Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Trebles all round...

Thanks to the BBC for this view from a town centre near you...

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?'

Surely not.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Offer fox ache....

To borrow unashamedly from Gadget - you couldn't make this up - Derbyshire Police are issuing a handy guide to help officers with writing statements, acronyms, and spelling. It's called Fast Facts for Policing.

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.


Themes of the week...

The previous post was a bit heavy - I know - but every now and then, something happens and I look round and wonder if I'm out of step with the rest of the world - or whether something inexplicable and awful has happened - and no-one else noticed.

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...

Sgt C.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Compare and Contrast... Evil vs Awful...

Only Wednsday and two big criminal justice stories this week - firstly the truly horrendous gang rape of a vulnerable teenage girl which merited truly derisory sentences - of six, eight and nine years for the three defendants. These three were resposible for luring a vulnerable girl to a disused flat - subjected her to an inhuman attack - filmed it - injured her with caustic soda to try and destroy any forensic evidence, and thereby left her with physical as well as mental scars.

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.

Sgt C.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Policing pledges - part two - bad to worse.

5. Aim to answer 999 calls within 10 seconds, deploying to emergencies immediately giving an estimated time of arrival, getting to you safely, and as quickly as possible. In urban areas, we will aim to get to you within 15 minutes and in rural areas within 20 minutes.

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

Policing pledges - part the first...

Thanks to the Home Office for the template – over at Gadget's blog there’s been plenty of discussion of the pledge. Which is NuLabour's latest attempt to scrap performance indicators and bean counting in favour of easy to understand pledges. Which will need to be monitored. And thoses beans won't count themselves. Nor compare themselves to beans in another policing area. So no changes at all really.

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...

Sgt C.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

And a Happy New Year to you all !!!!

A new year dawns - and how can I tell?

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.