Tuesday 12 March 2013

Knives Out - Tribute to Gadget

One of the constants in my life the past few years has been the influence of The Inspector Gadget Blog. With the demise of good old Night Jack this was the go to place to see policing "AS IT IS". I have been known to pop in for time to time with the odd comment.

I've been a constant reader for years - I don't even think he'd got to 100k hits when I first lurked, as Copperfield was the designated place for disaffected moaning troops.

I hardly recognised the bureaucracy and rubbish he wrote about, as I work in Metroland. It didn't take long however for those new religions in ACPO thinking to filter through to my own Force area. We've even got some of the same self proclaimed "leaders" who pander to their political masters. Some of us are still fighting and want the truth out, but maybe from the inside is the place to influence and show up the present style of leadership that moulds future policing. This is a different job to the one I joined over 25 years ago and a different culture exists .... apathy rules along with Money. I'd like to believe that the only thing that matters is people - both on the staff side and the public at large. If we get that right the policing will look after itself without the measures.    

Challenging upwards in whatever way you can is a true Leadership trait and Mr Gadget (one assumes a Mr.) appears to have it in spades. I never knew Gadget but then I did, because we see the same things. I'm delighted to see he is also a Radiohead fan and wish him all the best in his retirement.

From a Hat - I salute and Thank You Gadget. Enjoy Retirement.      

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Eyes Wide Shut

Parallels = Same Result

Okay I've digested Winsor 2, but I'd actually read the transcript of conversations that had taken place with The Federation so no real surprises in there for me! So what is happening here and why?

It just so happens, that this week Petrol Tanker drivers have voted to strike. There are some interesting parallels here that need examination. I declare an interest as my old man used to be one, and if I wasn't doing Policing, I would have been living in Essex probably doing the same. I am friends with people who are in Unite and I know what has happened in the past few years in that business.

In my father's day he was employed by an oil company to deliver fuel and oil. He was therefore enrolled into their pension scheme, which was one of the best in the private sector. It is a skilled job and safety is the name of the game as effectively you are driving a potential bomb. The drills are everything and routing, cambers, loading, unloading and entry into delivery sites is taken very seriously, with an expectation to act on near misses reported by the drivers. It has therefore been well paid and "The Company" could well afford it.

About 20 years ago "The Company" then decided to save money and put the delivery side of its business out to contract. Tenders were made and effectively the drivers were off the books and employed by whoever got the 5 year contract. Terms and Conditions changed and the longer service people were either paid off or were offered £20k in compensation to take a 25% pay cut. They were most importantly out of the pension scheme and accrued payments were frozen, and then into an inferior pension with the contract winner, where to benefit they would have to work longer.

Over the years market forces ensured that salary rates stayed low. The staff turnover was higher as people were often attracted elsewhere, and in driving circles petrol delivery still remained better paid so recruitment was never going to be a problem. Although safety is still high on the agenda, safety incidents are I'm told up, as are the resulting dismissals. Had a PollColl recently? Imagine getting a written warning if you are found at fault instead of some points on your police driving record.

A few years back the wages had effectively not increased much and the union stood their ground for a raise in salary. Oil prices were at an all time high as were company profits for oil companies. Media dirty tricks kicked in to paint the drivers as "greedy" yet same job 17 years after conditions changed, only paid the same money as previously? That was some erosion in pay if you were employed on the old terms.

Interesting times ahead for Policing. G4S will now obviously take parts of core policing and see above for what I suspect it means for current police officers. I think I blogged previously that PCSO's would go that way eventually but never thought that would come to warranted officers. Getting police off the Public Sector pension liability is good for the taxpayer and I suspect an experiment for other public services.

Did you used to judge those people on demonstrations when they went on about corporate greed? Maybe their eyes were open!!

If I'm honest I can see why they'd do this. Policing is not the efficient common sense disciplined occupation I joined over 25 years ago. It really is simple put more on relief to deal with what the public want and dispose of the central control and performance monitoring. There's your 20% savings.

Monday 27 February 2012

A Prediction

Sometimes you can anticipate extra work coming along so here's a little prediction. I am a technophobe however am aware that in many mobile devices, (Apple for one) that you can either activate a GPS tracker or in the newer versions it's there as standard. Great for police if your phone is genuinely stolen by robbery and you want it back.

Not great for police if your phone is "Lost/Stolen" in a pub.

I predict more than a few drunken persons coming our way with expectations that we'll drop everything in order to track their "Stolen" phone. I believe phone providers are already sending people down to the nick, having told them what we can do.

We'll see !!

Sunday 29 January 2012

I'm Still Standing

Hello - It's been a while and thought I'd pop in for a one off post.

Since I stopped blogging the Country has continued on a downward trajectory and this once fantastic job has followed the trend line. A few years back I would have been ranting about it but there are more important things in life to worry about. I used to sell my soul in my chosen trade and the past couple of years have learnt that I can't do it any more and find myself hanging on.

I am affected by the Winsor stitch up, losing increments but will escape anything that Hutton throws up in relation to my Pension. If I take into account some Army service I can go with a full pension in about 2 years time. I am physically injured and mentally shot but in a better place than previously. I don't work the long hours that I used to and feel healthier for it, although occasionally massage my ego with some extra specialist duty that results in jail time for those I play with. It might mean finishing at 3 or 4 in the morning and still having to make Early Turn but that's a personal thing and I'm not motivated by money as I don't incur overtime anymore.

I do find myself somewhat in a quandary about the financial situation the country is in. As one of Maggie's children I'm very small state minded and see the need for a smaller public sector and the need to cut pensions. It is a good deal we have and obviously unaffordable for the Country at large in the longer term, but that was the deal when I signed on the line and put my body through the grinder. I've fulfilled my side of the bargain policing the streets on shift for most of my service, and have the scars and pains to show for it. NuLabor dodged the big decision at the time on Pensions, however a double hit on Police, targeting Pay and Conditions followed by the Hutton change is in my opinion unfair as it presently stands. I doubt very much if it would have happened if The Police Federation had looked into Full Industrial Rights a few years back. I'd rather HMG looked at benefit tourism, as my eyes tell me there's plenty of savings to be made there, due to European integration, Who did vote for that?

I fear the writing is on the wall and this once Great Institution is heading for privatisation in some form. That means that the Office of Constable will become a thing of the past and all about indicators and bottom lines. If they understood policing and it was just about crime then OK what's the problem? - but Policing is about People and picking up the pieces where other agencies are so obviously failing. Police Officers care and do outstanding work with the Mentally Ill and Young People in a preventative way, along with so many other interactions that are not crime related. The question I pose is, if we don't do it - Who will? Just look at Social Service provision out of office hours and think who currently fills that gap. There are not many indicators in baby sitting children in Police Protection for several hours whilst waiting for Social Services to grind into some action.

I had the opportunity when out with an MP on patrol to tell it the way it was. He listened and knew I spoke the truth, however the truth is not in line with current government policy or I doubt personal MP career progression.

The facts are it's going to get worse before it's get better. The situation is what it is .. Do your best and try to be happy, and remember you can't change the world but you can possibly do real good for somebody on that next call. That's your reward !!

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.