Friday, 28 November 2008

Officer's Sifted .. Public Shafted

We all moan about the mountains of paperwork needed for case file preparation but we as a "service" waste countless hours on internal bureaucracy. I was at a retirement do and at the jolly speech, which was quite amusing the Inspector produced an application form from years ago, when my now ex-colleague applied for a new role. Apart from his name, the application actually consisted of about 6 lines of text about why he wanted to join that department. All on one sheet of A4 paper for a role involving firearms.

The system worked well then, you would have been interviewed and they made their choice if they wanted you or not. I'm getting a little sick of the process nowadays. A massive form where the individual officer has to provide examples in the skill areas required. This all takes time and as a supervisor seeking to develop your officer's careers you try and accommodate them where possible. This means off the streets filling in the form, because the cut off date is only two or three weeks away.

Now for some sought after posts this will be replicated across the force area. There will literally be dozens of officers typing away hoping to get through to interview stage. After it's completed you as the supervisor will look at the form and add your remarks. Now it's their application, but to be absolutely honest I could rip every one apart and send them back suggesting they add this or that just to get through the paper sift process. I've done this and have been happy with the application, highly recommending the officer as he/she is a bloody good sort and suitable to the role they aspire to.

I've been left scratching my head on numerous occasions when they get paper sifted. I like to think I know what I'm talking about. I've been through promotion processes and know when an application is sufficiently strong to get to interview stage. The feedback is usually vague and very subjective, like "not a strong example in this area despite hitting the skill areas". So what's the point of filling out the form if they hit the skills wanted and are still dipped? Perhaps I should be writing off my staff for two weeks to complete it to the standard that is obviously required. All it's proves is an aptitude to fill out the form and maybe bullshit well. If you've got somebody digging a tunnel to leave it's not unusual to have four applications in a year. That's a lot of form filling and time off the streets.

This is so unnecessary and should be trimmed down. There are plenty of systems where your work is recorded so maybe all that's needed is a brief application and people look at your previous work and experience. Dare I suggest that there might be a little bit of exaggerating being done on application forms, ranging from gilding the lily to outright lies, making them dubious in any event.

I was in a specialised department years ago and the list of applicants was read to us. Everybody was invited to speak to the Chief Inspector if they wanted to bring anything to his attention either positive or negative. A sergeant was then assigned to check the officer's workload and make enquires at the station they worked. They also expected candidates to come for at least one day's attachment. This weeded out the chaff. They then boarded the remainder and used the sergeants checking of their work to select the best candidates. This functioned perfectly well and ensured the best people were selected. On your first day the Superintendent welcomed you sitting behind the desk in his office smoking his pipe and told you what he expected from you. He always added that if things didn't work out then he would guarantee you got posted to the Division of your choice. What's wrong with that? Everybody knowing where they stood.

This was obviously prior to the formation of Human Resources Units or personnel as they used to be called. Why shouldn't this process be used today? - I thought it was fair. Don't even get me started on the promotion process and how much time is wasted.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Death By Barry

You've got to hand it to American judges who are free to dish out punishments as they see fit. I don't see why they picking on poor Barry Manilow who is actually a fantastic songwriter. It could never happen in the UK, where no doubt some miscreant would be granted legal aid as this would be made out to breach the poor loves human rights, the state inflicting humiliation.

I used to have my own punishments, which you'd never get away with today. There was a 24 hour bus lane, where I used to work. In the rush hour the law abiding would queue up in the adjoining lane, whilst extreme piss takers would zoom up the inside. It is annoying don't you think if you are in that law abiding lane and somebody gains an advantage? Anyway, there was a handy layby at the end of the bus lane ideal for pulling in the piss takers. I'm not a process king and I see traffic stops as a way in to greater things.

If he response of the driver was "Why aren't you out arresting burglars and murderers?", they'd failed the test and got a ticket. If they looked wrong a turnover took place, and if nothing else came to light, thrown back for another day. The majority were OK people who just took the chance. Of course a quick verbal warning would have them away but those waiting in the queue would see them having no punishment. The correct punishment was 10 minutes in the "Sin Bin". I would often have four cars lined up at a time and not one person moaned about it, because it was a fair punishment and saved them a fixed penalty. Everybody wins !!

I suppose that's called discretion. I exercised this a couple of months ago too, when my PCSO's caught a young lad writing graffiti on a wall within my estate. He was 11 years old and I knew the mother well. A knock on the door to collect mum and a bowl of soapy water, saw the lad scrubbing away for 20 minutes to learn his lesson. No writing took place at all, contrary to policy. This is because it was sensible and common sense to deal with it this way. If a complaint came in, then of course I'm in the wrong and I know that, but what are they going to do to me?

Make me listen to what? Check this out, it was going well until the rap bit.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Accidents Happen - But For The Grace Of ..

There, but for the grace of God, go I

Terrible news and condolences to the families and colleagues of four officers killed in Northern Ireland. They were reportably going to the aid of an officer, when the police vehicle crashed. It's a tragedy and the timing just before Christmas makes it even worse. Details of the call have not been made public yet, but most police drivers will put on that extra 10% effort to an urgent assistance.

These were on duty police accident deaths and they join a long list of officers killed in accidents, many of which occurred either coming in or going home from duty. Research has shown that 17 Police Officers have been killed in England and Wales since 2003 coming home from night duty.

West Midlands police have come up with a scheme to offer a taxi home to officers. This at least recognises there is a problem. I know myself that after a 12 hour night duty it's an effort to drive home sometimes. Some officers have quite a journey in comparison with me, so I don't think the taxi option is viable where I am.

I believe the research number of 17 is perhaps too low. We have discussed this where I work and I've learnt of an officer who nodded off and found himself in the central reservation. He was injured in the collision and off work for a while. Another told me he actually fell asleep on his motorbike en route home, luckily he had stopped for the red light before drifting off. I know of another who fell asleep driving his police car in a High Street in the early hours crashing it.

Most police officers will know of colleagues killed in accidents this way. Of course there is no definite way of knowing if sleep deprivation plays a part. There is a tendency for core shift to go for a 12 hour pattern. It cuts down on the travel days, supposedly with more days off, so is popular with those living excessive distances from their place of work. The bosses like it too because it saves them thousands in overtime payments. When you're busy it can sometimes be a long time to wait for the Cavalry to arrive in the form of an incoming shift.

At my place I remember when it came in. There were promises that drivers would only have to drive for half a shift and somebody else would drive the second half. Empty promises that they could never keep to. It lasted a short time and only went because the management wanted something else instead that suited their needs. They also started to cancel officer's days off with notice on a regular basis. We now work a mix of shift times, including the 12 hour night.

I've just turned down a move to an unpopular busy Division, but only because of the shift pattern. It's 2 days on 7am - 7pm 2 nights 7pm - 7am and four days off. Your first day off is spent sleeping. Not good for me so I'll have to look elsewhere.

So forgive that officer having a quick power nap if you see them parked up in an industrial site in the early hours. I'm not saying it's right - but the chances are your colleagues will catch you and do your wiper blades. He might need that moment before driving at speed to an emergency, and it might get him there more safely.

Been There Done That - but needed to

Friday, 21 November 2008

Crime Crunch

I know it's probably only the calm before the storm but the current financial turmoil in the world is actually making life easier at work. The drunken lunacy which accompanies the "Cafe Culture" licensing legislation has almost disappeared where I am. How I managed to keep a straight face when the manager of the local "Hell Hole" told me how much his takings were down I'll never know.

I'm loving it standing on the door and monitoring the queue as they "have to" turn away the drunken ones. It was even safe to venture inside and check out the toilets - oh what was that powder on top of the toilet roll holder? All written down in statement form for the next hearing when please God we curtail their hours which puts them out of business.

The bosses will be happy too, their detections are OK for the year and they fancy a few less Total Notifiable Offences (TNO's) .

So now we can actually do some police work. Last year we were doing very well on Burglary - we hadn't done much really to boast about the lower figures. The management however made the mistake of doing just that in a press release in November. In the lead up to Christmas we were hammered. We couldn't react as "Hell Hole" was in full anarchy mode and needed us there. It's already been decided we can do burglary patrols every day in December. They might even pay us on some rest days, so even better news.

Everybody is feeling the pinch. I decided to do my patriotic duty after interest rates were slashed and sanctioned Mrs Stressed to splash out on a new bathroom. In the Summer builders were not turning up to quote - but post crunch, sensible price and could start the following week. Great Stuff. I'm fortunate in that I've got a tracker mortgage and didn't go mad in the Labour "Never Had It So Good" spending frenzy. I don't believe in excessive debt - it's common sense to live within your means. I drive a shitty old banger and am saving hard towards my daughters university fees and loans. That will be nearly 30K as students are encouraged to be in debt from the start of their working lives. Very Wrong.

Not everybody is as fortunate and the people affected will be decent folk who just over stretched themselves. I know of two police officers who sold up their houses prior to the crunch to pay debts. One now lives with family and the other in social housing. I've got a welfare meeting coming up with a staff member re debt issues too. I feel sorry for them all.

The one group is doesn't affect are our normal "customer" base. They operate in a different economic way than most. Housing all paid for - able to drink in pubs - plenty of smokes and money for me "narbis" to chill me out. Contrary to popular belief not all live in scum holes unfit for habitation. The other economy is where the smokes are always duty free, the joint of meat is from the alternative supermarket. Usually some local entrepreneur with an extra chest freezer full of stolen meat. Their kids are dressed in stolen designer gear hoisted from nice shops. They do all right and this crisis will pass them by. There will be a little less out there for them to steal this year from the decent folk.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Pan Pipes Every Time

Just coming out of a dark mood period. Lasted about a month and I've been pretty ineffective at work. Not been able to concentrate so am currently behind on my paperwork. It's been hard to even contemplate posting much here. The plus side is, I've managed some foot patrolling out by myself. Not much going on work wise, usual seasonal problems with kids loitering in stairwells annoying residents in the blocks. I missed Halloween and firework night but the yobs apparently ran riot. My self enforced time out has done the trick and I can plough on till New Year.

I'm much better at dealing with it now. I will never need counselling again. If any of you stressed people popping in are wondering what it's like. I envisaged chilling out, laying down on a raised bed with essential oils massaging my nasal channels. I believed the counsellor would then tell me where I was going wrong, as pan pipe tunes relaxed me into a near slumber.

It doesn't work like that. You'll be stuck in a waiting area with leaflets about premature ejaculation and bad posture. I don't think the two are linked. You're there so you might as well get it sorted. My counsellor was a lovely lady but didn't say a lot. The first session is just an assessment and I talked for an hour. She just nodded and prompted but didn't give me the answer to life.

She told me weeks later she initially thought I might be on drugs. Of course I wasn't - but you do display similar characteristics.

The answer to your problems lies with you. If you've overcooked it then you need to make a few changes. Work therapy does not work. The bosses will love you as you toil away producing and performing minor miracles - but will they pick you up when it all goes wrong? Women prefer retail therapy, which is a more expensive consequence of the same problem.

Ultimately if it's home stuff affecting you, face up to whatever it is and try and reach a conclusion. That's what they do, making you understand that your unusual behaviours are just a reaction to your particular situation. The worst thing to do, is to do nothing.

I had a thing about my toilets. I'd been working really excessive hours and one thing that had been annoying me was lime scale around the toilet bowl. It wasn't minging but I'd scrub for ages with bleach trying to remove it. It was really obsessive and I only resolved this by discovering Harpic. It really does remove limescale 100% and as an added bonus kills 99.9% of germs. This was because I needed to work all the time and couldn't switch off.

I would also, not cut corners at work. My systems that I ran at the time had to be be just perfect. A bit of OCD never hurt anyone did it? - annoying if you've got a touch of it. A perfectionist personality is a bind. You find it hard to delegate because who could do it better than you !!

I've mentioned previously the stress rants and other stuff I went through. I believe you can actually come back stronger from this. Don't think me weak - if you knew me you'd be surprised about all this. I'm seen as an achiever at work - I think the term is a "goal scorer". Unfortunately I'm no longer going to be in the running for the golden boot. If you're in the job look at your "performers" and build in some down time for them. They won't want it - but give it anyway - see it as an investment.

And remember there's always somebody who's got more reason to be down than you. Let them be your inspiration.

Ben Parkinson - Inspiration

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Mother Cops

I think that about 50% of new recruits are female. Has anybody in the forward planning department actually recognised that the majority of these new female recruits end up in operational policing in the early stages of their careers? Alot of them also get pregnant.

Corporate risk assessments state that expectant mothers should be removed from operational roles straight away. Thereafter any public contact should be strictly limited to things like partner meetings. In reality this means that an officer is lost from the streets for about a year, assuming they return after maternity leave. No replacement, unless they are temporarily removed from your strength. This is also the same for PCSO's.

I am full of praise for those woman officers with children who manage to juggle the demands of family life with a police career. I don't know how they do it, especially those on response. If the political diversity quota gurus want a police service visibly reflective of society in percentage terms then perhaps they should be recruiting 60% females, because alot of the present 50% disappear pretty quickly.

I just got my team back together after being short all year. This lasted about 4 weeks. I've now lost another one for a year. There is no way I can achieve results without staff to do the work, so I have decided to move on and look for another role elsewhere.

I don't want this to sound like a sexist rant, it's not, I've contributed to the problem myself in the past. It's an operational rant at my level because my team is now ineffective and no jiggling in work force planning will take place to change the situation.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Blame Game

This is one game you don't want to be a participant in. Three convictions today for causing or allowing the death of Baby P. Not for murder because there were probably three no comment interviews.

Now will begin the real hunt for who failed the baby. Is it social services, the police or even the CPS who did not proceed with assault charges against the mother? The usual suspects.

After the Victoria Climbie case several recommendations were made, including the sharing of information between agencies. Of course everybody will have an audit trail attempting to cover their backs.

One of my officers dealt with a missing 14 year old boy several years ago. The boy eventually returned home himself and the PC went round to see what the score was. This was in the days prior to misper debriefs. What the lad told him was quite disturbing about him feeling suicidal and depressed. The officer a good sort who heard the alarm bells ringing decided to write the whole story down on the relevant form. In the finest traditions there was insufficient space on the form so he typed out a continuation sheet on plain paper. This I supervised and he faxed the whole lot to the relevant department. This would have been disseminated to social services and beyond.

The original form with the fax receipt was placed in the Grid OB, a folder where there was a running reference number. Unbeknown to us a few weeks later this lad committed suicide.

I think at the inquest questions were asked about police involvement. It would appear the fax went astray or was not acted upon. Luckily the officer could produce the original copy and fax receipt. I think they were looking to pin the blame on him by first off saying he never completed the form and then that he shouldn't have typed up a continuation sheet because it wasn't the right format. He had done all he could and more but something went wrong with the system. Somebody was definately looking to shift the blame his way.

Nowadays everything is computerised and we have to input all dealings with children. The problem being we put on so many reports that somebody has to read them all and make a judgement call. My worry is that something is always going to slip through the net.

I went to the cemetery on the anniversary of the death of one of my grandparents. They turn the pages of a book and there is a memorial inside with the name. I wandered into a public side room where they kept the ashes of people. On a shelf were the ashes of the lad with a name plague. It was a family tragedy and who knows if he would have gone on to kill himself if the form had been disseminated. I always remember this one and how the PC covered his back. If he'd cut corners the buck would have stopped with him.

So systems have been improved but these deaths are still occurring. We'll have to wait for the inevitable enquiry to see what happens and what recommendations are made. The blame game will remain the same.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Thursday, 6 November 2008

"Good" Bad Guys?

I bumped into one of the drug dealers I put away earlier in the year. He's the first one to be released, as he only got 18 months. I think he actually served 8 months behind bars. He will be known as "D" as that was his dealing name.

We had a "no hard feelings" sort of chat, and he actually shook my hand, saying he was going to sort his life out. I've known "D" since he was fourteen years old. He's had a few run ins with us over the years but I like him, you would too if you met him. I was disappointed in him and told him so. He was never the main player in the dealing and probably ran the errand for his mate, who got a four stretch. His 18 month sentence was a fair one in light of his involvement.

I reminded him of the conversation we had last year, where his mate had avoided me as I entered the estate. I knew there was drugs stuff going down. I'd told "D" that if he was dealing on my estate I'd get him eventually. He told me he was one of the good guys and wouldn't be so stupid.

Well he was stupid and I hope he has learnt a lesson. He'd made a decision and had to pay for the consequences of his crime. "D" could now become a committed criminal or turn his life around. I genuinely hope he chooses the right path. I will be around to nudge him the right way.

As he walked off he nodded and said "I'll be seeing you".

You could take that two ways couldn't you?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Frankie Was Right ..

Just loved this article about a relaxation room where just 15 minutes chilling will put you in a positive mood for the rest of the day. It only costs £1000 to set one up and can go anywhere. Imagine if we could get one in every station. Of course it will never happen. In my station every facility for the troops has disappeared, to make room for people who need offices.

Snooker room - including our table paid for by us gone.

TV room - relocated to the busy canteen.

The sleeping suite - which was basically a large cupboard to kip in if you got stranded at work on a quick change over gone. Became a milk expressing room - don't ask !

Even the all important tea room was deemed surplus to requirements and became a plush office for the "volunteer coordinator". The kettle now sits in the constables writing room.

I would of course not be surprised if a stress room was made available for prisoners in the custody suite. They already get first rate attention as it is. Want a doctor? No problem - be one here in 15 minutes to soothe your toothache or whatever invented illness you have. Cup of tea or coffee - straight away Sir - I've stirred it for you. Yes we even give out nicotine patches because the poor dears are not allowed to smoke now.

We had a problem with street drinkers a few years back. Enforcement and everything was tried without success. One of our "partners" actually paid for a report where some consultancy firm came in and interviewed all the street drinkers. They were paid £50 each for their trouble and gave their life history and what they wanted to happen. I wonder what they spent that £50 on?

I read the report with the usual stories broken homes, abuse and falling in love with the bottle. This don't come cheap and was about £8000 spent in total. This was tax payers money. The conclusions and recommendations were pants. Loads of liberal shite like giving them Indian head massages.

In the end it was decided to build the problem out. There was a delay until they could find the money to do the works. And no this wasn't in the consultancy report.

I thought we were about investing in our people. Making the working environment a better place increases productivity (this might get them interested) and reduces sickness levels. I think alot of the troops would just settle for a break - impossible on many shifts.