Wednesday 26 August 2009

Funny Old Game

It's all rather tribal this football violence and a surprise to see Millwall and West Ham involved in some serious "old school" violence. I don't really get the mentality behind it, they have an organised scrap but will be "together" to do battle for En-ger-land at the next big tournament. I suppose their reputations are now enhanced and one or other would move up the unofficial "we are the hardest" supporters list.

I must say that I've policed football for many years and find the majority of "risk" supporters to be a load of dickheads and full of shite. What does concern me is that they've moved on from scrapping to actually stabbing each other. As with events in April poor old plod is again in the line faced with a mob, who this time were not too bothered who they fought with.

Millwall would be in my experience the fans I least like to police. They visited my area a few years back and it was an experience to say the least. They were horrible, aggressive and revelled in their reputation. I looked at the stand and saw three generations of the same family replicated time and time again, Dad Son and Grandson all looking menacing with their cropped haircuts. I was in the line stopping a pitch invasion and they were well up for it flicking spit at us and working themselves up to come over the top.

We were led by a great sergeant who made it very clear that if they dared to come over the hoardings they would get the necessary treatment it deserved. It sort of clicked that he meant it, so they boldly stated they'd do it outside instead. We then stood there as they decanted up the stand to start some serious disorder outside. Once they're running loose it's rather hard to contain them, so they have to be penned in at all costs. At least they tend not to moan about it afterwards.

As I understand it on these Carling Cup games the away fans get a larger allocation of tickets then a normal league match which boosts the attendance. This will make operational control a damn sight harder from the outset, so the solution is obvious even if it affects gate receipts. All this talk of lifetime bans won't stop it, a few maximum sentences perhaps will.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Summer Of Love

Can we discuss public order again after G20 in April? Another Climate Camp is planned to coincide with the Notting Hill carnival in London. It would appear there is unlikely to be a repeat of April after a review of police tactics, instead it looks like we're going to have a "love in".

After the Summer of Rage failed to materialise we're having community policing at this one, as suggested by Stressed after the April gig. They must be warning the dancing policemen for duty as I write.

Of course police resources are required to police that massive street event elsewhere, so why tie them up unnecessarily on some eco camp. One hopes that the participants enter into the spirit of co-operation and minimise their disruption to local people.

Nobody knows where the camp is to be located, but no doubt it will be close to Notting Hill so some happy campers don't have too far to wander back to their tents to carry on partying. Will the police prevent entry to a site when everybody converges on it? I doubt it very much. I suppose half of the campers will be reporters from the press anyway.

Can't wait for the spinning on this one with both sides trying to out do each other. Personally I wouldn't even police it, bar for the photo opportunity. It's a climate camp but there must be protest action planned for elsewhere. I'd cover that with mobiles as and when it pops up. Most troublemakers will be at the Hill anyway.

Monday 17 August 2009

Some Days

How quickly can you run out of police officers? It is always touch and go but somehow we just about manage, except for some days. I don't know why it is, but occasionally you will just have a hellish shift when the box is empty and things are about to implode.

I should have known when the day team picked up an armed robbery at the arse end of their shift. Straight away there would be a scene to be secured and night shift officers deploying to relieve the others. The two early cars who parade an hour before the main shift to take up the slack had already been deployed to calls. The team were under minimum strength as often happens, but tonight we would be caught out. I brief my community team and hear the next call come out. Somebody had fallen several floors from a tower block with the inevitable result. It was going to be a long night. I find a vehicle and take my small team down to help out.

There are plenty of entrances and exits that need to be cordoned off. The duty officer is present and knows he needs more boots on the ground. Everything he has available is here, but the calls are stacking up too. He is able to pull in an additional community team to help, but they will take a while to get here. This is not a straightforward job, the circumstances are suspicious and will require a specialist squad to investigate. We are 45 minutes into the 12 hour shift and have no more units to deal.

The forensic tent is quickly deployed to cover the deceased, and offer some dignity. The other flat dwellers have a front row view of proceedings from their balconies. Everything is secured and officers briefed. Entry into the block is going to be managed by us. The deceased is known to us and to most of the other residents, who have put up with years of anti-social behaviour from the flat.

The caretakers cupboard is located, which has a toilet off of it and a power point. I drive the officers who were first on scene and a material witness back to the station, finding the tea club open and unused, so I liberate the kettle and some instant drinks from the custody suite. I also grab some soft toilet paper for use of the female officers on the cordons. That cupboard will be our sanctuary for the duration of this job.

Family members are beginning to turn up. They ask questions and I don't have any answers. A family liaison officer is being called in from home but will take a couple of hours. This group grows considerably and includes the teenage children of the deceased. The daughter is understandably distressed but consoles herself by swigging from a bottle of alcopop. The blue line is sombre and exercises discretion in not enforcing the no public drinking legislation. The other residents are not blessed with as much empathy. Somebody has made a comment to the group, not very complimentary about the deceased and a scuffle ensues. We break it up and escort the resident to her flat. She tells us they might get some peace and quiet now the deceased won't be around. What can you say?

The duty officer has sorted this out well. He's also trying to manage other scenes by phone and borrow some troops from the next door Division. This will free up a unit to answer some calls on the ever growing list. There will be a lot of peeved people tonight waiting for us. The specialised squad turn up in dribs and drabs, with red A4 notebooks. There's plenty of nodding as the area is in lockdown. We will hold the scene but the decisions are now for them to make. They speak to the family and the group dwindles. After a few more hours the body is removed and we move in some cordons and release team officers. Just my team and a couple from a neighbouring Division are left.

We are waiting for the local authority to clean away the body fluids. It's now the early hours and nobody is looking out anymore, they're safely tucked up in their beds. The quiet is shattered by a road sweeping lorry, one of those little one's with the little brushes that sweep up shite from the gutters before it's sucked up into the gunnel's. I speak to the driver expecting him to have a bag of specialised granules to soak up the blood. No this is it - I think we call this a communication break down.

More phone calls and talk of health and safety. We have to wait for a specialised clean up. We're in luck, a couple of hours later one turns up. He has a look and scrapes up some congealed blood and hairs into a contaminated waste bag. A quick spray with something and he hoovers up the rest. We have a look and there's still a redness in the concrete. Unbelievably he's got a power hose and sprays down the rest whilst telling me about the jumper he dealt with who came down 15 floors. Apparently there was only a blood pool of about a fists size on that job - fascinating stuff. He departs and we're nearly done.

The son of the deceased is nearby and asks if he can leave a flower. I just want to check everything's done and then see some more blood and hairs the other side of a low wall. Luckily the caretakers office has a hard broom. I scrub the blood away and also clear the area of beer cans and other litter. It's now ready and he can come forward. He lays a single flower probably pulled from somebodies garden, but it means something, it is his tribute. No doubt it will the first of many.

It's an hour to shifts end and our relief turn up. Some early turn have been called in on overtime to take over. There's only two needed for the front door of the flat. Another Sunday night is over.

The outstanding incident list was a mess and I shuddered when seeing the type of calls we never got to. Dozens of people thinking we are crap as we never turned up, but some days are just like this, us being very busy dealing with a serious incident.

Thursday 13 August 2009


I do like a bit of reality so when the press go on about the mother of baby P getting fitness classes and a host of other life enhancing benefits when she is released, I'm not actually shocked.

It's not unusual for those with "issues" to have their every need tended to. Don't fancy getting up to take your kids to school - no problem, social services will send a taxi round each day to collect them and do it for you. House a tip - well can't expect you to get off your arse from trawling Internet chat rooms, social services will ensure somebody comes in to clean your house for you. Making it up am I? I don't think so.

The lady in question Tracey Connelly had more breaks than many, but chose to live the way she did indulged by society. Still it didn't save her son from a horrendous death. No doubt all the agencies will look at themselves and their policies in the hope that it will never happen again. Well unfortunately it will as long as we excuse feckless individuals the need for some personal responsibility.

When she gets out she should get nothing. How do we have a "duty of care" towards her? She and her ilk should have no anonymity or protection unless the threat towards them is real and assessed as such from hard intelligence not wishful thinking. I rather like the thought that she should suffer a bit of fear and should constantly be looking over her shoulder. I doubt it will compare to the fear that young baby suffered.

When is a political party going to come out and pledge to repeal parts of The Human Rights Act?

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Caught In The Web

I do find myself somewhat envious of those who take the plunge and leave this occupation of ours and do something completely different. Michael Pinkstone is one I particularly admire escaping the madness and I wish him well with the new book. Unfortunately for me I'm beginning to smell that final pension and that is the overriding reason why I wouldn't even consider leaving. The finances were never a reason for joining and I never gave it any thought in training, when I was pulled in and asked if I'd accept the police offer on part of my army service. I think it amounts to 18 months but means I can claim a full pension when I reach 50 years of age.

So for financial reasons I feel somewhat stuck where I am. I'm reasonably financially secure and am able to meet my mortgage and maintenance commitments, and work towards ensuring The Clever One leaves university debt free. I've noticed that those who have made a career change haven't had others dependent on them. One of my ex colleagues left to be a florist and will never be back. She does OK working for herself, but had a bit longer to wait for her pension. I think if she'd stayed maybe she would have fallen into the just working for the pension trap.

Another friend left to work for himself running a small retail business and as long as it goes OK won't be back either. He was a late joiner age wise so never had the lure of a full pension awaiting him. I still meet with both occasionally for drinks and they are happy with their lot. When they left I advised them both to take a career break and see how their new ventures went, just to keep their options open, but both had become disillusioned with The Job. It's a shame as both had specialised skills and had a lot to offer. They could always rejoin if things went wrong, but would come under the new pension regulations having to put in a 35 year stint.

They are in the small minority that do seem to be leaving at present. A few years back alot of the youngster's left in droves as the salary wasn't exactly competitive. Me, looks like I'm in for the long haul like I always knew I would be. I'm hoping that some sanity is going to return to policing over the next couple of year's or is that just me having an optimistic moment.

I don't know what I'd do anyway. I would prefer to work for myself when I retire so am thinking about specialised driving jobs, maybe a licenced cabbie. There is also the option of short term contract work that appeals. 6 months away on a training contract overseas for the ODA would suit me, with the other 6 laying on a beach somewhere. Then again there's always the public sector, why waste all those contacts in the local authority, surely there's an opportunity for me in the local parks police or licencing department.

One thing I will not be doing (hopefully) is returning to the fray in any guise whatsoever on the civilian side as 200 Weeks did. Unless it's as a consultant on 500 pounds a day.

Friday 7 August 2009

Own Goals and Golden Goals

I'm back from 2 weeks of absolutely doing nothing and I feel good. I am rather out of the loop having been deprived of the main stream media and am catching up. I resisted the temptation to take my usual holiday read of the codes of practice but did pop in to read some other blogs. I didn't give the job much thought at all and I'm very happy about that.

Sgt Twining name checked me on one of his posts, which was a response to a posting made by 200 weeks about a racial discrimination payout made to an Asian WPC. I don't know much about the case so will give a general viewpoint. I don't like to post on Diversity matters but as someone who's worked in small teams all of his career hope to bring some common sense to this.

I see diversity and teamwork in the workplace as allowing everybody to contribute and bring something to the table. Horses for courses springs to mind and there are very few people who can excel at everything. One thing I've noticed on teams is that if somebody is not pulling their weight or not upto the job other team members can be rather unforgiving. This is when strong management is needed to keep a team in check. Unfortunately people tend to regress to almost playground antics and paint the weaker team member in an unfavourable light. They might be fat, ginger, ethnic minority, male, female, or bespectacled and the likelihood is anything will be used to put that individual down. This will be true in any occupation not just the police as it's human nature. Just recall the case of Sarah Locker who didn't get "promotion" into the CID, until somebody typed a report in Stavros speak (she was I believe Turkish or Greek descent) and left it in her tray. Conduct like that somewhat makes the case out for her.

The weaker team member is no longer fully part of the team, and is made to feel excluded. Some team members will not want to work with that individual and there is a problem that needs sorting. Now I'm a great believer in saying things as they are and that's what worries me about this case in particular. If everybody perceives that individual as not competent, abrupt, rude or whatever, chances are that the person might be just that. If they are not made aware of it then how can they change and improve.

I personally will confront head on and tell somebody how they are perceived. It's not a nice thing to do but isn't it better then avoiding the issue and everybody is muttering about that individual behind their back. Most people are not able to take any criticism because we all think we are great and this is where things start to go wrong in the workplace. In the case highlighted the tribunal criticised the trainer for telling it the way it was. It would appear that the subsequent lack of a development plan has then gone against the job. Is this the end of informal management action?

I believe in the case mentioned there was a facilitated session with the rest of the class reported as a diversity lesson. This then makes it a racial / religious matter and was probably why the WPC in question won that part of her case. Why oh why was race or religion brought into it? If the issues were over her performance or attitude that is the issue that should have been addressed to bring matters to a conclusion satisfactory to all.

I see the point of 200 weeks and what he means however it would appear to be another own goal by ourselves when dealing with an issue. Does it deserve a five figure payout for hurt feelings? Of course not, as the individual is still employed and suffered no financial loss. As somebody who lost thousands through my injury on duty and with no compensation forthcoming it somewhat grates but that's they way it's set down. There is a tariff set down for most things and the same should be true in some of these cases. To win only 2 parts out of 17 and be seen as the victor again paints the organisation in a bad light. The tribunal system makes no exclusions for public sector employers and they have to pay out exactly the same as private sector, taxpayers money or not.

I also see the point made by Sgt Twining but feel he was speaking about his own experiences with management. I've had my clashes with management myself and again adopt the attitude of saying what I think. If you don't say your piece things do eat you up, but say it and let it go. It doesn't mean you're right but sod the consequences. That's not to say that perceived unfair treatment doesn't cause severe stress. I've seen a female manager treat a male sergeant unfairly for reasons only she knows. It affects all staff the same but not all have equal redress to the law. I also think our present grievance procedures leave a lot to be desired.

I had to watch CNN on holiday about the Gates affair. I don't know if it got coverage over here. Basically a black professor got arrested for disorderly conduct after police were called to his house by a neighbour thinking somebody was breaking in. President Obama called the police actions "stupid" and it caused no end of problems. It was settled around a table with all three having a beer and a sensible discussion. I think if unnecessary golden payouts were not available we could return to common sense resolutions. Therefore the system is wrong and that's what needs changing.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Showing Off

I was at training school with a fella who was mightily pissed off with the job policy at the time about tattoos. He had to have one removed from his left bicep before they would let him join and it left a horrible scar, like a burn. Obviously I never saw the original design, but he assured me it wasn't anything outrageous. You can imagine how he felt on turning up for training to find various ex forces recruits with their tatts on show. There was at the time an exemption for ex military, as it was generally accepted to be the norm coming from that background.

I'm relieved that I never got the swallow put onto my neck that I intended or the the W on each buttock. Since knowing I was accepted I curtailed my urge to add more, and complied with the cover up policy of the time. In fact I'm the least tattooed in my immediate family and I've got two sisters. My dear old mum is of course excluded from art work as she's perfect already, and the old man served in Malaya so say no more.

All the youngsters at work are covered in tattoos, including the girls. I can just imagine the sight on the geriatric wards in 50 years time as the old girls shuffle around in those hospital gowns with a natty bit of artwork hanging over their backsides in rolls of fat.

Does it really matter if you have an armful of ink on display? It depends if people want to judge you I suppose. As long as there is nothing political or offensive I think not.

I do quite like that programme Miami Ink and the personal stories behind the tattoos. I would love to see some of the one's that have got people rejected from joining the police. I found this link to some of the most stupid tattoos compiled. What were they thinking of?