the matter to be investigated and him interviewed.

Both sides make their legal arguments.

The good book under section 24 PACE requires two elements to make an arrest lawful

1. A persons involvement or suspect involvement in the commission of a criminal offence AND
2. Reasonable grounds for believing that arrest is necessary

Criteria 5 states re necessity - To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence OR of the conduct of the person in question. - this would include where it is necessary to interview somebody to obtain evidence.

Now this is where the judge has a problem. He says that there is no need to interview in the disorderly conduct as the case is complete when the defendant insults me in the pub. Hence when I tell him we need his account that was the wrong and he should have been straight charged. It's all a play on words as there is no case law around these new powers. So he declares the arrest unlawful - hence I wasn't acting in the execution of my duty thereafter - hence no offence of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty. NOT GUILTY

So this leaves the job wide open to a civil claim, unless it gets appealed to the Divisional court. I must hold my hands up to not explaining myself fully but I think I have shown myself to have acted within the spirit of the law. Also my notes were not the best, but when you've been in a bundle and still seeing stars from being headbutted that's understandable. The district judge is perhaps looking for a case law judgement but everyone including the clerk and prosecutor thought his decision wrong. Still he was fined £85 for the disorderly conduct.

I really sometimes don't see the point of carrying on with decisions like these. Perhaps I need off the streets. And you know the most annoying thing? I took the codes of practice on holiday and only finished upto code C when code G would have seen me spot on in this case.

Still that's our justice system for you protecting the guilty.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Mr Colin Stagg has been awarded £700,000 for the failed prosecution that has undoubtedly ruined his life. Read Here.

I must declare an interest in that I've met Stagg and looked into those eyes. What I saw was a weak individual incapable of committing the crime. I stated so at the time, to the consternation of colleagues. From what I've seen of him since on TV he's always come across as relatively truthful and up front. DNA advances have resulted in him being totally cleared.

Now as an objective sort of individual what does concern me, is the decision of CPS in both this case and that of Barry George to proceed with obviously weak cases. Both murders were very high profile in the media, and the pressure to get a result intense. The "honey trap" set for Stagg was rightly criticised and thrown out under PACE for being unfair.

I just scratch my head at the countless times I've dealt with CPS, presenting in my objective view overwhelming evidence only for them to discontinue cases. What makes these high profile cases any different?

I think sometimes we should just say sorry the system was wrong.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Back to reality

Prospective McDonald's employee at London Gatwick

I'm back and feeling good from 2 weeks away. I've done absolutely nothing for this period except sit by a pool chilling. I was in self imposed shutdown with no access to my phone. Usually I'm abit more active on holiday but decided on a drop and flop situation.

That's not to say my stress levels were not tested. On arriving at the airport I was handed a letter informing me of a 3 hour delay to my 2 and a bit hour flight. So having arrived 3 hours early for shoe searching procedures I would have 6 hours to wait. The me of old would have imploded into a rage but I was powerless and took it on the chin. I tried loads of positive thought action to get me through. There turned out to be a 4 hour delay and the same coming back too.

At least 30 minutes of my wait was in McDonald's to spend £5 worth of flight delay food vouchers. This was really an experience to behold. I think the staff were extras in "shawn of the dead". They shuffled around like brain dead zombies to get orders before presenting your food without comment, looking off into the distance. Meanwhile a manager was running about trying to motivate them and ended up trying to get the chips out himself. Poor bloke really was on a hiding to nothing.

I could compare this to the service I received on holiday, which was all smiling and genuine. The daily wage I was told was about £6 for a 12 hour shift, probably about the same the Zombies received for an hours "work".

My phone on return, was of course full of messages asking me if I'd had a good break before adding could I call back. I've got lots to sort out on top of an already full diary - I have no constables to supervise for reasons I can't go into, so effectively no team. This is all beyond my control and you know what - I don't care ! Is this a good sign?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Don't get Angry Get Even ( The End )

Injury of course stops play and I have several weeks of daytime TV, "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "Cops" to keep me amused. Has it come to your attention that the car chases are the same but when the naughty blokes are caught the Americans actually fear the system. You just have to watch the endings UK Version: the passenger who ran away from the stolen car had no further action taken, whilst the driver received a years disqualification USA Version: 5 years in the pen - I know what version I prefer.

What about my lot? Six Dealers all pleaded guilty and got jail time. First one out in October, time actually served about 9 months. Laughing boy got 3 years so out next year. The one I chased despite 12 supply charges and a separate Possession with intent got a 3 year sentence - very lenient. Judge no doubt laughed at the obstruction charge that led to my injury.

My estate is relatively quiet and the residents are happy. They won't say it but I know they are grateful for what we've done. It's still going on - but elsewhere, not on my bit.

Was it worth it? I lost thousands in overtime and have been a cripple all year. Of course it was - the sun is shining - and they'll getting a stripy suntan in their cells as I'll be raising a glass of vino in their direction.

What's that saying - He who laughs last - laughs longest! Enjoy !!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Don't get Angry Get Even ( Part 3 )

I won't go into police tactics but the drug dealing gang were targeted and best evidence was obtained. This involved covert video evidence and also DNA evidence. After the operational phase, of course paperwork preparation ready for the arrest phase needs to be completed. This all takes time.

Shouldn't gloat but "laughing boy" who threw down the challange in the first place had implicated himself by selling crack cocaine. Sometimes I really love this job.

The dealers were going to get a few weeks grace so the tidying up could be done. I was still getting it in the neck from residents. One day I was placating another disgruntled resident in a housing block about the ongoing dealing problems. I'd just smoothed her over and noticed a small gathering of addicts below me. A few moments later I see one of the known dealers approaching. The addicts get all excited and some more appear out of nowhere, and move off having seen Mr Dealers nod of the head. Feeding time is upon us.

So what would you do? I move along the block and find the group gathered in the approach to a stairwell. I am two floors up and out of view. Dealing boy is collecting money and handing out wraps to the group, some of whom have gone already. I sneak down the stairs and burst out of the door.

He sees me and is off and running. It's not a problem "Stressed Out Cop" has been out running alot to relieve his stress problems and is ultra fit. I'm wrong there is a problem - it called airwave radio - useless piece of crap. I put up the chase and location but this piece of kit is not great to run and operate. It slows you down and I settle in for the long distance chase, rather than the quick sprint. Pumped up dealer in trainers v old cop - stab vest - airwave = No Contest.

I know that if I keep him in sight units will cut him off. I run about 600 yards through the estate and I've got him in sight just as he turns a corner out of the estate. Then as I reach the corner I slip and fall. But I can't get up, my leg won't let me. Give my position and last direction of Mr Dealer. I've done myself a bad one. Just to piss me off even more, one of the addicts he'd just sold to walks right past me, nearly having to step over me.

I'd fallen onto my baton and did myself a serious injury requiring an operation and some metal screws inserted. So that was me out of the game for a while. I bet they were laughing their heads off when they heard. Dealing boy had got away too, but no worries, he'd also implicated himself in the operational phase and was due a visit.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Don't Get Angry - Get Even ( Part 2 )

Any police operation requires reams of paperwork to justify your actions, and so you don't infringe somebody's rights. In years gone by when I was on surveillance postings we'd ask around to see who was "at it". Then we'd follow them and most of the time catch them in the act. Minimal paperwork for maximum result.

Now you have to prepare a business case to justify the spend and to make sure you're in line with Divisional objectives. As there is little money around you will usually fall at the first hurdle.

Now drugs is something I know about (not in that way). I'm fascinated by druggies and have specialist skills in drugs markets. Drugs are really the root of all evil and you can link most other crime groups to drugs misuse, from anti-social behaviour to violent crime. But drug crimes only become a recorded crime when you make an arrest. It therefore makes sense to me that by tackling drugs misuse the other crime groups decrease, right? The last couple of years there has been no separate drugs budget to tackle this important area.

Now we are getting knife crime increases linked to gangs. In my experience many of these gang members have stopped committing street robberies (So Supt is happy) but are involved in supplying drugs (Supt happy as when caught shows a detection). The downside is eventually gangs start getting ripped off by others and everybody ends up carrying either knives or guns for protection. Violent crime increases, local community get peed off and more money spend investigating murders, stabbings.

My plan incurred much apathy as drugs is not an objective and why spend all this money. I tried to justify by mentioning the increase in stabbings locally, not always reported properly, but all drug linked. So there it sat, until another serious stabbing where the "victim" nearly died. Now this "victim" was a named target on my operation. Of course he didn't want to know, but the hierarchy had to allay the fears of politicians and the local residents.

Luckily my operation could dig them out of a hole, so they could show we were already on top of things. Doors began to open for me and little jobs got done, assisted by another target on the operation getting stabbed in the throat. He didn't want to know either - said he'd sort it out himself - see what I mean.

So after several months delay operation authorised - funds secured.