Friday, 13 March 2009

Coudn't resist it... Sorry

Thanks to:

PC Tales #1 a.k.a What I used to do

Once upon a time – I used to pound the beat. Well – drive round in a panda. Which looked nothing like a panda. Just think standard white saloon car with some extra lights, q two tone siren, stripes, and a boot full of rubbish. Often,quite literally rubbish, as many Sunday mornings spent ‘doing the vehicles’. I got quite intimate with the crap that some folk keep in their vehicles – but that’s another story.

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

3.. 2.. 1.. And I'm back in the room...(Policing Pledges)

Not blogging for a day or two quickly turns into a week – then two – and then Bang! A month goes by, and so I return to finish something I started a while ago – my take on… wait for it… Policing Pledges!!!

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.

Sgt C.