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 !