Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Bitch Is Back

It's been nearly two years, but I completed the old run I used to do before the accident. The metalwork appears to be holding up and despite the very slow time I'm rather chuffed to have shuffled round a few miles of green countryside. Hopefully a bit of muscle memory will return and I can press on a little step at a time. This is against my consultant's advice, but what the hell, life is for living. The new me has also started going to the theatre but Mrs Stressed has started to take advantage, dragging me along to a Shakespeare play. It took me half an hour to work out they were actually speaking English but once I got the gist of it - it was OK.

Despite the injury I've always been reasonably fit. Even now I would fancy myself to hold my own against some of the youngsters. I don't know how I would have fared the past couple of years if I'd had to complete a fitness test. At times I could hardly walk straight and if I'm honest shouldn't have been on the streets when I returned. I lasted about 3 days in the office on restricted duty before I sneaked back patrolling. My force doesn't have a yearly fitness test apart from specialised roles, but I understand some elsewhere have to reach a set standard of fitness to continue operational policing. If you are reading this and yours does, let me know what happens if you fail the test.

It used to be the case that a level of fitness was needed to be a police officer. At training school the whole intake was up and running before breakfast two days a week to complete a few miles. This changed years ago for some reason and we appear to rely on a bleep test where you don't have to reach a high level. I've seen plenty of officers who are physically unfit but I suppose as long as they can drive the car and do the job answering calls there's little the employer can do about it. Of course in an ideal world there might be some physical training incorporated into the working day, but ultimately it's down to the individuals own professional standards to fit it in somewhere in your spare time.

This is probably the start of my long good bye. I only started blogging because I was unable to pound the streets, and I'm finally beginning to see the light at the end of what's been a bloody long tunnel. I'm now off out to partake of extra cold Guinness and put the world to rights.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Stress - Illness or Excuse To Skive?

Apologies boring stress posting alert but I think quite relevant for my blog. Please read this article by A.N. Wilson from The Mail where he comments about the huge number of day's lost to Stress in this country. Of those 13.5 million days no doubt the police contribute a fair number. I would hazard a guess that the true figure will be actually higher as some of those suffering are off with an embarrassment sparing diagnosis. A few of my fellow blogger's have commented recently that their reason for posting is to off load pressures caused by work or life. Unfortunately Mr Wilson has bracketed everybody as whingers, living a life of luxury and thinks we should all pull ourselves together. He has correctly identified that some stress is good for you and is obviously aware that he has worked in the zone performing at a high level. I think he is well off the mark on most of his views apart from when he stated we should try and analyse our anxiety. I did send him a polite comment suggesting he might be in the stressed closet himself, but it must have been deleted on moderation. *

I believe stress, prefer that label rather than depression for me, is an illness of the mind that also affects your physical condition. I've suffered outbreaks of Hives (large raised itchy welts on the body) and also Reflux (burning in the chest). At the time I didn't think I was particularly stressed but was dealing with intense pressures in my personal life, which came out physically. It's strange this link between the mind and the body. Also I have not had any time off work with stress at all. I've dragged myself into work and until my injury had gone 13 years at work without a day sick. I like to call it straight acting. Prior to that I'd had one day to undergo a barium meal to diagnose the reflux. There are many stress triggers and I have seen a list prepared by experts where number one is dealing with bereavement. The life changing things are well up there like divorce or relationship break up, serious injury or health issues and further down comes work related stress. If you get combinations of these life does become difficult, some cope better than others.

We all listen to our mind and our thoughts will often dictate and drive our actions. In certain jobs it is easy to become automated and actually go into overdrive. As Mr Wilson states in his article this type of healthy stress provides energy to complete tasks. It's very primal and comes from the fight or flight syndrome. Of course some are permanently in this state pumped up to deal with personal issues, pumped to deal with stressful work (for this read police work - constant pressure to perform complete tasks) and are unable to turn it off so sleep deprivation kicks in. You then immediately are into the cycle pumping yourself up again to get through the day fighting against fatigue. Eventually you drop from peak performance and feel bad about that until it all gets out of control. See the burnout link in the sidebar it explains it better than I can.

These lost days must be costing millions of pounds so it's not just a case of pulling yourself together. Long shifts and the time constraints in police work build pressure, and there needs to be a better understanding of work related stress to achieve solutions not just in the police but everywhere. We are too focused on doing doing and striving so your thought programmes will keep driving you on relentlessly. Even when you get time off your mind will still be in doing mode so you don't get proper rest. Once you recognise this you need to take some time out. Try doing that as a police officer and the stressed radio dispatcher will become even more stressed as his outstanding calls to be dealt with mount up.

The article also mentions deep breathing, see the link for the mindfulness video and take it a step further examining your thought processes. You might see you tend to have certain thoughts like judging or planning forwards, all striving activities. If you can learn to let go of these and not automatically react into doing then things might just improve. Stressedoutcop is trying out meditation and is actually more chilled. I don't know if my posts have been less ranting the past few months but I'm feeling more in control of myself. I will always be judgemental because in this job decision making is important but in time I'm hoping I won't need this blog as an outlet because I'll just let things go. But first the powers that be need to get away from all this need for more performance themselves, they might just find find that happy workers actually become more productive in the long run. I don't know if some people use stress as an excuse to skive. No doubt some do but I don't think that would add up to 13.5 million days.

Stress is a killer .. already there are concerns that the death of Michael Jackson is down to the impending workload he was about to take on. No inappropriate comments please about his demise.

* My moderated comment is now in their thread .. minus my enquiry asking if A.N. Wilson is in the stressed closet. Is he qualified to comment? was only asking

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Pretty Patterns

I remember going to meetings a few years back and if you dared mention the word gang it would be followed by sharp intakes of breath and challenges about racism. Apparently they did not exist in this country and I was racial stereotyping. Of course the reality was and is somewhat different and although we haven't quite reached USA levels, at least it (gangs) is allowed to be mentioned. This is because of the increase in drug related activity and the violence that comes with it. We should perhaps be more concerned about the younger elements involved in these gang structures as the levels of violence increase.

The increasing trend is the displaying of gang colours in the younger’s. Market forces are taking over and we're not talking about just Red and Blue. Black and even Brown are popular around my way and certain stalls are doing a roaring trade. I police a busy shopping centre where the youth like to strut their stuff. I've imposed a rule of no colours on display otherwise there would be trouble. Some of them are like little peacocks with their paisley patterned bandanna's hanging from their back pockets. In my day a handkerchief from your back pocket meant something totally different. I've run that line past them and they don't get it, but don't be fooled these are the big players of tomorrow.

I've had a few face to face run ins with some of them and the rules of engagement have been set. I think they appreciate the discipline deep down and haven't crossed the line in the sand, but for how long. It's a balancing act to maintain a nice vibe and ensure that everybody gets their due respect. Their criminal activity is youth robbery and juvenile violence amongst their age group. The usual pattern is for this to escalate up against adult victims before they become involved in drug dealing and more serious crime.

As they are children and coming to my notice this involves some writing for me. They are a risk to others and may themselves fall victim to another gang if a look is taken the wrong way. I was filling a report out the other day about one lad. There were a number of historic ones and I read them back to see his story. He was getting progressively worse in his offending despite having a supportive mother and being on diversion programmes from the youth offending team. What makes them turn this way?

I looked at the first ever report and it showed the lad himself was a victim of robbery committed by older youths. A couple of years later and he's doing exactly the same. I predict the future for him is not good. The help is there and being offered but with some you can tell it's just a waste of time. I don't do psychology but this would be an interesting case study don't you think?

Friday, 19 June 2009

I Walk The Line

So do I have a decision to make now that award winning blogging legend NightJack has been outed by The Times? I feel more than sorry for him as he has shown himself to be a good man and I still can’t see that he’s done anything wrong, except perhaps putting some trust in others. Luckily I trust nobody not even my mum.

I’m more concerned about the matter of discipline and the written warning he has received. All he’s done is tell the truth as he sees it, and in a brilliant way. If there is a conflict with his job then it could have been dealt with through informal management and a verbal bollocking. I know that he will receive the full support from his colleagues, and even senior officers would agree with much written in his blog.

What did The Times get out of it? It’s hardly a copper shocker story and just puts Jack into the limelight where he doesn’t choose to be. That blog probably had more positive interactions with the silent majority in this country, because he was tuned into what is happening and what they feel. Customer Focused but not on message. I fear the hand of others, strange game politics.

Jack I will miss your blog and some part of me would love to see you on Question Time sticking it to them, but that’s not what you’re about. You are just a normal bloke trying to protect the victims from the bad guy's. Good Luck to you and also MetCountyMounty who’s decided to call it a day.

My blog is a personal thing on my stress journey. Some can relate to that and most police bloggers if they’re honest know what I’m talking about. They are just a reaction to the frustrations of policing and life in general. It’s actually rather simple crime and order, lock up the bad people for doing the bad stuff and crime falls, life is better, everybody is happy.

I walk the line every day at work like thousands of others, making snap decisions that get pored over and criticised afterwards by those who would probably dither if they were in the same situation. I’m a good person trying my best and I can’t win the war against crime, but I’m fighting my own personal battles. Once I’ve won those this blog will cease and I’ll fight everything else from within the organisation as a leader.

If you have an inkling who I am from any posts keep schtum. If I’m going to be outed in a copper shocker expose I want it to be for being over the side with Cheryl Cole. Of course if Ashley wins his privacy case I’ll be in the clear. I will therefore continue as I believe I comply with my force policy on blogging, cases having been in public domain already. If anybody from complaints disagrees give me a steer.

I like to think I look good in black just like Johnny …

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

No Fear .. No Change

Can’t say I disagree with the proposed increased in sentencing for those committing Murder with a knife. 30 years tariff up from 15 is more like it, but is it likely to bring about a reduction in knife murders? I doubt it. What makes some people pick up a knife and walk out the door? I can understand the fear element in some youngsters, who feel the streets are not safe, I’ve posted about it previously but it’s not just about educating them through knife campaigns.

There needs to be more fear about being caught with a knife. I know of one individual who ran from police and dumped a nasty knife under a car but was still captured and convicted. He was an adult with some previous for violence but he didn’t get jail time. This was just before the so called knife crackdown. Within 6 months he’d gone out with a knife again, got into an argument with a stranger over something ridiculous and stabbed him dead.

I knew the killer reasonably well and I think I might have signed his passport photo a few years back, if I didn’t he at least asked me to. Not a really horrible bloke and we got on fine, he’d been stabbed himself in his mid teens. I’d heard rumours on the street that he’d had a run in with a baby gangster and that’s why he might have been carrying. If he hadn’t got banged up he might have been killed himself. The end result is one innocent dead and he himself now paying the price.

I may be wrong but I’m not seeing much evidence of strong sentencing for possessing knives. Say the killer mentioned got 12 months for possessing the knife in the first instance, he would have still been out in plenty of time to commit the murder. Would the knowledge that being stopped again carrying resulting in a longer sentence, have prevented him picking up the knife? Only he knows the answer to that, but getting a walk out originally didn’t help him much in the long run. Incidentally the baby gangster he was possibly in fear of is also now dead. It’s getting rather rough out there.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

That Time Of Year

Oh it comes around so quickly .. the promotion application. If you've scraped a 50% pass in the multiple guess OSPRE Part 1 then the hard work really begins. Depending where you serve, you will have to complete either OSPRE Part 2 (series of role play exercises) or a TOWBAR application (like a PDR with knobs on setting out how good you are in certain skill areas). This allows you onto a scheme where you have to amass evidence over a year to become substantive in rank.

I personally completed the OSPRE role plays to become qualified. I think even those have become more complex over the years. I actually paid out over 450 pounds to undergo a course and learnt no end of management stuff. I do get it but putting it into practice is a damn sight harder. If you don't find a friend to run through some 5 minute scenarios before you do it believe me it's a struggle. A few years back I had to drive a good few miles to attend an assessment centre in a hotel. If you miss your slot you're out for a year so I had to make sure I was there well early. I knew I'd struggle as soon as I visited trap one and didn't check the toilet paper situation, oh yes planning and organisation was a skill area, and I knew I'd failed before I'd even started or finished as was the case. This was right in the middle of my stress crisis, well that's my excuse anyway.

I didn't mind OSPRE 2 because it's down to you on the day and how much proper preparation you put in. Now this TOWBAR lark I'm not too keen on, I'm talking about the initial application. It's a well known fact that to get your application accepted you have to be rather creative in getting your evidenced example to fit the competence indicators. You are allowed to run it past a friend or two who is permitted to make suggested improvements. I think this is more of an exercise in writing yourself up or being well connected to somebody who can knock your paperwork into shape. I've seen some of the better candidates I personally rate get knocked back year after year, and some weaker one's get through. You have to show you are working at the higher rank workwise in all 7 skill areas to get accepted. This is not easy to show for anybody. What about being a good grafter with the "potential" to work at that higher level?

I've seen quite a few this year and offered advice, some are obviously weak and doomed to fail. I have actually rejigged someone else's this year so am actually excited about being involved in the promotion process. I took it rather personally last year when the application I rejigged failed. It has become rather a lottery I'm afraid, but as they say you've got to be in it to win it.

Again too much time is being spent on these processes. I might be a tad controversial in saying that the role play option is actually fairer and less open to integrity abuse.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Do I Love Or Hate?

Because I’m currently off full shift work I’ve found myself having to take either public transport or cycle. The trains have been rather a let down and my journey time to work has increased somewhat. I have therefore been into the garage and pulled out the bike Mrs Stressed bought me for Christmas a few years back.

It’s a mountain bike with umpteen gears for climbing severe gradients. The fastest gear is slow and it has the knobbliest tyres you’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to appear ungrateful but there’s a distinct lack of mountains where I live and the only time I used it, I was overtaken by a granny with a basket on her bike. I think it was Mrs Stressed’s way of punishing me for all the grief I’ve given her over the years.

I must be back in favour because she got the tyres changed for my birthday. I didn’t exactly get slicks but I was going into work the other day and actually overtook somebody so there’s improvement. I have found the cycling saves 20 minutes on the train journey, and I could shave more off if I didn’t comply with the law of the land.

I do make a point of stopping at red lights but must say the majority of my fellow cyclists just carry on straight through. They often gain 200 yards (nearly typed metres then but we don’t have them over here) which is rather frustrating on my slow machine to try and make up. I’m rather caught in between with this cyclist thing as my new car is a 4 x 4 and I don’t know if I should hate them or not. In the morning my fellow cyclists have been polite, nodding as they come the other way and even rather chatty when stationary. I think perhaps they should be allowed to treat it as a give way after all, but if they get wiped out it’s down to them.

I must confess I do cycle on the footway for a distance of 4 yards to access a cycle path, but would never do it if a pedestrian was there and definitely not if that pedestrian was a police officer. So why am I always stopping people cycling on the footway towards me in full uniform. They all get stopped because basically they’re taking the piss. Do they expect me to do nothing and say nothing? So far nobody has failed the test .. but a couple have just sped off ignoring me. As I’m not going to chase after a bike and win they get away but there might be a purge coming on. I’ve got a load of PCSO’s who need training up on tickets.

I see police in Bournemouth have been targeting cyclists with speed guns in an attempt to slow them down. At least there’s no chance of me getting done then.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Nulli Secundus

Sixty Five years ago my grandfather was preparing for D day. I don't know what he was thinking, but as he was also one of the last out of Dunkirk a sense of pride in getting back across the channel to Europe must have been foremost in his mind. He was subsequently wounded in the breakout from Normandy and that was his war over. In the post war years he led a quiet life, until an untimely early death from cancer. He was the stick man in a senior regiment and must have been a hard so and so, but his gentle nature is all I remember of him. I wonder what he would have felt about the country he fought for now. Would he even recognise it?

I don't thing he would approve if I'm honest with our world standing at present. In fact neither am I. The European elections took place yesterday and for the first time in my life I didn't vote for any of the main parties. I don't see any of the usual suspects as representing my views on Europe.The straw that broke the camel's back was the Queen not being invited to the anniversary events in France. Forget protocol she should have got the ferry over and attended invite or not.

Europe has started to control our country and Nulabor have embedded it's blueprint in law through the Human Rights Act. Any party that has the abolition of this legislation as point one in it's manifesto will get my vote. Did anybody vote for all this European power over our British Sovereign Law? The drip drip effect has to stop soon and some parties have to wake up to that fact.

Call me a little Englander and I don't care, is that a bad thing to be? I have lived in Germany for 2 years and National Pride is still evident, although muted from losing the war. Incidentally in all that time I'd never met a German who'd admitted fighting against us.

We need some British pride back, but that doesn't mean protest votes going to extremist parties like the racist BNP. The government is about to fall and we're not politically ready for the radical changes that the people want.

We are second to none .. and need to start showing that. We owe it to those who gave their lives 65 years ago fighting against what would have been a "united" Europe.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Same Dance .. Different Tune

I was at a meeting recently about performance. Luckily for me I was an interested party visiting, but organisational changes could soon have me on the wrong side of the table.

The command was not Divisional based and therefore their old targets were not sanctioned detections. Nothing in it for their managers to feed their SD's to a number of differing areas. I used to be rather amused as custody officer to see them loitering at the door, especially when the prisoner was wearing motorbike leathers and of Mediterranean appearance. They loved to prey on motorbike couriers who had an uncanny habit of being Brazilians with fake Portuguese driving licences from the Internet. They had a high personal arrest target to meet each month and this type of arrest was one of their better quality ones . I would beware if you are a genuine Portuguese courier rider in the metropolis.

Each team leader was put on the spot to see what had been delivered since the last meeting. I was surprised that very little time was taken up about arrests. No - instead the policing pledge and customer focus was order of the day. All very admirable but the main thrust was about organising meetings and getting the punters into these. The Chief Inspector kept asking about the outcomes, and by this he meant how many members of the public attended these meetings. Each team had also been set a target of completing 500 questionnaires prior to this meeting. I could detect a fair amount of bullshitting from the other side of the table.

I'm at a bit of a loss to see how this particular command was going to measure public satisfaction, when they covered several areas. Perhaps they were forming a baseline from their questionnaires, which are filled out by police staff and police officers chugging punters in the street. I know from experience that these are a waste of time as they're hardly independent.

Don't think I'm against bottom up policing because I'm not. Several years ago I worked on a pilot project based around community panels. I attended local meetings and agreed local priorities with the panels. They actually had little interest in some offences like Robbery and Burglary instead concentrating their wrath on low level anti-social behaviour from youths.This of course was at odds with what our local managers wanted. I don't think things have changed much today and most communities want the quality of life stuff sorted out. The beauty in this set up was that the partnership dealt with organising the meetings we attended, and my team was left to get on policing the streets. There was a balance to be found tackling the volume crime and quality of life issues, but as we were community based we saw the trends before any analysts who worked on 12 week patterns.

I was also lucky in that I was given my own budget from the partnership, which I spent on tackling the crimes I and they wanted. No going to the weekly intelligence meeting to plead my case for funds, I just decided what to do and got on with it. If I needed extra resources I bought them in and paid from my budget. So the punters got the extra patrols to combat kids making their lives a misery. It also helped that I recruited the best constables onto my team and we ticked over arresting the right people.

The partnership conducted their own customer satisfaction surveys using independent firms like MORI. When compared to other similar projects in the UK we scored quite highly. The point I'm trying to make is we just need to get back to doing policing without constraints to increase public satisfaction. It's really not rocket science and just concentrating on meetings and more public meetings is somewhat missing the point. I'm beginning to see too much duplication.