Thursday, 31 December 2009

Goodbye 2009 Welcome Much Of The Same

One thing I can say I've learnt from this year, is to be more open. I therefore read the comments of Jack Straw and think why? You've read my last post where we didn't get the chance to sit around drinking tea in the warm. If it was really quiet we would have done so, but as a one off on what should have been a special day where basic humanity dictates, that even the criminals take a day off. I can't even remember the last time I heard a 99 being called.

I think the truth is that NuLabor have never liked the police service and always seen us as a necessary evil. Perhaps Jack Straw is just having another Pinochet moment !! All the political tinkering has never been about providing a better service to victim's but more creating some sort of centrally controlled arm of the state. If the Tories had attempted to pass half the laws this lot created, the masses would have been rioting in the streets. Instead everybody just let it happen because life was comfortable and nobody cared that it was all on borrowed money. They don't need the police any more as they head to oblivion so resort to type.

It's been a bad year of PR for the police service and maybe that suits certain people. I've heard several rumours about the year's hence. One is that our pension contributions will rise to 14% instead of the current 11%, with no increase on the actual pension pay out. Another is that after 2012 officer's will be pensioned off early. One thing for definite is that there will be cuts in officer numbers. Will it matter to the front line? I think not as we are already working on "less". The community team's are currently red circled but as I've said before those models will be re-visited.

A couple of high profile police trials coming up in the New Year will drag us down more, whatever the outcome. I hear Michael Mansfield might be out of retirement to represent Ali Dizaei, and I've stood up already and hopefully called it right for PS Smellie from the G20.

I usually at Year's End raise a glass to those I've put away. For the past 10 year's or so this has averaged 20 to 25 people a year inside because of me helping out on certain operations. It made all the stresses and long hours worthwhile. This year I've decided to cut back because it wasn't actually doing me much good health wise. I'm not even beating myself up for not doing so much but can still have a slurp to the 5 inside for this year. So sorry Jack you've had your pound of flesh from me and the difference between you and me next year. I'll still be here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

We Do Art Too !!

Ours was more Arty than this - Really Said something ...

The Christmas buffet at work looked nice laid out on the canteen table, and there it stayed looking like a Tracy Emin masterpiece for most of the shift. I wish I'd taken a picture. The hope of some fire brigade policing never happened, but some did manage to snaffle a sausage roll whilst scribbling out some arrest notes. We tried again the next day but this time the bags stayed on the table with most of it getting thrown away, the chicken drumsticks were by this time looking somewhat dodgy. At least the tea club will be fully stocked with biscuits and chocolates for a couple of weeks.

It might have just been one of those freakish set of shifts, but the Christmas spirit didn't really happen for us this year. We had a full on four days consisting of the expected domestics, but with a few stabbings, drunken fights and usual crime to contend with. Everything got dealt with and the cells were full, the team pulling together taking statements here and there so the job handovers were as complete as could be. We probably cut a few corners but there was always another call to be dealt with. The pressure was on and it wasn't fun. I checked some nearby Division's custody situation and they appeared to be having a quieter time of it.

I think it comes with working a diverse area. Some communities don't do Christmas so it's business as usual for them. I find myself having to build a few bridges after dealing with one of the more serious incidents. Trying to get to grip and handle a scene with hardly any officers is difficult. When a minority group is involved it is a nightmare. We were so short by this stage that even I had to get hands on, literally applying pressure to a wound. Around the periphery were people purporting to be community leaders telling me what I could and shouldn't be doing. I don't like that and my chain was pulled and they got a reaction instead of a response. This didn't help matters but they could do with getting a proper tablet, despite trying to explain our situation they always know best. It would have been helpful if some of the community had actually called police in the first instance, but then they like to pick and choose which laws they adhere to. It could have turned out worse but will still tie up the CID despite no injured parties wanting to assist us.

The team worked their socks off and everybody contributed to the cause. They don't need to be measured by targets, they know they grafted without breaks and did the business. So do I and It's my job to watch team fatigue and give something back. A couple might be sent home in turns next year before the end of the shift if we can spare them.

By then the centre will be back from their Christmas break telling us how well we did over the festive period but still wanting more. I could have done with some more troops the last few days but somehow we made it work, we always do.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Because It's Christmas

Belated Christmas greetings to one and all out there in Blogging Land. My Internet connection was down after a particularly busy Christmas Eve shift where I managed a cup of tea and a Jammy Dodger for breakfast and a Snickers bar for lunch. Must have been the wrong kind of frost on the line but I'm back on now. Funny how, when based in Germany I experienced much worse weather then we have having now and always managed to reach Mr Drinks Bar in Hanover. The roads were OK and the trains always ran, damned efficient those German's. We have totally lost it in this country haven't we?

12 hours of hell today but a quite full custody suite and a substantial quantity of drugs seized with several prisoners attached. So much that even the CID couldn't wiggle out of taking the job on. I think usually the prisoners would remain with us but suspect that financial considerations will take over and bail will be an option as everything has been scaled back for Christmas Day. All departments are closed apart from response who will take on the extra work despite being short ourselves.

I work every Christmas through choice and this year is no different. I only missed one a couple of years ago through toe rag connected injury and this is actually my anniversary of having a massive line of metal staples removed from my war wound. I'm mentally over it and am in a good place at present.

This year I've been fortunate and missed the run up to the festivities through being away on a course and on rest days. I have however got all of Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years day to work. I will only be cheered by those who find themselves in custody through their own stupidity and criminality.

I have been compared to Scrooge but fortunately I don't go in for all this goodwill to all men at Christmas time. I'm actually more consistent then Scrooge who gave in at the end. This may be because on past Christmas Day's I've dealt with murder scenes and too many domestics to mention. All of them result in the same whinge in custody "But it's Christmas".

I particularly loved the representations put forward by a solicitor one year after I'd decided to keep a prolific druggie shoplifter in to prevent him emptying the shops of more goods. I'd explained my position regarding the prevention of further offences due to his offending history and paused for her speech. If she'd offered up some reasonable conditions to prevent his offending I would have considered them, but all she could offer was "It's Christmas and I appeal to your nature to bail him without conditions, the magistrates will only let him out anyway".

She would have been right on the second count but she should have played the game at least. Christmas is not on the list for making people eligible for bail, so one extra customer for us for the night. He should have gone to court the next day which was Christmas Eve but "Couldn't Be Bothered Security Contractors" failed to get him him to court in time so he was still there when I came in for late turn facing a Boxing Day court date. So it fell to me to review his continued detention as custody officer.

I let him out on short bail to court after the shops had shut and would like to point out this was only because my grounds for keeping him in had ceased, nothing to do with the time of year.

Happy Christmas to you all and thank you for those who have contributed to this blog. You have amused me no end and kept me grounded and reasonably sane. I am grateful to you all.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Le Bash

I'm very pleased to report I've survived the Team Christmas Do unscathed and will be a year closer to collecting my full pension. I was in two minds if I should go or not but in the interests of team bonding I made a fleeting appearance before making an early exit. It was rather like an excursion on holiday where you know the food is going to be shite and you'll be ripped off but you must enjoy yourself cos' it's Christmas. I wasn't disappointed, for nearly fifty quid the fare was rather a let down and at 4 quid for a small bottle of beer Stressed wasn't going to be embarrassing himself by rolling about in the gutter afterwards.

I was relieved that nobody managed to show themselves up, but have since heard that things didn't go too well on some of the other team's functions. The thing is with a police party, if anything happens the first people complaints come looking for are the supervisors. I'm not excusing poor conduct but why should I be held responsible for supervising grown adults on a private do when off duty? Wait a couple of weeks and there will be stories of police Christmas Do's going bent. I think we come second to professional footballers in the press attentions and maybe Harry Redknapp was smart in banning the Player's party at Tottenham.

I know people who have lost their jobs through antics over the festive period, and with a bit of careful planning trouble could be avoided. When I worked on a particularly infamous unit our Do's were planned to minimise antics. The party was always above a quiet pub in a private room not shared with other punters and contact with the public was limited . Anything happening out of order would only involve our own people and could be nipped in the bud early on.

The CID party also now appears to be a thing of the past on Division. The yearly free for all was frowned upon for the ensuing naughtiness and gossip. That's a shame because some of them were great. When I used to do some work for the squads I'd pick up a few invites and could really relax into it as a guest. One year I actually took a week off to attend Christmas Do's, and "The Squad" party had the best raffle ever.

Next year I think I'll be giving it a miss. I don't even like Christmas.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Looking Out For A Local Hero

This is the first year in many that I'm not personally dealing with community complaints. As the dark nights draw in, the local kids my way would invariably start hanging out in the communal well lit blocks resulting in calls from distraught residents.

I suppose these residents were no different from Mrs Sick and Tired who has started a blog about her frustrations with police inability to deal with youths blighting a local park. As we are all now citizen focused I'd be surprised if these community problems were not the number one priority in all police areas across this country.

I'm not aware of her specific situation other than groups of youths are gathering late at night, drinking and affecting her quality of life. Her anger is directed towards the police, and one assumes that's a negative point for the local force if she's filled out a customer satisfaction survey.

I know that a call to my force would probably result in no police attendance from response. The call centre would put it out on the radio if the local community team was on, but just print the complaint for a later follow up if they were off duty. Unfortunately as no crimes are being committed it's not seen as a high priority. We are indeed too busy attending the houses of probably the said same youths to deal with their parents for minor domestic squabbles, which are also not crimes but require us to compile comprehensive records. Sorry about that but a non-crime domestic between people scoring points trumps a non-crime gathering of youths making your life hell. I can assure you Mrs Sick and Tired that we'd rather come and help you out.

We would of course be pretty powerless to do much other then move them on or try to. Unfortunately even then it's more down to persuasion and a will of minds. This achieves very little because they're be back the next night. Mrs Sick and Tired wonders why we can't take the kid's home in our cars. I think somebody palmed her off with the old not covered by insurance line. Human Rights legislation dictates that we can only take young people into police protection which is a detention, if they are likely to come to "significant" harm. I doubt that covers a street wise juvenile drinking in public.

I think the best course of action in her situation is for the community team to get off their backsides and show some presence. I would have posted my team there in the park stood right in the middle of the kids. This would have been to identify them and get my message across. They are probably there because the location gives them somewhere to sit and is well lit. I would look to have the lighting turned off so they would be in darkness. The seating could be relocated or changed.

One thing I know is that having improved things for that community the youths would move on to another lit place with seating. My ideal solution would be to find a location away from residents in the park with shelter where they could hang out to their hearts content and not annoy anybody. It would of course need policing re alcohol drinking to keep a lid on things. I'm not suggesting appeasing the youths but sometimes it's better to accept we can't solve everything and should try something different to give everybody a quieter life. I'm sure Mrs Sick and Tired just wants them gone.

Monday, 7 December 2009

It's Different For Girls

OK, I admit to hating dealing with drunk women and give them extra leeway. Am I alone in this? I think not. I first noticed this flaw in policing when as a young probationer I was sat in one of those old station vans with the bench seats. The senior PC had arrested a drunken howling aggressive female who was going nuts. She took a dislike to him and ended up kicking him in the face with her high heels. Despite his facial injury she was only sheeted for D and D. He was ribbed by his peers (not me) for this unfortunate incident and it was only because she was a woman and his embarrassment that she got different treatment.

I don't know why but the female of the species when drunk is particularly scathing and abusive to all and sundry. They won't listen to reason or warnings and when the inevitable happens and they have to come, they will kick off screaming that they can't be arrested and you're a bully picking on a woman. The custody officer is never best pleased either, having to put up this conduct until they sober up. Once a bloke hits the cell he tends to get his head down in a drunken slumber. Women will keep up the spiteful comments and door banging for a considerable amount of time.

Only the other week I came across a drunken melee in the street, usual Friday night stuff. I could just about make out who was swinging the punches between the crowd of men and women. I've got a couple of probs with me and get out the car to break it up before trying to see who's started it. Initial fracas over, it starts again with the men squaring up. I arrest one idiot for threatening behaviour and cuff him up. He knows me, I can't remember him but he's nicked and this calms the males, but not the women in the group. I'm this, I'm that, I'm grabbed and I could easily begin to fill up the cell space. As it is we end up arresting two males from one group, which just happens to be the one with the gobby women. At the time I believed we ended up dealing with the trouble making group so we left it at that.

Back in custody the one I've arrested is calm and peaceful and not even drunk. He tells me how one woman in his group started the whole disturbance and that it all got out of hand. He knows he was out of order but was now calm and compliant as was his mate. I think he called it right when he stated that the women in his group deserved to be there. There was some bloke bonding all round and we all instinctively knew we'd prefer it this way. They'd backed up the women and would have been for it if they hadn't. I booked him in and booted him out NFA IM 2:16 applies, on condition he'd have a word with the girlfriends. The mate got a PND as he'd been throwing punches.

Maybe I wanted to readdress the gender inequality on what is classed a crap job and as we're not chasing detections was able to do so, or was it an admission to not wanting to deal with the real catalysts? See we can be sensible and fair sometimes, even when there are offences committed.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cash Is King

I knew that cuts would be coming but not necessarily this financial year - things must be really bad. A extra 10% hit to an already non existent overtime budget means there is less than 2 hours per officer available each month.

The main savings will be made by scrapping civilian staff posts, those individuals will be deployed elsewhere within the force. Who will be back filling their jobs?, who but my team officers from the front line shift, which means less time off all round to maintain minimum staffing levels on normal working days. It's all to do with different budgets and police officer numbers having to be maintained.

I fully expect rostered days off to be cancelled with more than 15 days notice to save cash too. Not a good week you understand to be hearing advertisements about the Policing Pledge on the radio and watching them on TV. How much money is this all costing? Alright it might be Home Office money but I think they may have been better off channelling this towards improving visibility on the streets and not just promising it. That 80% patrol promise is only for community teams anyway. I worked on community and believe me that's an empty promise. If they were not red circled you just get the feeling up above would like to sacrifice a few PCSO's at 25k a pop.

The bosses are now pushing cash savings and not arrests alongside other targets. The dreaded hand over of prisoners between shift officers to save a few pennies can't be too far away. I've even heard one budget holder talking of bringing his cars in early on the last night shift to avoid the risk of overtime payments into rest days.

I'm not saying the police per se should be immune to cuts. We have grown fat under NuLabor like most in the public sector, but maybe we should be looking at some of the non jobs in existence. We don't tend to have them at the lowest levels.

Meanwhile the CID will carry on as normal, " You can't put a price on justice Bruv !! "

Friday, 27 November 2009

Checking The Road Ahead For Hazards

Everybody blogged including me about the footage above which was pretty unbelievable at the time. It was not widely known, but was reported that Sabina Eriksson went on to kill shortly afterwards. She has now been sentenced for stabbing a man to death, on the same day she was at court for assaulting a police officer in the film. She was released because she'd spent 12 days in custody on remand.

I think that any reasonable person can see that the individuals concerned were what we call a danger to themselves or others. One might assume there was some kind of mental assessment but still this lady was released onto the streets to kill. Now if we had released her from the police station there would have been an immediate enquiry and calls of neglect or worse, but the court appears to escaped criticism. I can't help but feel that somebody somewhere has made a poor decision in her case leading to the death of another.

Is It only the police who are expected to see into the future? There are now risk assessments to be carried out before we release prisoners in case they come to harm after leaving custody. This includes their well being in getting home up to the risk of suicide. An investigation will take place if anything happens to them within 48 hours.

There are times when hazards are obvious. I dealt with a domestic and went to arrest the perpetrator. The door was ajar as I walked up the garden path, but was slammed shut so the suspect was obviously at home. Gentle persuasion through the letterbox (taking care not to have implement plunged in my face) was fruitless so he was told the door was coming in. This often has the desired effect and I stepped back some way as the door opened, to be be confronted by a lunatic wielding a hefty table leg above his head. He then charged towards me and attempted to bring the table leg down on my head. I managed to side step and just got my baton out to deflect his down strike. My oppo then sprayed him with CS disabling him. Be in no doubt if he had sweded me I would have been somewhat injured to say the least so he's a dangerous bloke right?

The wife had been subject to long standing violence and showed me scars where she had been beaten previously and stabbed. We had not always been involved and alarm bells begin to ring in my head. This bloke needs putting away big time. The charges were ABH on her and Affray with an offensive weapon chucked in too. Stressed was actually at court himself the next day to seek a remand but was greeted by the sight of a smiling defence solicitor leaving the court room. The CPS had downgraded to common assault on the wife and threatening behaviour for the table leg attack. He was also to be bailed to the address of another family member who took delight in giving me the evils in the court room. Remonstrations with the CPS rep were pointless but he promised to review before it came back to court. It was a fob off and of course he didn't.

Didn't have blogs in those days so there was a ranting report sent off to the CPS about keeping stuff out of the Crown Court, which included a prophetic paragraph about me hoping this individual didn't go on to commit a serious offence or God forbid kill someone. It gave me no joy to hear this had an unhappy ending but I wasn't surprised. No, he didn't go on to kill the wife but actually ended up killing the family member who'd given me the evils in the court room. So he got his time in the end but would have been unable to commit that crime if he'd been in the right place already - prison. Oh how I searched in vain for a copy of that report to resend to the CPS.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Sabina Eriksson is one dangerous lady who should treated in a mental institution for a long time. I would be happier if she was never released, but I think we'll be hearing about her in years to come.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

No Fishing Allowed

Do you really believe that we the police arrest people just to get their DNA? Why is it that The Daily Mail once again targets us when criticising the formation of the DNA database? What a load of shite they write. I'm sure they would be on full attack mode if we didn't arrest somebody who was later found through DNA to have been committing offences and we could have prevented them. Let's make it very clear there has to be at least suspicion of an offence before an Individual is arrested and this triggers the DNA sample being taken if it is a recordable offence.

If a person is innocent or NFA'd that DNA profile is currently retained. That is a government decision so direct your articles that way please Mr Editor of The Mail . I've always questioned if the taking prints and DNA from people arrested for minor offences is proportionate but there can be no doubt it helps in the fight against crime. There have been numerous examples where a DNA sample taken on arrest, has after a speculative search implicated that individual in a cold case. I am therefore in favour of the database.

The Human Genetic Commission report includes a quote from a retired senior police officer, a superintendent, who told the commission: "It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so". His assumption links to the need to take DNA but in reality it comes back to officers covering their backs. Presently there is a big purge on to arrest all named suspects on outstanding crime reports. The reason, because of press outrage when we didn't arrest suspects who went on to commit offences. So what do the press want - you can't have it both ways. Alot of those suspects will be found innocent or shouldn't have been named suspects in the first place.

I must admit that DNA samples were in the back of my mind when arresting a local lad for a smidgen of cannabis once. He was however a Jamaican drug dealer not long in the country who I'd been after for ages. We didn't have his prints photograph or DNA on PNC. My reasoning was that by having his DNA on record there was always a chance that he would implicate himself in later operations when he sold crack from his mouth. All perfectly legal and above board and one reason why I'm not into cannabis warnings per se. He will be one of the 3/4 of black males within a certain age group on the database. The report wants an equality strand inserted to counter this percentage.

I haven't read the report in great detail but apart from the sensational headlines in the press some makes a bit of sense. DNA retention does need looking at and I would suggest a criminal database for the guilty on PNC and a separate database for innocent and juvenile profiles to be looked after by an independent body, but still searchable.

Oh and by the way my fingerprints are on file and so is my DNA somewhere. It doesn't bother me as I don't commit crime. I'm more worried about being on databases elsewhere which leads to my phone ringing all the time to sell me crap*.

* This has eased since I registered here

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Right Place - Wrong Time

PC Bill Barker - RIP

PC Bill BARKER was where he should have been, helping to steer others away from danger. This life can be very cruel, he was snatched from his family and friends. Nobody could envisage what was going to happen. Forget your health and safety investigations, sometimes these things happen.

He was doing something that can't be measured as part of this job we do. He was at the right place but unluckily the wrong time.

Thoughts today lie with family and colleagues up North.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Getting A Little Bit Back ..

The Crown Prosecution Service and us working together to bring offenders to justice. That has a lovely ring to it but I've never found us to be singing from the same hymn sheet. I think that most police officers see the CPS as one of the main causes of increased paperwork, leading to the inevitable result of dodgy NFA or dumbed down charges after charging advice.

Not totally their fault of course, they have to apply the Prosecutors Code and take into account the public interest so would need to see as much possible evidence at the outset to reach a decision. This means in reality massive case files being completed so they can write loads to justify their decisions. I might be a tad cynical however there appears to be an agenda to keep things simple charge wise and out of the Crown Court where possible.

The first time I encountered the CPS charging was over a knife possession where everything had to be faxed off to a lawyer sat in the back of beyond. It was something I as custody officer would have charged as offensive weapon straight off, it being a proper hunting knife. Two hours later the advice came back to charge as points and blades (lesser charge). Waste of two hours there then over something that would have usually taken two minutes. They would have always changed the charge at court to points and blades to get a plead in any event.

We haven't helped ourselves in the past by charging people only to bring incomplete investigations to court where the CPS have had little option but to pull the prosecution due to the lack of a vital statement. I'm pretty certain that there has been a massive percentage decline in discontinued cases since they took over the charging authorisations. Hooray for that target being met but has justice been done in the long run?

The CPS lawyer in the station system soon fell into disrepute, when they were there but unavailable except on an appointment basis bar remand cases. These slipped back later and later until it was a pointless exercise. If you got a weary one most people would wait until they went off home anyway to use the out of hours system where you stood a chance of something more than NFA. They just got snowed under by the paperwork in the end.

It's good to see that some charging responsibility is coming back to the police. It's for summary only cases but will there now be a temptation for us the police to down grade charges ourselves to keep away from CPS and speed things up a bit? It makes sense for the CPS to stick to the serious or complicated cases, but why can't we have the simple theft either-way cases back too? All cases will still get reviewed by the CPS who will have the final say on if they get pulled or not before reaching court.

We rarely got it wrong when we charged in the past and hopefully now with dedicated prisoner processing units the paperwork standards on individual cases will be better too. This is a step in the right direction and will help somewhat. I stated last year that I had noted a sea change from above and now slowly things are actually changing.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Everything's Going To Be OK

The winter period has never exactly had me sparking into action, what with the depressing doom and dankness. I often wonder if I've got that SAD syndrome, but then I've always preferred Springtime to the Summer. This year I'm just going with it and not wishing the months away.

This week I was taken aback by the general response to the suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke. The general perception being that he must have led a great life and there was no room in it for depression. Since when did a state of mind restrict itself to certain occupations? The things that I picked up on were his fear of failure and drive to succeed thus setting himself the highest goals. It just struck a chord that he was somebody who had a perfectionist personality and it just took a stressor to put him over the edge and into a bad place. The numero uno stressor is bereavement and the loss of a child multiplies that one several times over. He did a good job of keeping his troubles from his team mates which is a shame. It was a very tragic story that played on my mind for days.

I even had a pang of sympathy for our unelected leader Gordon Brown. It's been reported that he too has been down in the dumps, and maybe that's why he has taken to pounding the streets. That's very therapeutic but he should learn to enjoy it more and control his own destiny as that too looked like a staged photo opportunity. If your minds not right I can understand the difficulty in stringing together a coherent sentence on paper, I do it all the time at work but still they spin about his disability. If he's a stress monkey then better out then in says I, and he should pop in here for a few tips.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that I was going to have a week of death and mortality thrust upon me with all these thoughts in my head. A close friend received an unfavourable diagnosis and as much as you try and remain positive the realities of life hit home and have you reflecting on how much time they may have left. What do you say to them?

A dead body found in the street is always going to involve us and if there are no witnesses to what happened we treat is as suspicious. Never assume anything, but after a couple of hours investigation stringing everything together it looks like a suicide. Possibly a victim of this recession but definitely a victim of their own thoughts. I speak to the next of kin on the phone after a death message had been carried out personally by officers. It was an unexpected shock, but the deceased kept everything in and wouldn't speak about things troubling them. There was a BIG stressor involved in that death too. I explain our procedures and try to be as helpful as possible but what can you say to somebody who's just had the worst news?

Maybe sometimes people just need to hear the words "Everything's going to be OK".

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembering All

This Remembrance Day is different for the Stressed family. My brother in law is currently in Afghanistan doing something. My sister is therefore one who waits, wondering why her satellite phone call isn't happening.

She knows why really but tries not to think of it, because there's been a death and the next of kin are waiting for the knock at the door. Remember everyone today, including those left behind.

I envy him but not her.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Looking Out For Your Own

I know it's common for us in the police to judge those with unruly offspring and put the blame on them for bad parenting, but it's not unknown for the children of police officers to have a scrape with the law. I can't think of anything more embarrassing then ending up inside a custody suite acting as appropriate adult for one of your own. I know numerous police parents who have gone through this, good people and it does alter your perception of dealing with young people and their parents. I look at my own boy who's a bit of a live wire and wonder how I'm going to keep him on the straight and narrow. I think I'll go down the line of keeping him off the streets totally.

I arrested a youngster years ago who was drunk and horrible wanting to fight all and sundry. He was cuffed up for threatening behaviour and kept it up all the way to the station. Once on the custody bench he calmed down and says "Do you know PC Fuller?" I said "Yeah why?". He said "Because he's my Dad". Sharp intakes of breath from everyone ensued, because PC Fuller was what is known in the trade as an old style copper. The gobby kid had been bounced through the swinging custody door by me but PC Fuller was well known for taking shit from nobody, and here sat his boy at 16 years of age.

PC Fuller duly attends the custody suite, where he usually worked to act as appropriate adult. He hears the story and asks the custody officer for a couple of minutes alone down the cells. I think it was more than a talking to from the yelps I heard. He was obviously a strict parent and it struck me then, if this is the reason some police brats rebel. I'm sure peer pressure plays a part too if they hang with the wrong crowd. It must be hard being a copper's kid.

I've been lucky with my children so far. The girls have coped pretty well with a difficult childhood, the first Mrs Stressed kept them off the streets when they were younger, which was handy as she lived in a rough pit village up North. Anyone policing North East would raise an eyebrow or two if I named it. So just the boy to get through unscathed which I suspect will be a tad harder. I've now got umpteen years of standing on the touchline at football ahead of me, but that's a small price to pay to empower another of mine to reach their potential.

PC Fuller's boy ended up dead after taking Ecstacy, we suffer the same worries as all other parents don't we?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Shock Horror - More Police Less Crime

Thank God that Halloween's out of the way for another year. I think it was worth cancelling my day off with notice just to throw loads of police officers at the problem. I know that elsewhere some areas weren't so lucky. On Monday the big boss will breath a sigh of relief as his robbery figures haven't spiked as in previous years.

The extra boots dealt with over 30 calls, mainly to large groups of known faces who for some reason chose this of all nights to "try" and rampage through the streets. At least they kept their fun to themselves having firework fights aimed at their brethren rather than the general public. I don't know where they were hiding these fireworks as they'd been turned over more than once. There's a cost in man hours but this is a regular operation we can't do without every year. Unfortunately tonight things will be back to normal.

In the past it has actually been total and utter carnage. Robbery after robbery by youths in Scream masks as we let the zombies take over the streets to prey on what could be you or your family. By using section 60 powers authorised by a senior officer we can use stop and search powers to deter carrying of weapons and demand the removal of face masks. There can be no doubt these tactics alter the perception of offenders.

I'm sure some would say we are demonising these youths but the results speak for themselves. Extra police numbers on the streets does have an impact.

I've seen the touchy side work too but on a smaller local level. One year I waved off two coaches consisting of the local youth and their families who were exported to a Fright Night at a far off theme park. They had discounted tickets paid for through some community fund, or to put it another way tax payers money. There was tumbleweed blowing along my streets that night that were well patrolled to deal with those who didn't make the trip. The radio was however spewing out offence after offence in other areas.

I'm glad we're on top, be it for just for a day, and no one really moaned at losing their day off either. I think everybody wanted it to be like this every day. There will be a time when somebody will make a decision to empty the offices for good and return officers back to the streets. No doubt they will be hailed a genius.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Second Chances

Well that last post totally missed the point and prompted some conflicting reactions. I can now understand why the senior police ranks haven't stood up. The public perceptions have been skewed and are rallying against us. I wonder what a general public perception survey about the police would show since April, people are not happy. There's been plenty of mud flying about and boy it must be sticking.

My thoughts are still on the management of those in the shite. It seems only fair that somebody should take an interest in their welfare, and I don't just mean to cover the duty of care side for the job. At the moment most of it is left to the Police Federation representatives at individual stations. I think you have to be pretty non-judgemental, and considering us police people look objectively at cases and make decisions we're not bad at it. Lets face it who else could deal with child molesters and have no feelings at all against them, so supporting our own should be no different.

There was a lad where I used to work who got arrested for drink driving. Good policeman but there were known issues that were not dealt with before his arrest and conviction. It's a rather open and shut case and always leads to a discipline board. I went along to support him and provided a character reference knowing that he was likely to be dismissed. It was horrible waiting for that decision but due to the circumstances he kept his job. Before anybody goes off on one the discipline regulations have been changed since then and I've not heard of anybody being kept on for a similar conviction. I think quite a few kept out of his way beforehand unable to handle the embarrassment of knowing what to say to him.

We're unlikely to get second chances now and every police officer knows the score. It doesn't stop loads of people still blowing their careers. Most only have themselves to blame but until they leave us a bit of human decency and understanding towards them isn't too much to ask.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Standing Up

Did anybody catch Dispatches on Channel 4 the other night Ready For A Riot where yet again G20 and public order tactics were discussed. One thing that caught my attention was how senior officers offered little support to those on the front line. It really was a case of you're by yourselves folks. They are really more worried about the public relations disaster of their own making. Was it not the planners who stated there would be a robust approach to "unlawful" protest?

Now I'm not saying they should condone behaviour that is indefensible - we all know where the line is, but I do like to look at other management styles. Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager will defend his people to the hilt having the ability to see nothing, and the old Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens came out and supported the troops after the Countryside Alliance disorder. His comment "no one got cracked over the head for no reason" showed real leadership and despite criticism from others was the correct response. I don't think any police officers were convicted because their actions were in fact shown to be justified. They also looked worse than any G20 footage.

I do therefore feel for Sgt Tony Smellie who has been summonsed to appear in court. My view was that this officer would not be prosecuted for his officer safety master class outside the Bank of England. It's not just my opinion, senior officers where I work tend to agree that he'd acted lawfully in covering the backs of his officers. This incident because of the media storm is in the public interest and we have to endure a court hearing before this officer is cleared. It sets a dangerous precedent.

This blog supports Tony Smellie who is an outstanding officer and hopes the full facts are reported if his case goes to trial. This post is about being seen supporting the front line and not about his case in particular. We can discuss the legal bits n bobs about lawful force once he's found Not Guilty.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Ticking The Box, For The Box

When I read about customer surveys being completed by prisoners who visit custody suites I thought it was just more bumf associated with being customer focused. I can't get excited about these satisfaction statistics, especially when one month we were shown as having 100% customer satisfaction at the front counter. This resulted from just two questionnaires being completed. That fact was not published in the nice coloured chart displayed to the waiting public.

I am however rather shocked to hear from a well connected source that we are actually considering putting televisions into our cells. This would be for the benefit of our guests who should have all comforts, as it must be bad to deprive them of their Jeremy Kyle fix. I imagine there is a police department somewhere agonising how to supply this human right to everybody, after all if you don't speak English shouldn't you have a channel in the language of your choice?

Perhaps we should go the whole hog and have a huge waiting room instead of cells, turning the custody suite into a copy of Kwikfit with self serve drink machines. Now I don't for one minute believe the police hierarchy are responsible for this, it must be coming from some government ministry, mustn't it?

Let's just hope that now the country is nearly bankrupt this extra expenditure is shelved, but don't bank on it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Lender Of First Resort

There is one good thing about having policed the same area over the past umpteen years. I am in a unique position to compare things now to what went before. I do recall one Superintendo stating that response team would have a strength of 21 and if it fell below that, he would post people from non-operational posts to maintain that level. I think at the time there was a concerted attempt to raise the status of uniformed reliefs. It never happened and that same team now has a strength of 14.

That's not to say there are less boots on the street, with the community teams and dedicated squads we do in fact have an abundance of resources. Unfortunately they all work towards their individual remits. The reported levels of volume crime have decreased considerably even when you take into account some minimal fiddling. I know this because I was in the morning hot seat nearly 10 years ago having to read out the overnight figures. I can put this down in part to the pro-active activities of the Burglary squad, Drugs squad, Robbery squad and Motor Vehicle squad.

These are not made up wholly of CID officers but have to take constables from the response teams. Due to the type of work they undertake the most productive officers will be spirited away from uniformed response. After some short term pain they will be replaced, but most likely by a non skilled probationer or I think I must call them student officer's. Some of the teams where I work have over 60% of probationers (less than 2 years service) making up the core strength. When I was in my probation over 20 years ago I was the only newbie on my relief for a 2 year period and that's a lot of tea making I can tell you.

I'm continually having to give up people when a new temporary squad is formed to meet some centrally imposed target. We have newer squads other than those mentioned, which I won't name so not to identify my area. It's always with no notice that I have to provide another constable and it will invariably leave us struggling to cope with calls. I feel like the coach of a football academy being stripped of my best players having invested time in bringing them up to a high standard.

It's the way it is and you can't really stand in the way of a constable seeking better working conditions on a squad, with the added benefit of overtime thrown in too. If I was them I would be sorely tempted too and being totally honest the results speak for themselves. Response team is harder work than it's ever been and I must say I'm very proud of what these youngsters produce and their commitment. All I ask for now that those volume figures have gone down is for some of the constables back.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Lost In Translation

Now as I'm part of the policing organisation I should have some idea of where we are trying to go strategically but I'm actually getting rather confused. I know bringing in changes takes time but at the moment there just seems to be a clash of seismic plates.

On the one hand we have the modernisation and best value plans where the top police brains have looked at our functions and stated what our core responsibilities are. This has been going on for years since the Taylor report, where it was made clear that the police are not actually responsible for public safety at football matches and other commercially organised events. Since then we've also withdrawn from house alarms not connected (paid for) centrally to police and noise nuisance, both of which are referred to the local authority who have the powers to deal that we don't. The Highways Agency now patrol the motorway system to keep it flowing and deal with traffic issues freeing reduced numbers of police to deal with enforcement and accidents. The local authority have street wardens in spanking brand new 4 wheel drive vehicles equipped with CCTV to patrol social housing estates and respond to complaints from residents. Some forces like in the Pilkington case obviously already see low level stuff as non police matters.

We then have the policing pledge where we are to concentrate on the customer and their needs. In reality large numbers of police officers are becoming involved in non police activities attempting to engage with the general public and raise satisfaction levels. Most of this work is done by local neighbourhood teams, one of which I used to lead. There was always a balance to be found between fighting crime and keeping the punters generally happy and reassured. I know it wasn't really the role of my PCSO's to accompany some old people to the dentist or do some chores for them but it did embed them in the community and raise satisfaction levels. It also allowed me to gauge what was going on and the perceptions locally. I also used to totally plan and police local events including processions and community fun days. It still happens and is encouraged but the responsibility actually lies with the organiser for the event.

So who would you call if the neighbours across the road were having a noisy party at 3am on a Thursday night? A call to the police should receive the policy line, contact the duty officer at the local authority, who should in turn contact the environmental health officer. As most of them go off duty at 2am the duty officer would tell you the bad news and invariably say try the police. It's a fact that the police are seen as the service provider of last resort and if we didn't turn out because we've run out of units no doubt you would be pretty dissatisfied with police.

You can see the conflict of policy here as police are withdrawing from having a visible local presence, closing police stations and going towards central bases on industrial estates where all the patrol resources are in one place, with no public contact or access. It makes financial sense but is it focused on the needs of the community who lose their local police station?

The central message coming out has been lost on me so how are the general public supposed to work it out. This needs somebody in Government to sit down and decide what route we should go down. Meanwhile those on the response teams are still running about like blue arsed flies.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Decent Thing

I was mightily peeved the other year with the government failing to ratify our pay settlement to save them 20 millions or so. It was the principle - not the money. Since then they agreed with federated ranks a three year pay deal, which I think awards us 2.6 % this year and 2.55 % in 2010. Think how much more they could have saved by sticking to the old agreements.

Now that they propose to freeze pay awards for high earners in the public sector, I would just like to say I'd willingly give up any pay rise this year. Of course I'd expect a total pay freeze on all public sector pay and a promise for immediate cuts in public sector spending to be committed to by all political parties. I think even we in the police could lose a few departments. I could name several we could do without without affecting front line delivery. I'm sure most forces could do the same.

I would then expect this government to do the decent thing and call an immediate election. It's not going to happen is it?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Civil Route - Stronger Justice

I've been beaten down by the criminal justice system and like many others just accept it as a waste of time. There is no fear of it from young offenders and in the Fiona PILKINGTON case a criminal prosecution would have had little effect.

Here is the sentence handed down to a youth convicted of attempted robbery that I was involved in.

Supervision Order 9 months to follow directions in the order:
  • Supervised by a member of YOT (Youth Offending Team)
  • Participate in young black men's group work programme
  • one to one sessions with victim liason worker to address the impact of offending on the victim
  • reparation sessions as assessed by specialist worker
  • one to one sessions to consider thinking and behaviour and appropriate responses to situations
  • one to one sessions to identify and engage in appropriate training or employment.

Now for non recidivist offenders the above might well be worthwhile. I'm sure that for many it might divert them from a life of crime. More minor offences would also be subject to intervention by the youth offending team. Non compliance can result in curfew by Tag and being taken back to youth court. You need to be convicted though for any of this to take place, very difficult in itself. In the case I allude to above the best result was having the lad and his mates on conditional bail for several months on a night time curfew before trial. I'm sure it was a coincidence that the little series of robberies I'd suffered locally ceased during that time. Robbery is of course seen as a more serious offence.

For the minor public order offences I've seen the civil law used to good effect. One particular tool I like is the ASBI (Anti Social Behaviour Injunction) which despite the fancy handle is just a civil injunction. This can however come with a power of arrest if the civil judge decrees.

It would appear from what I've read that the Leicestershire council had taken over the lead on the Pilkington case and gone down the proportionate route by first getting an ABC (Anti-Social Behaviour Contract) signed by some young people. This is basically just the first step to getting an ASBO where conduct is challenged and a contract signed where they promise to behave and not contravene certain conditions like throwing stones etc. The local authority was in the process of getting things done as an ASBI was also granted but this was after the suicides. They were actually getting there and I think the orders in place may have helped. Perhaps the local police should have put their remarks about the criminal justice system more bluntly.

I would assume an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) was not sought as this would have meant researching and compiling a massive pack of incidents and statements to put before the magistrates court. These are somewhat time consuming to say the least.

Let me give you an example of when my local authority sought an ASBI. A young man came onto one of my estates and abused one of the caretakers threatening to hit him. The caretaker only knew his first name, so things were discussed at the joint ASB meeting. Yours truly puts forward the likely suspect and supplies an address and police image. I'm set for an investigation knowing full well that the lads friends would back him and it's the caretakers word against them, CPS would say unrealistic chance of conviction = No Further Action.

The ASB manager who I've worked with for years is a good bloke knows this too well. He wants to protect his staff and is committed to getting an ASBI. I supply a few bits and pieces he requires, he gets a statement and their legal department get an injunction. The result being said individual is banned from the estate for 12 months WITH A POWER OF ARREST for me should I catch him. I was convinced he would breach it but he didn't or not to my knowledge. I was still on his case but when I spoke to him he saw this as a stronger punishment than if we'd gone down the criminal route, even if we'd got a conviction. The caretaker was happy too as he'd been supported by his employer.

I should just add that I worked with a very much "can do" authority that did actually allocate many resources to ASB. They had better vehicles, better kit and better administration back up than I could ever muster.

I suppose it depends on the judge who sits in the county court. I'm not so sure that they would be keen to grant injunctions in similar circumstances against juveniles. Civil route is definitely the way forwards. Lets just get an injunction to ban travelling criminals from being in certain areas where they've been caught doing crime. They can then be arrested and placed in front of a civil judge to explain why they breached their order.

But we shouldn't even be contemplating the civil law should we? Shows how badly things have gone. Tough On Crime Mmmm ..

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Taking Responsibility .. Just Do It

I very much disagree with Superintendent Steve Harrod that anti-social behaviour and low level hooliganism is not the responsibility of the police. I don't know who rules the streets in Leicestershire but I would hang my head in shame if a similar case happened on my patch. He is not picking up on what's important here. The silent majority are suffering from swaggering youths and want them to be tackled, but feel ignored. Those comments do not do much to instill confidence in the police do they?

I take his point about the inept criminal justice system and punishments handed out to young people in the form of reprimands, but does that mean we should do nothing? There are things that can be done and working together with the local authority can actually be more effective than the criminal route. I don't know what they did up there, but one of the best meetings I used to attend was our anti social behaviour one with the housing officers. We would discuss local problems and you could gauge where the demand was coming from. A few extra patrols and a few words in the right ears was often enough to nip things in the bud.

When that didn't work it was a case of getting out there and taking the ground. Youth gathering points would be visited to identify the likely culprits. This caused conflict with the kids whose usual riposte was "we ain't got nowhere to go" "we ain't doing nothing" "why are you always harassing us?" You could pass the names to the local authority who could send out warning letters but this is only a first step to deter them.

I've always found the best way was to covertly record their antics. This would mean getting a RIPA authority to conduct surveillance. I would only use this after pro-active patrolling had failed to stop the unruly behaviour. These kids will hang out every night and police teams due to shift working just can't put out the same presence on a regular basis. Sledgehammer to crack a nut? Well it is certainly an awful lot of paperwork, but if everything else has failed what else can be tried?

I received a lot of complaints about kids throwing eggs, smoking dope and being noisy on one of my estates. Nobody rang me direct and they rarely called 999 because by the time units turned up the kids had gone, if anybody actually came. They would however stop and tell me on foot patrol.The evidence was all over the back windows of the houses that backed onto the estate. A bit of door knocking, and some of the residents told me how bad things were. They were kept awake by shouting and swearing but when they shouted at the group they got abuse back, followed a few days later by eggs thrown at their property. One lady even had her window smashed splintering glass over where her baby usually slept. Bloody disgraceful, now tell me again that this isn't conduct that police should tackle.

A few days of filming showed a group gathering sat on railings outside of a sheltered housing block. The railings were about three feet from an elderly lady's back window. I filmed continued spitting on the floor so it actually formed a small puddle, smoking of cannabis and general noisy screaming and shouting. OK nothing too outrageous from a criminal view point and definitely seen as low level anti-social behaviour but to the other residents it was living in hell. I got a statement from the old lady who was at the end of her tether and had previously contacted the housing office to complain. She however chose to just live with it too scared to go to bed if the group were outside her window. Tell me again how this is not the responsibility of the police to deal with it. I would hope that Mr Harrod would not try and pass this off if he dealt with these people and would actually do something to help them.

The video was not pleasant viewing and some of the parents of those identified were invited in to the housing office to see it. They were really ashamed and thankfully in that case it was enough to solve the problem. I've seen the same tactic used where the behaviour was more criminal. All the culprits were summoned to a youth clinic to be reprimanded. Some police officers out there do care because they can see what's wrong and will work hard to do something for the silent majority .. it's called taking responsibility.

RIPA - Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 .. Authority to be granted by superintendent for covert surveillance activities. Lots of writing about proportionate use and necessity so not to infringe the human rights of those who don't give a shite about anybody else.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Choir Practice

When you think how much time is spent working with drunks and people with a host of issues, you would think we would be quite good at spotting those officers with the same problems. I've obviously worked with people who like a good drink, but have never been able to see when the alcohol and work thing has gone too far.

I should know better having come from the army with a massive peer group drinking culture. In that environment the pressure to consume and hold your drink was immense. Every night would involve massive drinking sessions and I rarely took to my bed without the ceiling spinning. Of course returning to the UK on leave meant I could show off my new found drinking capacity. It was stupid considering the drinking culture continued on exercise and we were in charge of some dangerous kit. I used to rebel against this by going on fitness drives, and keeping out of the bar for 6 week periods especially when I started getting the shakes. I still keep in touch with my old comrades on specialised army reunion sites. Many who stayed in for the full term make no secret of their alcohol problems.

I can't speak for the CID but my general feel is that we in the uniformed police have moved away from a drinking culture. The days of the team drink after early turn are gone but I have heard of a few brave souls who manage to get out straight after their last night shift for an early morning session. As a supervisor I tend to keep clear just in case some inappropriate conduct from others gets me in the shite. I'm a firm believer in police, drink and the public not mixing unless it's a tried and tested establishment.

I do miss going to the police local where we had one side of the bar and the general public had the other. It worked well and the landlord (old fashioned pub) did very well out of the arrangement. Shift pattern changes and people travelling from further a field really saw the impromptu drink consigned to history.

I don't know what people get up to in their own time. A few of the single officers who lived in police accommodation were of course at risk of getting caught up in a drinking culture similar to me in the army. I don't know where a good drink becomes a drink problem and then alcoholism.

I bumped into a friend the other day who has had his problems with drink. He was an ex squaddie and never really got out of that lifestyle. His problems were known to the job who didn't really know what to do so they did nothing. He was working in the CID environment at the time and I wonder if that was the reason. It wasn't until he nearly lost his job that he started to sort himself out. He is now dry, attends AA meetings and is doing well in his job, a specialised role. He is helping out as a mentor to those with alcohol issues within the job and told me of the stigma attached to alcoholism.

Under the new misconduct regulations he would have been dismissed from the job, without any doubt. They would have lost a good police officer. I do wonder if every case should be treated on it's merits with regards to those with obvious alcohol problems that exist within this job, where people have missed or ignored it. Of course ultimately the person concerned has a responsibility to seek help too.

Loved The Choirboys film and this scene a good example of a team drink going wrong !!! It was made in the 70's so excuse the obvious stereotyping of both police officer and gay member of the public!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Getting Off On The Wrong Foot

I came across this video and it threw up a few interesting thoughts about interaction and getting off on the wrong foot. This post is not a criticism of the Police Community Support Officer who I think remains rather polite and puts his point of view across in a sensible way. It does not compare to the well viewed video of a PCSO being rude to a photographer in London. This lad saw it right to challenge somebody using the word shit repeatably in the presence of a young child and parent.

The situation escalates slightly into a discussion about the word shit after being told a ticket could be issued for disorderly conduct under the public order act. Obviously the members of the public involved see him as an authority figure who is being overbearing. Of course talk of issuing fines in this instance was not the way to resolution, but was a reaction to being told by the film maker to stop rebuking him from swearing. The end result being a credible score draw in my opinion, I know a few who would have let that get out of hand.

I was just wondering what the parent of the child would have thought. Maybe he was shocked by the use of the word shit in front of his kid. Would he have been aggrieved if the PCSO had not done anything and ignored the situation?

The comments on the YouTube video by cveitch are mixed either way, but I did like the one pointing out that the PCSO would probably say shit if he fell off his bike.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Protecting The Truly Good

Another set of nights is out of the way. It was relatively quiet .. I can say that now I've got a few days off. Quiet means we didn't get wiped out by any major jobs and actually met our Immediate graded call time targets. We only dealt with 30+ but they didn't end up with too many arrests. There were the same drunken fights from outside the usual drinking hell holes. The participants not being too bothered to take things further and going their separate ways relatively unscathed. We still ran out of units though, meaning I got the chance to attend a few calls by myself.

I was met by ambulance crews on most of these who rarely have a quiet night. I feel sorry for the ambos who have to deal with alot of crap from our shared customer base. It makes me feel rather angry when they get abused and their time is wasted. My old man was an ambulance driver when he first left the army but that was the day's of scoop them up, patch them up and get them to the nearest casualty which was never far away. Today these people are dedicated health professionals and highly qualified. Their pay should be on a parity with ours and I along with all other police workers respect them for the job they do.

One of the calls was to assist the ambos with a collapsed drunk male refusing to leave a bus. There were two ambulance vehicles present, a lone responder and a double crewed unit. I trudged upto the top deck to find a prone individual on the floor. He was conscious speaking and basically playing the dead weight game. They had already completed their checks and deduced there was nothing wrong with him medically. He was intoxicated but more I suspect from chewing khat than alcohol. After much persuasion which failed, he was just lifted unceremoniously by a joint services move and carried off the bus down the stairs and placed on the pavement still pleading illness and claiming to have lost the use of his legs.

Now we had a predicament, who was taking him. I was all for just leaving him there convinced that as soon as we'd left he'd get up and go home. The ambos quite rightly said that they'd receive further calls to a male collapsed in the street and have to come back. If I'd arrested him it would be the same result with him getting booked in and claiming an immediate medical condition that would have needed him going to hospital. Our police surgeons under a new scheme are not as accessible, so we are having to use A + E on a more frequent basis.

I was solely tempted to resort to methods of days gone by. This might have involved a police van and a drive to more scenic surroundings where he could be dropped off. I am of course more professional than that .. we all knew he would be wasting the time of the NHS tonight to cover everybody's backsides. So he was strapped up to see the doctor in casualty as he wanted to, just in case .. duty of care and all that.

I saw later that the same waste of space was in one our custody suites. The doctor had refused to treat him due to his conduct and he'd spat at one of the ambos, so backs having been covered he ended up in the right place after all.

The courts are supposed to take these type of assaults on NHS staff more seriously. I don't know if they do - or like us in the police it's seen as part of the job. It shouldn't be that way, I can live with it as a policeman but the ambos and nurses should be protected more by the law, because they are truly good people.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Falling Back To Earth

I've been reading some interesting stuff about Job Stress and how your occupation actually changes the way you think. This is not related to police work in particular but all different roles. The pressures exerted by management the role itself and by colleagues actually changes your perceptions and behaviours and makes you act in certain ways. It is fascinating stuff and got me thinking about how I might have changed in my views over the years.

I don't know how you would measure it, as we don't do Psychometric testing as a rule. If we did my old friend Dandelion would say we recruit complete psychopaths. We no doubt will have a few lurking in our midst but have they been created by this job? They are outnumbered presently in my opinion by weak willed individuals employed through a catch all recruiting process.

My class at training school completed one of those Psychometric tests just as a laugh. I took it seriously and answered it truthfully. You might know the type, numerous questions where you have to agree or disagree in the strongest terms or not to a particular statement. I can't remember many but your views on religion were sought. I strongly disagreed on that one. There was also one on liking fires - and as I'd set fire to the next door neighbours dustbin as a child I strongly agreed.

It was so long ago that the results were plotted on a graph and shown on an overhead projector, which was cutting edge technology at the time. The instructor showed that most of the class were within the expected range of normality. The only graduate in the class was over on the left with liberal views which was also normal for somebody with that education and thinking. He then moved the sheet to reveal a little cross off the scale on the edge of the universe which was mine. Apparently Genghis Khan should have been where Jupiter was and there was me out alone on Pluto. I like to think I'm different and didn't have any desire to join the rest of the class on planet Earth or the graduate on Mercury. As I'd just left HM forces I don't think that result was actually so shocking. I'd just had three years of ingrained discipline and training put through me and would have followed any order without question, including killing. I had been moulded into what the Army wanted. In reality I painted a lot of things green but that button was there to be pressed.

Several year's later, on my Sergeant's course we did another one. This was a bit different with similar statements but based around Team Task and Individual. To become the ideal manager you had to have a fair balance of three circles overlapping when they were plotted. I'd cheated a bit as I didn't go so strong on the strongly agree or disagrees. The result however showed me as the perfect leader. Looking back I was pretty hot at the time work wise and the personal life was only just going bent.

Ten years further on and I must be due another one. If I'd taken it a couple of years back god only knows what would have shown up. I would like to think I'm actually more centred and open today. As a result I trust nobody and that includes management at work and our government.

I think the only role the police use these for are undercover operatives. I believe there is a 3 hour Psychometric and a psychiatric assessment to be passed before being selected for training. I've often wondered why they don't do this for firearm's roles. I've seen a few "red misters" go onto specialised jobs with guns.

As I near the end of my career I do so a bit battered and bruised both physically and mentally. I am however aware of how I came to be here. My old man always said the job will flog a willing horse till it drops and I think he is right. Hopefully I'll be able to steer a few away from making my mistakes. To do so they will have to change and understand that your job is not your life. You are unlikely to change the world but you can change yourself.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Career Suicide

I must admit I have a tendency to watch those Cop shows on TV when nothing else is on, and might have had a walk on part in years gone by. One thing I don't do is allow my face to be shown - ever. Not great for the producers but if you don't like it don't film me. I've got a face best suited for radio anyway.

What you do see on screen are of course heavily edited segments of incidents put together to show a realistic and entertaining snap shot of policing today. I'm not saying that all the participants are put under pressure but as I understand it a small financial fee may come the way of the police, so it is expected the front line will co-operate.

What would worry me and I think alot of young officers don't give it much thought is the future impact on their policing careers. If you've appeared on these shows they have a tendency to be repeated on a loop, sometimes years afterwards. It may be on some obscure cable channel but rest assured that is exactly the viewing fare our client base enjoy. I think it's because they have a good laugh at the end of the programme, when the voice over gives out the sentences imposed for the misdemeanours earlier in the show. I'm often in tears myself - but mine are of despair.

So how can you be selected for specialised surveillance work or even proper undercover roles if you've been plastered all over the latest cop show? The reality is you can't. These day's having a Facebook account is enough to end your application at an early stage.

It would be nice however to see a warts and all police programme showing the reality of policing in 2009, not just the exciting bits. I think depending where they based it - there might be some uncomfortable viewing for the public and politicians alike. It could however bring about positive changes. Of course it would be career suicide for any senior officer who allowed it.

Having said all that the ex DC who does Crimewatch seems to have done OK from his media exposure. As I'm getting on in years I might just be tempted if a six figure contract was waved my way to defect to a TV career, and YES I'm available for Bod of the week in Heat magazine too. Just speak to my agent darlings.

Click on the YouTube link .. this cracks me up every time .. don't know why

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Getting Nowhere ... Slowly

It would appear we the police have another tool to tackle drunken anti-social behaviour in the Drinking Banning Order. Yet another law and power to read up on when the main cause of the problem is The Licencing Act 2003, brought in by you know who. I haven't read up on it yet and won't get any training at work, but if it's like most of the other stuff around licencing I can't see it being much use to me.

I think I posted on this last year when most of my evenings on night shift were taken up patrolling the "night time economy" or to put it another way a few irresponsible premises who allowed all and sundry to get hammered before decanting them onto the streets with predictable results.

The licencing act is I've found rather poor in tackling problem bars, and creates a bureaucratic nightmare for us the police with a system that is stacked in favour of the wrongdoer. The act allows conditions to be placed on a licence that can only relate to:
  • The prevention of Crime and Disorder
  • Public Safety
  • Prevention of nuisance
  • Prevention of harm to children

So this would cover opening times for the sale and consumption of alcohol, fire exits, use and storage of CCTV, the number of security staff to be on duty, the need for searches, a refusals policy and a host of other things the local licencing committee may see fit before they grant a premises licence. It's rather taken as read that the premises won't allow its patrons to drink to excess and contravene one of the above objectives. This is where the problem begins for us the police.

In the good old days any licensee would be invited into the station for a chat if their premises was causing a problem. If the subsequent warning wasn't heeded then a prosecution would soon follow and objections made when the licence was up for renewal. Now we have to take a "proportionate" approach and highlight deficiencies if there is evidence of poor management and instruct and advise said wrongdoer how to rectify the problem. This must all be evidenced with written documentation which must be able to be presented in court. After this "working together" which often results in an agreed action plan, a review can be called of the premises licence if there are still problems.

Now I've been through this process a couple of times. It involved countless statements from officers who attended fights and dealt with disorderly conduct, incident records, crime reports, and the tracking of individuals found drunk in the street to record which premises had been serving them. It is quite alot of paperwork and takes time to gather it over months when the venue is continuing to be a problem. This is where I differ with the Drinking Banning Order. In collating all the evidence on one particular premises we did not have recidivist troublemakers coming to notice at all, so it would have been a waste of time. The problem is the sale of alcohol to people who are drunk, the bars know it and take the money regardless, washing their hands of the problems on the streets later. You have to link the person causing trouble in the street to the bar to use any evidence against them.

If the local authority agree to a review then it's game on and the matter is brought before the local licencing committee. This consists of councillors who are local residents. Because our evidence is usually overwhelming they will then impose new conditions to prevent crime and disorder and nuisance, usually a reduction in hours which hurts the bar financially. Up to this point a lot of hard work but worth it. This is where the legislation tends to go wrong.

The premises can appeal to the magistrates court if they apply within 28 days and any changes to their conditions are put on hold. So they can carry on just as before until the matter comes to court. Most of the managed bars will go down this route because the loss of revenue is too great for them. With the usual delaying tactics this is often 6 months after the review hearing. Any smart bar will move the previous manager and start to play ball applying with their conditions.

As the case is now in the magistrates court every officer who provided a statement will be required to give evidence. No matter how good your original evidence to bring the review the other side will show how they are now a responsible premise and claim it would be disproportionate to change their conditions now they have "shown" over the subsequent period to be trouble free.

The court case effectively becomes a new review covering the time from the committee decision. It grates with me but that's the way it is. I would often during the 6 month period stand on the door of the one we had up for review and time and time again the door staff would refuse entry to drunks sending them down the road to other bars. We still had trouble in the streets be it from other venues who decanted said same drunks back out at 2am, but to be honest what was the point of going through a pointless charade again.

Maybe if the licencing committee review decision stood pending appeal then they might start complying with their conditions during the action plan stage. I won't be rushing to do another one that's for sure.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Funny Old Game

It's all rather tribal this football violence and a surprise to see Millwall and West Ham involved in some serious "old school" violence. I don't really get the mentality behind it, they have an organised scrap but will be "together" to do battle for En-ger-land at the next big tournament. I suppose their reputations are now enhanced and one or other would move up the unofficial "we are the hardest" supporters list.

I must say that I've policed football for many years and find the majority of "risk" supporters to be a load of dickheads and full of shite. What does concern me is that they've moved on from scrapping to actually stabbing each other. As with events in April poor old plod is again in the line faced with a mob, who this time were not too bothered who they fought with.

Millwall would be in my experience the fans I least like to police. They visited my area a few years back and it was an experience to say the least. They were horrible, aggressive and revelled in their reputation. I looked at the stand and saw three generations of the same family replicated time and time again, Dad Son and Grandson all looking menacing with their cropped haircuts. I was in the line stopping a pitch invasion and they were well up for it flicking spit at us and working themselves up to come over the top.

We were led by a great sergeant who made it very clear that if they dared to come over the hoardings they would get the necessary treatment it deserved. It sort of clicked that he meant it, so they boldly stated they'd do it outside instead. We then stood there as they decanted up the stand to start some serious disorder outside. Once they're running loose it's rather hard to contain them, so they have to be penned in at all costs. At least they tend not to moan about it afterwards.

As I understand it on these Carling Cup games the away fans get a larger allocation of tickets then a normal league match which boosts the attendance. This will make operational control a damn sight harder from the outset, so the solution is obvious even if it affects gate receipts. All this talk of lifetime bans won't stop it, a few maximum sentences perhaps will.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Summer Of Love

Can we discuss public order again after G20 in April? Another Climate Camp is planned to coincide with the Notting Hill carnival in London. It would appear there is unlikely to be a repeat of April after a review of police tactics, instead it looks like we're going to have a "love in".

After the Summer of Rage failed to materialise we're having community policing at this one, as suggested by Stressed after the April gig. They must be warning the dancing policemen for duty as I write.

Of course police resources are required to police that massive street event elsewhere, so why tie them up unnecessarily on some eco camp. One hopes that the participants enter into the spirit of co-operation and minimise their disruption to local people.

Nobody knows where the camp is to be located, but no doubt it will be close to Notting Hill so some happy campers don't have too far to wander back to their tents to carry on partying. Will the police prevent entry to a site when everybody converges on it? I doubt it very much. I suppose half of the campers will be reporters from the press anyway.

Can't wait for the spinning on this one with both sides trying to out do each other. Personally I wouldn't even police it, bar for the photo opportunity. It's a climate camp but there must be protest action planned for elsewhere. I'd cover that with mobiles as and when it pops up. Most troublemakers will be at the Hill anyway.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Some Days

How quickly can you run out of police officers? It is always touch and go but somehow we just about manage, except for some days. I don't know why it is, but occasionally you will just have a hellish shift when the box is empty and things are about to implode.

I should have known when the day team picked up an armed robbery at the arse end of their shift. Straight away there would be a scene to be secured and night shift officers deploying to relieve the others. The two early cars who parade an hour before the main shift to take up the slack had already been deployed to calls. The team were under minimum strength as often happens, but tonight we would be caught out. I brief my community team and hear the next call come out. Somebody had fallen several floors from a tower block with the inevitable result. It was going to be a long night. I find a vehicle and take my small team down to help out.

There are plenty of entrances and exits that need to be cordoned off. The duty officer is present and knows he needs more boots on the ground. Everything he has available is here, but the calls are stacking up too. He is able to pull in an additional community team to help, but they will take a while to get here. This is not a straightforward job, the circumstances are suspicious and will require a specialist squad to investigate. We are 45 minutes into the 12 hour shift and have no more units to deal.

The forensic tent is quickly deployed to cover the deceased, and offer some dignity. The other flat dwellers have a front row view of proceedings from their balconies. Everything is secured and officers briefed. Entry into the block is going to be managed by us. The deceased is known to us and to most of the other residents, who have put up with years of anti-social behaviour from the flat.

The caretakers cupboard is located, which has a toilet off of it and a power point. I drive the officers who were first on scene and a material witness back to the station, finding the tea club open and unused, so I liberate the kettle and some instant drinks from the custody suite. I also grab some soft toilet paper for use of the female officers on the cordons. That cupboard will be our sanctuary for the duration of this job.

Family members are beginning to turn up. They ask questions and I don't have any answers. A family liaison officer is being called in from home but will take a couple of hours. This group grows considerably and includes the teenage children of the deceased. The daughter is understandably distressed but consoles herself by swigging from a bottle of alcopop. The blue line is sombre and exercises discretion in not enforcing the no public drinking legislation. The other residents are not blessed with as much empathy. Somebody has made a comment to the group, not very complimentary about the deceased and a scuffle ensues. We break it up and escort the resident to her flat. She tells us they might get some peace and quiet now the deceased won't be around. What can you say?

The duty officer has sorted this out well. He's also trying to manage other scenes by phone and borrow some troops from the next door Division. This will free up a unit to answer some calls on the ever growing list. There will be a lot of peeved people tonight waiting for us. The specialised squad turn up in dribs and drabs, with red A4 notebooks. There's plenty of nodding as the area is in lockdown. We will hold the scene but the decisions are now for them to make. They speak to the family and the group dwindles. After a few more hours the body is removed and we move in some cordons and release team officers. Just my team and a couple from a neighbouring Division are left.

We are waiting for the local authority to clean away the body fluids. It's now the early hours and nobody is looking out anymore, they're safely tucked up in their beds. The quiet is shattered by a road sweeping lorry, one of those little one's with the little brushes that sweep up shite from the gutters before it's sucked up into the gunnel's. I speak to the driver expecting him to have a bag of specialised granules to soak up the blood. No this is it - I think we call this a communication break down.

More phone calls and talk of health and safety. We have to wait for a specialised clean up. We're in luck, a couple of hours later one turns up. He has a look and scrapes up some congealed blood and hairs into a contaminated waste bag. A quick spray with something and he hoovers up the rest. We have a look and there's still a redness in the concrete. Unbelievably he's got a power hose and sprays down the rest whilst telling me about the jumper he dealt with who came down 15 floors. Apparently there was only a blood pool of about a fists size on that job - fascinating stuff. He departs and we're nearly done.

The son of the deceased is nearby and asks if he can leave a flower. I just want to check everything's done and then see some more blood and hairs the other side of a low wall. Luckily the caretakers office has a hard broom. I scrub the blood away and also clear the area of beer cans and other litter. It's now ready and he can come forward. He lays a single flower probably pulled from somebodies garden, but it means something, it is his tribute. No doubt it will the first of many.

It's an hour to shifts end and our relief turn up. Some early turn have been called in on overtime to take over. There's only two needed for the front door of the flat. Another Sunday night is over.

The outstanding incident list was a mess and I shuddered when seeing the type of calls we never got to. Dozens of people thinking we are crap as we never turned up, but some days are just like this, us being very busy dealing with a serious incident.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


I do like a bit of reality so when the press go on about the mother of baby P getting fitness classes and a host of other life enhancing benefits when she is released, I'm not actually shocked.

It's not unusual for those with "issues" to have their every need tended to. Don't fancy getting up to take your kids to school - no problem, social services will send a taxi round each day to collect them and do it for you. House a tip - well can't expect you to get off your arse from trawling Internet chat rooms, social services will ensure somebody comes in to clean your house for you. Making it up am I? I don't think so.

The lady in question Tracey Connelly had more breaks than many, but chose to live the way she did indulged by society. Still it didn't save her son from a horrendous death. No doubt all the agencies will look at themselves and their policies in the hope that it will never happen again. Well unfortunately it will as long as we excuse feckless individuals the need for some personal responsibility.

When she gets out she should get nothing. How do we have a "duty of care" towards her? She and her ilk should have no anonymity or protection unless the threat towards them is real and assessed as such from hard intelligence not wishful thinking. I rather like the thought that she should suffer a bit of fear and should constantly be looking over her shoulder. I doubt it will compare to the fear that young baby suffered.

When is a political party going to come out and pledge to repeal parts of The Human Rights Act?