Friday 27 November 2009

Checking The Road Ahead For Hazards

Everybody blogged including me about the footage above which was pretty unbelievable at the time. It was not widely known, but was reported that Sabina Eriksson went on to kill shortly afterwards. She has now been sentenced for stabbing a man to death, on the same day she was at court for assaulting a police officer in the film. She was released because she'd spent 12 days in custody on remand.

I think that any reasonable person can see that the individuals concerned were what we call a danger to themselves or others. One might assume there was some kind of mental assessment but still this lady was released onto the streets to kill. Now if we had released her from the police station there would have been an immediate enquiry and calls of neglect or worse, but the court appears to escaped criticism. I can't help but feel that somebody somewhere has made a poor decision in her case leading to the death of another.

Is It only the police who are expected to see into the future? There are now risk assessments to be carried out before we release prisoners in case they come to harm after leaving custody. This includes their well being in getting home up to the risk of suicide. An investigation will take place if anything happens to them within 48 hours.

There are times when hazards are obvious. I dealt with a domestic and went to arrest the perpetrator. The door was ajar as I walked up the garden path, but was slammed shut so the suspect was obviously at home. Gentle persuasion through the letterbox (taking care not to have implement plunged in my face) was fruitless so he was told the door was coming in. This often has the desired effect and I stepped back some way as the door opened, to be be confronted by a lunatic wielding a hefty table leg above his head. He then charged towards me and attempted to bring the table leg down on my head. I managed to side step and just got my baton out to deflect his down strike. My oppo then sprayed him with CS disabling him. Be in no doubt if he had sweded me I would have been somewhat injured to say the least so he's a dangerous bloke right?

The wife had been subject to long standing violence and showed me scars where she had been beaten previously and stabbed. We had not always been involved and alarm bells begin to ring in my head. This bloke needs putting away big time. The charges were ABH on her and Affray with an offensive weapon chucked in too. Stressed was actually at court himself the next day to seek a remand but was greeted by the sight of a smiling defence solicitor leaving the court room. The CPS had downgraded to common assault on the wife and threatening behaviour for the table leg attack. He was also to be bailed to the address of another family member who took delight in giving me the evils in the court room. Remonstrations with the CPS rep were pointless but he promised to review before it came back to court. It was a fob off and of course he didn't.

Didn't have blogs in those days so there was a ranting report sent off to the CPS about keeping stuff out of the Crown Court, which included a prophetic paragraph about me hoping this individual didn't go on to commit a serious offence or God forbid kill someone. It gave me no joy to hear this had an unhappy ending but I wasn't surprised. No, he didn't go on to kill the wife but actually ended up killing the family member who'd given me the evils in the court room. So he got his time in the end but would have been unable to commit that crime if he'd been in the right place already - prison. Oh how I searched in vain for a copy of that report to resend to the CPS.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Sabina Eriksson is one dangerous lady who should treated in a mental institution for a long time. I would be happier if she was never released, but I think we'll be hearing about her in years to come.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

No Fishing Allowed

Do you really believe that we the police arrest people just to get their DNA? Why is it that The Daily Mail once again targets us when criticising the formation of the DNA database? What a load of shite they write. I'm sure they would be on full attack mode if we didn't arrest somebody who was later found through DNA to have been committing offences and we could have prevented them. Let's make it very clear there has to be at least suspicion of an offence before an Individual is arrested and this triggers the DNA sample being taken if it is a recordable offence.

If a person is innocent or NFA'd that DNA profile is currently retained. That is a government decision so direct your articles that way please Mr Editor of The Mail . I've always questioned if the taking prints and DNA from people arrested for minor offences is proportionate but there can be no doubt it helps in the fight against crime. There have been numerous examples where a DNA sample taken on arrest, has after a speculative search implicated that individual in a cold case. I am therefore in favour of the database.

The Human Genetic Commission report includes a quote from a retired senior police officer, a superintendent, who told the commission: "It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so". His assumption links to the need to take DNA but in reality it comes back to officers covering their backs. Presently there is a big purge on to arrest all named suspects on outstanding crime reports. The reason, because of press outrage when we didn't arrest suspects who went on to commit offences. So what do the press want - you can't have it both ways. Alot of those suspects will be found innocent or shouldn't have been named suspects in the first place.

I must admit that DNA samples were in the back of my mind when arresting a local lad for a smidgen of cannabis once. He was however a Jamaican drug dealer not long in the country who I'd been after for ages. We didn't have his prints photograph or DNA on PNC. My reasoning was that by having his DNA on record there was always a chance that he would implicate himself in later operations when he sold crack from his mouth. All perfectly legal and above board and one reason why I'm not into cannabis warnings per se. He will be one of the 3/4 of black males within a certain age group on the database. The report wants an equality strand inserted to counter this percentage.

I haven't read the report in great detail but apart from the sensational headlines in the press some makes a bit of sense. DNA retention does need looking at and I would suggest a criminal database for the guilty on PNC and a separate database for innocent and juvenile profiles to be looked after by an independent body, but still searchable.

Oh and by the way my fingerprints are on file and so is my DNA somewhere. It doesn't bother me as I don't commit crime. I'm more worried about being on databases elsewhere which leads to my phone ringing all the time to sell me crap*.

* This has eased since I registered here

Saturday 21 November 2009

Right Place - Wrong Time

PC Bill Barker - RIP

PC Bill BARKER was where he should have been, helping to steer others away from danger. This life can be very cruel, he was snatched from his family and friends. Nobody could envisage what was going to happen. Forget your health and safety investigations, sometimes these things happen.

He was doing something that can't be measured as part of this job we do. He was at the right place but unluckily the wrong time.

Thoughts today lie with family and colleagues up North.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Getting A Little Bit Back ..

The Crown Prosecution Service and us working together to bring offenders to justice. That has a lovely ring to it but I've never found us to be singing from the same hymn sheet. I think that most police officers see the CPS as one of the main causes of increased paperwork, leading to the inevitable result of dodgy NFA or dumbed down charges after charging advice.

Not totally their fault of course, they have to apply the Prosecutors Code and take into account the public interest so would need to see as much possible evidence at the outset to reach a decision. This means in reality massive case files being completed so they can write loads to justify their decisions. I might be a tad cynical however there appears to be an agenda to keep things simple charge wise and out of the Crown Court where possible.

The first time I encountered the CPS charging was over a knife possession where everything had to be faxed off to a lawyer sat in the back of beyond. It was something I as custody officer would have charged as offensive weapon straight off, it being a proper hunting knife. Two hours later the advice came back to charge as points and blades (lesser charge). Waste of two hours there then over something that would have usually taken two minutes. They would have always changed the charge at court to points and blades to get a plead in any event.

We haven't helped ourselves in the past by charging people only to bring incomplete investigations to court where the CPS have had little option but to pull the prosecution due to the lack of a vital statement. I'm pretty certain that there has been a massive percentage decline in discontinued cases since they took over the charging authorisations. Hooray for that target being met but has justice been done in the long run?

The CPS lawyer in the station system soon fell into disrepute, when they were there but unavailable except on an appointment basis bar remand cases. These slipped back later and later until it was a pointless exercise. If you got a weary one most people would wait until they went off home anyway to use the out of hours system where you stood a chance of something more than NFA. They just got snowed under by the paperwork in the end.

It's good to see that some charging responsibility is coming back to the police. It's for summary only cases but will there now be a temptation for us the police to down grade charges ourselves to keep away from CPS and speed things up a bit? It makes sense for the CPS to stick to the serious or complicated cases, but why can't we have the simple theft either-way cases back too? All cases will still get reviewed by the CPS who will have the final say on if they get pulled or not before reaching court.

We rarely got it wrong when we charged in the past and hopefully now with dedicated prisoner processing units the paperwork standards on individual cases will be better too. This is a step in the right direction and will help somewhat. I stated last year that I had noted a sea change from above and now slowly things are actually changing.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Everything's Going To Be OK

The winter period has never exactly had me sparking into action, what with the depressing doom and dankness. I often wonder if I've got that SAD syndrome, but then I've always preferred Springtime to the Summer. This year I'm just going with it and not wishing the months away.

This week I was taken aback by the general response to the suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke. The general perception being that he must have led a great life and there was no room in it for depression. Since when did a state of mind restrict itself to certain occupations? The things that I picked up on were his fear of failure and drive to succeed thus setting himself the highest goals. It just struck a chord that he was somebody who had a perfectionist personality and it just took a stressor to put him over the edge and into a bad place. The numero uno stressor is bereavement and the loss of a child multiplies that one several times over. He did a good job of keeping his troubles from his team mates which is a shame. It was a very tragic story that played on my mind for days.

I even had a pang of sympathy for our unelected leader Gordon Brown. It's been reported that he too has been down in the dumps, and maybe that's why he has taken to pounding the streets. That's very therapeutic but he should learn to enjoy it more and control his own destiny as that too looked like a staged photo opportunity. If your minds not right I can understand the difficulty in stringing together a coherent sentence on paper, I do it all the time at work but still they spin about his disability. If he's a stress monkey then better out then in says I, and he should pop in here for a few tips.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that I was going to have a week of death and mortality thrust upon me with all these thoughts in my head. A close friend received an unfavourable diagnosis and as much as you try and remain positive the realities of life hit home and have you reflecting on how much time they may have left. What do you say to them?

A dead body found in the street is always going to involve us and if there are no witnesses to what happened we treat is as suspicious. Never assume anything, but after a couple of hours investigation stringing everything together it looks like a suicide. Possibly a victim of this recession but definitely a victim of their own thoughts. I speak to the next of kin on the phone after a death message had been carried out personally by officers. It was an unexpected shock, but the deceased kept everything in and wouldn't speak about things troubling them. There was a BIG stressor involved in that death too. I explain our procedures and try to be as helpful as possible but what can you say to somebody who's just had the worst news?

Maybe sometimes people just need to hear the words "Everything's going to be OK".

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Remembering All

This Remembrance Day is different for the Stressed family. My brother in law is currently in Afghanistan doing something. My sister is therefore one who waits, wondering why her satellite phone call isn't happening.

She knows why really but tries not to think of it, because there's been a death and the next of kin are waiting for the knock at the door. Remember everyone today, including those left behind.

I envy him but not her.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Looking Out For Your Own

I know it's common for us in the police to judge those with unruly offspring and put the blame on them for bad parenting, but it's not unknown for the children of police officers to have a scrape with the law. I can't think of anything more embarrassing then ending up inside a custody suite acting as appropriate adult for one of your own. I know numerous police parents who have gone through this, good people and it does alter your perception of dealing with young people and their parents. I look at my own boy who's a bit of a live wire and wonder how I'm going to keep him on the straight and narrow. I think I'll go down the line of keeping him off the streets totally.

I arrested a youngster years ago who was drunk and horrible wanting to fight all and sundry. He was cuffed up for threatening behaviour and kept it up all the way to the station. Once on the custody bench he calmed down and says "Do you know PC Fuller?" I said "Yeah why?". He said "Because he's my Dad". Sharp intakes of breath from everyone ensued, because PC Fuller was what is known in the trade as an old style copper. The gobby kid had been bounced through the swinging custody door by me but PC Fuller was well known for taking shit from nobody, and here sat his boy at 16 years of age.

PC Fuller duly attends the custody suite, where he usually worked to act as appropriate adult. He hears the story and asks the custody officer for a couple of minutes alone down the cells. I think it was more than a talking to from the yelps I heard. He was obviously a strict parent and it struck me then, if this is the reason some police brats rebel. I'm sure peer pressure plays a part too if they hang with the wrong crowd. It must be hard being a copper's kid.

I've been lucky with my children so far. The girls have coped pretty well with a difficult childhood, the first Mrs Stressed kept them off the streets when they were younger, which was handy as she lived in a rough pit village up North. Anyone policing North East would raise an eyebrow or two if I named it. So just the boy to get through unscathed which I suspect will be a tad harder. I've now got umpteen years of standing on the touchline at football ahead of me, but that's a small price to pay to empower another of mine to reach their potential.

PC Fuller's boy ended up dead after taking Ecstacy, we suffer the same worries as all other parents don't we?

Sunday 1 November 2009

Shock Horror - More Police Less Crime

Thank God that Halloween's out of the way for another year. I think it was worth cancelling my day off with notice just to throw loads of police officers at the problem. I know that elsewhere some areas weren't so lucky. On Monday the big boss will breath a sigh of relief as his robbery figures haven't spiked as in previous years.

The extra boots dealt with over 30 calls, mainly to large groups of known faces who for some reason chose this of all nights to "try" and rampage through the streets. At least they kept their fun to themselves having firework fights aimed at their brethren rather than the general public. I don't know where they were hiding these fireworks as they'd been turned over more than once. There's a cost in man hours but this is a regular operation we can't do without every year. Unfortunately tonight things will be back to normal.

In the past it has actually been total and utter carnage. Robbery after robbery by youths in Scream masks as we let the zombies take over the streets to prey on what could be you or your family. By using section 60 powers authorised by a senior officer we can use stop and search powers to deter carrying of weapons and demand the removal of face masks. There can be no doubt these tactics alter the perception of offenders.

I'm sure some would say we are demonising these youths but the results speak for themselves. Extra police numbers on the streets does have an impact.

I've seen the touchy side work too but on a smaller local level. One year I waved off two coaches consisting of the local youth and their families who were exported to a Fright Night at a far off theme park. They had discounted tickets paid for through some community fund, or to put it another way tax payers money. There was tumbleweed blowing along my streets that night that were well patrolled to deal with those who didn't make the trip. The radio was however spewing out offence after offence in other areas.

I'm glad we're on top, be it for just for a day, and no one really moaned at losing their day off either. I think everybody wanted it to be like this every day. There will be a time when somebody will make a decision to empty the offices for good and return officers back to the streets. No doubt they will be hailed a genius.