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?