Sunday 23 May 2010

Nirvana - Maybe The Problem Is Me !

This is my final post and after today this blog will remain forever in the Blogosphere possibly being of interest to somebody. The whole blogging thing was just a questioning of myself searching for the answer to something. There have been no agendas or need of approval from others, it's all I'm afraid been about me. I put it up and analyse it myself and have been helped in my stress battle by those who have visited and taken time to comment. To each and every one of you I am grateful.

Why finish today? Well I made the decision ages ago but my mild OCD wouldn't let me go unless the blog was symmetrical. It is two years since I started and you don't know the agonising I've been through whether to finish yesterday or today. I finally took the plunge for 23rd May, but you know what it doesn't really matter it's just my thoughts that have caused this illogical turmoil.

I've had a good look at myself through the last two years and want to examine further how I can progress along my journey. A narrative has been useful up to now but it is I think a negative influence in my life. I wouldn't leave it and just close without comment like one of my favourite stress blogs Intelligence Detective, I'm going on a positive. Whatever did happen to the General?

I've got a few stress monkey followers and to you I say stick with it and try reading the above book by Jon Kabat-Zinn which I've found very useful. I could go on about it but that would be my judgement, so be open and see if it helps you too.

I've had to get my head around how I go about being a police officer. I have always been a high achieving productive individual and that's before the target culture of recent years. I pushed myself to near destruction to the detriment of my personal life and for what? I think what is happening in policing is unhelpful and gets away from what it's about. Policing should be about compassion and fairness things that are generally lacking in society today. Unfortunately especially on the front line people are driven from higher up to produce more and more, never having time to actually take a moment and think. All these performance departments get caught up in this madness too - when actually if we took a breath and became more open we'd see it was all crap. Policing is simple - just let us police as individuals - all these figures don't matter because they are lies anyway.

I have hopefully managed to break the cycle. I have seen the light and no longer have the desire to be at work all the time striving to be the best and competitive in the extreme. The financial rewards of doing that for years have enabled me to pay my clever daughter through university. No debt for her, paid for through me taking all overtime available over the years. You can call it performance related pay.

So it wasn't being a policeman that done for me I did it to myself, and all the negative stuff was I think just a reaction to job pressure. It would have been the same in whatever job I'd done as that's the way I'm wired up. I think the technical term is emotionally intelligent. I accept that label and all that's happened in my past including a difficult personal life. I'm still here so the past is irrelevant and the future an illusion, all that matters is now.

I'm back in the Zone and have learnt that one can make judgements and decisions in the right way. This needs to be done without automation where we as police officers often fall into the trap of labelling jobs. There is no such thing as just another domestic or just another call about problem kids. I approach things with a beginner's open mind and I've found that connection with my old self. I'm happier in my life and am now only a slightly stressed cop. When Ian Blair left the Met on his last day he said "You have good days and You have bad days". That really does sum up policing for me, in fact it can be applied to life itself. It's how you cope with things that matters.

In my new role I find myself dealing with countless officers suffering from stress in one form or another. Currently 25% of my people have got issues ranging from total Burnout to bereavement problems. I line manage over 20 so that's alot at one time. I'm best placed to deal with it having been there myself. When is somebody going to wake up and look at this within the police? I suspect the baseline data would be shocking if my team is replicated across the force area.

I'll pop into the usual places now and again just to be sociable but for now it's Goodbye. I don't intend to come back but you can never say never. Not had a video up for a while so enjoy ..... just a few more years then I can grow my hair like Kurt's again !!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

If I Ruled The World

This blog has only given my perspective on how I see policing and life issues, and that perspective is from somebody who by my own admission has suffered stress so take it as you will. No doubt some of my views have been strong at times and not to the liking of all.

As I'm relatively chilled and at ease with life at present I can roll with it and not get too worked up about work. There are however things I would like to see changed in policing. During the course of writing this blog and confronting my issues I've actually managed to get promoted to Inspector. You might think this gives me control over front line delivery but sadly this isn't the case. I am the duty officer on a response team in a busy area with a derisory amount of officers to deal with the demand of calls. I could actually provide a better service if I was allowed to but others removed from what I do seem to know best. Here are the solutions:

Response policing is actually quite simple, all you've got to do is meet demand. Pro activity in the old sense is lost to us and left to the squads who have time to go hunting for villains. Making it better means bringing back dispatch of resources to the local Division. I'm old enough to have worked in an old comms room as a PC and went on to be a Controller responsible for all local deployments. The sad truth is that the centralised radio dispatch system brought in by most force areas is not fit for purpose and isn't working for the front line. Everybody knows this apart from senior management who are mightily impressed that their targets for picking up the phone to the public are improving.

It's a shame that we are not as good in actually getting to those calls. I sit and look at the long list of calls and many of them don't require a police officer to attend. As a controller I would have sorted out most of them as not being police matters or by giving advice over the phone. Unfortunately the Controller is long dead. By bringing back this role local supervision would be improved with the right units being sent to the right calls. Knowing the abilities of your staff and who might be ducking and diving never escaped the Controller.

There are actually dozens of police and PCSO's on duty each day but they are not deployable because policy dictates they are ring fenced to look after their own portfolios. Neighbourhood teams can only take calls on their beat if the call type matches their local priorities. This is madness and it is madness inflicted by police managers looking after their own areas of business. Now I've worked in community and it's no hardship for those working in that field to take some of the work from response. I actually preferred to report all burglaries on my patch so I could take time to look after the victim's and get a feel for who was screwing my patch. It's purely a time and motion thing and using the most of resources available.

Will somebody have the balls to go back and do this? Don't hold your breath. I whined a few months back about my ever decreasing team of officers. Since then I've lost more and more to little squads that pop up. I'm told they will take work from us, but after a few weeks of them telling me how busy they are, some of the work comes back to us because of their "insufficient capacity".

I am actually shocked and flabbergasted at the numbers we've been reduced to but still we carry on, but people are beginning to wobble. How long before they fall over? I don't rule the world - I can't even be trusted it appears to run my team the way I want to. To be fair even my bosses are dictated to by headquarters who seem to know best. I'll do my best to run my little team regardless but now I hear plans are being made to have us cover other Divisions as well in the name of efficiency. The Controller is dead, so is common sense it seems.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Never Assume

Last man standing happens alot and very often the box of police officers is well ... just empty. Calls still come in to be dealt with regardless, the same target response times needing to be met. Some forces run a Class 1 and others an immediate response I grade for emergencies.

It's near the end of the early turn shift and I'm it as section Sgt. I take the call and ask for more details. It appears a suicide letter has been received in the post by the parent's of a man, who lives on a nearby estate. They call us and as an ambulance has been called it's an I grade in case police need to force entry. I'm literally just round the corner and am thinking nice easy job, knock on the door greet sender of the letter, make sure everything's OK and I'll still be off on time.

I pull into the estate and find the correct block. It's four stories high with no lift and it did cross my mind how nice it would be to find the flat on the ground floor. It never works out that way and I trudge up to the top floor and find the flat. You could tell the occupant must have issues because there are a series of padlocks and clasps on the door frame. Not entirely in line with fire regulations but the sound of the television on the other side of the door confirms my quick job theory.

I give it my finest police knock and stand back. There's no reply so it's likely the bloke is out. All the padlocks are locked so he could be out shopping having left the television on. Ever the professional I crouch down to look through the letterbox. It's a studio type flat and I look into the living room seeing a figure sat in an armchair in front of the TV. It looks like he's fallen asleep but the smell of gas has already hit my nose.

I jump up and force the door, padlocks and all, rushing in and grabbing something to smash the glass in the window. It's boiling hot inside and a look to the gas hob tells me why. There's a saucepan on the lit gas with burnt remnants of baked beans. The gas smell is due to the poor ventilation in the flat and the unburnt gas build up. I turn it off and open the windows, looking towards the figure in the chair. He's sat back, head lolling and feet out in front with a plate of beans on his lap as if he's just nodded off. He doesn't look dead but a quick knock shows me he's already in rigor mortis and beyond help. I call it in just as the paramedics arrive. They're carrying their medical bags and were probably hoping for the flat to be on the ground floor too. They are not needed and this appears a relatively straightforwards run of the mill suicide.

I have a look around and seize some medication containers putting them to one side to be bagged up later for the coroner. A late turn unit turns up offering to take over but I've got a responsibility to this dead man to see it through myself. The FME declares life extinct and I await the undertakers having spoken to the coroner's officer. The original informant his mother who lives miles away is going to get a personal death message visit from police sometime soon. Maybe she too expected everything would turn out OK. The undertakers arrive and were definitely hoping the flat was on the ground floor. They have to put the deceased into a body bag, not easy as he's stiff in a seated position and carry him down to the hearse. The estate caretaker sorts out the door so it's secure and I'm all done bar the paperwork.

A couple of days later I get a call from the control room. Can I ring the mother of the suicide victim she wants to speak to me. I didn't really give her any thought as I concentrated on dealing with her son, glad that it wasn't me doing the death message. There's no way out and I make the call trying to give her closure. No, I don't think he suffered, he looked very peaceful and had some baked beans as a last supper and must have been watching television before drifting out of this life. I don't know if it helped but it's something I dislike doing.

What prompts this story? One of my officer's lost a family member a few months back. He'd told me it was an unexpected sudden death. I've been worried about him and assumed he'd be OK but now he tells me that he received a letter in the post too.

Monday 10 May 2010

Carry On Laughing

Postal voting fraud, chaotic polling stations with people locked out and getting angry - and to be honest we're not really surprised are we? It sort of sums up what NuLabor has done to the country since being in power. They are still hanging in there in case of a last minute deal with the Libs. Brown still sits as prime minister. What a farce !!

The whole lot of them, Tories included are weak and that's why we'll end up with a wet government. What does that mean for policing? If Cameron strikes a coalition deal the Home Secretary could be a LibDem minister. No change for us then, and more of the same old same old awaits.

I hope I'm wrong and Cameron pushes through his promise to dismantle the worst bits of the Human Rights Act. In reality nothing's going to happen until the next election. It's all rather depressing.

Why can't we just be left to get on with it and police without interference? I'm sure it's the same for the NHS with Doctors and Nurses, serving not the patients but the number crunchers sat in their offices somewhere.

At least the Sun is shining today.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Reflections And Regrets

The Superintendo was loving it as he'd received a letter of appreciation from a member of the public praising us the police. These things matter apparently and were at one time used as a stupid measure of public confidence locally. I did waiver a little bit as he went into more detail. The correspondent was an alcoholic who some years earlier had been stopped driving his car, having been drinking, right outside his house. The officers spoke to him and used their discretion to let him enter his house with no further action, just strong advice. He wrote that this event prompted him to sort his life out and the letter was a result of him attending Alcoholics Anonymous, attempting to put the past behind him.

He saw this interaction as an important event in his life. Not sure that DPS would have seen it the same way, but let's assume the officers smelt no alcohol. These alcoholics do hold their drink well. I had one on the intoximeter once and thought he was going to be a borderline pass or fail and was staggered when he blew 140.

I'm sure all of us have done things we regret. There are things I've been involved in that I've learnt from but still I remember them. Most were from early on in my career and they still bother me.

I was blessed with a morning on the area car when a probationer, as the operator was at court. I was expected to produce a return of work before breakfast. We sat up at a process point where there was a no U turn sign to await the unaware victims. It didn't take long before somebody drove against the sign and my old sweat driver pushed the gearstick into drive and cruised up behind the car pulling him over. I jumped out to speak to the driver who just happened to be a soldier in full uniform. To be more precise it was a Lt Colonel. I'd only been out of the army less than 9 months and didn't know whether to stand to attention or what. I'd been tapping the boards in front of my OC just before I got out and now here I was, stood in a position of authority over a higher rank. I glanced at PC old sweat hoping he'd step in and send the Colonel on his way, but he indicated I was to stick him on. I did so writing a ticket but it grated because although he'd done wrong I really wanted to let him off with a warning. That's the way it was when I joined total equality in treatment of offenders.

That incident has stuck with me for whole of my career. I've never been a process king and tended to stop loads of motorists in my early years, but looking for crime not petty traffic process. That was reserved for those failing the attitude test or known criminals as a disruption tactic. One thing I have done, is say to younger officers use your discretion and don't be afraid to do so if you think it is right.

Another time I was station officer and a chap enters with a badly bruised arm. He complained that an associate of his had injured him at his house. I'm not sure of the dynamic of the relationship between them but looking back this chap was possibly more vulnerable than I first thought and was being taken advantage of. In these days common assault as a crime didn't exist and people were referred to civil remedy. I listened and gave the legal advice and also words of wisdom to choose his friends more carefully before recording the matter in the Occurrence Book. I was a 50/50 at the time how to handle this but I dealt with it incorrectly. This bloke came for help and I failed him through inexperience. His arm was really bruised bad and possibly I should have recorded it as an ABH so it could be investigated. We dealt with domestics the same way so although I think we've gone too far with positive action things have definitely changed for the better.

What's done is done and I can't go back and make things right, but these two minor incidents have really moulded my policing outlook on how I've tried to do this job over the years. There's plenty of other mistakes that won't be written about here. I've written about my perfectionist tendencies and looking back they've always been there from the start ..... That's interesting.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Stressed Eyes ..

I must admit with just a little bit of shame that I had momentary good feelings when viewing the coverage of our unelected leader dissing the lovely Mrs Duffy. It takes one to know one and this bloke is clearly suffering. It's scary that he is in charge of the country and even more scary that next week he could in theory, still be there. Oh please Britain anybody but him !!!

I had a chomp myself at somebody last week - not a big rant just a nibbling of some CID balls, which was possibly undeserved to the individual so had to issue my own apology. The difference being I probably meant it and feel good that I did so.

Shouldn't really judge, it's a fault of mine, but Brown is clearly a control freak, and when Duffers fired her questions at him you can just see the frustration as he battles to get in and speak. He clearly doesn't like it and that's what leads to his off camera reaction. Now who a few years back personally took charge of some strategic and operational policing matters when robberies were getting out of hand? You can see why we've had a very controlling government for 13 years.

Mrs Duffy did however show all the politicians up as avoiding the issues that really matter. I used to be in awe of politicians thinking them all powerful and intelligent until I met some of them and listened to the shit they spouted. Many a time I've sat in meetings and have been told how I'm wrong about things happening on my patch. They just all happened to be from the ruling party. They really do live in a different world.

I watched the debates on TV and was left rather flat. All this crack down on expenses crap. If they were true to their word then why didn't one of them also say they'd tackle the expenses scandal within the European parliament? I suspect this would be worse than our own domestic parliamentary problems. Isn't the truth that all of the parties have already lost the power to govern this country?

I'm tactically voting this election and voting TORY but it's a vote on loan. There is no difference between any of them in my eyes as they battle for the centre ground. I go Tory only in the hope they are true to form and swing to the right if gaining power and try to sort out this mess of a country.

I've had some dealings with some of their politicians the past few years and at least they listened. I've told them exactly what I think and I do believe if they gain power there will be positive changes in policing. They have also done some innovative stuff in my area which has worked to the benefit of the communities. Firm but fair policing is all that anybody wants. I do have some hope that they might actually be the party of law and order.