Sunday 26 July 2009

Home From Home

Rear View of Flint House Goring
I’ve been unfortunate or some may say fortunate enough to partake of the facilities at the Police Rehabilitation Centre at Goring for my injury. The NHS could have provided about 1 hour a month of physiotherapy and it wasn’t an option to be honest. I could have had 1 hour a week through local police occupational health but there’s no beating intensive treatment.

My initial visit took me from crutches to leaving with a stick. I stupidly thought I was nearly cured and would be back to normal in no time but often that’s not the case. I returned 18 months later and by chance another officer I met on my first visit was still attending. He’d been badly smashed up in a motorcycle accident about 3 years previously, and had only just discarded his stick. He had however made remarkable progress thanks in part to the excellent treatment he received at the centre.

This facility is funded totally by officer contributions from several forces and gifts and legacies from people who like us. The cost is only about 5 pounds per month, which means throughout your career you would contribute to one person’s visit. On retirement you are still eligible for a 7 day visit once a year if referred by your doctor, and it’s nice to catch up with the old timers and hear their stories. It’s fantastic for them to receive such high quality treatment from the caring staff at the centre, especially those recovering from a stroke. It must also take some burden off the NHS. The food is fantastic and the staff working there make it a very healing environment.

I haven’t had a test run of the stress services they provide but it is very much a personal service dependent on your needs, so my spies tell me. There is counselling available and the relaxation class is OK for beginners. I was rather anti social on my last visit I’m afraid, practicing my own anti-stress techniques in seclusion. I think the others had me down as one needing to dry out, but I’m still a closet stress monkey. I needed to make full use of the time to get fully physically fit for crime fighting duty. The staff have worked their magic again and I will be eternally grateful to them as I near full health again.

Those of you who are serving officers please persuade any new officers to contribute to these centre’s. They are only open to those who subscribe through their pay, and some force areas don’t have a great percentage rate for paying in. Large metropolitan force in the middle of UK take note. I never thought I would need it and would have had to rely totally on the NHS when badly injured on duty.

Incidentally the Home Office has allocated 2.5 million pounds this year to Goring and the Northern police rehabilitation site in Harrogate. This is the first time any government money has been granted to these facilities, and it will provide extra spaces. It would appear that we have the ex home secretary Jacquie Smith to thank for this contribution. She has taken much flack the past few months but it is only right and fair to add some balance and say Thank You to her for sorting this out. She didn’t have to and officers in future will benefit from her generous decision.

Of course she did have 20 million of our pounds to dip into from the reneged pay deal the other year. Perhaps if the other 18 million makes it's way back we can draw a line under that episode.

I’ve added some pictures of the centre and surroundings. Nice Isn’t it?

Early morning dawn

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Fun And Sunshine

I used to hate going on holiday. I think I read somewhere that it takes 3 or 4 days for you to unwind and actually get into your break. In my personal case I always preferred to be back at work in case I was missing something and never liked being away. The fact is if you are a miserable git at home, being transported to the other side of the world isn't going to change things and the chances are you'll still be a miserable git, just with a sun tan.

Not even coming off nights before I fly out this year is stressing me. Yep I'm getting grief at work for having loads of days owing me but try and get the time off and it's turned down. I think I've finally cracked the holiday secret though. No driving alongside Mrs Stressed in the navigator role filling me with confidence with her "I think it's the next on the right". Thank God for Sat Nav on our Florida adventure a few year's back, without it I'm convinced my marriage would have been over.

Instead I will spend two weeks doing nothing, zilch, zero activity, nistch. My usual holiday read of the codes of practice is staying on the kitchen table and I will be relaxing with all my children in my own little paradise. I'm actually looking forward to it, probably our last family holiday together. Hopefully there will be a limited number of Brits on Tour in my hotel and we can enjoy the continental approach of sensible alcohol consumption. I will also be defending my title as "Mister Hotel" competing against the French, Germans and Russians in making a twat of myself. We do it so much better than they do !!

The MP3 is loaded with mellow sounds and my meditation relaxation tapes, just in case I need them. Club Tropicana here I come !!!!!!!!! Mrs Stressed can be my Shirley for 2 weeks.

Saturday 18 July 2009

Perceptions and Media Games

It was hardly a copper shocker story but I was watching sky news about the conviction of Ingrid Tarrant, the presenters commenting about her arrest for illegal parking. It would appear the facts were rather more complex, her driving off whilst getting a ticket for leaving her car in a bus stop when shopping. There then followed a 2 mile chase before she was arrested and "thrown" into a police cage.

The gist of the presenters was this was over the top for a parking matter. Of course the presenters are entitled to their opinion but this woman was out of order, and committed a quite serious offence of failing to stop for police. Nothing contentious at all as far as I can see, but she got a sympathetic airing for some reason. This is exactly the sort of story that sticks in the mind of the public and might alter their perceptions of police if they are asked to fill out a public satisfaction survey.

See The Sun article here and a natty picture showing the officer described as an "out of control psycho" by her. Well it looks to me that he was just writing out a ticket.

All this on the same day as the police bravery awards, also sponsored by The Sun. The winners of the award were Sgt Stephen Hayter, PC Barry Leban, PC Richard Cousins, and PC Michael Carroll from the Metropolitan Police. They were fired at by a villain with a gun, chasing him down and making the arrest.

OK it was on the news and got coverage, but was a small detail missing? Correct me if I'm wrong but are these officers not all from the Territorial Support Group? The same unit that has been slaughtered in the press recently over G20 events and a high complaints record. Now is it the media who choose not to mention their unit or is the Met doing some spinning?

Top work by The Rhinos

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Too Much .. Too Young

I'll be watching later the repatriation of 8 brave souls as they return from Afghanistan. Special thoughts to the tankies from the Royal Tank Regiment, as in a previous life I worked very closely with 2 RTR.

I can't help but think how young some of these casualties are at just 18. It looks like one hell of a dirty war out there, and one wonders if some older heads are called for. I've met recently some ex paras who are still rock hard and itching to get out there but are deemed too old. I think the cut off for the Territorials is 43 despite your previous experiences and background, although they take ex regulars up to 52 if you have the support skills they want. I believe the Americans have increased their age limits recently and no doubt we won't be too far behind.

A friend's son went out at 18 and his unit took casualties but not on this scale. The worry for family at home is immense and I hope they find some peace in the knowledge that their son's really lived a life and will be forever young. They made a choice to fight for queen and country and we should be proud of them, despite your views on the conflict. I think the on lookers in Wootton Bassett speak for the rest of us today.

My daughter is toying with a military career and I think is sounding me out to gauge my views. Her choice ultimately, but it will be a more favourable response than when she sounded me out about joining the police.

Saturday 11 July 2009

A Lonely Place

Part of my job is to make decisions. I'm not perfect and am happy to admit I often get it wrong. Hopefully years of experience learning from my mistakes and seeing where others have gone astray limit the occasions when I might put myself in the firing line. There will be a time, a job some incident when it goes horribly wrong and I know that I will have to justify every decision I made and have to account for why I didn't do X Y or Z. It will probably be a little every day incident that gets me. The missing person enquiry is an area of police work that I pay particular attention to.

We are literally inundated with missing person requests, where the initial call is risk assessed by the control room so the call is graded accordingly. If it involves a young person it must be graded as an immediate response. Either the sector Sergeant or Duty officer is contacted and informed of the call. This is where a decision is made to either keep as an I or downgrade to an S response (within the hour). You may be informed that the young person has been reported missing three times in the last week having not returned to their care home so make a common sense decision to downgrade. You are immediately in the frame if anything happens to that young person who has been allowed to roam from being in care, but the care worker has covered their arse by passing the buck to police.

Unfortunately if the S call limit is missed as units are diverted to other "more urgent" calls there can be severe slippage. The old controller would have ensured that it would have got dealt with in a suitable time frame, but I've noticed a tendency under our new systems to err on the side of hoping the person returns before we get to report them missing. This is fraught with danger and I don't like it if my arse is the one hanging out.

It's much the same with mental health patients. In the day's of sector policing I had a mental health ward on my patch and would often attend up to 3 times a day to report patients under section missing, who had either walked out of a secure ward or not returned from unescorted leave. It is a huge drain on police resources and not helped by a time consuming reporting system to get the person circulated on the police national computer.

The art is to sense early on where it could go horribly wrong. If somebody has been terribly depressed and suicidal then time is of the essence and some enquiries need to be made as a matter of urgency. I took over as controller (system worked - why did we change it?) one early turn and saw on handover a message about a suicidal male being reported missing by a relative out of town. Nothing had been done and she'd been advised to report him missing at her local station so they could transfer it over to us. I had to ring her and get the full facts and the alarm bell started to ring. I contacted neighbouring forces and eventually due to leads contacted the Chaplin services at Beachy Head as possibly he was heading there. As the hours passed he was properly reported and his mobile phone was triangulated, that showed he was on the move. Eventually he was stopped by officers who saw him in a state and he was name checked and found. I think we were not too hot on that one in the first instance, but luckily he'd changed his mind after a spell by the sea contemplating life.

Of course very young children lost or separated from parents receive top billing and every thing else that can be dropped is delayed to get uniforms to the scene to search. As the minutes tick by I always get a horrible feeling of dread that is released as soon as the kiddie is found and reunited with the distraught parent.

I think it is easy to be dragged into a sense of just another Misper to report, but in many cases something dreadful has happened to that person. You just have to look at the Ricky Reel case where a young lad never returned from a night out with friends, and was found dead in a river. The police were heavily critiscised for the initial approach in dealing with this, because it was assumed he'd been out with the lads and might have struck lucky with a young lady. In hindsight the people involved would no doubt deal with things differently - but hindsight is a wonderful thing. In reality in most cases there is little the police can do other than make initial enquiries and circulate the individual as missing.

I have myself had to report family members missing to the police. The circumstances were rather extreme as my first wife suffered severe mental illness and disappeared with my daughter who was a toddler. I felt bad in having officers round but they needed to be circulated in case of worst case scenarios. I didn't expect them to be able to do anything I hadn't done myself. I contacted a Northern Force to conduct an enquiry and they were most helpful in doing this promptly, and thankfully the situation resolved the next day.

I think there is still scope for improvements in this area. Many forces now have missing person units to take over longer running enquiries, but as most missing person calls are taken over the phone in the first instance then surely sufficient details could be taken to put on a skeleton report within an hour to allow circulation. If officers are required to attend later and search bedrooms for leads it could be done depending on the circumstances and they then update the report with the results of any enquiries. Of course there will be somebody held responsible if it all goes wrong but that's the world we live in, sometimes it's a lonely place.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Pride Or Prejudice

I missed the coverage of Gay Pride in London yesterday, but I understand the police were represented again along with HM forces. When I joined this job you didn't have "gay" people in the organisation, which is of course complete bollocks, as hundreds are now confident to live an openly gay existence as police officers. This includes people I've known for years before they outed themselves. Some have gone onto specialise in roles where they can wear tight leather and look cool. Personally I find some of my gay colleagues to be some of the most politically incorrect individuals I've met. It amuses me no end as managers can't work out the correct response to some outrageous gay story.

Society has had to move on and correct some injustices to the Gay community. The dismissal of homosexual staff from HM forces was plain wrong. Anybody who served always knew the WRAC were made up of a large number of lesbians but this couldn't be acknowledged officially. It would have taken a brave man to admit to a gay lifestyle in my day, but being against Queen's Regulations it never happened.

We now have a situation of diversity trumps, with a conflict of interest between Faith group supporters and Gay officers. This stems from strong religious beliefs against homosexuality. StressedOutCop has dealt with one such staff problem and is glad to report he shuddered, almost had a diversity overload and bottled it. I don't do Religion but if I did I would drift towards a Buddhist sort of gig.

It's a tricky one to deal with this diversity balancing act so I told both parties to Effing sort it out themselves and get back to me. I think this is a good old fashioned management technique that has been lost in the policy archives. Peace and goodwill then followed as both decided that they were good people, and despite having completely different lifestyles and beliefs and could work together.

One thing I am against though is the cottaging thing. Public toilets are for ablutions and it annoys the hell out of me that these are used as a pick up point for casual gay sex. I was on a surveillance job and bursting for a wee, so got ahead of the foot follow and headed for the nearest public convenience. Ten urinals nine taken one gap, so I take my position and get the valve problem, when you've been holding yourself in for hours. Nobody else moves and finally relief comes and I'm listening to the follow still going on. As I'm finishing still nobody has moved and I conclude my business, but can't help but notice the bloke next to me playing with himself. This isn't gay culture to be celebrated and if the Gay community want some toilet action they should stick to the WC's in the Furry Codpiece club.

I was going to post a KD Lang song for my best female gay friend just back in the country, who I love in a way that even Mrs Stressed approves, but I hate it so it's the Pet Shop Boy's for the Baby Bears and muscle Mary's. That's the way life is sums up my view perfectly.

I could have been an extra in this years ago and have still got the lycra swimming trunks, which are not for use in cold water.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Crime And Punishment V Compassion

I posted earlier in the year about Ronnie Biggs and stated then I believed he should be freed on humanitarian grounds. Of course rules being rules he had to serve a third of his sentence before being eligible for parole. I'm rather surprised that this has now been turned down as he does not show sufficient remorse for his crimes.

There are hundred's of prisoners released early each year who I see showing no remorse for their crimes. They are sorry, but only for getting caught in the first place. Their view of punishment is - You don't get punished for what you do but for getting caught doing it. They then return to a life of crime. We can all name individuals who we know get out on parole and go on Burglary sprees until recalled or captured.

I don't think Biggs falls into this category. I wonder if this decision was made before Biggs broke his hip in jail. From what I know this type of injury is very serious for a frail elderly person and it is something he is unlikely to recover from. If the government are worried about a media circus being played out then surely they could put parole conditions in place.

My view remains the same, each case on it's merits and my instinct is that he should be out to die with his family.