Sunday, 23 May 2010

Nirvana - Maybe The Problem Is Me !

This is my final post and after today this blog will remain forever in the Blogosphere possibly being of interest to somebody. The whole blogging thing was just a questioning of myself searching for the answer to something. There have been no agendas or need of approval from others, it's all I'm afraid been about me. I put it up and analyse it myself and have been helped in my stress battle by those who have visited and taken time to comment. To each and every one of you I am grateful.

Why finish today? Well I made the decision ages ago but my mild OCD wouldn't let me go unless the blog was symmetrical. It is two years since I started and you don't know the agonising I've been through whether to finish yesterday or today. I finally took the plunge for 23rd May, but you know what it doesn't really matter it's just my thoughts that have caused this illogical turmoil.

I've had a good look at myself through the last two years and want to examine further how I can progress along my journey. A narrative has been useful up to now but it is I think a negative influence in my life. I wouldn't leave it and just close without comment like one of my favourite stress blogs Intelligence Detective, I'm going on a positive. Whatever did happen to the General?

I've got a few stress monkey followers and to you I say stick with it and try reading the above book by Jon Kabat-Zinn which I've found very useful. I could go on about it but that would be my judgement, so be open and see if it helps you too.

I've had to get my head around how I go about being a police officer. I have always been a high achieving productive individual and that's before the target culture of recent years. I pushed myself to near destruction to the detriment of my personal life and for what? I think what is happening in policing is unhelpful and gets away from what it's about. Policing should be about compassion and fairness things that are generally lacking in society today. Unfortunately especially on the front line people are driven from higher up to produce more and more, never having time to actually take a moment and think. All these performance departments get caught up in this madness too - when actually if we took a breath and became more open we'd see it was all crap. Policing is simple - just let us police as individuals - all these figures don't matter because they are lies anyway.

I have hopefully managed to break the cycle. I have seen the light and no longer have the desire to be at work all the time striving to be the best and competitive in the extreme. The financial rewards of doing that for years have enabled me to pay my clever daughter through university. No debt for her, paid for through me taking all overtime available over the years. You can call it performance related pay.

So it wasn't being a policeman that done for me I did it to myself, and all the negative stuff was I think just a reaction to job pressure. It would have been the same in whatever job I'd done as that's the way I'm wired up. I think the technical term is emotionally intelligent. I accept that label and all that's happened in my past including a difficult personal life. I'm still here so the past is irrelevant and the future an illusion, all that matters is now.

I'm back in the Zone and have learnt that one can make judgements and decisions in the right way. This needs to be done without automation where we as police officers often fall into the trap of labelling jobs. There is no such thing as just another domestic or just another call about problem kids. I approach things with a beginner's open mind and I've found that connection with my old self. I'm happier in my life and am now only a slightly stressed cop. When Ian Blair left the Met on his last day he said "You have good days and You have bad days". That really does sum up policing for me, in fact it can be applied to life itself. It's how you cope with things that matters.

In my new role I find myself dealing with countless officers suffering from stress in one form or another. Currently 25% of my people have got issues ranging from total Burnout to bereavement problems. I line manage over 20 so that's alot at one time. I'm best placed to deal with it having been there myself. When is somebody going to wake up and look at this within the police? I suspect the baseline data would be shocking if my team is replicated across the force area.

I'll pop into the usual places now and again just to be sociable but for now it's Goodbye. I don't intend to come back but you can never say never. Not had a video up for a while so enjoy ..... just a few more years then I can grow my hair like Kurt's again !!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

If I Ruled The World

This blog has only given my perspective on how I see policing and life issues, and that perspective is from somebody who by my own admission has suffered stress so take it as you will. No doubt some of my views have been strong at times and not to the liking of all.

As I'm relatively chilled and at ease with life at present I can roll with it and not get too worked up about work. There are however things I would like to see changed in policing. During the course of writing this blog and confronting my issues I've actually managed to get promoted to Inspector. You might think this gives me control over front line delivery but sadly this isn't the case. I am the duty officer on a response team in a busy area with a derisory amount of officers to deal with the demand of calls. I could actually provide a better service if I was allowed to but others removed from what I do seem to know best. Here are the solutions:

Response policing is actually quite simple, all you've got to do is meet demand. Pro activity in the old sense is lost to us and left to the squads who have time to go hunting for villains. Making it better means bringing back dispatch of resources to the local Division. I'm old enough to have worked in an old comms room as a PC and went on to be a Controller responsible for all local deployments. The sad truth is that the centralised radio dispatch system brought in by most force areas is not fit for purpose and isn't working for the front line. Everybody knows this apart from senior management who are mightily impressed that their targets for picking up the phone to the public are improving.

It's a shame that we are not as good in actually getting to those calls. I sit and look at the long list of calls and many of them don't require a police officer to attend. As a controller I would have sorted out most of them as not being police matters or by giving advice over the phone. Unfortunately the Controller is long dead. By bringing back this role local supervision would be improved with the right units being sent to the right calls. Knowing the abilities of your staff and who might be ducking and diving never escaped the Controller.

There are actually dozens of police and PCSO's on duty each day but they are not deployable because policy dictates they are ring fenced to look after their own portfolios. Neighbourhood teams can only take calls on their beat if the call type matches their local priorities. This is madness and it is madness inflicted by police managers looking after their own areas of business. Now I've worked in community and it's no hardship for those working in that field to take some of the work from response. I actually preferred to report all burglaries on my patch so I could take time to look after the victim's and get a feel for who was screwing my patch. It's purely a time and motion thing and using the most of resources available.

Will somebody have the balls to go back and do this? Don't hold your breath. I whined a few months back about my ever decreasing team of officers. Since then I've lost more and more to little squads that pop up. I'm told they will take work from us, but after a few weeks of them telling me how busy they are, some of the work comes back to us because of their "insufficient capacity".

I am actually shocked and flabbergasted at the numbers we've been reduced to but still we carry on, but people are beginning to wobble. How long before they fall over? I don't rule the world - I can't even be trusted it appears to run my team the way I want to. To be fair even my bosses are dictated to by headquarters who seem to know best. I'll do my best to run my little team regardless but now I hear plans are being made to have us cover other Divisions as well in the name of efficiency. The Controller is dead, so is common sense it seems.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Never Assume

Last man standing happens alot and very often the box of police officers is well ... just empty. Calls still come in to be dealt with regardless, the same target response times needing to be met. Some forces run a Class 1 and others an immediate response I grade for emergencies.

It's near the end of the early turn shift and I'm it as section Sgt. I take the call and ask for more details. It appears a suicide letter has been received in the post by the parent's of a man, who lives on a nearby estate. They call us and as an ambulance has been called it's an I grade in case police need to force entry. I'm literally just round the corner and am thinking nice easy job, knock on the door greet sender of the letter, make sure everything's OK and I'll still be off on time.

I pull into the estate and find the correct block. It's four stories high with no lift and it did cross my mind how nice it would be to find the flat on the ground floor. It never works out that way and I trudge up to the top floor and find the flat. You could tell the occupant must have issues because there are a series of padlocks and clasps on the door frame. Not entirely in line with fire regulations but the sound of the television on the other side of the door confirms my quick job theory.

I give it my finest police knock and stand back. There's no reply so it's likely the bloke is out. All the padlocks are locked so he could be out shopping having left the television on. Ever the professional I crouch down to look through the letterbox. It's a studio type flat and I look into the living room seeing a figure sat in an armchair in front of the TV. It looks like he's fallen asleep but the smell of gas has already hit my nose.

I jump up and force the door, padlocks and all, rushing in and grabbing something to smash the glass in the window. It's boiling hot inside and a look to the gas hob tells me why. There's a saucepan on the lit gas with burnt remnants of baked beans. The gas smell is due to the poor ventilation in the flat and the unburnt gas build up. I turn it off and open the windows, looking towards the figure in the chair. He's sat back, head lolling and feet out in front with a plate of beans on his lap as if he's just nodded off. He doesn't look dead but a quick knock shows me he's already in rigor mortis and beyond help. I call it in just as the paramedics arrive. They're carrying their medical bags and were probably hoping for the flat to be on the ground floor too. They are not needed and this appears a relatively straightforwards run of the mill suicide.

I have a look around and seize some medication containers putting them to one side to be bagged up later for the coroner. A late turn unit turns up offering to take over but I've got a responsibility to this dead man to see it through myself. The FME declares life extinct and I await the undertakers having spoken to the coroner's officer. The original informant his mother who lives miles away is going to get a personal death message visit from police sometime soon. Maybe she too expected everything would turn out OK. The undertakers arrive and were definitely hoping the flat was on the ground floor. They have to put the deceased into a body bag, not easy as he's stiff in a seated position and carry him down to the hearse. The estate caretaker sorts out the door so it's secure and I'm all done bar the paperwork.

A couple of days later I get a call from the control room. Can I ring the mother of the suicide victim she wants to speak to me. I didn't really give her any thought as I concentrated on dealing with her son, glad that it wasn't me doing the death message. There's no way out and I make the call trying to give her closure. No, I don't think he suffered, he looked very peaceful and had some baked beans as a last supper and must have been watching television before drifting out of this life. I don't know if it helped but it's something I dislike doing.

What prompts this story? One of my officer's lost a family member a few months back. He'd told me it was an unexpected sudden death. I've been worried about him and assumed he'd be OK but now he tells me that he received a letter in the post too.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Carry On Laughing

Postal voting fraud, chaotic polling stations with people locked out and getting angry - and to be honest we're not really surprised are we? It sort of sums up what NuLabor has done to the country since being in power. They are still hanging in there in case of a last minute deal with the Libs. Brown still sits as prime minister. What a farce !!

The whole lot of them, Tories included are weak and that's why we'll end up with a wet government. What does that mean for policing? If Cameron strikes a coalition deal the Home Secretary could be a LibDem minister. No change for us then, and more of the same old same old awaits.

I hope I'm wrong and Cameron pushes through his promise to dismantle the worst bits of the Human Rights Act. In reality nothing's going to happen until the next election. It's all rather depressing.

Why can't we just be left to get on with it and police without interference? I'm sure it's the same for the NHS with Doctors and Nurses, serving not the patients but the number crunchers sat in their offices somewhere.

At least the Sun is shining today.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Reflections And Regrets

The Superintendo was loving it as he'd received a letter of appreciation from a member of the public praising us the police. These things matter apparently and were at one time used as a stupid measure of public confidence locally. I did waiver a little bit as he went into more detail. The correspondent was an alcoholic who some years earlier had been stopped driving his car, having been drinking, right outside his house. The officers spoke to him and used their discretion to let him enter his house with no further action, just strong advice. He wrote that this event prompted him to sort his life out and the letter was a result of him attending Alcoholics Anonymous, attempting to put the past behind him.

He saw this interaction as an important event in his life. Not sure that DPS would have seen it the same way, but let's assume the officers smelt no alcohol. These alcoholics do hold their drink well. I had one on the intoximeter once and thought he was going to be a borderline pass or fail and was staggered when he blew 140.

I'm sure all of us have done things we regret. There are things I've been involved in that I've learnt from but still I remember them. Most were from early on in my career and they still bother me.

I was blessed with a morning on the area car when a probationer, as the operator was at court. I was expected to produce a return of work before breakfast. We sat up at a process point where there was a no U turn sign to await the unaware victims. It didn't take long before somebody drove against the sign and my old sweat driver pushed the gearstick into drive and cruised up behind the car pulling him over. I jumped out to speak to the driver who just happened to be a soldier in full uniform. To be more precise it was a Lt Colonel. I'd only been out of the army less than 9 months and didn't know whether to stand to attention or what. I'd been tapping the boards in front of my OC just before I got out and now here I was, stood in a position of authority over a higher rank. I glanced at PC old sweat hoping he'd step in and send the Colonel on his way, but he indicated I was to stick him on. I did so writing a ticket but it grated because although he'd done wrong I really wanted to let him off with a warning. That's the way it was when I joined total equality in treatment of offenders.

That incident has stuck with me for whole of my career. I've never been a process king and tended to stop loads of motorists in my early years, but looking for crime not petty traffic process. That was reserved for those failing the attitude test or known criminals as a disruption tactic. One thing I have done, is say to younger officers use your discretion and don't be afraid to do so if you think it is right.

Another time I was station officer and a chap enters with a badly bruised arm. He complained that an associate of his had injured him at his house. I'm not sure of the dynamic of the relationship between them but looking back this chap was possibly more vulnerable than I first thought and was being taken advantage of. In these days common assault as a crime didn't exist and people were referred to civil remedy. I listened and gave the legal advice and also words of wisdom to choose his friends more carefully before recording the matter in the Occurrence Book. I was a 50/50 at the time how to handle this but I dealt with it incorrectly. This bloke came for help and I failed him through inexperience. His arm was really bruised bad and possibly I should have recorded it as an ABH so it could be investigated. We dealt with domestics the same way so although I think we've gone too far with positive action things have definitely changed for the better.

What's done is done and I can't go back and make things right, but these two minor incidents have really moulded my policing outlook on how I've tried to do this job over the years. There's plenty of other mistakes that won't be written about here. I've written about my perfectionist tendencies and looking back they've always been there from the start ..... That's interesting.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Stressed Eyes ..

I must admit with just a little bit of shame that I had momentary good feelings when viewing the coverage of our unelected leader dissing the lovely Mrs Duffy. It takes one to know one and this bloke is clearly suffering. It's scary that he is in charge of the country and even more scary that next week he could in theory, still be there. Oh please Britain anybody but him !!!

I had a chomp myself at somebody last week - not a big rant just a nibbling of some CID balls, which was possibly undeserved to the individual so had to issue my own apology. The difference being I probably meant it and feel good that I did so.

Shouldn't really judge, it's a fault of mine, but Brown is clearly a control freak, and when Duffers fired her questions at him you can just see the frustration as he battles to get in and speak. He clearly doesn't like it and that's what leads to his off camera reaction. Now who a few years back personally took charge of some strategic and operational policing matters when robberies were getting out of hand? You can see why we've had a very controlling government for 13 years.

Mrs Duffy did however show all the politicians up as avoiding the issues that really matter. I used to be in awe of politicians thinking them all powerful and intelligent until I met some of them and listened to the shit they spouted. Many a time I've sat in meetings and have been told how I'm wrong about things happening on my patch. They just all happened to be from the ruling party. They really do live in a different world.

I watched the debates on TV and was left rather flat. All this crack down on expenses crap. If they were true to their word then why didn't one of them also say they'd tackle the expenses scandal within the European parliament? I suspect this would be worse than our own domestic parliamentary problems. Isn't the truth that all of the parties have already lost the power to govern this country?

I'm tactically voting this election and voting TORY but it's a vote on loan. There is no difference between any of them in my eyes as they battle for the centre ground. I go Tory only in the hope they are true to form and swing to the right if gaining power and try to sort out this mess of a country.

I've had some dealings with some of their politicians the past few years and at least they listened. I've told them exactly what I think and I do believe if they gain power there will be positive changes in policing. They have also done some innovative stuff in my area which has worked to the benefit of the communities. Firm but fair policing is all that anybody wants. I do have some hope that they might actually be the party of law and order.

Friday, 23 April 2010

England 2010 ... Who Voted For This?

"There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other. That word is England". Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

I was on the bus the other day going out to indulge in some cafe culture drinking courtesy of Nulabor. It 's a long bus ride and I get on at the start of the route to my destination in a more central location. I sat myself down in my favoured position by the window so I can see what's going on.

It gets busier and busier as we went along ending up standing room only. As I'm a people watcher I'm aware of who's around me. I'm not averse to listening in to the conversations of others. It appeared that all around me were people speaking in different languages. I felt like I was on holiday where you sit on the local bus oblivious of what everybody else is chatting about.

It's like that at work too. Every day in the custody suite I will enter to find a multi-national gathering of prisoners. I'm on first name friendly terms with one of the interpreters who I see daily too. She works very hard and we are grateful that she comes out at every request. If she's off late I've dropped her off at times so she doesn't have to get a cab back. She needs to work hard as she pays for two of children to go to private schools.

Fast forward to the election debate last night. See any inspirational leadership? No me neither just the same old same old playing it safe. The best part for me was the analysis afterwards. Kay Burley was interviewing some audience members and asked an African lady about immigration. Kay leans in with the microphone expecting a tasty little race reaction. The woman starts agreeing about a cap and then starts to ask why we are flooded with EU migrants before a disappointed Kay whips the mic away and moves quickly on.

It's no coincidence that the Tories began to lose credibility after reneging on their referendum over the European Constitution or treaty if you prefer to call it that. None of the main parties show any inclination to do anything about this. Why? Oh to see a Winston or Maggie Thatcher in one of those debates.

Happy St George's Day - Enjoy it while you can !

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Wasted Years

I think I mentioned it somewhere in a post that when I was 16 I took a hell of a beating when out with a couple of friends. It was the early 80's equivalent of post code youth violence, but in them days no mobiles to be robbed of and knives were for show .. not use. In fact if you'd had a mobile it would have been a useful weapon. The boys I was with legged it whilst I stayed to remonstrate with a predictable result.

Some local residents called the police and took me in and I recall bleeding over the washing up in their sink whilst they tended my injuries. They must have known the opposing gang because a couple of arrests were made later.

My relationship with the boys was severely affected. One of them could have been classed as one of my best friends at the time, having known him since early school days. We both worked in offices and after this he chucked in his job and went back to school to do A levels, whilst I stayed in my insurance job. We quickly drifted apart and it was because in my head I had this overwhelming resentment that he should have stayed and took a beating with me. I would never had left him in the lurch if the situation was reversed.

He got in touch via a school reunion website a couple of years ago and we'd agreed we would meet up but never did. I was still pissed with him and things were left. I finally decided after decades this needed to be dealt with and last week met with him for a beer. The conversation flowed about things we have done over the years and it was as if nothing had changed. I had to tackle my resentment and brought up the subject of that night. I told him that I had been really annoyed with him that he ran off and left me to my fate. I think we both knew that the reason we drifted apart was this incident in our lives. He told me that for years he'd felt guilty of leaving me. That was was it - done, and I'm glad we met up. We work in similar jobs with the same client base and I've sent a few his way.

I think if we'd had the same conversation all those years ago we would have remained friends. We will be again - maturity means you become less judgemental. This is now case closed on those negative vibes I'd harboured towards him for nearly 30 years.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Inches And Miles

PC Ellie Bloggs has written a lovely post about the convictions for misconduct in a public office of a PC and a custody sergeant in Manchester. I don't know anything about her but she appears to me to be a very thoughtful and aware individual. I particularly liked her comments about looking out for her troops and making sure they don't drop themselves in it. The lady will do very well and go far in life.

Unlike her I do actually have some sympathy with the officers. 18 months for some over firm handling is one hell of a deterrent let me tell you. Misconduct in a public office carries a tariff of life imprisonment and is used where the primary offence (common assault in this case) would lead to an insufficient sentence when set against the public interest. The PC takes his chances but 18 months for not stepping in? Harsh on the criminal side for the skipper says I.

I am obviously from a time past where I recall as a young probationer attending the custody suite with my gobby prisoner who then proceeds to lay down the law and abuse the desk sergeant. I'm asked to leave the room for a few minutes and when I return I find said same prisoner stood to attention and politely calling the desk sergeant "Sir". I don't know what wise words were administered to bring about this transformation but the prisoner obviously selected the wrong option from the menu. I'm not saying it was right but that's the way it was at that time.

It was the same in School when there was always one teacher selected to dish out the punishment. I don't recall if we had the cane at my school as it never usually got that far in the discipline stakes. We were however gripped up and verbally admonished.

Same in the army step out of line and best you'd get was a verbal dressing down from a distance of approximately 1 inch. You'd be grateful for that too escaping a beasting in the guard room.

If society now wants totally professional then so be it - I'm too near pension to go back to the way it was of firm handling, and don't fancy sharing a cell with Ali Dizaei. There have been times when I've had to reflect on my own conduct, two wrongs don't make a right and I admit I've not been an angel in the past. I did however learn from those unprofessional lapses and do try to pass that onto others.

I think some more passive non-confrontational officer safety techniques should be considered in the training. At present it's all straight in kick, punch gas and asp with a bit of "get back" thrown in. We all have a level when your buttons are pressed and end up reacting - sometimes it's better to come back to reality at the outset. With recent events it's far too griefy to take the firm route.

Only last week I was called by security to a shopping centre with an internal McDonald's where a young pissed ladette was being a pain. I had to listen to her patiently laying it down for 10 minutes before physically taking her by the arm to remove her from the private property as she "ain't F ing going anywhere". Pretty thing with a foul mouth who struck out at me and really deserved to get nicked .. but busy Friday night it just isn't worth it. I did however have to record a pocket book entry for use of force and obtain witness details from security on whose behalf I was acting, just in case.

I would like to see the deterrent principle tried out on the prisoners who attend the custody suite on a near weekly basis. They know that if they do get convicted there's no way that prison beckons. If it works on us there must be a chance it would work on some of them too.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Except At Weekends

I think the Station officer had crept off for a sneaky fag by the back door so the front office counter was temporarily unattended. The night duty parade had just finished and I was the closest to respond to the shrieking and cries for help from the public area. I was faced by a hysterical young woman who between gulps of air managed to blurt out relevant bits of information. I tried to piece it together and was able to understand there was a domestic situation at a nearby address where she alleged her ex was trying to take her son. It's a possible abduction so quite complicated.

I called up central control and created a message log for a unit to attend the address on an immediate whilst I tried to extract what I needed from the woman. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to get the story. It turns out I actually knew her from several years before when my team busted her address and found loads of class A in her bedroom. She was 15 at the time, had a liking for bad boys, and was holding the gear for one of my favourite dealers. Now in her early 20's she'd had a son with another lad we'll call him the ex and was currently running with another criminal and was pregnant with his baby. She was now housed at your expense in a nice flat just off my ground.

I didn't need to run any computer checks. I'd first arrested the ex when he was 14 and he was from a family made up of really decent criminals. The criminal reputation is important, they were old fashioned blaggers and high class burglars. His old man I've never met as he's a lifer doing big time for a gangland murder. They could have been the bad guys in any episode of The Sweeney from the 70's.

All I really needed to know was who had parental responsibility. She had never married the ex so it was her. Her current beau who I'd also arrested as a kid was a petty criminal and was wanted at the time for an armed robbery and smashing up a shop where this woman worked. There was also some stuff flagged up about him having possibly a gun. Their relationship was volatile and despite the fact he was well wanted she'd been off with him for a few days and left her son with her ex's mother. It would appear they now refused to give the son back.

I left her with other officers and decided to take a stroll to the address nearby. Despite creating the message I was first on scene. A crewed vehicle did turn up about 10 minutes later, but that's just another example of how much I love the central dispatch system. I was greeted at the door and we all thought it best to put past conflicts behind us. This was family business that needed sorting and I was there to make the big decisions. It does help if you've all met before and they knew they'd get a fair hearing.

The top end criminal families have nice houses. This one was no different clean and tidy. The ex's mother was mildly defensive and gives her position several times. Her grandson is at risk and she ain't letting him go back with the mother whilst she's with the current beau who she describes as a druggie and out of control. The irony is lost on me as I'd done a job on her too a couple of years previously, when she was knocking out drugs when working at a pub. That job never came off as the operation was compromised, I suspect by another family member who I later found worked on the Division.

She already looks after her son's other child from a previous relationship. The ex was present too and was visiting from Spain where he now lives. We discussed the current beau and if he might be a threat to them. With their reputation it was a stupid question but you've got to ask it. We all agreed he was too far down the chain to mess with them. It would appear the young woman had been leaving her son with his grandmother on a regular basis as her own parent's were alcoholics and I actually agreed with their concerns. I saw the toddler, who was well cared for and we come down to decision time.

Is the child at significant risk of harm? If he went back to the mother who then meets up with the current beau who is displaying violent tendencies then he obviously is. I will have to take the child into police protection. The ex and the grandmother have no rights in this situation as the mother has parental responsibility. It's a difficult one - if the ex takes his son back to Spain then it's an abduction. The decision I make is based on what's best for the child.

I get all parties together and put some pressure on the mother to agree for the son to remain with the grandmother. She signs him away in my notebook. It's the best place for him in the circumstances. I check with Mrs StressedOutCop who is an expert in child protection legalities who confirms my options. It's agreed but I'm the one taking the risk and making a judgement call.

I'm writing all night. It's a non crime domestic, a few coming to notice "every child matters" reports including one for the unborn child. Intelligence reports re the wanted boyfriend and what he's been up to. I'm sweating all weekend as the reports don't get picked up until Monday. I ring every day to make sure the ex hasn't taken off to Spain. I really don't understand why at the time of most demand for domestic and family matters all the specialist departments are off and it's for us to cover. Even social services have just one person to sort out everything in the local authority area.

I did a follow up a few weeks later. Social services didn't get involved at all despite the woman having a social worker. To be honest things had been sorted and there's plenty of more pressing matters for them to deal with. She split with the current boyfriend and aborted the baby and last I'd heard had joined the ex in Spain for a holiday. That's almost a happy ending to a shit weekend for me.

It's about judgement calls and I imagine it's the same for social workers. If this had turned out differently I suppose I'd be classed as incompetent.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Every Child Matters

I do wonder now the election has been called what initiatives are going to be scaled back after the poll assuming NuLabor no longer hold the tillers of power. I'm all for a smaller state and less state interference in personal affairs.

One area I for one would like to see some discretion allowed is "Every Child Matters". This is an information sharing protocol we are told is to protect vulnerable children. As police officers we do of course come across many children. Most of them are already known to the system be it criminal or for at risk matters. We always did complete a form in these cases which was faxed off and disseminated by youth services.

The new system as brought in takes away any discretion and we are required to complete a computer record for every child, even in cases where we've not even seen them. For example if a neighbour called the police because you were having an argument with your spouse. This is classed as a domestic and even if it is a minor matrimonial dispute with no violence or crime involved it's recorded as a non crime domestic. Forgetting the completion of the domestic booklet and crime report, if you have children it also triggers a computer record for any children in the household (even if not present). So a non crime is fully recorded and details of minors are sat on a database for what reason?

My point is that we are recording so many non records that the important ones that need action are going to be missed. I feel very uneasy in having anything recorded if you've done nothing wrong.

I've had situations myself in the past where my ex would go walkabouts when mentally ill, and be missing with my daughter who was about four or five at the time. Was she at risk? possibly, but would it be the business of social services to intervene in a private matter. I think that it would be my personal choice to have sought their assistance if that's what I wanted. For the record everything was sorted with the help of my family and although the ex had a CPN - I would have been mightily peeved to had my daughter's details held on police records. (Misper PNC reports were cancelled on being found).

After this all came in I recall seeing my force put out a release boasting how many reports they had taken in a short time. It was thousands. There will still be disasters in child welfare where inaction takes place, but should thousands of children have these records held on them. We've gone to a catch all system of police recording which in my opinion is unnecessary and very time consuming.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

What Is The Public Interest?

A year after the event and Tony Smellie is found very much Not Guilty of assault at the post G20 gathering outside The Bank Of England. Hardly a whimper in the press on his inevitable aquittal other than he now faces discipline proceedings. Stand by for a written warning or words for not displaying your numerals Tony.

I've been relatively quiet on this as I was roundabouts on G20 but did come out in support of this officer and appeared to have called it right. To those who have a sulk on I will try and explain what was actually a rather technical case and it's implications. So let's look at three videos:

John Prescott gets egged and then punches the thrower who was stood in front of him laughing. Self defence? Well Prezzer gets the benefit of the doubt (obviously - who runs CPS?). He could of feared further attack and hit out in a pre-emptive blow. If I'm being objective he's in the clear and no prosecution would have been in the public interest.

The "lady prop" lands two knock-out punches in defence of his friend who was confronted by a yob who had prior to this picked on Spiderman. One of those punches was to an associate who appears to be trying to control his mate from starting trouble. The two follow up kicks were not in defence and strictly speaking illegal in law and you could argue that the punch to the associate was unnecessary and an assault. Again that was a pre-emptive strike. Common sense dictates that no prosecution should follow, because the yobs started it and any conviction would not be in the public interest.

PS Smellie acting in defence of others in facing a crowd alone with Ms Fisher leading the way. You can hear plenty of verbal warnings and he escalates the use of force. A clearance swipe connects with her face and still she comes back for more. The infamous baton strikes then follow and these form the case against him.

The use of force is taught within the officer safety model. You have to run through a thought process

Intelligence - Threat Assessment - Tactical Options - Action

Well he properly in my view cranked it up from verbal commands, to a clearance swipe with verbal commands until he draws his baton. It would appear that the prosecutors believe he shouldn't have gone to strike and expected him to adopt a ready stance (baton held over shoulder) with more verbals. This is a very thin line that they expected him to walk and I was surprised he was summonsed.

Two independent members of the public who were reasonable people present at the scene were called as prosecution witnesses? then give evidence that the force used was reasonable.

Other people still have the same views they held on first seeing the footage of this incident even after the acquittal. I agree it's not pretty but put yourselves in that position and I can say you'd never know how you'd react. The people featured in the video clips all have one thing in common. At the time they believed they were doing the right thing and didn't have a guilty mind.

One of them was treated differently and that was PS Smellie who was not permitted the benefit of the doubt due to the public interest considerations and the media storm that followed G20. It was a poor decision by the CPS and PS Smellie was sacrificed on the alter of public satisfaction.

A dangerous precedent has been set. I'm not currently public order trained but was expected to return to the fray last year. I kept myself out of the way awaiting the result of this trial. Will I be back? I doubt it - even though I'd stand behind the line these days it's not worth the risk of having every decision scrutinised by lawyers deciding what is proportionate. I stood up for PS Smellie because he was innocent .. I noted the lack of support from senior management who were weak. My personal view but I tell it the way I see it just as I did after G20.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

20 Years Ago - Honour And Fidelity

The Somewhat Sparse Line

20 years ago I was at a riot only it wasn't, as I don't recall anybody being convicted of that particular offence. Those of us present knew it was going to kick off. We knew because we'd been working at numerous smaller disturbances when tax rates were set at Town Halls. Mainly we were held in reserve at Territorial Army bases only to get a run out out at the end after the front line had been given a hard time. I recall sitting there on a PSU when urgent assistance calls were made on one demo where protesters were trying to turn a police car over, and still we sat.

The grubby demonstrators took great delight in telling us this was just a warm up for the big one on 31st March. They knew it and I for one believed them. I don't know about the big master plan for policing the demonstration that day but somebody somewhere got it horribly wrong. I think they believed it might go bent but not so early in the day. This might explain the lack of PSU's on the event. There were several football match's that day and the reserve PSU's were to police those and be called up as and when disorder took place.

My Inspector played a blinder and got a promotion on the strength of it. He got us kitted up without being told so we were jogging up Whitehall just as the uniform line was pushed out of Trafalgar Square. You've probably seen that footage and it's clear there was no Plan B at that point and no public order reserves in position to take their place.

My PSU entered the square to relative silence. It was a weird atmosphere as if everybody was waiting to see what happened next. The bulk of the crowd on the actual square were there for the rally and the black bloc had placed themselves by Northumberland Avenue, where a building site provided a ready supply of missiles. A couple of these were thrown and we ran forwards to keep a sterile area in that corner. As we stepped back we caught a volley from the crowd to our immediate right.

It's hard to explain what it's like when you get hit. I felt like a cartoon character who has an anvil dropped on their head. I actually saw stars, had a ringing in my ears and my face exploded with blood pouring from my nose and also filling my mouth. I coughed this out thus covering the inside of my visor morphing from cartoon character to a scene out of Alien. That was me out of it. It must had looked bad as a young WPC screamed "Oh my God!" as I trudged through the police line like a bloodied boxer leaving the ring, having suffered a first round knock out.

A quick ambulance ride to our delegated hospital luckily had me at the front of the queue. A very nice army doctor had been drafted in to gain experience of dealing with mass casualties. Some running repairs by her without anaesthetic had me back on the road in no time. My mate was also in the queue and was missing several teeth and his lip was hanging off. Oh how we laughed - really we did, me more than him obviously. Things didn't feel as bad on seeing the state of him. By now the police injured were arriving in police vans so I was able to get a lift to Whitehall. I rejoined my PSU back in the square and the remaining protesters were pushed out of the area into the West End. Unfortunately this led to theatre goers being abused and shops being looted.

You don't need to know what happened next but let's just say order was restored and not all looters were arrested. This was the nearest I'll ever get to anarchy and I don't want to see it again. My memories consist of the quickest ever pub clearance and a protester attempting to roll a rubbish bin into the path of our carrier before realising we were actually heading his way. We missed him just ! driver obviously never saw him.

The management afterwards tried to put a positive spin on things, but operationally it was a disaster and we got hammered. All of my PSU sustained injuries of varying degrees. Any dreams I had of being a male model ended that day with another scar added to my body. In the years that followed I've added many more alongside the mental ones. Poor intelligence, Poor preparation and poor tactics in sweeping protesters into the West End. Remember that when complaining about kettling cordons.

The black bloc was about 10 thousand strong that day and most of them couldn't be described as taxpayers. I've read that their leaders see it as their greatest day in mobilising the people to bring down the poll tax, so much so that they're celebrating the anniversary today.

My PSU that day were brilliant and didn't shirk anything. Nobody bottled it and despite being in the thick of it, could look each other in the eye and know we were one and would never let each other down ever. Honour and Fidelity, words best describing the discipline of the team that day.

I won't go into details but the missile thrower got nicked on the post operation investigation. If it wasn't for my Nato helmet I could have been killed or ended up with a concave face, and that's not an exaggeration. I wonder if he cared that I was newly married and living in a police flat within a socialist enclave who'd hiked up their poll tax rate. I doubt it very much but hey crusty .. I forgive you .. it's what we do right?

Three police forces present that day should you think I'm showing out.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

It's Not Written In The Tea Leaves - It's More Obvious Than That

Last year I wrote a post titled pretty patterns about the rise of gang culture. This centred on the relatively young ages of the children involved, the level and viciousness of their criminality and my concerns for their futures.

Another youth murder committed by schoolchildren hits the headlines and nearly 20 youths are arrested having allegedly been involved in a gang fight at Victoria train station in the midst of the rush hour. Let me hazard a guess as it's not been reported, and state here now that at least 80% of those involved are from a visible ethnic minority. Is is not only a couple of weeks ago that there was massive negative press about stop and search figures where police were criticised for stopping black youths disproportionally? This is what happens in reality when these kids have it out in public.

After I wrote that post there was relative peace in my shopping centre, at least on the days we had a police presence. There were the odd days when it was different. When you got two opposing groups the atmosphere was electric waiting for it to kick off. Having police uniforms right there on the scene didn't ease that and it wouldn't have stopped the groups clashing. There had to be a dominating presence from our side to remove the smaller group from the area. It would be fair to say neither group had any fear of police or any sanctions including arrest that might have been considered. Making arrests would in fact kick it off, and although some might have seen our responses as overbearing towards youths believe me - it was the right way to maintain the peace. Once they'd chilled over the following days we all got on just fine again.

It was a prophetic post in many ways and no doubt replicated across the metropolis. Young black youth are dying on the streets but still the police are battered for being institutionally racist. I've read the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and found it tried to be helpful in finding answers, however the conclusions are open to interpretation. It has been written that, one of the greatest paradoxes of your physical senses, is that your eyes actually show you what you believe, not what you see.

It's time some people opened their eyes and understand what's happening on the streets and who is actually paying the price. The Met have impacted with their Operation Blunt where extra police are drafted in on PSU's to tackle the gangs through directed stop and search. It ain't pretty but it shows who rules the streets when they're out and no doubt it's saved a few lives.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Standing Firm

If you like helicopters then you've probably seen Black Hawk Down. Trust the Americans to paint a positive on what was a disastrous operation. One of the scenes was however true and is perhaps the most courageous actions I've ever heard of.

Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon were two snipers part of Delta Force in an Apache and volunteered to set up a perimeter after another unit was shot down. The video tells it better than I ever could. The pilot they went to save was taken hostage but eventually released.

This is for somebody having a rough time at present.

Face what's before you .. and stand firm

Friday, 19 March 2010

Looking For A Remit

I've been feeding my recent obsession with time and motion and analysing how the uniform response team is grinding to a halt. It would appear that every unit seems to have a remit that in my opinion is rather self serving.

In days gone by the "support units" would take over the jobs that fell into their areas of responsibility, so all the response teams would do is take the crime report and report the basic facts and the unit did the rest. If an arrest was made for say burglary, prisoner booked in and a quick visit to CID resulted in them taking necessary statements before dealing with the prisoner. It must be stated for balance that some units are better than others in taking over jobs.

Something seems to have crept in called the initial investigation setting out the minimum actions required of the first officer on scene. The support unit will not take over the job until they are satisfied these actions are completed, so we end up with some 2 year service TDC reading out a list of things to be done from the remit before they will even look at the job.

The list is so long that I struggle to see what is actually left for the specialist unit to do, other than in most cases interview the suspect and bring the matter to case disposal. I have lost team members taking domestic reports for over half a shift taking statements, completing the dreaded DV questionnaire, tracing witnesses, seizing and viewing CCTV, researching previous history of suspects and victims, taking images of injuries to be downloaded onto a disc, chaperoning victim for medical examination, and conducting arrest enquiries which if unsuccessful are left for the oncoming uniform shift to do. If the arrest enquiry is successful booking in the prisoner completing any section 18 searches if relevant and putting everything together in a handover package.

If this is not completed to the remit it provokes cries of shit handover. I had a DS throw a rather amusing hissy fit in rebuking one of my constables who had completed an arrest enquiry from the call list. She'd arrested a suspect for an offence reported by the previous shift and the DS wanted to know why CCTV hadn't been seized and viewed and why this crap job had been dumped on his unit. He made himself look a complete cock especially as it had been brought to his unit's attention the previous day at the time of reporting and they'd done ... well nothing.

Another unit tried to give back a job they deemed incomplete because there wasn't a pnc print out. They could of printed one out themselves within 5 minutes, but you get my drift. A particular Detective Inspector sent a robbery allegation back to my team to be dealt with with scathing comments on it because it had been reported on the crime system 5 days after the offence despite the victim calling in on the night. Luckily I'd been on that night and the victim refused to see police to report despite us being available and wanting to take him on a drive around. He'd also put us off over the following days. This was all recorded on the CAD report which I pointed out to the DI who replied his detectives don't read CAD reports. He took it back so I assume we were in the right.

So after hours of work complying with the remit list the weary constables finally stagger up with the handover package to often be told the custody processing team have no capacity and they have to deal with the job themselves.

My response team has no capacity on most days .. and we have no remit. I'm making it known I'm open to offers for other roles .. little nibble already that could see me move off team within 12 months.

For any CID people who might bite on this post I'm well aware that the quality of some handovers is extremely poor and some stuff needs doing to determine if the allegation is what it purports to be .... just think time and motion and outstanding call list. Also uniform community police team's have remits that cause me angst too.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Black Book

Instruction Manuel - All You Need To Know

I came across my old instruction manuel which was issued when I joined the job, whilst having a spring clear out . For the first two years I had to study it for my probationer training and had to insert the updates that were dispatched from training centre.

It is full of common sense paragraphs so indulge me producing a couple here and wondering where it all went wrong.

Here I produce 3 paragraphs from the first page

Objects of Police

"The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquility, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained." (Sir Richard Mayne 1829)

Attitude To Public

In attaining these objects, much depends on the approval and co-operation of the public, and these have always been determined by the degree of esteem and respect in which the police are held. Therefore every member of the Force must remember that it is his duty to protect and help members of the public, no less than to bring offenders to justice. Consequently, while prompt to prevent crime and arrest criminals, he must look on himself as the servant and guardian of the general public and treat all law abiding citizens, irrespective of their race, colour, creed or social position, with unfailing patience and courtesy.

Tact and Good Humour

By the use of tact and good humour the public can normally be induced to comply with directions and thus the necessity for using force, with its possible public disapproval, is avoided. He who in this way secures the object he has in view is a more useful police officer than his comrade who, relying too much on the assertion of his authority, runs the risk of seeing that authority challenged and possibly, for the time being, overborne. If, however, persuasion, advice or warning is found to be ineffective, a resort to force may become necessary, as it is imperative that a police officer being required to take action shall act with the firmness necessary to render it effective.

No doubt the police service of today would be turning somersaults over the political incorrectness of those words. I joined a police force and those words still mean more to me than the mission statements and dross bandied about today. We used to treat all law abiding citizens with unfailing courtesy and patience and pursued the wrongdoer, who appeared to have been excluded from the definition general public. They were criminals and were treated as such NOT victim's to be pitied and excused from feeding on the weak and vulnerable.

Sometimes I wish I was back policing the same way I could before - it was simple and worked. Of course some things had to change but even a Force more representative of the community at large could have maintained the same values as set out above. You were allowed to be an individual and seek your own solutions to reach the objects as outlined.

2010 - policing is micro managed and any creativity crushed by central control who appear to want robotic responses in line with their latest Standard Operating Procedure. Sir Richard Mayne what would you say today?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Love Police

Both Videos by Charlie Veitch

I've posted previously about a Charlie Veitch video and often pop over to his YouTube channel to watch his short films. They are made to raise awareness about people in authority and how they interact with members of the public. There are also some very amusing ones with the public on tube trains. You can pick through many on his site and see PCSO's, Police Officers and Security guards dealing with Charlie, and boy are there some reactions from those in authority. He also has a blog entitled TheLovePolice where you can see some of his stuff.

The video above in two parts shows a recent interaction outside The Tower Of London where a Met Inspector is ultra cool and grounded when dealing with Charlie. I think his films make some valid points but I'd be rather pissed off to get called to deal with him in the middle of a busy shift.

Common sense does in the main resolve the situations because after all he is a film maker, but is he not aware that terrorists do conduct hostile reconnaissance at iconic sites and it would be negligent not to speak to individuals? we should of course be as professional as the Inspector when doing so. If the alarm bells were ringing around somebody I think a search would have taken place ... but it's an individual judgement. I think it's a fact that some individuals taking part in small assemblies have been shown to later be involved in terrorist activities so the request for details under stop and account or sec 44 is an intelligence plus. There is of course no obligation to provide those details.

I would have done the hug. He is actually gaining cult status amongst some police officers .. Is that bad for his image or showing that his message actually strikes a chord?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Top Of The Flops

I was once summonsed by the Superintendo to give a high profile presentation to a representative from a Government office. At the time I was working on an additionally funded policing project in a selected area, one of dozens across the country. It would appear that somebody somewhere was conducting independent public satisfaction surveys and we had scored very highly and they wanted to see what we were doing differently.

I had to justify the extra government spend and on top of my policing role produced crime figures and indicators to justify our worth, so already had an in depth Powerpoint that I had already produced for my year end report. I didn't have any reason to cheat to make ourselves look good so just produced the true data, which were the usual indicators that showed how the team worked the ground alongside crime reduction in some crime categories.

A couple of years earlier I had been given free reign to write a project appraisal and bid for a substantial quantity of government money. Nobody where I worked showed any interest in this project as the Home Office had at the time gone mad on Robbery and Burglary targets and locally this was where all the resources were put. The money bid for was to pay for extra police posts and I decided I needed a substantial overtime budget to make an impact. I put in for twice what I envisaged needing, thinking I'd be knocked back and was quite surprised to see my bid authorised in full.

I had in effect created my own empire and freed myself from having to go cap in hand to others if I wanted to do an operation. I recruited the best constables to the team who wanted to do a bit of work and off we went to arrest as many people as we could. We had no vehicles so policed on foot as we saw fit, our little bit of the Division, which was also the busiest part. I allowed my team flexible working so across a working day I got more coverage and we would single patrol and do our own thing. Once a month we would really hit the ground together for a week to tackle whatever needed sorting be it robbery, burglary, drugs or the kids.

I could use my contacts to buy in extra resources from the budget so actually increased policing where it was needed. If the punters were getting terrorised by young people I could put my people on the spot at the right times so they could see something was getting done. We could also link into the partnership to nudge our problematic youngsters into diversionary activities. It was a hard job to keep a balance between enforcement and engagement, but on the whole all the community wanted was firm but fair policing.

You wouldn't be surprised to hear that crime reduced and the punters were generally happy when we tried to do our best for them.

It was the first time I'd heard the phrase public satisfaction. I gave the presentation and the lady listened. The partnership I worked with also covered other key areas of health and education and housing. I asked how they rated when compared to policing, and the answer was very interesting. They had all scored considerably higher and policing was still the lowest in the public Psyche despite the results we had achieved. I think we would have ranked alongside estate agents in the property boom or bankers today. I don't understand the ins and outs of the independent surveys that were done on us but the point is public satisfaction will look after itself if you get on and do the job and don't go trying to influence it by not doing the simple things the punters actually want.

If I worked community today I wouldn't have the freedom to police my area as I see it, because central control seems to know best and dictates what is done. I don't think my old punters are as satisfied as they were before .. I wonder why !

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Near Misses - But No Organisational Learning

Risk assessments - are they just a way of apportioning blame when it goes belly up? I'm hearing a lot of talk from senior management about doing a dynamic risk assessment before attending calls, this is all since single patrol has been imposed. It would appear I must even record in detail my rationale if I deviate from this diktak taking into account the risks to be managed.

I've seen the ambulance service is also stricken down by this mindset. I'm aware of three calls the other day where the ambulance control called us because a risk assessment showed they shouldn't attend without police. I'm not talking about high level risks surrounding firearms but perceived low level violence. We will if we have a unit always support our first responder colleagues, but I've noticed they won't even approach the address until we get there.

Already one such call turned into what we call a critical incident because the casualty was at risk of death. If he had died, because there had been police contact a major investigation would have been launched putting every single police officer under scrutiny. It was touch and go at one stage meaning every constable had to justify what he did and why. I had an overview input after he reached hospital and without going in to details could see that, we the police would have got slaughtered had the casualty popped his clogs. A very near miss and suffice to say the single patrol policy and other decisions made by those enjoying their week-end off played a part. I could almost hear the inquest narrative highlighting systemic organisational failings and our retort of being very sorry and promising to learn from our mistakes.

The facts were evident and a number of circumstances conspired together contributing to what would have been the death of an individual. No police officers did anything wrong but the spotlight would have been on them when the blame actually lay elsewhere, around saving money and resources.

I did a report highlighting the issues and somebody higher up will read it and breath a sigh of relief. Will we learn from it as an organisation? I doubt it - but I had all of my team in to discuss things in depth. They are in no doubt they are the ones who would have been left out on a limb and criticised when actually they assisted in saving a life. It will go into their experience banks and some of them with 30 years to go will benefit from it. I'll keep the report to produce when something similar happens and somebody tries to point the finger - stating risk assessments.

Death following police contact includes non crime stuff - like us trying to save life too.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Single Patrol - The Indicators Say Yes ... But Not Really

The response team doesn't really have many measures but of course we contribute overall to the public confidence indicators. I would have thought that getting to the calls within the time limits was our number one priority. Arrest figures and MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) statistics can also show if a team is performing but to a lesser extent. Since a few weeks back we have also been judged on our single patrol performance.

Now to be consistent I'm not against single patrol per se however I always saw a conflict between call times and the need to single patrol. To lose 6 officers to foot patrol on day shift was always going to cause me problems. It can be done up to about 2pm but thereafter the demand has always stretched us. I made a decision to ignore single patrolling and let my officers be sensible in answering the calls.

To do this 6 walkers were posted on foot off vehicles so the single patrol monitoring dept (Yes there is one) were able to see our percentage of single patrols meet their set limits. All I asked of the drivers was that when they picked up a walker and took them to a call where only one officer was required, the driver would then go and deal with a similar task before picking the walker up again and so on. This satisfied my obsessions around time and motion and maintained morale on team. We were in fact working much smarter. I would also downgrade some of the calls which in my opinion had been graded incorrectly by the call centre. They have to grade according to set guidelines and the log can only be changed by a patrol supervisor. In days gone past the old controller would have used common sense to do this.

When we were beginning to lose it I'd make the decision and abandon single patrol and put the walker back in the car as an operator. Common sense policing in action and everybody's happy as far as I can see. The slight problem is our call targets have actually been improving and the charade is making the single patrol policy look good, when in reality we've not really been doing it. We call this in the trade "Making The Job Work". Elsewhere I've heard of Divisions sticking to it to the letter and call times have plummeted.

As much as I liked to be proved right and see the improved figures (i.e. Getting to more calls in a shift and keeping the punters happy), some other teams had kept to the policy and their call times sunk making it pretty obvious who wasn't playing ball. It has now been agreed that all teams will not find ways round the policy and be expected to comply. It will be quite interesting to see the MDT stats fall off the cliff as you can't drive and use it at the same time. The call times I also expect to head South. I've already spent time between my other commitments looking at the ever lengthening list of outstanding calls and I'm starting to twitch. My only consolation is the knowledge that whoever's in charge of call times and MDT stats at headquarters is going to be very stressed in a few weeks time.

How this contributes to keeping the the general public happy please feel free to explain to me. I can just see more people getting upset when we don't turn up promptly. I know how to run a response team and wish the centre would just leave me to it.

Oh and did I mention that most of the team are now looking for jobs off response?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

You Keep Calm - I'll Panic For You

It probably creates a little bit of fear in you when the security status raises. For me I run to the books to ensure I'm as up to date as I can be with the latest contingencies. That's because I could be called upon to coordinate the initial response to any major incident.

So how much training have I had for this? If you have visions of me moving imaginary hoards of police units around a large table you are in for a big disappointment. It boils down to a bit of knowledge around command and control. If you are a regular reader you might just pick up on my concerns around lack of bodies to deal with the demand we have to currently cope with.

It's relatively simple in theory, an incident happens and to deal with it you break up the jobs and delegate somebody to sort them out. For example securing the scene with cordon tape to ensure you can then deal with any casualties. Theory is OK but without proper training, how do we know how we'll react under the immense pressure of an ongoing incident. I don't know how I'd react but hope I could detach myself from trying to be hands on and put in place the building blocks needed.

What I do know is that for that initial 30 minutes until resources start arriving from surrounding Divisions and Central Reserve it will be total chaos. In amongst all the chaos I would be expected to record every decision and consideration in a written log of events. I'm supposed to do that on smaller incidents too and I can assure you it's easier said than done. It would be easier to record these into an MP3 player for later dictation.

There's no substitute for experience and I have been used on the cordon's for major incidents. You would think that people would realise that with police tape across a road and a uniformed officer stood there, it is a hint not to proceed further. Not the case I'm afraid as they quite happily lift the tape up to try and continue in to the sterile area. The reaction towards you is often hostile and downright rude.

If the worst does happen here's hoping everybody does keep calm. It was rather humbling to see how the public reacted to the 7th July bombings in London and just took all the inconvenience on the chin. Makes you feel proud to be British, which you can't say too much these day's.

I'd prefer some more realistic training for all of the team, but somehow think it isn't going to happen - let's hope it's the same with the security threat.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Seize The Moment

Stressed isn't prone to Romantic gestures because when he does it tends to fall flat. We were away on holiday on the West coast of Mexico and Mrs Stressed nipped off to the loo in one of those authentic Mexican Tavernas. I seized the moment and paid the local guitar player a few dollars to sing a couple of romantic numbers at our table.

She returns and he starts twanging away and singing in dulcet tones only to be ignored, cos' all Mrs Stressed can do is go on about how there's no toilet paper in the loo, or lock on the door, so she had to sit with her foot against it.

Mind you one of the songs was Bamboleo which I like and she doesn't .. it's in the side bar.

This year I'll play her Luther who sings what must be the sexiest love song ever. Play this to your wife, husband or significant other and see how you get on today.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thoughts Running Through My Head

When I read of another suicide in the press it just triggers something in me. I've been there at my lowest, but it was just thoughts running through my head caused by a severe lack of sleep. I still get them every time a train comes into the station but my thoughts are not me and shouldn't drive what I am. That's why suicide is a waste because situations are just that, little tests of crisis to overcome and maybe those with a busy head are more prone. Bereavement is the number one cause of temporary depression but the pain eases over time for most people. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.

I often had to cope with a past love who was always taking overdoses. Her mind was not her own and I often wonder what caused her to start munching psychotic pills. She wasn't in control of her thoughts and would go into hospital to get well. Schizophrenia is a horrible illness but very different from depression. Try dealing with that at home and then going to work to deal with much of the same. People tend to forget that we have home lives too and sometimes those are far from perfect. Many a time I would be deployed to "Nutter's" at work and force an entry with my team only to find that individual wasn't half as ill as what I went home to. We don't do Nutter's anymore and the term is Emotionally Mentally Distressed (EMD) people.

I very much dislike dealing with suicides and think I know why.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

It's always the little jobs that cause the problems. Having been investigated under Operation Helios and escaping more serious charges because somebody bottled it, Commander Ali Dizaei falls from grace because of his poor judgement on an off duty matter. Forget all this good riddance stuff and concentrate on why this officer was allowed to progress his career.

I think if I'd been captured making threatening phone calls, and we're not talking allegations as the threats were recorded, my career would be no more. Diversity in my book also covers attitudes towards women, and for a senior police officer to be promoted with a Diversity negative tick against him beggars belief. I'm sure if I went through a vetting process for certain police jobs I'd fail - just because of writing this blog. Yet somehow Mr Dizaei has been seen to be a fit and proper person for promotion, and that's despite admissions that his off duty conduct fell below the required standard. Correct me somebody if I'm wrong, but apart from his involvement in the Black Police Association what has he ever contributed to policing?

I can't recall any blinding policing initiatives or policies being created by this man, so what did he bring to the interview table? Not wanting to reopen a can of worms about Helios as Mr Dizaei was found not guilty of criminal charges laid but questions need to be asked of those higher up the chain of command and politicians. Where's the inquiry? because I'd like to know if this officer escaped disciplinary action previously because of his skin colour and political pressure. Equality means just that, equal treatment for all and the perception created by Mr Dizaei damages the ambitions of dedicated Black officers seeking to go further.

As for the Black Police Association - it is now totally discredited and should do the decent thing and fold in it's present form. It has it's own troubles ahead regarding financial irregularities so there is an opportunity for it to be more representative of black police officers. Remember a Black detective noticed the conflict in evidence in the Commander's notes and a Black duty officer ensured that full notes were completed by the constables which stood up in court. No racist conspiracies from what I can see, just somebody who pushed his luck too far.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Special People

Glenn Goodman - Same Risks Same Respect

I've served in the regular army and obviously as a full time police officer. Both of these institutions have a reserve in the form of the Territorial Army and the Special Constabulary. I always saw the TA as week-end warriors who came out on exercise to Germany occasionally, bolstering our own units. My brother in law has a chest full of medals from his part time role and somehow the TA has become vital in National Defence. In fact I doubt if the army would have been as effective without those individuals and some on the reserve list the past few years. They have provided a cost effective way out for the government who have looked to save money by merging long established units.

I think we might be beginning to see the same with policing. The Special Constabulary were always used mainly at week-ends to help out on local community events, but now they are an important resource thrown into the line. You can see the attractiveness to the policy makers as these volunteers get paid the grand sum of nothing.

You won't find me slagging off our unpaid volunteers as I've been mightily relieved to see our Divisional reserve arrive on a Friday night in strength just before chucking out time. An extra team of 10 constables with a massive specials sergeant patrolling along a length of road 200 yards and still fights were kicking off. I was actually rather embarrassed that when they made arrests we had none of our own PC's to help them out with the paperwork. Many don't need the help as they already work for us as civil staff and the "Job" sorts them a couple of days to balance out their uniformed commitment. Somebody has been rather clever, because if a really serious emergency and I mean National Proportions takes place our police staff can be deployed in a back up role. The others come from a range of other occupations.

There is a lot more training being put into our specials to bring them up to a higher standard. I must say they are good and I'm impressed. Moves are taking place to align them to individual response teams and it is stressed this is in addition to the minimum strengths. Funny how this announcement coincided with the strength being cut again. I do hope the goodwill of our special colleagues is not abused. If the government wants to increase reliance on the police reserve they should at least ensure a tax-free bounty payment system is brought in once sufficient volunteer hours are reached.

I'm not sure where they stand if they get injured on duty. I was very fortunate to attend a talk given by ex PC Sandy Kelly who was with Special Constable Glenn Goodman when he was shot by IRA terrorists after a routine traffic stop in Yorkshire 1992. A great talk by an officer who suffered from PTSD and had to medically retire. He did these talks to aid his recovery and it was very humbling. He blamed himself for not protecting his volunteer operator despite being nearly killed himself and badly injured, and that's what the Specials are, colleagues who wear the same uniform.

It is National Specials Weekend

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


It doesn't matter who wins the election later this year because police numbers will be cut to save money on the budget. Does it make a jot of difference to me on response team? - the answer is not really because the past 15 years or so has already seen a decrease in response team numbers, despite a huge increase in paperwork.

I work an area consisting of 3 Divisions that in years gone by were separate entities each having their own relief patrol shift, comms room, custody suite and support teams (CID - Crime Squad - Collator - Admin units) and SMT. In 2010 we work as one and the Admin support team's and comms have been mainly centralised in a far off place.

The minimum strength on a Night Duty is 24 and we rarely have more than that but very often less. Early shift is 22 but the demand is not usually as intense. I know that some readers will salivate at having those numbers but if I tell you we have nearly 30 cell spaces and that's sometimes not sufficient it will indicate how busy it gets. You can do the Math. Three double crewed cars and a double crewed van on each Division is about as good as it gets. We definitely have less officers to respond to calls from the public than 13 years ago so the increase in police/pcso numbers hasn't trickled down to where it is needed. The centre keep boasting about how many more calls are being taken in the call centres but don't mention the poor sods who are trying to deal with them and still having to meet target times.

A relief would have had about 20 PC'S on it so in the past we would have started with 60. My team is now made up of about 40 constables but from that we lose 4 to a custody management team and 1 for a beat crimes team. We also provide 1 for a wanted squad to hunt down those who have been bailed and are still to be brought to justice. We also have to give to an Ops room to back fill the police staff who have been moved on to save money, so at times 2 people, and not forgetting a gaoler for custody and station office cover if the civvie is off. As we are nearing 50% probationers on team they also have to complete training modules which means we lose them for a week now and again.

I often look at how many people are booked on duty and if the community teams are included there are often 30 extra available mainly PCSO's but these are not deployable unless the call is in line with their local priorities. They are the visible presence and work on the reassurance side, but can be drafted in for any critical incidents before 10 pm.

I finally got back from a job last week that needed 8 constables and me to deal with, to see the screen still displaying several calls we hadn't got to. The box was well are truly empty, prisoners still being arrested at 6am. This government has spent millions extra on policing and maybe if they hadn't wanted to set targets and measure things so much, some of it might have found its way to where the public want it. Lets face it if you call us and we don't turn up - you're not going to be impressed are you? and that's the only indicator now isn't it?

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Phoney War

I love drugs .. or to be more precise being involved in operations to combat their use and supply. My level of expertise centres around the street market drugs mainly crack and heroin, which links into acquisitive crime. I love policing the druggies and putting myself up against whoever is flavour of the month amongst the local so called drug lords. It's a challenge - a game to me - a war that I can never win overall but an opportunity to win a personal head to head. I admit to actually enjoying that feeling when I emerge victorious. There is also a positive kick-back in the knowledge that for a short time the local community will have some respite from having to put up with blatant dealing and all the fears that go with it, but only until somebody else moves in to fill the void.

I don't think we are quite so hot in dealing with the middle class drugs such as cocaine and Ecstasy. I could point you to places where I know that the powder drugs and pills are readily available, but in the whole we ignore it. The past few years we've also been neglecting the street stuff too, all because it's too expensive to tackle properly. Drug offences for reporting purposes are a "victimless" crime and only show on the books for a detection with a prisoner attached.

It's only political pressure that draws a response, be it an explosion in violent crime when a drug related turf war breaks out or a publicised death surrounding a venue such as Leah Betts in Basildon. Central funding might then be forthcoming if you make a good case for it. If this doesn't happen then you'll have to put up with queues of addicts waiting for their fix on your stairwell.

Now I don't have a past involving drugs, apart from being administered an opiate years ago for a broken leg. It definitely hit the spot for me and I still crave that feeling now - I know what to ask for if in severe pain and was extremely disappointed to have been turned down for Pethidine on my last injury.

I understand the street addicts many of whom I really like, and many have a strong moral code even if they are thieves. Most will shoplift to fund their habits and don't see themselves as serious criminals. They hate to be classed the same as burglars and robbers and would class themselves as honest thieves if that makes sense. As I'm on first name terms with many of these still after many years, the extra funding for drugs rehabilitation isn't working as far as I can see.

I like to think I have a feel of what's going on locally where I work. Most of the kids who were committing robberies or burglaries or vehicle crime are moving into dealing where even as a runner they can make 80 pounds a day. Once they make a stake they start up their own operations to keep the cycle going. Their addict customers continue shoplifting almost unabated to feed their habits and also keep the cycle going. I can't remember the last time a prolific shoplifter got sent to prison round my way so the shops lose thousands, the police win as we are not called to report all shoplifting's and benefit from the kids moving into dealing and society loses as the streets become a mess.

I don't understand the other spectrum where the middle classes go out and have a snort or pop a pill or two. Is it the danger of living on the edge? of taking a walk on the wild side? of being - well naughty? I don't discriminate and will nick either if they come into my sights but policing today means it's likely to be the street stuff that gets my attention.

I have done the other side when the political pressure was demanding action against the acid house phase in the early 90's. It was piss easy to cruise round venues that had these promotion nights and stop and turn over people in their cars outside. The percentage hit rate for possession of Ecstasy was high and occasionally we'd hook a bigger fish. I recall nicking one lad and we'd gone back to search his bedroom on a Section 18. He had banknotes piled up and it must have been a 12 inch pile. Thousands of pounds which today would have been seized as proceeds of crime. The circumstances of his case meant it was restored. As they went on all night it was even worth early turn stops on a Saturday or Sunday morning as they drove home. I had a particularly good seizure of LSD from doing this.

I'd even worked plain clothes in one venue when we were going to raid it. A few of us were put in to spot the dealers. Drugs and water were order of the day for most patrons and I was approached several times by people wanting to score. Passing myself off as a prospective buyer myself all you had to do was to ask the eager punter to let you know who had stuff for sale. The naive suckers would come back and tell you who had what and the prices, bloody nice people. I was also complimented on my trendy shirt several times by young ladies who were obviously on it. The raid was a waste of time by the time we'd done it as the dealers we pointed out were sold out. A sweep around the floors showed the extent of the drugs misuse, which was all that was needed to eventually shut it down. Things would be done differently today if we did anything at all. If I am to be totally honest the hundreds of patrons although "on it" big time caused less trouble than if they'd been tanked up on booze. A really chilled raid ...

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Season Ahead

I can feel Spring in the air and the remnants of my Winter gloom being blown gently away. This is approaching my favourite time of year when we can all look forward more positively to what's ahead. Already the first demonstration has taken place involving the English Defence League and predictably it kicked off.

I don't think anybody has quite sussed this lot out yet. The extreme left have bracketed them as fascist right wing extremists and turn out en masse to confront them. This I assume is due to factions within the EDL being made up of mainly football supporters - their traditional enemies, where the most extreme fans were directly linked to Combat 18 and BNP. The EDL also has a Jewish wing, Muslim wing and Black members who purport their aims are solely to confront extremist Islamic groups who have been too long indulged in this country. I do wonder why these anti-fascist groups don't also go and demonstrate against Islam4UK whose views are very much fascist by definition.

It will I suspect boil down to Right versus Left with a 21st Century slant to it. Alot of today's football fans are quite happy to integrate with different cultures as long as those individuals can kiss the flag and see themselves as British. So this year we could well see anti-fascist groups confronting the EDL who are made up of some non white faces. Couldn't see too many black faces in the video below from the disturbances in Stoke though, but I can assure you some football firms have black members. It could just be an excuse for these football fans to indulge their tribal passion for fighting and lets be honest they are not particularly bothered who they have a go at including police. Personally I've always found them full of shite who only go on the rampage when numbers are stacked in their favour, but at least they don't whine when order is restored.

Who knows what the year holds for the EDL, but unless they fragment and become more overtly racist they might just become stronger and attract more popular support than the BNP. I don't think they are that smart and the Nazi salutes just show them up to be the same Nationalists who used to turn up countering the "Troops Out" of Ulster marches. The left meanwhile will quite happily take to the streets when the Tories regain power, so this year could actually be problematic.

I don't know how the new police "Hands off - We've Surrendered" public order tactics will fit into this, all I know is a boot from a Anti-fascist hurts as much as one from a Right winger.

Tactical Point - Shouldn't the exit doors be on the side away from the crowd?