Wednesday 28 January 2009

Are We Covered?

I think we are all aware now of PC John NASH who sustained a cringing eye injury when chasing a suspect. Read the full story here and beware the picture. He made the arrest when an obviously "innocent male" decamped from a car and ran off, as you do. The suspect was subsequently released without charge.

John NASH will hopefully make a full recovery in time but was very lucky not to lose an eye. He is currently off work and no doubt it will be some time before he can go back onto full duty. So that appears to be that. Where would John Nash stand if he had lost an eye or some sight in respect of compensation?

The fact is pretty much nowhere. If he had been invalided out of the police force having sustained the injury in the course of his duties he would have been eligible for an injury award and small pension. The loss of an eye would restrict him in some police roles but as we have bionic policemen it is unlikely he would be medically retired. Of course if he contributed to in job insurance the loss of an eye would get him a small sum.

You would have thought that he would and should be covered under CICA (Criminal Injury Compensation Authority). After all he was injured on duty attempting to arrest a criminal suspect. The tariff states that the loss of an eye receives £27k compensation. Well if the suspect poked the stick in his eye he would be covered, but as he slipped on mud it is counted as an accidental injury and the scheme says.

paragraph 12(a) of the scheme we may pay compensation for accidental injury only if , in the course of law enforcement duties, officer took an exceptional risk which was justified in all the circumstances.

I think this means that if he was chasing an armed robber or something just as sexy it might be justified. In the case of John Nash and I talk from experience in all likelihood he would have received nothing for pain, loss of earnings and potential disability.

Police Officers are not in the job for litigation but sometimes your arse is on the line and through doing your job and getting badly injured accidentally you will get nothing, except the respect of your colleagues. Well Done John Nash nice collar.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Can We Save The Leader ?

There is no argument that there has been massive investment in youth provision, not necessarily in youth clubs but in local authority schemes. The day's of youth involvement closing down at half-term is hopefully long gone. Of course this investment is measured and subject to qualifying rules. I was heavily involved at one point in the Youth Inclusion Project. This was aimed at youths who were offending or at risk of offending between the ages of 13-16 years. The project head was a man who insisted on discipline and rules and I respected and liked him. The kids were difficult but were kept in line and off the streets. The key to all this was funding, and he was able to tap into some regeneration money to top up the council funds.

His dosage was high, and I don't mean that from a drug viewpoint. The number of participants into the total cost came out at about £3.50 a day per child. Of course he needed to keep the bean counters happy and I supplied him out with arrest figures. We used to contradict each other, as my project was based on increasing arrest figures and his reducing re-offending. The thing we had in common was we both cared and could see the good both our projects were having locally. We used to discuss up and coming kids and if they were below the age limit he'd still let them participate as he knew you had to get them early. It was a win win for me to have the kids entertained and sometimes exported from my area for the day, reducing crime spikes at half-term.

He fell foul of some local politics, the extra funding dried up and eventually moved on elsewhere. Of course the next lot of kids coming through didn't benefit and were lost to the streets, despite there still being a YIP. He was a maverick and ran his project with common sense, doing the right thing as he saw fit.

Today we the police are attempting to compete with other agencies to break down barriers and provide youth provision. The bosses wet themselves with glee when a project comes off and there is a photo opportunity showing how "street" we have become. I think we do it quite well considering we have no money, but we can't do it as well as the experts, and their built in budget. I would be against this as we should be out policing but then there is just the possibility of diverting one or two away from a life of crime.

I've known a lad on my estate since he was 5 years old, and he's now 12. His mother is Afro-Caribbean and a single parent. She's strict and is well aware that he is at risk of being lost to the streets. I've been round the house several times and on the walls there are pictures of black role models who are barristers, soldiers, police officers and recently Barack Obama to remind him he can achieve in his life. He's had a touch off me before over a minor misdemeanour and I was rather gutted to receive a phone call off duty (is that in the pledge?) from mum telling me he had been arrested for assaulting a boy who goes to his school.

I went round the next time I was on duty to see what had gone on. He'd hit a boy in his class who'd been annoying him in the street after school. Members of the public called 999 and he'd been pointed out and nicked. The other lad's parent wanted to know so he received a youth reprimand. I had a long chat with him, and this other lad had been pestering him and pushed it too far. He admitted he should have handled it better and was genuinely sorry. I've seen him on the street and he is a "leader", already with a named crew at 12 and could be classed as up and coming. He is also a nice lad, articulate and I hope worth a bit of our time. I suggested the YIP to mum who doesn't want him mixing with older boy's who may lead him astray.

I had him in mind when one of the excellent PCSO's at my station stated he was going to be running one of his youth projects. This was to be a talent show event. I made sure mum knew about it and even popped along to auditions myself. This was always going to be a bent audition, I wanted the "leader" involved. He'd even brought a mate along so we got two for the price of one. I needn't have worried about the bent audition, I stood behind one of the judge's an up and coming rap star and he noted that the "leader" was special. He was in and his mate too.

Over a hundred kids are involved in this 3 nights a week and somehow it's going ahead even though the finances are somewhat lacking at present. I've got control of a small budget and will attempt to divert some that way, if it comes to it I'll put my hand in my own pocket. Some will say why are the police involved in this?, we'd rather have you on the streets instead. They may well have a point - but if it saves the "leader" and others like him maybe it's a worthwhile investment.

I've seen too many go the other way.

Friday 23 January 2009

Getting It Right Sometimes

I think it is easy to have a moan here and there about things and not highlight other areas where there has been sensible progress. As I've mentioned before I'm not a persecuting motorists sort of officer, having done my share in my probation several years ago.

I do draw the line at no insurance offences. No matter who you are and what excuse you throw up you are going in the book. I was always a bit peeved to leave a car at roadside having reported a no insurance bandit. "Now you have to leave it here and get somebody to remove it otherwise you will commit a further offence". Invariably you'd cruise past a short time time later and the car was gone, I suspect driven by the original uninsured driver. He or she would then have to wait several months for a summons in the post. Many would get away with a producer and there was always the risk of being had over with duff particulars.

Now all insurance details are available on the police national computer for instant checking. I've found it to be a pretty reliable process and you can always carry out other checks if need be. The best thing however is to be able to seize the car and remove it to a pound. It can only be retrieved by producing valid insurance and paying a fee of £100+. If you are eligible and don't have too many points on your licence, you will be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice for £200 with 6 points attached. Nobody can be against this, with uninsured drivers adding a premium to the policies of all the law abiding majority.

I was block walking a few months back and looking out from high above. I saw a Mini Cooper down below manoeuvring having let a passenger out. The car was then waiting and I deemed it worthy of a look, just in case of some estate drug action. A check prior to swooping flagged it up as having no insurance. The driver turns out to be a young lady, who states she is insured. Of course she isn't and comes clean eventually. This car was immaculate and she'd owned it about four months. It had been purchased for just under a five figure sum and her excuse was that with the finance payments she couldn't afford the insurance on top. She actually thought she should receive a verbal warning for this. I pointed out that perhaps she should be driving a less expensive motor and living within her means.

Don't forget if she has an accident with your car and you don't have fully comprehensive cover you will be paying all your own bills through her selfish attitude. I think she would have still been quids up estimating how much her insurance should have been, but having to travel to the other side of the metropolis to collect her car adds to the inconvenience. It was well worth waiting over an hour for a recovery truck to remove it even though it was raining.

A nice little change in the law where the legislators listened to the police - eventually!!

Sunday 18 January 2009


Height Of Fashion

It's the type of call that always concentrates the mind, "Sound of gun shots fired". It's a fair distance away from where I'm driving and not far from the police station. I make my way not knowing what to expect. It's just one call into the control room, I'm thinking it might be a waste of time. If something bad has happened there are usually multiple calls. The location is a housing estate made up of blocks with each flat numbered in sequence.

I arrive but I'm not first. Officers on scene are looking for the flat, confused with the numbers. Perhaps it's a different block nearby. Nobody is coming out to direct us and there is silence. It's a beautiful spring night, my favourite time of the year. The gloom and coldness of winter is gone and the trees are coming to life. A cool breeze moves the leaves on the branches, it really is that quiet. Is this a wild goose chase? We're definitely looking stupid as more units turn up and we still can't find the flat. The ever growing group of officers moves off towards another block. I'm not one for following the crowd and turn a corner finding a stairwell.

This is it I think, and wander up the stairs looking for the numbers. That's what I'm focused on and I miss the scatter of shotgun pellets on the ceiling. I turn onto a balcony and suddenly there's much to take in. Laying feet towards me is a woman flat on her back, squatting beyond her is a male crying. "It was an accident". He made me jump, I'm not expecting this and I'm trying to take in what I'm seeing , not thinking straight. She's wearing black knee length boots, they were all the fashion at the time. They had to be laced up the front and I rather liked the look, except on fat birds trying to be the height of. I can't work it out, what's gone on? The sawn off shotgun laying besides her gives me a clue. Has he done it? and stayed at the scene.

I bend on my knee beside her and feel for a pulse in her neck, whilst watching the male now sat on the floor. She's dead, staring up with lifeless eyes. Already her skin colour is showing that milky opaque display of death. There's not much blood considering the shotgun was discharged at point blank range into her abdomen. I move towards him and tell him to stand up. I cuff him and pat him down. "The gun's over there - I didn't mean to do it". He is arrested.

There's an open door to the flat - "Who's Inside?". He didn't know - this is now a crime scene. Others have now worked out the mystery of the flat numbers and arrive on the balcony.

I have to keep him at the end of the balcony, the Boss turns up and I brief him quickly. He checks the flat in case of further carnage inside. Thankfully it's empty - but the balcony is full as an ambulance crew turns up and attach various bits and pieces to the woman. She's dispatched to hospital for the obvious to be confirmed. A young female probationer goes too as continuity officer. She was there the next day for the post mortem and was never the same again.

The suspect can't stop speaking. He came looking for the woman's boyfriend having had a falling out. They had words on the doorstep and somehow the gun went off. He might have been telling the truth as the gun had gone off as he came up the stairwell. I didn't really care. Somebody was dead - her life wiped out - literally blown away. This was murder wasn't it?

Friday 16 January 2009

Softly Softly

A couple of years ago just after the tube bombings a massive community monitoring exercise was ordered. This was to record the expected retribution by an outraged British society against Muslims. I actually worked a night shift on overtime to record the grand total of Nil incidents. There was a central office gathering in the intelligence from all stations in the metropolis so that we could be shown to be on the ball. Quite rightly extra patrols were deployed to offer reassurance at Mosques. This was wound down very quickly when there was little increase in reported racial incidents against Muslims.

I've got little interest in events in Gaza. One side who seek to destroy Israel have bitten off more than they can chew and now face the might of military force. I really don't hold a view for either side, but do have grudging respect for the way Israel deals with terrorists who seek to kill it's citizens. Unfortunately a large number of innocent non-combatants end up suffering too. You can apportion blame two ways. For some reason this spills out onto the streets of London, where the police try to not upset "peaceful protesters".

I'm yet to see the same level of protection given to the Jewish community that was afforded Muslim's previously. No doubt in Jewish areas there are special measures but there is little spoken about racial incidents against Jews. I'm sure there would have been different coverage if the boot was on the other foot.

Of course as always politics play a part. It is now a fact that the Muslim community and their votes dictate and influence government policy. It's the same in America where the Jewish vote holds similar sway.

I just feel stuck in the middle - but are some communities more equal than others?

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Different Path

Increasing the maximum sentence to four years for possession of a knife is on the agenda again, but is it just tough talk by this government? Even the youngsters themselves are saying compulsory jail sentences are required. It would appear that cautions are still likely to be administered.

I watched Panorama last night where some young knife offenders spoke honestly about their crimes. They were all behind bars for offences ranging from Murder to GBH. None of them looked happy to be there. Would a mandatory jail sentence for possession of knives deterred some of them from carrying and thus acted as a preventative measure? Only they can say.

I speak as one who used to carry a knife myself as a sixteen year old for a short time. Did you really think Stressedoutcop was the product of a middle class upbringing? I'm not - and am the only male adult in my immediate family who does not have a criminal record. So how did this law abiding person end up with a knife?

I was out with two friends away from our usual area, when we were confronted by a local group of about ten lads. We were not out for trouble, and if we'd had mobile phones or Ipods in those days no doubt we would have been relieved of them. My friends scarpered - I stayed and took a right good beating - it wasn't nice. I think this group were well known locally and arrests were made, but it was squared away as just a fight. You know one onto ten.

I was offered a knife by a friend and for a few weeks afterwards I carried it, just in case. I was young and stupid, but if I'd thought for one minute I'd end up in jail I would never had done so. Things could have turned out differently for me, but I was lucky. If I had got caught, no whinging, you are the driver of your own destiny and take the consequences. So I wouldn't have ended up a policeman and would probably have done a full stint in the military.

Which leads us onto what can and should be done. If the government is going to talk tough re sentencing over knives it must follow through with action. There should be a presumption that a short custodial sentence will be administered, unless exceptional circumstances apply. It will have a massive impact on some youths but eventually the message will get through. You might actually stop a few going onto ruin not just their life but someone else's too.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Prolific Offenders

Break that cycle of crime and concentrate on the prolific offenders and "in theory" you should achieve crime reduction. To become a prolific priority offender you must score pretty highly on a matrix of coming to notice to agencies, this means arrest rates etc. You will then benefit from joined up working to assist you to break your crime habits. As most volume crime is driven by the need to feed a drug habit, drug intervention and use of rehabilitation units is required. I know alot of prolific offenders, I'm sure there are some success stories, however I'm struggling to think of any that have turned their lives around. Always seems to be the same old faces.

The offender has a part to play in this and part of the "bargain" is for them to try and keep on the straight and narrow. Police officers are encouraged to know "Prolific Offenders" and keep the flow of information to assist the agencies. Their special status means they are fast tracked through the courts if they re-offend.

I stopped one carrying a large bag in company with his lady friend. I name checked him and he wasn't wanted as I'd thought. He'd been arrested the previous week and been out of jail for a day. So the next step due to his habit of stealing anything not nailed down was to check the bag. It contained a lovely toaster - a designer sort in pastel colours. His explanation was that his mother had bought it for him as a gift. She must love him and wants him to know how much, as the label was still on it £110.

I put the toaster down on the ground. We both know what's coming next and I grab his wrist and go to cuff him, he pulls away and struggles free. Here we go again - Crippled cop versus druggie and he has the early advantage. Unfortunately for him after 300 yards the crack and heroin excesses kick in and he blows up surrendering as snot dribbles from his nose. One arrest suspicion of theft - I'm pleased my colleague is still with the girlfriend and swag, job's a good one so I think.

My colleague appears, "Where's the swag?"

"I've come to see if you're all right"

"Sod me - you've left the evidence"

Not touched by her concern we return and of course no girlfriend and no toaster. She's stopped further down the road and doesn't know anything about the swag. I suspect it's been taken into a nearby pub, which was probably it's original destination. PPO boy is loving this, the game has turned in his favour. He's further nicked for obstructing police and taken in.

In the custody waiting to get booked in I watch him handcuffed on the bench. He's got something in his mouth.

"Open your mouth"

He opens it and I tell him to lift his tongue up. He's reluctant but I see two black wraps and immediately go for a throat hold telling him to spit it out. Too late he swallowed them. So now my day is getting worse and the poor ambos have to attend. His life is at risk, hence we have signs up everywhere advising them - If you've swallowed drugs tell us immediately - and we'll get you to hospital.

I apologise to the ambos who wire him up in the back of the vehicle before we drive down to A+ E. I write my notes up in casualty whilst we wait for the doctor. A couple of hours have passed and he's still with us. The doctor asks him if he has swallowed any drugs and he says No. "Great you can go then", and hands him a leaflet. Everybody's covered their backs see, and we all know that the heroin wraps are probably well sealed. The ambos had already told me that he'd admitted swallowing some.

Finally back at custody long story short, he ends up getting charged with obstructing police. He pleads not guilty and we are set a court date. There's no way he would have lasted till trial date, and was arrested again the following week for theft. I think all the outstanding charges must have added up and he got himself 3 months. My case got dropped by CPS who couldn't be bothered to produce him from jail, not in the public interest, as already serving see.

I came across the girlfriend waiting to score some gear and we had a chat. PPO boy got out the previous week. She put me on the phone to him, and I told him he's so lucky to live in a country with such a shit justice system.

He says "Look I can't see what your problem is - you nicked me didn't you? Isn't that enough?"

No PPO boy it isn't I just wanted justice to run it's course - not see another towell being thrown in.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

It's In There Somewhere

Another Detection - Just About!

Now I'm not one for beating up the troops for detection figures. If they are putting hands in pockets they will tick over nicely. If they are not stop searching then they need to get a grip, and we will have words. Even I was taken aback the other day when asked to sign a cannabis seizure warning form. It was attached to an evidence bag with a cannabis grinder inside.

I could just about see some remnants in the corner of the bag. "You're having a laugh aren't you?" says I. The officer laughs and says "If that's what they want us to do to get a point - then I'll do it". I actually divided the remnants which was mainly stalk (not illegal) and saw two green flecks. This is policing today when government targets dictate how the officers deal with things on the street. Crying out for discretion here surely.

Of course the officer was right when he says to me the amount doesn't matter but this is what happens when bosses put the pressure on. It's another detection and doesn't even qualify in my mind as soft justice. He would never have the gall to bring that into the custody suite with a body attached to it.

Of course I signed it thinking how I'd missed out with the growing collection of grinders in my draw.

I understand that soon Fixed Penalty Tickets might be issued for cannabis possession. As most court fines are presently £50 or less let's hope they set the fine at the £200 limit. I might even do a bit of scraping myself then.

Sunday 4 January 2009

No Doctor In The House

Alot of your time in custody is spent dealing with Force Medical Examiners (FME). These in days gone by were known as the police surgeon. They come and attend to the needs of our "customers" on demand. So if you are currently suffering from winter illness and heed government advice to not clog up the system and bother your GP, (if you could get an appointment within a week), think of our underclass who after getting booked in demand to see the doctor with the click of their fingers.

These doctors work on a rota and cover several custody suites in a designated area. They also attend sudden deaths and suicides to pronounce life extinct, and a host of other important tasks vital to crime investigation, such as taking samples, assessing when a prisoner is fit for interview, and recording evidence of injuries. They are often used as witnesses in court. These are good professional people well respected by all custody officers.

This comes at a cost. I think it's about 50 quid a throw for a first examination, which all adds up. The government is now looking to save money under the guise of improving efficiency and standards. They intend to do this by imposing new contracts on the FME's after negotiations broke down. The Metropolitan Police now find themselves in a position where as of 12th January they will have no medical cover as 75% of the doctors have declined to work on the new system.

One assumes that they will try and cover this shortfall by using agency medical staff. How they are going to train them up to use the custody computer in such a short time who knows. No doubt these medical agencies will charge large amounts as they do for nurses to cover NHS shortages. It would appear this is abit of an avoidable mess, but the Home Office are very good at being incompetent and imposing things. So what are they going to do? Nobody knows including the custody officers. Should be fun when "Joe Slag" clicks his fingers and nobody comes to pander to him.

Of course if it's about saving money they could do the proper and right thing and charge some detainees for these services. Self inflicted drunkenness is one area where cash could be recouped. Tell "Joe Slag" he will be charged hard cash to see the doctor for his toothache and he might just be able to hang on.

We shall see what happens next week.