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?


Blue Eyes said...


In these situations in my work I go into "just following orders" mode and let the chips fall where they will. Ultimately responsibility flows upwards, especially with the top-down command-and-control tactics that you seem to have to put up with.

I have a better idea: why not let each team decide how to best deal with its workload and priorities and see who does best. Then the less good can learn from the better. Or have I missed something..?

Anonymous said...

This is the issue with SP, it is a one size fits all strategy which is not evidenced based. Firstly, it is claimed that it is about approachability but yet in the last public satisfaction survey over 85% of the public said that their last experience of police was in pairs yet over 70% said their police were friendly and approachable! Interestingly, more recently as single patrol has increased this approachability figure has dropped by 6 points... work that out. SP is not the smart way to deploy officers against an aim of preventing and detecting crime. It turns the single crewed mobile officer into little more than a professional driver denied use of MDT and radio. The single patrolling foot officer cannot be deployed into the areas that need a uniformed presence due to risk thus abstracting double crewed units from hotspot areas. It is a double whammy

Hogday said...

Oh dear, where to start? Look back and learn, maybe?
As a patrol sgt. I used to have the casting decision as to how my officers were deployed. Initially, our `control room` was locally based at our main station. It took all phone calls, except 999's, direct from our residents. A 999 would be routed direct to the PHQ control room who would do one of 3 things: Log the call and deploy our Area Car via vhf radio; log the call but notify local division by landline or printer for local deployment; Log the call and bin it, if it was LOB. Calls that came our way would be deployed by our local controller. I would hear this over my radio and do my sergeant shit by adding, altering, correcting or monitoring - and yes, even getting a community beat officer to take the call, because I had primacy over them as well.

A 40 months spell in the training dept put me out of harms way, during which time area control rooms were introduced, bloody miles away. Controllers at these places assumed they had to run the show and new sergeants thought control rooms could be left to get on with it. Result was an abrogation/dilution of local responsibility and an increased responsibility on the controllers.

I re-emerged into frontline policing and heard strange new goings on over the radio and didn't like how my troops were being deployed. After a few days of `taking stock` I intervened on one call and politely asked the controller if he would mind me overriding his decision and do what I wanted. His reply went like this: "Sgt Hogday, I've been waiting for 3 years to hear a sergeant say that - thank you" and then promptly re assigned units as per my wishes.
I figured if I was being paid to manage, then manage I bloody well would. But area controls stayed and although I had the greatest respect for the skills of the staff, I maintained, until the day I left, that if I had my choice i would plump for my local control every time, giving me over riding responsibility for how my officers were deployed. No doubt someone will tell me that sergeants can't do this anymore. Maybe that is the case but the command and control system, that someone in command chose to re design, made this happen.

Sorry SOC, I've taken up a shedload of airtime over this one. Wait out.

Metcountymounty said...

I've already got the nod for a couple of different departments so when the new financial years comes in and internal moves are allowed again I'm off, just not sure where too yet. The grass won't be any greener but at least I won't get up hating what I used to love. I've had enough of trying to make it work.

It's been so bad on my division that we've had a member of the SMT attending every OST session to try and persuade everyone that it's great, and to hear our concerns so they can be duly ignored.

The complete farce of it all is that every single one - bar the borough commander of course - have all said that things go round in circles and that once call times, stop searches and arrests drop then the commissioner will have to change it back. There are many reasons why it always goes back to two working together. You're more efficient, more motivated, more confident, more effective in incidents, less reliant on other units etc.

Double crewed in a vehicle you can deal with 20 or so calls in a shift without having to involve anyone else, except a van to transport prisoners. On your own you need people to transport prisoners, more people if you have more than one suspect or a suspect and a victim, you have to stand off for jobs with a high risk until other (single crewed and probably walking) units get to you, all the while the public wonder why you're not answering their calls quickly enough. Out walking you'd be lucky to get to 5 calls in a shift. Walking down a street that takes 10 minutes normally takes half an our in uniform, everyone wants to talk to you and you get stopped for directions, you can't exactly say sorry I'm going to a 999 call two miles away and I have to be there 20 minutes ago so I can't talk. A lot of people have also had people ask them why they are out on their own. I'd love to know where this rubbish came from about not being approachable in pairs because people think they're interrupting something important - I've had my hands full of intestines while a paramedic was dealing with a sucking chest wound and someone STILL came up to me and asked me to help him get his card out of the machine. It was actually the paramedic who told the guy to fuck off, I was too gobsmacked.

It's ridiculous, and I've had enough of trying to make it work, response teams are supposed to be there to deal quickly and effectively with 999 calls. People are going to get injured and probably killed because we can't deal with what comes in effectively any more, and I don't want that on my shoulders.

MPS Probbie said...

SOC - your experiences and thoughts seem to tally up with those on our BOCU.

We'd previously been left pretty much to our own devices, which resulted in canny Response supervisors using Metduties to post phantom Single Patrol footwalkers - who almost always seemed to find themselves patrolling the operator's seat in an IRV or van.

Now that emails from the centre are becoming steadily more strident (and more deranged and out of touch with reality!) this element of discretion is fast vanishing.

I assume that you've had similar Fed emails to us warning us about the use of PR's and MDT while single crewed and driving?

Single Patrol seems to throw up the following issues:

1) Drivers are not allowed to use their radios whilst driving, meaning they will have to pull over to query control, or arrive at incidents with minimal information.

Response times will double and/or drivers will be put at more risk

2) Drivers are not allowed to use MDT while driving, and will thus not be able to read the CAD or map if they do not pull over. 2 weeks ago it took nearly ten minutes to get the blasted MDT to accept a CAD from Metcall - involving several radio calls to get them to try and send it again - try doing that while single-crewed!

Net result? Response times will double or drivers will be put at more risk due to lack of intel.

3) Single crewed IRV's will either have to attend violent incidents on their own and risk being hung out to dry by SMT if it goes Pete Tong, or will have to park up round the corner to await other single-crewed units and risk more lurid Daily Mail headlines about cops having a snooze and delaying while people get killed/robbed/burgled/etc.

Net result - Public Confidence gets mullered and response times soar, or single-crewed drivers experience more risk.

4) More people will actively seek to leave Team, robbing it of experienced officers. This is already happening, in anticipation of more feckless directives from the commissioner.

5) It's glaringly obvious that even most minor jobs are accomplished more efficiently and effectively with two officers there. Even with a job that's probably going to get screened out, surely the Orwellian measure that is public confidence would be improved by the public seeing a swift, efficient initial investigation being carried out by officers who had the time to explain what they were doing to the victim at the scene?

I could probably go on for hours, and longer-serving officers probably even longer, but I'll try and rein it in for now!

The commissioner's obsession appears to be simply him pandering to a clueless minority in the population who live in lovely areas and think that Dock Green-style policing is still the order of the day.

The terrifyingly-obtuse 'DO AS YOU'RE TOLD, WE DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK, YOU ARE WRONG' language that is repeated again and again in official 'forums' and 'discussions' about Single Patrol is possibly the worst bit about the whole sorry affair. SMT at the centre have obviously been told to parrot the party line - making them appear more and more like the dishonest politicians they seem to be morphing into.

Metcountymounty said...

apologies for the rant and spelling in that one, should have proof read it first!

MPS Probbie said...

You managed it more succinctly than I did!

Dandelion said...

What do you think is the problem, SoC? How can this be made better?

Anonymous said...

It's not going to be long before the "get them out of their cars" brigade are going to get their wish, especially with 30,000 999 calls per day in london with around only 1,800 officers realistically able to deal with them per shift. The wheels going to come off at some point and I don't want to be there when it happens.

MPS Probbie said...


Well, a good start would be employing police chiefs who have the balls and/or integrity to tell the truth.

Most of us would love to live in a world where the friendly village bobby lives where he works, knows everyone and doles out wisdom, summary justice and clips around the ear with a kindly smile.

The truth of the matter is that most of us don't live in villages, and we certainly don't live in any world that PC Dixon would recognise.

Times have changed, society has changed, and the law has changed - the police farces need to point that out to the public, especially as those who hark back to some kind of happy golden age are often those who helped bring around the current shitstorm with their well-meaning support for years of poisonous social engineering, and the destruction of the criminal justice system in the defence of criminals' rights.

Anonymous said...

"Walking down a street that takes 10 minutes normally takes half an our in uniform, everyone wants to talk to you and you get stopped for directions, you can't exactly say sorry I'm going to a 999 call two miles away and I have to be there 20 minutes ago so I can't talk."

I thought there was some secret answer to this problem that nobody was telling me! I have been literally running to things and people have stopped me for directions or advice or just to faff.

The result will be irreversible. If experienced response officers like MCM disappear to specialist units then those skills will be gone from response forever. What a way to manage resources.

Hogday said...

Response resources need to be managed at ground level, not fiddled with by the long screwdriver of senior management. The latter should be the ones to clear the obstructions and provide the tools, not try to work them from afar. If a task can be done by a single officer, let the sgt say so. In my 30 years I always felt that two was best as a patrol unit, provided they produced the goods. if they didn't, that was also down to me.

Metcountymounty said...

SC, there is an answer, it's called using the back streets, alleys and occasionally roof gangways (long story) where most people don't walk, but that completely defeats the object of being out on the streets walking so people see you. There hasn't been a dictat yet about which routes I'm supposed to take and as billy burglar doesn't stick to the main routes neither should we, especially if a 999 comes in. Those people I have asked whether they would rather see me walking along a street, or getting to their 999 call in the least possible time, every single one has opted for the latter. There simply aren't enough of us out on the street to hark back to the good old days of a 200m long micro beat with a copper in each one. I counted no less than 13 police officers working in the warrants department and the 'wanted persons intelligence unit' the other day, that's a whole response team for gods sake. We have enough cops over all, they just need to be deployed away from non jobs. Let neighbourhood PCs do the Dixon bit, response teams can deal with all the 999 stuff and without micromanagement.

MTG said...

Patrolling in pairs is quietly mocked by all my fellow Villagers.

The pure physical exercise of a brisk walk through our area in pairs, has its tedium offset by conversation so engrossing that a robbery could take place at our Post Office without drawing their attention.

We smile at the obligation to step into the road to avoid a pavement collision with two abreast uniforms; confirming to ourselves that not a molecule of the old respect remains.

MPS Probbie said...

If you'd read the original post you'd realise that it was about response policing - which should have nothing to do with walking about in pairs, and everything to do with driving about in them.

Stressed Out Cop said...

A very interesting thread here ... I tend to side with Mr Hogday who knows his stuff.

Dandelion - I might just have to put a new post up to answer your question .. too much in this little box to write.

MCM - Interesting point re meeting the public on response walking .. it seems they are throwing everything into interactions. On community I could chat all day but I wasn't a slave to the radio .. I can't see how they can have it both ways.

Resistance curve aside re single patrol - it shows a lack of understanding about just how busy we are (at times)

I will post re a wishy wanty list of things to improve the situation.

Thanks for all comments.

Metcountymounty said...

Melv, taking a probbie out and teaching is one thing, as is patrolling at night in areas like the west end or any high street. I spent most of my probation out on my tod, as do most officers outside London or anyone with more than five years service in the Met.

The issue is making single patrol the default for anyone doing anything, which is completely incompatible with some roles such as first response crews/dog units etc who don't know what job they will be dealing with from one call to the next.

Think routine shoplifter through to multiple suspects on a victim who has been stabbed. I had that on Saturday, one after the other, and it was an utter mess. Option one role into a fight and try and nick as many as you can or get to the victim to assess and treat injuries. On your own it's one or the other, at least in a pair you've got a chance at doing both. I chose option one and got two suspects out of four, and got slagged off for not going to the victim (small stab wound, not serious) though had I let all the suspects go I would have been criticised but someone anyway.

Splitting everyone up just breeds inefficiency as you have to co-ordinate a lot more with other units to get the job done, no matter how routine. I've nothing against walking and nothing against walking on my own but when my job is to get to any type of 999 call in the shortest time and deal with anything there it's ridiculous to expect anyone to do that effectively or safely on their own.

MTG said...

MPS Probblem will hear youngsters' sniggers behind his back with some regularity.

MPS Probbie said...

Oh dear MTG - your clumsy, petulant insults have cut me to the core!

Or not.

Hogday said...

MCM's last comment has legs and strikes a chord in my current blog post on major incidents. If you work backwards from that, you have the precise same problems on many jobs you care to name, its just on a smaller scale, eg MCM's Fight+ casualty = no flexibility to delegate so somebody loses out; at worst, officer vulnerability and loss of control. There's rarely a surplus of officers at the scene of a job, but occasionally a lack of supervison (and that can be by any rank). Officers can always be stood down or take on a supplementary role (there's always something to be done). The reverse situation, getting back-up asap is not so easy. My preference was always to have someone doing `top cover`, watching my back, or vice versa. It is interesting to see the perceptions of folks `outside the bubble` and these perceptions are a whole separate problem.

Area Trace No Search said...

Of course, as well as everything already said - we just don't have enough cars to get about.

On the inner Boroughs this ain't so much of a problem, but with some of the bigger outer boroughs there is absolutely no way to get to calls without a form of transport.

During the day a Town Centre foot patrol is perfect, but at night when the domestics start, how are the PCs on single foot patrol in PY, KD or XH going to get to calls?

Metcountymounty said...

We've got the vehicles we just aren't allowed to use them!! The last set of nights we had three IRV drivers out walking because "we've got too many vehicles on as it is" so what happens at 2 am when it starts going banjo? Why of course the duty Ch.Insp starts bollocking the sgts over the radio for not having enough units to answer all the I grades.

HotelTango said...

Considering the Commissioner grew up as a county copper in Lancashire back in the 70's, I dont feel he appreciates the requirements of Police in cities such as London in 2010..

Following a few shootings over HT the SMT have decided to split the borough in half, with single patrol covering the west and paired patrol covering the east..
May sound simple, you think, but when the divide is a 6 foot ditchline you're going to have crew running east to west on calls whether they're single manned or paired up. Then what? The SMT tell the IRV driver its his fault he was assaulted because he shouldnt have attended the abandoned 999 call as he was supposed to stay on the other side of a compass?
Great idea, Mr BBL.
And whats the point of the new Stops database... no name, dob or addy field? Whats the point in even completing a S&A5090 now? I'm sure the word 'intelligence' means information that can be used to aquire knowledge.. maybe not in MetLand