Sunday 25 October 2009

Second Chances

Well that last post totally missed the point and prompted some conflicting reactions. I can now understand why the senior police ranks haven't stood up. The public perceptions have been skewed and are rallying against us. I wonder what a general public perception survey about the police would show since April, people are not happy. There's been plenty of mud flying about and boy it must be sticking.

My thoughts are still on the management of those in the shite. It seems only fair that somebody should take an interest in their welfare, and I don't just mean to cover the duty of care side for the job. At the moment most of it is left to the Police Federation representatives at individual stations. I think you have to be pretty non-judgemental, and considering us police people look objectively at cases and make decisions we're not bad at it. Lets face it who else could deal with child molesters and have no feelings at all against them, so supporting our own should be no different.

There was a lad where I used to work who got arrested for drink driving. Good policeman but there were known issues that were not dealt with before his arrest and conviction. It's a rather open and shut case and always leads to a discipline board. I went along to support him and provided a character reference knowing that he was likely to be dismissed. It was horrible waiting for that decision but due to the circumstances he kept his job. Before anybody goes off on one the discipline regulations have been changed since then and I've not heard of anybody being kept on for a similar conviction. I think quite a few kept out of his way beforehand unable to handle the embarrassment of knowing what to say to him.

We're unlikely to get second chances now and every police officer knows the score. It doesn't stop loads of people still blowing their careers. Most only have themselves to blame but until they leave us a bit of human decency and understanding towards them isn't too much to ask.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Standing Up

Did anybody catch Dispatches on Channel 4 the other night Ready For A Riot where yet again G20 and public order tactics were discussed. One thing that caught my attention was how senior officers offered little support to those on the front line. It really was a case of you're by yourselves folks. They are really more worried about the public relations disaster of their own making. Was it not the planners who stated there would be a robust approach to "unlawful" protest?

Now I'm not saying they should condone behaviour that is indefensible - we all know where the line is, but I do like to look at other management styles. Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager will defend his people to the hilt having the ability to see nothing, and the old Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens came out and supported the troops after the Countryside Alliance disorder. His comment "no one got cracked over the head for no reason" showed real leadership and despite criticism from others was the correct response. I don't think any police officers were convicted because their actions were in fact shown to be justified. They also looked worse than any G20 footage.

I do therefore feel for Sgt Tony Smellie who has been summonsed to appear in court. My view was that this officer would not be prosecuted for his officer safety master class outside the Bank of England. It's not just my opinion, senior officers where I work tend to agree that he'd acted lawfully in covering the backs of his officers. This incident because of the media storm is in the public interest and we have to endure a court hearing before this officer is cleared. It sets a dangerous precedent.

This blog supports Tony Smellie who is an outstanding officer and hopes the full facts are reported if his case goes to trial. This post is about being seen supporting the front line and not about his case in particular. We can discuss the legal bits n bobs about lawful force once he's found Not Guilty.

Monday 19 October 2009

Ticking The Box, For The Box

When I read about customer surveys being completed by prisoners who visit custody suites I thought it was just more bumf associated with being customer focused. I can't get excited about these satisfaction statistics, especially when one month we were shown as having 100% customer satisfaction at the front counter. This resulted from just two questionnaires being completed. That fact was not published in the nice coloured chart displayed to the waiting public.

I am however rather shocked to hear from a well connected source that we are actually considering putting televisions into our cells. This would be for the benefit of our guests who should have all comforts, as it must be bad to deprive them of their Jeremy Kyle fix. I imagine there is a police department somewhere agonising how to supply this human right to everybody, after all if you don't speak English shouldn't you have a channel in the language of your choice?

Perhaps we should go the whole hog and have a huge waiting room instead of cells, turning the custody suite into a copy of Kwikfit with self serve drink machines. Now I don't for one minute believe the police hierarchy are responsible for this, it must be coming from some government ministry, mustn't it?

Let's just hope that now the country is nearly bankrupt this extra expenditure is shelved, but don't bank on it.

Friday 16 October 2009

The Lender Of First Resort

There is one good thing about having policed the same area over the past umpteen years. I am in a unique position to compare things now to what went before. I do recall one Superintendo stating that response team would have a strength of 21 and if it fell below that, he would post people from non-operational posts to maintain that level. I think at the time there was a concerted attempt to raise the status of uniformed reliefs. It never happened and that same team now has a strength of 14.

That's not to say there are less boots on the street, with the community teams and dedicated squads we do in fact have an abundance of resources. Unfortunately they all work towards their individual remits. The reported levels of volume crime have decreased considerably even when you take into account some minimal fiddling. I know this because I was in the morning hot seat nearly 10 years ago having to read out the overnight figures. I can put this down in part to the pro-active activities of the Burglary squad, Drugs squad, Robbery squad and Motor Vehicle squad.

These are not made up wholly of CID officers but have to take constables from the response teams. Due to the type of work they undertake the most productive officers will be spirited away from uniformed response. After some short term pain they will be replaced, but most likely by a non skilled probationer or I think I must call them student officer's. Some of the teams where I work have over 60% of probationers (less than 2 years service) making up the core strength. When I was in my probation over 20 years ago I was the only newbie on my relief for a 2 year period and that's a lot of tea making I can tell you.

I'm continually having to give up people when a new temporary squad is formed to meet some centrally imposed target. We have newer squads other than those mentioned, which I won't name so not to identify my area. It's always with no notice that I have to provide another constable and it will invariably leave us struggling to cope with calls. I feel like the coach of a football academy being stripped of my best players having invested time in bringing them up to a high standard.

It's the way it is and you can't really stand in the way of a constable seeking better working conditions on a squad, with the added benefit of overtime thrown in too. If I was them I would be sorely tempted too and being totally honest the results speak for themselves. Response team is harder work than it's ever been and I must say I'm very proud of what these youngsters produce and their commitment. All I ask for now that those volume figures have gone down is for some of the constables back.

Monday 12 October 2009

Lost In Translation

Now as I'm part of the policing organisation I should have some idea of where we are trying to go strategically but I'm actually getting rather confused. I know bringing in changes takes time but at the moment there just seems to be a clash of seismic plates.

On the one hand we have the modernisation and best value plans where the top police brains have looked at our functions and stated what our core responsibilities are. This has been going on for years since the Taylor report, where it was made clear that the police are not actually responsible for public safety at football matches and other commercially organised events. Since then we've also withdrawn from house alarms not connected (paid for) centrally to police and noise nuisance, both of which are referred to the local authority who have the powers to deal that we don't. The Highways Agency now patrol the motorway system to keep it flowing and deal with traffic issues freeing reduced numbers of police to deal with enforcement and accidents. The local authority have street wardens in spanking brand new 4 wheel drive vehicles equipped with CCTV to patrol social housing estates and respond to complaints from residents. Some forces like in the Pilkington case obviously already see low level stuff as non police matters.

We then have the policing pledge where we are to concentrate on the customer and their needs. In reality large numbers of police officers are becoming involved in non police activities attempting to engage with the general public and raise satisfaction levels. Most of this work is done by local neighbourhood teams, one of which I used to lead. There was always a balance to be found between fighting crime and keeping the punters generally happy and reassured. I know it wasn't really the role of my PCSO's to accompany some old people to the dentist or do some chores for them but it did embed them in the community and raise satisfaction levels. It also allowed me to gauge what was going on and the perceptions locally. I also used to totally plan and police local events including processions and community fun days. It still happens and is encouraged but the responsibility actually lies with the organiser for the event.

So who would you call if the neighbours across the road were having a noisy party at 3am on a Thursday night? A call to the police should receive the policy line, contact the duty officer at the local authority, who should in turn contact the environmental health officer. As most of them go off duty at 2am the duty officer would tell you the bad news and invariably say try the police. It's a fact that the police are seen as the service provider of last resort and if we didn't turn out because we've run out of units no doubt you would be pretty dissatisfied with police.

You can see the conflict of policy here as police are withdrawing from having a visible local presence, closing police stations and going towards central bases on industrial estates where all the patrol resources are in one place, with no public contact or access. It makes financial sense but is it focused on the needs of the community who lose their local police station?

The central message coming out has been lost on me so how are the general public supposed to work it out. This needs somebody in Government to sit down and decide what route we should go down. Meanwhile those on the response teams are still running about like blue arsed flies.

Monday 5 October 2009

The Decent Thing

I was mightily peeved the other year with the government failing to ratify our pay settlement to save them 20 millions or so. It was the principle - not the money. Since then they agreed with federated ranks a three year pay deal, which I think awards us 2.6 % this year and 2.55 % in 2010. Think how much more they could have saved by sticking to the old agreements.

Now that they propose to freeze pay awards for high earners in the public sector, I would just like to say I'd willingly give up any pay rise this year. Of course I'd expect a total pay freeze on all public sector pay and a promise for immediate cuts in public sector spending to be committed to by all political parties. I think even we in the police could lose a few departments. I could name several we could do without without affecting front line delivery. I'm sure most forces could do the same.

I would then expect this government to do the decent thing and call an immediate election. It's not going to happen is it?