Monday, 16 March 2009

Walking The Walk

Lost Skill

I can't help feeling that there is just a hint of reinventing the wheel in new policies about single foot patrols in London. It is all about the public's perception that they see pairs of police officers walking and talking and not effectively patrolling. I would say that most officers where I work have never single patrolled in their careers. I know this is not the case in other forces who just don't have the numbers full stop. In fact most officers rarely foot patrol. It is a lost skill, and we have ourselves to blame. This will form part of local policing pledges and will mainly apply to community teams. I'm not against this and think there are benefits in set foot patrols. Customer Satisfaction is the only target that counts to the bosses but more importantly you do achieve crime reduction.

When I was in charge of taskings I always had a set foot patrol operation at Christmas. It was all set out with instructions to walk an exact route and visit train stations where drunk office workers would return home after their festive do. It was timed to combat robbery offences in the peak period. I had to stress that all I wanted was the route walked, otherwise officers would skive off doing something else. It worked and there would be less crime in that area.

I'm unfortunately old enough to have spent the first two years of my career walking the streets alone. On the occasional night duty I might have been doubled up in a car after the pubs shut, but that was it, posted a beat, get out there and bring a return of work. I still do it - in fact that's what I was doing when I got my injury, and I think alot of officers will use officer safety as an excuse not to lone patrol. I think they have more of an argument over evidential reasons. Unfortunately the CPS still use your word against Joe Slag as a factor in dismissing charges where they want corroboration.

The return of work would show if the officer could be an effective street cop. I'm not going on here about setting targets, but if you are out patrolling there must be an expectation that you are going to deal with things. Stop accounts, searches, meaningful intelligence reports and self generated arrests show you can hack it. I am not convinced that many could actually produce the goods nowadays. A few months back I was on overtime patrolling a large development, and the looks on some officers faces when it dawned I expected them to walk all night was a sight to behold, and that was in pairs.

So common sense is slowly returning to policing. The bosses assume the skills are there that their previous policies have destroyed. I do question if we've lost the art and have the staff to deliver, and I include some supervisors in that too, because they've never done it either. The status of the foot patroller is low within the force, because it's hard graft and there are not too many volunteers to do what I do. It's a shame because it's pure policing and actually very rewarding.


Constable said...

It's how you cut your teeth, metaphorically speaking. You encounter so many people some of whom welcome you, others cross the road. On my patch the scrote who ignores you is usually the one. Don't miss the sore feet but do miss the freedom that you were allowed.

Wouldn't want to do it again but sure as hell makes you know where you are and tunes you to the needs of the job.

Regards, just a quick one after hospital appointment with the Mrs.

Anonymous said...


I couldn’t agree more. There is no doubt that the ability to solo foot patrol is a skill that takes a good couple of years to acquire. Most response officers now would be horrified to be asked to do it. This does not mean that they are incapable…they have just never done it. The blame for this deskilling is solely with management…..a foot patrol doesn’t generate as many stats as a mobile patrol. The fact that it’s what the public want and what crims hate is irrelevant. It can be wet and cold and it can be lonely but it gets results. If a copper can’t walk a beat then they are in the wrong job.

Every officer should be on foot for their first two years. This is not because “I did it so they should too” but because it is the best environment for honing your skills.

Robb WJ Ellis said...

We nearly had a fit last week. We had two coppers walk past our house!

Not "hobby bobbies" - but the real thing!

The difference was that they were so involved with their conversation that if I had been breaking into a house, they wouldn't have taken any heed.

Sad - but true.

The only foot patrols I embarked upon were days long and involved being dropped by truck in the middle of nowhere, and walking back. (I was in the ZRP...)

Best regards