Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Police Blogging Debate

To continue on the police blogging debate.

Tom Reynolds, a London Ambulance Service (LAS) paramedic , who heartily blogs away without having to be secretive, and without the threat of identification (in fact, his employers are quite okay with his blogging) has a posting regarding Inspector Gadget- see here to see it in its proper context.

A reader of Reynold’s site, going by the name of “Rory F” (just scroll down until you see an enormous tome of a comment) posts a very good set of questions as to why the “authorities” clamp down on police bloggers.

Rory states that when he joined the police service, he knew whatever political leanings had to be kept to himself, as indeed we are specifically prohibited from joining any political party. However, policing is intensely political. Most old common law has now been replaced by law passed through parliament. Witness the controversy brought in with anti-social behaviour orders; terrorism legislation etc.

Therefore by expressing our opinions, and despite the small print on every police bloggers website that states that this is not a police website, I bet a whole load of money that Dave Copperfield wouldn’t have a hundreth of his visitors if he was “PlumbersBlog”. Not many people would bother listening to me if I was “Electrician Says” or Inspector Gadget was “Tax Inspector Gadget”.

What is about police blogs that make people want to read them? I know sometimes it’s the entertainment, sometimes its curiosity, sometimes looking for controversy.
Is it because that whatever we write is political whether we intend it or not…. is it because these blogs cause waves that sometimes capsize their own author?

Tell me: Why are you reading this?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Last Respects?


I urge you all to visit Inspector Gadget. He has recently posted about the Professional Standards Unit in his force want to speak to him.

It is probably about his blog.

Read it now for the most enlightenment you will get regarding senior police positions. I feel it may soon be curtains for it, as the ultimatum he will probably get is: its the blog or your job.

A reminder for the rest of you reading these police blogs. Every time we type we are running the risk of discipline, sanctions, and even sacking.

Saying "you've got freedom of speech, you can write what you like" doesn't cut it with Professional Standards. Being faced with the choice of facing discipline, loss of rank, and the sack means blogging quickly loses its shine. At the end of the day when we take the uniform off we have mortgages. Families. Our radiators leak every so often and gardens don't garden themselves. We pay council tax and are just as hacked off at the price of petrol as everyone else.

I have not yet seen a police blog that puts lives at risk, that would render anything more susceptible to terrorist attack. I have seen plenty that tell of the frustration of this job, of how we want to do more, but are held back; or how we are expected to do so much and get grief from all comers when we don't achieve what other people feel we should achieve.

But Senior Management don't like to be posed awkward questions. They hate it when some hack quotes a police blog that contradicts whatever official line currently is en vogue. Occasionally, the internet can force senior management to deal with issues from their rank and file (see the Police Oracle Essex Police thread) but that is the exception to the rule. The easier option is to search through every single last detail of every single post and at some point, somewhere, there will be a technicality breached. Even if it is that great catch all in police regulations: Conduct Unbecoming of a Police Officer.

So my thoughts are with Inspector Gadget as he meets the Police police on tuesday. One day, a scared little voice keeps telling me, it'll be me.

Friday, September 22, 2006


For anyone who thinks we have it too easy.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Media misrepresentation

The Met continues its fine way of shooting itself in the foot, I note: coverage of the apparent disproportionalities in drug searches- see here.

I'm not going to comment on the arrest figures, and the hows and why's of arrest for cannabis- I suspect that each local borough has its own priorities and "aggravating" factors that render you more or less likely to be arrested: I could spend hours debating that in itself before considering the ethnic aspect.

I am more concerned but equally unsurprised about the lack of comprehensive reporting on what happens after arrest.

When it comes to a charging decision, there are home office set guidelines as to whether a person should be cautioned or charged. Put simply, a person can only be cautioned if they have not been convicted or cautioned for a similar offence in the previous three years.

If they have, then a caution is simply not an available option.

If a caution is not an available option, police officers cannot make the decision to charge. Most charging decisions, including possession of controlled substances, are now made directly by the Crown Prosecution Service.

However, to read the reports you would come to the apparently understandable conclusion that the police are deliberately sending more black people than white people to court. The reality is we have no say in that matter.

Instead of pointing this out, Ch Supt Dizaei helpfully instead comments that drug users are predominantly white middle class men. Nice to know he's helping to bring a more balanced logic to the situation. (Somebody please tell me if the Biased Broadcasting Corporation have quoted him out of context......)

Name checks

I have had a bit of correspondence with author of The (original) coppers blog and one short article on his site later the number of visitors here has gone up by a factor of 10.

I guess therefore that most of the visitors here are quite aware of the existence of quite a number of police blogs floating round in the cyberzone. When I don't have a list of chores given to me by the wonderful Mrs Locker (Trust me, I don't even try telling her what to do, police sergeant or not) I shall update the sidebar with some of them.

A quick highlight needs to go the next notch up the hierarchy. Anyone old bill reading will laugh heartily, any member of the public will be.... I don't know.... enlightened. To coin the Gadget's catchphrase, you couldn't make it up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Where have all the coppers gone

A post to highlight how long it can take to process a prisoner.

An incident which happened a while ago, prior to promotion. It was one of those days when luck was with us. We were on way to a call that was a complete waste of time (it was that rubbish, I can't remember what it was). Myself and my colleague were moaning about how rubbish this call was when we turned into a quiet, narrow residential street on way to see the informant.

I need to skim over some of the detail here just in case a colleague recognises the story (yes, I am that paranoid) but one short vehicle chase later a burglar driving a car stolen by means of burglary tries to run away but soon realises I am not the donut eating stomach massaging type of cop. He gives up.

I ought to add that the only thing harmed in the making of this vehicle chase was the stolen car, an unfortunate lamp post and the scumbag's ego.

Anyway, excitement over. Start the clock.

I wait with stolen car to await recovery. 1 1/2 hours
(Another unit tied up reporting the accident because it was a police chase- time taken, 1 hr
Return to custody. Colleague has just finished basic booking in procedure with prisoner.
Fingerprint, photograph and take DNA sample from prisoner. 1/2hr.
Seize all his clothing which has to be forensically bagged and exhibited: 45mins
Seize and forensically bag items from burglary that were still in car: 45mins
Research, risk assess and carry out search of home address of prisoner: 1 1/2 hr
Write notes describing circumstances and justification of arrest: 1 1/2hr
Crime report relating to aggravated vehicle-taking: 45 mins
Intelligence reports: 15mins

Approximate time: 7 1/2 hours. For the CID officers taking the prisoner on, there are now hours of paperwork preparing a case file. Which includes a typed statement of exactly what was said in interview; a list detailing every single exhibit and piece of correspondence connected with the investigation, its location and relevance to the case; and a summary of the overall case.

CPS prosecutors at court often only get the files relating to the case the morning of the court hearing. These files can be inches thick. Often, the only thing they read regarding the entire case prior to going into court, is the case summary.

But thats a different story. My point: next time you're pulled over for a bust brake light or something and you accuse the officer of not catching burglars, be grateful. If they had caught one, they wouldn't be out on patrol at all.

Time Waster?

A favourite tagline of any aspiring home secretary is "I'll reduce police paperwork". This always makes me laugh and reinforces my belief that politicians haven't got the faintest idea what they're talking about.
I also laughed a while ago when I read in an internal job newspaper someone saying "we've got rid of around 100 obsolete forms". When he was challenged on this he admitted that these forms had merely been replaced by different ones.
Police paperwork is quite a chameleon. They change names and colours but essentially you have to write the same thing. Computer reports are a bit of a joke because the different items of software for different functions are contracted out to different software developers and as such cannot communicate with each other; thus meaning you have to write out exactly the same information 3 times. And no you can't cut and paste.

Of course I neglected to mention that you have to write all the details down in your pocketbook or any other selected book before you have to transfer all that information onto the computer. Of course we could be issued laptops like they do in some US states, which you take around with you and input info directly onto said computer, before returning to your base and docking it and transferring the info, and so saving yourself a considerable amount of duplication.

But that would cost a lot more money than a notebook and a pen.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Just in case you weren't sure:

Was filling up with petrol when I was visiting friends. Saw this notice!

Well damn it. I was going to go and rob the petrol station. I won't now.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Music to police by?

Was walking from station (rail) to station (police) the other day at an unearthly hour listening to mp3 player. And it led me to ask myself: What would be the soundtrack to policing?

I have, so far, come up with the following top 3. This not a reflection of the music type I listen to!
Radiohead: Creep. (for the immortal line, "What the hell am I doing here")

The Prodigy: Full Throttle. (Not an intended reflection of police drivers, but more a reflection of the way it sometimes feels)

Anything by Rage Against The Machine. (This may appear to be ironic to non-police readers, who view the police as the machine to rage against, but trust me, we rage against goverment interference, beaurucracy, ridiculous targets, idiotic enforced working practice. Most of the time you and I are raging against the same thing)

Suggestions welcome!

People visit this site?

Saw something which surprised me the other day, and then when I thought about it I was surprised I was surprised.

Police Review magazine run occasional blog reviews. I have a blog. This freaked me out for a short while. What if they run a review of mine? All these people will suddenly take a look at the site.

Then I remembered back to another police blog who has now gone beneath the waves- anyone remember the Law is a Donkey? Just before that went off to blogging heaven his last post was how a local newspaper had run an article on his blog. I never saw what Semper Fi's last post was before he sunk without a trace.

I assume both were identified by senior management and given a rocket. Wouldn't surprise me if they were disciplined. Both of those sites tended to talk about jobs they've just done. Which at the same time made them the most interesting to read and the most vulnerable. Because they were identifiable.

This whole situation annoys me. It has made me realise (again) just how bleeding secretive and careful I have to be writing this, which I have to admit isn't my normal style. I would love to write about things I've seen and dealt with whilst they're still fresh in my mind- the other day I had deal with an overdoser who was seconds away from dying (thank the Lord for pocket masks) but I daren't write about it, and how it affects me etc because I can't even risk my colleagues identifying me as word soon gets round. It has to wait several months until it is forgotten about by everyone else until I can post anything about it.

Hum. There are bloggers from the London Ambulance Service, the NHS, even a magistrate can do it without getting ordered to take it down, face discipline, face reprimands. But not the police. Why the hell not. Is this a police state? What are senior management so afraid of that they can't let their own officers talk about jobs they've dealt with?

If I stay in this job long enough, and decide one day I've had enough of real police graft and go up the food chain (can you see the blog title: Chief Superintendent says?) I'll tell you. But at the moment, I have no idea.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quiet Night In

A recollection from the custody desk. It started with me thinking the foolish thought "It's quite quiet tonight"...

Cue a Pc come in through the back (prisoner) entrance with a slightly harangued look about him. "Sarge.........."

They had a prisoner who was a complete nutcase. He'd been arrested in a domestic violence context and he had previous recorded history of being exceptionally violent towards police. The Pc was just about finished explaining this previous history (quite handy that he found out beforehand, quite often I found out a bit too late) when I hear a massive commotion going on in the yard. Next thing the door crashes open and 4 Pc's are literally carrying in this bloke who is shouting at the top of his lungs, screaming obscenities about what he would do to us if he found us alone, whilst trying to get a limb free to kick or punch anyone with range.

Did I say it was a quiet night? Damn it.

My first thought is annoyance. Not because of the noise level suddenly going from quiet hum to screaming filth, but because he was secure in the van and I was going to go out and speak to the lad to talk to him and gauge him for myself. I have to be professional with even the worst most deserving arrestees because I am now responsible for them whether they or I like it or not and building up some kind of rapport with prisoners can prevent a whole load of conflict happening. So long as he knows that I'm in charge but not looking to do his legs.

Anyway that option has been taken from me so I quickly extract myself from desk and supervise them taking him to a cell. Coppers can be prone to having too much adrenaline when they have a violent prisoner (especially if he's been violent towards them) but I have to keep them reigned in and make sure things are done properly.

He's safely deposited in the cell. I hear from the arresting officer the justification for the arrest. He'd gone out, got drunk, got back, thrown his partner around the room before (literally)throwing out of the house nigh naked with threats of serious injury should she return tonight.

I'm supposed to give through a number of procedures with every arrestee but there is thankfully a clause which says if he's too violent then it can be delayed. I decide waiting a while will be the best option. While he's still drunk it'll be fairly fruitless

I give my jailers the glorious responsibility of checking on him every 15 minutes while I keep an eye on the CCTV monitor, and call in a doctor to make sure he's fit to be detained. I haven't seen any reason for why he should need a hospital trip but in the current climate where it's my job on the line I call in the FME, so if he does have a hidden heart defect or has taken a dangerous combination of drugs, then it'll be the medical expert explaining himself to a court, not me.

I then have to write a tome on the blokes custody record as to why he got taken straight to cell, the details of every officer involved in doing so, and why I'm delaying informing him of his rights and entitlements. There's about 30 cameras with sound recording in the custody suite and I'm very tempted to write "look at the bleeding video" but decide against it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

When 5 minutes mean the world

This is one of those stories that I don't share around the dinner table. Humour value, it has not.

It happened a while ago, while I was still a PC. I can remember it quite clearly. I was at the scene of an RTA- police speak for Road Traffic Accident. A 40 something woman was cycling home from work, as she had done every day for the last 12 years she had been living in the area. But on this day she never made it. She got hit by an articulated lorry and was dragged about 25 metres under the front wheel.

The truck driver wasn't going fast, not fast at all. But for reasons unknown he didn't see her for the 25 metres.

She was dragged along the road under the front wheel. Several tonne of lorry cab and tarmac acted like a giant piece of sandpaper from hell. There was a discernable tyre tread pattern on the roadway for the 25 metres. Out of her flesh.

The Fire Brigade and Ambulance staff lifted the truck off and hauled her out. She was still conscious until the moment the truck was lifted off. One of my colleagues went with her in the ambulance.

I meanwhile, knowing she likely had hours, maybe minutes left on this earth, was desperately trying to get hold of her partner.

Now I managed to get hold of him on the phone. I don't apologise for this but I lied to him. He was driving you see. If I told him that his partner was hanging onto life by a thread, he would panic. If he had another accident on the way back then what use would that be. I told him it wasn't too serious, she was in hospital, and I would wait for him at his house. (I'd found out where he lived, and was ringing him from outside his own front door).

He arrived after about 7ish minutes. When I saw him, I said to him I didn't tell him the truth on the phone. I told him to get a bag of what he needs as quick as he could, as things were serious.
I drove him to the hospital, about 20 miles, all the way with blue lights going and siren screaming.

I got to the hospital 5 minutes after she died. How do you comfort someone like that. Partner of 12 years gone, and you miss the final goodbye by 5 minutes.

It's one of the worst, and sometimes best things about this job, the perspectives it forces you to have. Whenever I say goodbye to my wife there's always that tiny, tiny little voice in the back of my head which says to me: "You might not see her again". It's been enough that for the last 7 years we've never parted on an argument. There's been our disagreements, but I'll never leave the house without it being sorted.

Sometimes people ask how I cope. Answer is I don't know. I just do. It's a job that has to be done, and it has do be done professionally for the sake of people like the guy above, to give them a fighting chance of seeing their loved ones should their nightmare materialise. But I do have a worry that one day something what might seem small, or insignificant, may trigger a landslide.
But for the meantime: my advice to you all is perhaps unsurprising. Cherish the times you have with your loved ones. You never know when you might wish all the world that you have another 5 minutes.