Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The date and time was set. Schedules and diaries cleared.
The meeting took place.
A short agenda - I had two items to raise - we came up with a third thing to discuss, while waiting for the Inspector to arrive. I was to be chair.
So it started. Some had even come in on their days off, for an inducement of some more time off in lieu.
Forty minutes in, all was well. All the items on the agenda were discussed, agreements were made on all of the points - a nice mix of compromises and unanimous decisions.
Then, the Inspector spoke.
It was a bad sign when the temperature in the room fell ten degrees. The windows began to frost over. Black clouds gathered in the sky. Dogs howled in the street. The milk carton in the fridge turned solid (but it probably would have done that anyway). Faces fell. People started at the carpet tiles, apart from when I caught the eyes of others looking round the room. Those same eyes rolled skywards.
Ripples of discontent swept through the room. The previous harmony vanished, like a teenage thief with a good headstart and the latest Nike trainers on his feet and a SatNav in his hand. It all went pear shaped. Some people just aren't good communicators. They don't read the signs. They are often frighteningly un-self-aware. And prone to just carrying on regardless. It was a WTF moment.
So twenty-five minutes later, over a quarter of the PC's had to ask to take me to one side for a quiet word. Others were huddled in the corner, discussing things in hushed whispers. Another is taking advice from the Federation. One has a job application already submitted and is thinking about a fall back position, in case that one comes to nothing.
In short, the new Inspector made an impression.
Just not a good one.
Never mind 'eh, soon be Christmas.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Let me explain... I work in a small office. Full of 'characters'. And due to the nature of the Trivial Crime Squad, and our lack of (night)shifts, and lack of confrontation, then our HR department (human resources, or possibly hissing reptiles - they'd be as well regarded and as much use) and the SLT (senior management team with dyslexia... should be SMT, but they are under the impression that they are leaders rather than managers) then I have more characters than you would expect on a department of a similar size.
I have the sick, lame and lazy - or the mad, sad and not very well. All very unfair of course, but the fact is some of my team are variously:
'...a supervisor's nightmare...'
recovering from a critical illness
recovering from a nervous breakdown
have horrendous childcare problems
'...moved under a cloud...'
and so on.
It's like the foreign legion. Everyone has a story, everyone has a reason for being in the squad. But nonetheless, they are a good bunch, work hard, care about what they do, mostly get on, and I would back them 100% when the make an honest mistake, and ensure that if things go well and truly pear-shaped, then the wheel would be bolted back on.
I'm always aware that the quirks and traits of my staff make for an incongruous bunch, and it is more the Office , than the Bill and I do have to resist the lure of becoming David Brent with chevrons. And as a result I certainly wasn't explaining to the divisonal commander why I had nominated a Sooty glove puppet as my deputy, given the SLT's failure to give me any assistance while one of my 'oppo's' is off long term sick and the other retired months ago and was never replaced.
That DID NOT happen.
So I prefer to keep quiet about the daily ins and outs... unlike a lot of police bloggers. We do an odd job, in a smallish town, of some notoriety. You could guess who we are, we where, what we do, who I am... If I was to reveal too much, I would most likely blow my cover, embarass and upset my colleagues - and at the end of the day, they are too important to me to do that to them. Despite the very real temptation to blog the rich seam of stuff that happens. It's not an easy choice.
It'll have to wait until the memoirs.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Everyone knows this. But they don't make the headlines anymore. Not like they used to. No overdoses. No more Leah Betts's - some adverse publicity for Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Kerry Katona, Kate Moss - but nothing fatal to their supply of publicity and spreads in the 'sleb magazines.
So class A to C drugs are now just a footnote in society. Which is odd. Because they are very much still there - the tangled threesome of drink, drugs and mental health problems that are the ever-present companions of our regular customers.
But nowhere near as sexy as 'Citizen focus' or neighbourhood priorities. And I work somewhere so diverse that one neighbourhood's priority for the police is dog shit. Read it again. Dog turds. And not so many miles away it is drug related gun crime.
Just think about the issues here. Where would you rather live? Where would you rather bring up a family? Somewhere where the biggest risk is a dog egg lurking in the autumn leaves in the park? Or somewhere where gangs of well connected criminals are fighting over the profits of the heroin trade?
It's not a trick question... you decide...
Now imagine you have to allocate staff, budgets, resources, and meet the reported priorities of different communities. Where do you spend the most? And are shootings just a symptom of how utterly ingrained into society and culture drugs are? Just as buying knocked off coffee and bacon from hollow eyed junkies passes without comment. And agencies for every kind of addiction and problem fill town centre offices.
Sometimes we get very close to tuning out the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are locked into a pattern of crime, addiction and more crime. It underpins most of the theft offences, most burglaries, most thefts from cars - it is why most things get stolen. After years of mandatory drug testing, the need to feed a crack or heroin addiction is the reality for a good number of the inmates in the UK revolving-door prison system.
Do the maths... number of crack addicts in London in 2005 - 50,000 or the number of heroin addicts in UK about 200,ooo - or the number of problem drug users reported in 2006 in the UK estimated at 280,000 - and that's just the 'problem' users...
And these are the people living in unheated houses, with filthy children, keeping social services at bay, with needles scattered all over the floors, in homes without lighting... the far end of a supply chain from either the Andes or Afghanistan - depending on their drugs of choice. Waiting for the next fix.
So the drugs haven't gone away.
Even if it's not as interesting as G20 / G8 / BNP / MP's expenses / anti-social behaviour / hoodies / domestic violence /and so on... they're still out there - eyeing your possessions, looking to convert your stuff to small snap bags of temporary oblivion.
So the police aren't looking,[because the war on drugs isn't sexy] the media aren't looking [because it just isn't newsworthy], the politicians aren't looking [because the New-Labour initiatives came to nothing and the Tories are similarly bankrupt of ideas.] So who is looking to stem the tide of drug imports, reduce the number of addicts, deal with the chaos left bydrug addled lifestyles?
I know, I know... 13 years since the film - 16 since the book...
Monday, 5 October 2009
Strangely enough, a downturn in the economic cycle tends to coincide with a rise in acquisitive crime. Hmmmm. Can anyone see a problem looming on the horizon? Or do we bury our heads in the sand. I was growing up in the eighties, and it was fairly shite. Unemployment and crime do seem to skip along happily, hand in hand and get along just fine.
It must be true - I found this on the internet today - and the internet never lies.
We can expect increasing crime, and either the same or less resources to fight it with. Sounds like perfect time for a massive reorganisation then?
So... at Grim-on-th't-Moor we are throwing ourselves into Neighbourhood policing with gusto. Departments are being renamed, new signs appearing on doors, and the new probationers - sorry, newbies - sorry, Student Officers are soon to be looked after by the Neighbourhood teams, and not response any more. This probably won't save any money. But it will put more staff in the golden calf of 'neighbourhood policing' - so the Home Office will be happier.
But will it make them better neighbours? and less likely to steal stuff, break things, and punch each other?
I'm not holding my breath.
I was busy.
I remember now.
But thanks for the comments while I was away. All will remain. I've only ever deleted one - and that was from one of life's 'Anon's - who told me - not even asking nicely - to 'Fuck off moaning pig'. Or words to that effect at least.
When said to my face that usually leads to some unpleasantness that will end with fingerprints and DNA. That's you lot warned.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
But then again - I was busy.
Single crewed at work (should be three of us - there's just me).
Builders finishing off.
Major marital problems becoming a need to go to Relate.
Plus the wearying busyness of 21st century British family life.
Having time to stare into the distance and scratch my arse idly has been a luxury.
Blogging more so - so got neglected - all the while thinking of more stuff to write..... Aaaargh!
But 2 weeks leave always helps.
Firstly, the article tells us that ’hundreds’ are earning fantastic sums - this against a total of about 120,000 police officers. ‘Tens of thousands of police earning flat rate pay’ isn’t exactly a gripping headline. Look closely again about the numbers involved - and the Met, which earns the Lions share - also has the DPG and Royalty Protection officers who travel, cover all sorts of events and get paid for what they do. An observation is made about the overall overtime bill - fair enough I suppose - then this is compared with Britons struggling under the credit crunch - taking pay cuts - or short time working. A thoughtful comparison perhaps - but what about the bankers in the City of London getting bonuses effectively paid by the taxpayer - much more money - spread far less widely - for less deserving workers?
That’s not to say that the current overtime regulations are perfect - but at least they are fair - even if the application is not. To explain properly - unlike the article - overtime is paid at four rates - not three.
The first is plain time for part time officers working above their agreed part time hours. The next rung is time and a third - less half an hour for the Queen - paid for working past finishing time. To illustrate, this is the rate paid if you were due to finish at say five pm, and you arrest a shoplifter at quarter to four. If you are still at work at half five, then the meter starts ticking - usually in fifteen minute chunks. After a ten hour shift, then some recompense to stay on is needed - there are times when we’d do it for free - no questions asked - such as a search for a misper. But to stay on and deal with standing at a ‘scene’ usually a doorstep or dull street, then bribery is the best motivator.
The next stage is the rest day rate - payable at time and a half with fifteen to five days notice, this is usually for a minimum eight hour shift (and occasionally much more or a bit less). This tends to be the big earner - to plug gaps in cover, to provide staff for events, football, concerts, demos, initiatives, operations, taking excess prisoners from the prison service (Operation Safeguard…. Of which more later…). Basically time and half overtime pays for much of the policing at say the G8, Old Trafford - anywhere where seas of yellow fluorescent jackets are to be seen.
The last rung is the premium rate, saved for the Bank/Public holidays, and for notice of less then five days. This pays for the cops on Christmas Day…. And the other days when you may find yourself stuck in an airport departure lounge or on a four lane rolling traffic jam. It is also the carrot dangled to get uniforms and boots on at short notice - I have on occasion answered the call to get changed and come into work for the promise of ‘double bubble’ - but the reality is that the SLT and the finance department are loathe to pay unnecessary double time pay.
I’m not convinced that police overtime is much of an issue as there are relatively few high earners. I’ve had precious few large pay slips and a flat month is the norm for me at the minute. The few earning more than an Inspector are few and far between, and I would suggest are working in very specialised units - and I doubt they are combining rest day working and stopping on - I suggest it’s one or the other. So while it makes for a gripping headline, - and the whole budget, shared out amounts to about £318 per month, per PC or Sgt, suddenly this is much less when factoring in Special Priority Pay and Competency Pay - so what’s all the fuss about?
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
But thanks to our dear friends in Westminster - guess what - the House of Commons Home Affairs committee has decided there were 'not enough trained Police at the G20'.
Check the BBC, it's all here folks - as apparently 35,000 demonstrators, 10,000 police and er... 4 complaints to the IPCC has led to th wise and learned to conclude - 'never again must untrained officers be placed in the front line of public protests' - as apparently 2 days per year of MAS/PSU etc.. training is not enough to drill into the front line cop... what exactly? Not to shove people from behind (if that is what happened to the late Ian Tomlinson) - not to slap mouthy people in the face? Not to refuse to give the demented your collar number? (You can have mine now.... I'm not bothered).
According to Keith Vaz, MP, 'What's acceptable, what's within the police rule book - the use of distraction tactics, for example, slapping or hitting people - shocked the public, therefore, they need to look again at these tactics and consult the public to decide whether or not such tactics can be used again."
Now, I could be wrong, but if I ask some of our parishioners as to whether use of force may be justified, what type of responses would I get?
Pete Krusti-Pantz (envioronmental protestor) 'Cops hitting me interferes with my right to demonstrate with a balaclava and scaffolding poles against the forces of captalism...'
Robert Whinjin-Krayon (Daily Mail reader) 'The police are just nu-labour fascist bully boys concerned with political correctness, they shouldn't even be allowed out of the station, lets have the troops home and on the streets now...'
Dean Benefitt-Chavscumm (unemployed) 'The five-o shouldn't be allowed to touch me, it messes up my grafting and how else can I sell my gear and score some green - my brief will sort them...'
So there you have it - G20 apparently was an unmitigated disaster - an MP is seriously questioning as to how police can defend themselves and others... do I expect to see OST (Officer Safety Training) courses delivered by the IPCC, or our local MP?
Thursday, 25 June 2009
But I do promise some musings on:
retirement, (not mine - not for a long while...)
the joy of incident reports, (which will be better than it sounds)
the many delights of custody, (too numerous to list in full)
and self defence training (and that's just for starters).
Not dead, not sleeping - just a different kind of busy.
And I won't be going the way of Nightjack (God bless 'im)
Saturday, 30 May 2009
One of the changes brought in is an emphasis on 'leadership' (meaning management) and the role of being a 'leader' (meaning being a manager).
Go into any UK police force, and I would be surprised not to find posters, leaflets, online resources, training courses, and enormous volumes of hot air all about this 'leadership' thing.
This is something that has come in on the crest of the wave of introducing ideas and concepts from private industry (who else has 'customers','business partners','business cases' and so on) - I mean we are the public sector - monopoly suppliers of policing - there is no customer choice - I would argue that they are not customers as they have no choice and certainly aren't expected to pay... but that's a different rant.
With the posters, also came the motivational ones, spreading like the ravings of benign vandals across corridors and noticeboards and even the occasional office. I hate these with a passion. Below is an example - albeit a satirical one, but it gets the point across:
(For more - I suggest you get over to despair inc. )
So does knowing John Kotter's 8 point model for successful change help me in the slightest? - it's clearly an obsession for modern management - for example, Google gives nearly 36 million hits for 'managing change'. There are plenty of books or courses available to help executives 'create coalitions', 'communicate', 'express a vision', 'empower' and so on - in fact, I've noticed that the language of 'management' and the language of counselling often have a shared vocabulary (is this significant I wonder...?) - but in the long run - does it really help?
I may be wrong, I may be in a minority of one, but people who talk like professional managers, with 'vision' and a 'mission' come across as massive wankers. Not necessarily bad, evil or stupid - quite the reverse, but very often as misguided, naive, and deluded, and certainly anyone who wants to 'link in' with me, as opposed to come and 'speak to' me has already got my hackles up.
Don't let the bastards grind you down.
Monday, 18 May 2009
Just when the number of anti-Police coverage in the media was getting too much.
Just when the fall-out from the G20 summit was making all cops look like out-of-control bullies.
Just when the Met seemed to have totally lost the plot.
Both sides of the venerable House have joined their noses in the trough !!!
Meanwhile, back in Grim-on-th't-Moor, Sgt Custerd is still head of the trivial crime squad.
What this means, is that our 'customer' rings one of our call centres. Their complaint is graded from 1 to 5.
1 is serious - blue lights and sirens.
2 is fairly serious - a stripy vehicle will be with you in an hour.
3 is reasonably pressing - a stripy vehicle will be with you during the same day.
4 is trivial. Or has been regraded through a lack of stripy vehicles. Or we've been creative with the truth, and decided that there is no evidence to lose - or it's been lost - or else our 'customer' is happy with an appointment (within 48 hours - remember the Pledge).
5 is when a Police 'officer' will call you back and take details by phone.
The grading determines how quickly - and whether you will be seen. A grade of 4 means that one of my team will deal with your complaint.
'Deal' in this sense means we make an appointment for our customer - who comes in to see us. In the case of a recordable crime - with a line of enquiry to a named suspect, then a statement and crime report is taken. Which in turn now gets fed into the sausage machine of 21st century policing.
A crime is allocated to an officer - who arrests the suspect - brings them to a police station, books them into custody, where:
someone else takes fingerprints, photos and DNA,
someone else interviews them,
someone else decides if there is sufficient evidence to charge or refer to the CPS,
(in which case, someone else makes the decision to charge),
someone else puts together the file for Court.
On paper - all very simple - in practice, like herding cats, juggling eels, and nailing jelly to the ceiling. In the dark. With your feet on fire.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
But there'll be more.
Needless to say, this is nowhere near enough bobbies to cope with the '24 hour cafe culture, civilized drinking blah.. blah.. blah..' , so this is supplemented by the response team working lates – who from 9.00 pm to 3.00 am assist, and also departments and units, such as mine – the non-response, slightly specialized office dwellers are dragged out, kicking and screaming once every two to three months to do a ‘Safer streets weekend’.
It is not terribly popular.
Bearing in mind one third of the officers doing this are bribed by overtime payments at time and a half – one third are taking a break from flying round in a panda car, and the remaining third are out past their bedtimes, none of the officers there are there by choice for the love of it.
Why is it so awful?
A number of factors – try combining lots of drunks – working unsocial hours – being stood out in the street for hours on end, in all weathers – and not able to take any respite in any of the warm and overcrowded drinking dens – occasional violence and abuse (directed towards us – not dished out – despite what we’ve all seen of the G20 footage) – but mainly boredom.
The boredom is the killer. There are hours of waiting for something to happen – otherwise it’s just watching hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people aged 15 up to…I don’t know… 65-ish? wandering from club to pub to kebab shop and eventually – God willing – to a taxi that they’ll actually pay for.
And each time we do it there is a ‘Groundhog day’ like quality to the whole proceedings. It feels the same – every single time. It starts with a briefing – a review of the previous weekend, then any notable events – such as local or televised football matches – then some notes about any of the local premises causing problems. Even this is predictable – anywhere with a fixed entry fee and then drink all you want deal usually means trouble, as does any of the bars or clubs struggling to fill the floor, so the ‘standards of entry’ are lowered. This means the ‘customers’ who would struggle to get in anywhere else are more than welcome to spend their hard earned cash – or dole money.
And then to the town. For a few hourss, which involves an awful lot of standing about. A bit of chatting to the doorstaff. And some chatting to the revelers. And some disbelief at what some are wearing. All I can say it’s a good thing we’re not the fashion police – as tickets would be doled out for failing to maintain beer-bellies, or display of an offensive 'muffin top' , or else wearing an outfit in circumstances likely to cause a breach of the peace. The dull thing is watching other people enjoy themselves, and not joining in. Given the choice, I’d slope off for a quiet pint. Most of us would. But we can’t and we don’t. So we wait.
And all this waiting is for the very end of the evening – when the last of the clubs close, and the vertical drinking barns throw their tired and emotional customers out into the street. By now it is about 4.00 am, and the happy, silly and annoying revellers hve long since gone. This leaves the angry, confused and argumentative ones. No-one is smiling anymore. We’ve been at work for 6-7 hours already – we’re tired and are longing for home and bed. But we don’t go anywhere until the hundreds of drunken, cross, slightly agitated people have gone home.
They’re cross because they’ve had an argument with their partner – or the group they went out with have become separated – they’ve lost their phone – or it’s been stolen – or they’ve drunk all their taxi money – or now outside they can settle the score with the lad or lady who punched them on the dancefloor in the club. And they’re all drunk. Almost without exception. Especially the ones who tell you they’re not – but we’re trained you see, we can tell, in fact we're all experts in diagnosing drunkenness – glazed eyes, face red and flushed – unsteady on feet and slurring words – ‘He was drunk your worships, drunk as a newt.’
And for anyone on the frontline of the public sector knows all too well, drunk people are, regardless of age, occupation, class or gender, sexuality or race, belief or nationality – drunk people are, ladies and gentlemen, utter arseholes.
Arseholes who don’t listen, won’t do as you ask – who talk absolute rubbish, often very steadily and precisely (Cos’ they’re not drunk, you see…) and they now have a connection with the fluorescent jacketed police who are there to perform an extended and slightly surreal playground duty, so they wander up and decide now of all times to have a conversation. This last hour or so is the bit we’ve all waited for – this is where the fights break out, the injured stagger up to us, the punch drunk decide to swear and swagger, and sometimes even try to initiate a fight with the police. This is the crazy hour of blue lights, ambulances, shouting, sounds of breaking glass and where the video footage of ‘Booze Britain’ is sourced.
So the next time you’re thinking of the police, seeking to establish the police state, inerfering with politicians or , crushing democratic protest and generally being brutal , just spare a though for Sgt Custerd and his colleagues, dealing with his reality, a long way from London, and a long way from the passing media frenzy, because this is what the police actually do, day in, day out.
Mind how you go, sir.
Friday, 13 March 2009
My job consisted of shiftwork, and parading on at a police station, getting my gear, pens and forms ready, having the briefest of briefings with the shift Sergeant, and then going out on patrol. This meant being given a ‘mobile’ or ‘car’ beat, and driving round – eyes peeled for criminals driving, and suspicious characters, and waiting for the inevitable call over the radio to go to a ‘job’. This also meant immense freedom – to go where I wanted – to ‘self generate’ some work – very often this meant stopping drivers for traffic offences, going after drink drivers, and arresting people on outstanding warrants.
And before the backlash starts of ‘going after innocent tax-paying motorists… raising money for the Treasury… getting paid for results’ – it wasn’t like that. For one, we didn’t and still don’t get paid for issuing tickets and making arrests – it wouldn’t work – and I and many others wouldn’t do it anyway. No – I used to look out for the untaxed, uninsured, ‘sheds’ – the ‘pool cars’ of the local criminal/underclass – which were inevitably old, grubby and poorly maintained cars, driven and often carrying, people who were well accustomed to ‘helping the police with their enquiries’. These self-same people were also the local ‘lead miners’, shoplifters, flagstone thieves, drug users, burglars and low-level dealers.
Very often they were disqualified – on occasions, they had forgotten whether they were between, or in the middle of a driving ban – and not unusually, were sometimes stopped and found to be wanted for some offence, or ‘FTA’ (On warrant for failing to appear at Court).
Doing this also meant that I met, mixed with and were known to the local crims – they knew I could be ‘trusted’ and I knew where they lived, who they hung about with, what was happening on an ‘unofficial’ level – which meant that when I did have to turn up in the heat of the moment – the look of recognition often defused a situation, rather than aggravated it.
Pounding the beat meant getting to know it, inside and out. It also meant that ‘putting the word out’ that I was after someone meant that news of their whereabouts might sometimes filter back to me – or else a surrender at the front desk with a solicitor could be negotiated – after all – it’s still an arrest.
But this was also back when central government was way less concerned with figures – the local HQ was less driven by detections, and an awful lot of what used to do was ‘have a word with someone’ – and try as you might – you can’t easily count or quantify that. There was no measure of how well I knew my patch – or what the value of hearing ‘Oh – it’s PC Custerd – he’s alright – for a copper…’
Add to this working with less teams, squads and units – a much larger shift, a good spread of experience, and less crap to deal with – it was certainly a better job then.
At which point I go all misty eyed…
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
For the uninitiated, these are the new performance targets/culture/measure of NuLabour and the Home Office, and my ridiculing is based on the official model
8. Provide monthly updates on progress, and on local crime and policing issues. This will include the provision of crime maps, information on specific crimes and what happened to those brought to justice, details of what action we and our partners are taking to make your neighbourhood safer and information on how your force is performing.
Which means, these used to be called ‘newspaper articles’ – but now you can have a newsletter, text message and ‘e-bulletin’ as to who is doing what to whom, how and when in the place you live. Lucky you! And we’ll tell you how lenient the local Mags Court is – and we’ll tell you about meetings with ‘partner agencies’ that have achieved naff-all squared. And some nice stories from HQ, about how we are less safe than Ruralshire, but better than Blandshire. Like you care. Just don't, whatever you do, think about the time and effort spent to create brochures and newsletters and bulletins and so on - that could have been spent... fighting crime.
9. If you have been a victim of crime agree with you how often you would like to be kept informed of progress in your case and for how long. You have the right to be kept informed at least every month if you wish and for as long as is reasonable.
This I can’t argue with – try as I might – but then again, it has taken until 2009 to acknowledge that victims might like to know what’s happened with their case. However - as long as 'reasonable' - I think as long as the Court result and no more - anything more than this is stalking - and we do have laws about that.
10. Acknowledge any dissatisfaction with the service you have received within 24 hours of reporting it to us. To help us fully resolve the matter, discuss with you how it will be handled, give you an opportunity to talk in person to someone about your concerns and agree with you what will be done about them and how quickly.
Because we can never do enough. But thankfully –we never will. But if you do complain, then you enter the Inspector lottery – by which the keen, promotion seeking one will promise the earth, and possibly a head on a plate – and the long-in-the tooth boss will instead try and get you to see sense. In my experience - those who should complain rarely ever do - and those that shouldn't - well - they often know more about making complaints than most solicitors. What we certainly won't offer is a magic wand to make everything better - which a lot of our 'service users' desperately want.
Here are my pledges:
1) I promise not to roll my eyes when you say ‘I know this sounds petty, but…’
2) I will suppress my urge to groan when mention is made of ‘Facebook’, ‘MSN’ or ‘text message’.
3) I will look as sympathetic as possible when you explain why you sent all of your savings by Western Union in return for the promise of twenty Nintendo Wii’s at a fraction of their full retail price.
4) I will explain very s-l-o-w-l-y why PC Keen has dealt with your case they way they have – as opposed to what you expected from watching ‘The Bill’. And if I use words like ‘insufficient’, ‘lack’ and ‘unbelievable’ in connection with the word ‘evidence’ – then I’m telling you now, to avoid disappointment later.
5) I will agree that schools don’t do enough to stamp out bullying – never having come across one yet that endorses hanging, drawing and quartering.
Meanwhile - back to domestic chores, DIY and sleep.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Needless to say, the Daily Mail covered the story in lurid detail, and the fact remains, the whole matter was a tragedy for his family and friends, as well as deeply embarassing I guess, for his wife and children.
That said, the point remains that as a leader of a large UK force, a Chief Constable no less, he really ought to have been beyond reproach.
I am seriously in danger of sounding like a reactionary, dyed-in-the-wool Daily Mailite, but after nearly 14 years of policing the (mainly)underclass, and their disputes and domestics and fall-outs has left me with a few very firm beliefs on how people should behave - as opposed to how they actually do.
To simplify my views on personal morality (yes, I know how that sounds...) it goes something like this:
1. Affairs lead to family breakdowns (Nothing too contraversial here?)
2. Broken families lead to chaotic child rearing (Think custody battles - absent parents, children growing up without boundaries, role models, adequate supervision, care and love...)
3. Children brought up in chaotic environments are at risk of offending (and at risk of being exploited, victimised, bullied and so on... and I don't remember dealing with many juvenile offenders where child, mother and father all shared the same surname - even when a full family group was present.)
4. Children who have had a bad upbringing make for awful role models for their children... (Because - yes - it does run in families - many of my older colleagues remember the 'appropriate adults' of today who attend with juvenile offenders (i.e. their offsprong) were themselves regular visitors to the cells in their younger days.)
and on it goes. Like a dreary cycle.
Simple - yes - too simple, maybe. But a report by the Children's Society - namely a Good Childhood bemoans the selfish attitudes of adults (for which read parents...) and how this leads to the outcomes I've mentioned above.
Just think 'Mummy needs some space dear, that's why I'm leaving to be with Roger... don't worry, I'll send money... and we'll go skiing next spring...' Because when middle class people behave like that, it's OK - it's fine - it's normal - it does no harm. Yet the chattering classes are quite happy to leap on Karen Matthews as being a piss-poor mother, with children to different fathers - and no doubt a string of ex's and a complicated family tree. Is it just me, or does that smack of eye-watering hypocrisy?
The author of the Children's Society report is a Labour life peer - so Richard Layard is hardly a swivel-eyed right wing nutter, which perhaps put my views and observations somewhere in the political centre (but not necessarily on a fence).
Which makes me feel better.
So, I am saying in a roundabout way that there is a chain of infidelity in relationships with the former Chief Constable Michael Todd (or Robin Cook, David Blunkett, Archer, Parkinson et al) at one end, and Wayne MacSlapper shagging Tracy Giro round the back of the community centre at the other end of the social spectrum.
And as a leader of men (including women, trans people, and everyone else who wants their own category to celebrate their individual brand of diversity), a Chief Constable who behaves like a [ insert your own euphemism or term here - I prefer 'dog with two dicks'] really does let the side down, and despite the glowing praise for his achievements, as a role model - which surely is part of such a high profile job - he was sorely lacking.
As a final note, having served in quite a few police stations, I can tell you that the common or garden Bobby loves nothing more than a bit of gossip. As a result, 'office' or workplace affairs stay secret for a very short space of time - some become legendary - others the source of scandal and gossip - but they are often very disruptive - breaking up teams, squads, units, shifts, blocks, scales, reliefs, groups - call them what you will. Staff are moved under a cloud - lockers are emptied, desks are cleared. Tolerance is pretty low - so if it's not OK for a PC, Sergeant or the Inspector - does that mean it's OK for higher ranks?
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
This has involved busy at work - busy at home - even busy dealing with the weather.
However - back at work - the thirteenth or fourteenth love of my life - after Mrs Custerd, Junior Custerds 1 and 2, Belgian beer, lasagne, the cat - and other stuff - back at work the daily reports of human misery and pettiness dished out by our 'cutomers' only serves to reinforce that we live in very different worlds. For example - in no particular order - here is a list of things that affect our regular customers way, way, way more than say, regular people:
1) Had my windows 'put through'. Having never fallen out with neighbours, friends, partners, family, or local youths enough to warrant this most British of retributions. I can't even say anyone has threatened to do it - so I've never had to call the police to ask them to tell the nasty person not to do it...
2) Been threatened with death, via the medium of... SMS text message. Never happened to me. Not once.
3) Been bitten by a neighbour's dog.
4) Been stalked by an ex-partner. Who maybe has been in the same pub/supermarket/town centre as our harassee. ('Cos that's harassment innit?')
5) Had a dispute with a builder or other tradesman (but let's face it - it's always builders) that has degenerated into with holding tools and materials and exchanges of death threats. (Oftn bi txt msg).
6) Had the neighbours 'look at me funny' - or 'keep smiling at me' in such a provocative manner as to cause fists to be raised, or constables to be summoned.
7) Bought anything off eBay for a ridiculously low price, sent money by Western Union, and then been surprised when my Wii, PS3 or X-Box failed to be shipped from Nigeria/China/Taiwan (delete as applicable)
8) Had a fallout with either a tenant or landlord - to result in changing of locks, illegal eviction, or (and this is a favourite) theft of the landlord's property and fittings.
9) Exchanged messages on Facebook/Bebo/MySpace which would in any way even remotely constitute an offence of harassment.
10) Done anything to warrant being on Jeremy Kyle. And that's a big list. But usually involves shagging someone else behind your partner's back and then whining like a child when the consequences catch up with you. And there's a lot of those.
And this ladies and gents - is how I spend my days at work.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Initiative was without substance.
And darkness was upon the faces of the Constables.
And they spoke among themselves, saying, “It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh.”
And the Constables went unto the Sergeants and said, “It is a bucket of crap and none may abide the odour thereof.”
And the Sergeants went unto the Inspectors, saying, “It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it.”
And the Inspectors went unto their Chief Inspector, saying, “It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.”
And the Chief Inspector muttered to himself, saying, “It contains that which aids plant growth and it is very strong.”
And the Chief Inspector then went unto the Superintendent and said to him, “It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”
And the Superintendent went up unto the Chief Super, saying unto him, “This new Initiative will actively promote the growth and vigour of the Division with powerful effects."
And the Chief Super looked upon the Initiative, and saw that it was good.
And the Initiative became Divisional Policy.
And yet there were multitudes of forms and returns and emails sent.
The doers of evil did rejoice and continue to hide in the darkness.
And the constables did gnash their teeth, and the Sergeants held their heads in the hands, and woe was upon the land of the innocents.
And the Chief Super looked upon his works and saw that it was good.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
January sale at the Tokyo Project
Where the management of a modest sized night club have decided to offer £5.99 entry and 'All you can drink' - til 3 am.
Which today equates to $8.48 or 6.44 Euro.
Bear in mind this place will open at maybe 9 to 10 pm.
So a good five hours drinking, followed by spilling out into the street, and then a competition for taxis and kebabs.
This is OK assuming responsible drinking, level heads, peaceful and reasonable punters, and certainly no class 'A' drugs to interact badly with a full belly of ale.
'What's that Sooty? That's not the reality of a town centre at 2am? It's full of bad tempered people, drinking on empty heads?'
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Yes, 2009, the world of spell-checks and we need a spelling guide. And times tables. And according the Ilkeston Advertiser it also explains the difference between 'sauce' and 'source'.
I know that - one is brown and goes well in a sausage butty - the other is a fount of unattributed and dodgy criminal intelligence.
As for the rest - we have a state education system, a whole series of police training departments, something that used to be Centrex and the SOLAP system.
But a 28 page booklet will single-handedly improve the future of policing.
I feel better already.
But meanwhile, at Grim-on-th't-Moor Central HQ, we've been busy dealing with our parishioners latest sets of problems. The current top 5 are:
1. Threats via Facebook - where being called a 'slapper' or 'minger' is taken as an immediate and serious threats to kill.
2. Harassment by mobile phone - where the availability and low cost of pay-as-you-go SIM cards, has led to open season for ex-partners, ex-friends, ex-neighbours and estranged family members to send all manner of annoying, stupid and occasionally unpleasant texts from anwhere in the country to their target. Apparently changing your number or being more careful who you pass it out to - or even deleting the unread texts is not an option...
3. Lottery frauds - 'What's that - I've won millions in the Spanish lottery, that I don't remember entering, but I have to send you £500, and then £1000, then a further £1000? Sounds good to me - where's my chequebook?.....' I despair at these.
4. Reports of assault to comply with company policy - 'Yes - I've been assaulted at work - my line manager says I have to report it..... no I don't want to go go to Court..... no - I don't want to give a statement..... no I'm too busy to see you at work..... yes, but I have to report it...... Officer, are you crying? What is this 'NCRS' you have to comply with?....'
5. School bullying. Apparently, for many schools, dealing with unruly or unpleasant children who are picking on others is 'not in their remit', so it must be in ours. Stand by while we get our pens out...
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
And then pleaded not guilty - forcing a trial - and then throughout the trial smirked and played up to their friends in the public gallery. The Coppersblog website reports that the derisory sentences - which - in real time - allowing deductions for time spent on remand - will equate to about two and a half to four years in custody.
This is nowhere near enough, and the lack of a media led outcry against such piss-poor sentencing is a disgrace.
I cannot for a moment understand how the sentencing Judge thought this was even remotely appropriate. Even allowing for some really heart rending mitigation by M'lud's colleagues at the Bar - and let's face it - all three would have had to have claimed to have suffered similar fates themselves to even come remotely near arguing for some leniency - how are sentences like these a punishment or deterrence. They are more like a passing annoyance. Were any of these three first time offenders? I don't know - but I strongly doubt it.
On the other hand, a team of animal rights fanatics have been sent away for a range of sentences from four to eleven years for a campaign of threats, intimidation, blackmail and damage against Huntingdon Life Sciences. This group were involved a long standing conspiracy and were highly committed and motivated. They too terrified and intimidated their victims - but unlike Rogel McMorris, Jason Brew and Hector Muaimba - I don't believe the SHAC members actually maimed anyone. (But had they felt it necessary - I'm sure they would have done more than think about it).
Different Courts, different cases, different judges. One where the sentence fits the crime - the other pitiful by comparison. One where a single female victim was taking the stand - the other where companies and business people were attacked. One where the motivation was in the defence of helpless others - the other where the motivations were lust and hate.
The sentences in the rape case were bad enough - but when held up against another awful and horrifying record of criminal vileness - it makes me feel ashamed of what passes for justice in this country.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Meaning: the latest call centre technology will mean if you use three nines you will speak to a real live human being – probably in a large building a long way from where you are. Eventually a message will get to a dispatcher/radio assistant/comms operator who is in touch with the bobbies who will be going to where you are. Those particular bobbies will do their damndest to drive a knackered saloon car or Transit type van (or even one of the newer ‘popemobile/ice cream van/postman pat-type vans that are now in vogue) to your emergency through congested roads. These are the self same bobbies whose front-line strength has haemorrhaged away over the past fifteen years or so. Chances are that the response officers for whatever part of the UK you are in are part of a very, very thin blue line. And God help them if they collide with anything on their way there. And just remember 15 to 20 minutes is a long time if you’re fighting.
(On a personal note – I can say from experience that even a couple of minutes feels like an eternity when struggling with an enraged and intoxicated person who is beyond the call of reason. Been there, done it, have numerous t-shirts in the drawers. Bear in mind I’m a volunteer, and have spent nearly fifteen years doing this by choice – for Joe Public who has to defend himself or another, through that unexpected and terrifying encounter with one of life's ne'erdowells - or an enraged partner - or a cornered thief – that 15 to 20 minutes will stay with them for the rest of their life.)
6. Answer all non-emergency calls promptly. If attendance is needed, send a patrol giving you an estimated time of arrival, and:
• If you are vulnerable or upset aim to be with you within 60 minutes.
• If you are calling about an issue that we have agreed with your community will be a neighbourhood priority and attendance is required, we will aim to be with you within 60 minutes.
• Alternatively, if appropriate, we will make an appointment to see you at a time that fits in with your life and within 48 hours.
• If agreed that attendance is not necessary we will give you advice, answer your questions and/or put you in touch with someone who can help.
Meaning: Promptly means call centre technology again – press 1 for harassment by text message – 2 for threats via instant messaging – 3 to complain about a social networking site – 4 to complain about something alarming on a video sharing site – 5 for silent calls from a withheld number. (I’m now halfway through the options, and we haven’t reached ‘proper’ crime and anti social-behaviour = welcome to my world…)
And ‘upset’ – by your standards or mine? What does this mean? What do we sacrifice in order to measure this and gather the statistics – don’t worry Mr Taxpayer – we’ll sort it. Needless to say, a small portion of our 'user group' will no doubt try and make compensation from this. You can even imagine the crocodile tears being shed to the local media when Tracy tearfully complains how she waited for hours on New Years Eve for the local constabulary to attend to her complaint of threats to kill by text message...
‘Neighbourhood priorities’ – a can of worms if ever I heard of one – even when the process of ‘agreement’ filters out the re-siting of bus stops – or dog fouling in private places – or the voices in your head telling you your neighbour really fancies you and that’s why they have invisible sex outside your flat (All of these are real ‘community police’ incidents I have dealt with…) – then you will either wait for a warranted officer to get round – or more likely end up with a PCSO – who – no matter how well intentioned – has precisely no power to do anything constructive.
7. Arrange regular public meetings to agree your priorities, at least once a month, giving you a chance to meet your local team with other members of your community. These will include opportunities such as surgeries, street briefings and mobile police station visits which will be arranged to meet local needs and requirements.
Meaning: You will have new and exciting ways to make your voice heard – as these meetings, surgeries and briefings can all be counted and audited. After all – what gets measured – gets done! (The reality is that the police deal with three main communities – offenders – the mainstream career petty criminal – starts in early teens – and generally grows out of it by mid 30’s – the victims – who can be any of us – but mainly the partners and kin and neighbours of our offenders – and the interested parties. Criminals aren’t interested in meetings with the police – victims are too busy with their own lives and jobs and so on – and the busy ones – whether ‘partner agencies’ or the under-employed who like to go to public consultation meetings with the local police can rejoice in new ways to use up their lives and that of others in more and more pointless meetings and talking shops... Let's face it - unless local needs and requirements are audited, counted and checked by the Home Office, or their local stooges - they won't get the lip service that the important figures deserve - customer satisfaction surveys anyone? Just think of the stakeholders - does our service delivery fail to meet diversity criteria? Just remember who is in charge - not the taxpayer - not the police - our friends in the Home Office.)
And on it goes… as does my gross generalisation... part three coming soon...
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
My Chief Inspector emailed me a copy late lasy year, asking me for my comments – which is a bit like asking me pointedly to argue against the merits of apple pie…
I couldn’t relay disagree with most of it – but it does need translating a little, so guess what - that's what I've done:
1. Always treat you fairly with dignity and respect ensuring you have fair access to our services at a time that is reasonable and suitable for you.
Meaning: - we’ll be nice to you, regardless of your speech, hygiene or level of intoxication – and we’ll fit round your chaotic lifestyle. The unemployed often seem to ‘have a lot going on in their lives’ – unlike me who has a family, job, and so on... And so we’ll also deal with you when it suits you – even if it means missing a 72 hour NCRS deadline. (For more on NCRS, wait a few posts – it’s grim.) Don't worry about that - you won't be getting the snotty emails about it.
2. Provide you with information so you know who your dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team is, where they are based, how to contact them and how to work with them.
Meaning: posters, press photos and newsletters featuring hordes (is that the collective noun - answers on a post card…) of happy smiling PCSO’s, who are best found in a warm office, between kettle, computer and phone. That’s where the hard work of community policing is done. But only in a non-confrontational way. For confronatation – you need a warranted officer – if you can find out who they are, where they are, and can get in touch with them. Well done – and can you let me know – I need to speak to one or two of them.
3. Ensure your Neighbourhood Policing Team and other police patrols are visible and on your patch at times when they will be most effective and when you tell us you most need them. We will ensure your team are not taken away from neighbourhood business more than is absolutely necessary. They will spend at least 80% of their time visibly working in your neighbourhood, tackling your priorities. Staff turnover will be minimised.
Meaning: At lunchtime in warm weather, you may see huddles of yellow jacketed PCSO’s taking the air and speaking to passersby. At dusk when the legions of teenage deadlegs are shouting, yelling, fighting, littering, drinking, harassing, intimidating, and even possibly shagging outside your house – you’re on your own, bucko. Leave a message on the voicemail. We’ll see you Tuesday lunchtime for tea and sympathy. (Two sugars, and could I trouble you for a biscuit?).
Oh – and your local community bobby will spend time covering section, going to Court, attending training courses, getting turned out for PSU duties, and if any good, will be headhunted by the newest squad, team or unit on the division to tackle today’s priority. (But only 20% of the time.)
4. Respond to every message directed to your Neighbourhood Policing Team within 24 hours and, where necessary, provide a more detailed response as soon as we can.
Meaning: We’ve already employed a team to call you back. They’ll ring you – honest. And leave a message on your voicemail – and possibly more – and might even leave a note at your house. Just remember to keep your phone switched on – after all – why ring us if you don’t want to speak in person? Unless it’s free of course – when we’ll be quite happy to tie up our incident handling system, time and resources, just because you rang us in the heat of the moment – because you could – because you didn’t think first - and since making up with Dean/Tracy – or finding your lost pitbull – or deciding that going to Court to air the details of your private left doesn’t sound so good – you don’t want to see us any more. And again - if we don't get back to you within 24 hours - it's our fault - we should have known that you've ran out of credit - or lost your SIM card, or you don't answer with held numbers. If you're not happy - complain - we'll even help you do that.
And it gets worse from here...
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Still at the rank where a Public Holiday (note the capital letters - very important) means double time payment from 7 o'clock.
Grim-on-th't-moor divisional HQ has been like the Marie Celeste all day, and the car park has been strangely empty.
And new crime numbers - starting from a shiny new '1' and no doubt heading for a six figure one come the end of 2009 - and Grim-on-th't-moor has had the honour of recording the first crime of 2009. Yay!
Apart from that, same stuff, different day, apart from the detritus of another night of shouting, drinking, fighting, and breaking stuff. God bless 'em, our 'service users' - or are they 'clients' now - or are they 'customers'. They did terribly well, filling Grim-on-th't-moor custody, and then the overspill, and heading off to the neighbouring division, to fill up cells with inebriated revellers. How many made new years resolutions this morning? The answer is certainly not enough.
At least for me, this festive period has meant a lucky combination of time off and overtime... not bad when the vagaries of shift patterns and clamours for time off, and our 'support departments' (that is the departments that front line officers support by the flow of emails, files, reports, updates and the like...) all being off on their jolly hols mean that for a lot of bobbies, Christmas and the new year are dismal. Imagine having to go in to work while the rest of the world is on a break, having to deal with more domestic disputes and relationship-related misery than normal, and having to work a little harder as either budgets means less staff on those expensive public holidays - or else all those annual leave forms were approved, and there's just you and the station cat for the next 10 hours.
This year, not working 24/7 shifts, and having missed out on the usual seasonal stupidity - can't grumble.