Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Custard Sergeant

Had the joys of being in custody recently.

Some skippers enjoy custody. I don't.

To be fair, I can understand why some enjoy it. It is a role where you know exactly what your job is, there is considerable responsibility, and you are the boss. Anything that happens in the custody suite happens with your consent. Immaterial of rank, you still get permission from the custody skipper if you want to do anything in the cell block.

To me, I hate the fact I'm staring at the same walls for the entire shift and sat at a desk 98% of the time. Its the precise thing I joined the police to get away from. Occasionally you get interesting prisoners- after all, no matter what the offence or offender everyone goes through the custody office- whether a first time shoplifter or a murderer still covered in his victims blood having been chased all over town. But most of the time I'm counting down the hours.

Anyway some time spent in there is inevitable.

Following on from earlier posts it isn't unknown for police officers to turn a blind eye to some drunken antics that could be recorded as crime- mostly low level stuff- the odd taking a leak in corner, squaring up and posturing business that is normally dealt with a word in your ear like.

One thing that is not ever knowingly ignored is drink drive. If that little light goes red on the roadside, you're coming in. No word of warning, park it and get a taxi, you're coming in.

Had a classic in the other weekend.

Posh girl leaving club with her utterly inebriated boyfriend who turned out not to be her husband. Get in their bling shiny 4x4 and promptly reverse it straight into the taxi rank. Taxi men and club manager aren't the happiest with this and manage to stop her and call us.

Two PCs turn up. She messes about with the breathalyser until on the last chance (i.e. "if you don't do this properly this time, you're arrested for failing to provide) and surprise surprise the machine thinks for all of half a second before going straight to red.

She gets brought in before me. At this stage for her its all just such a terrible inconvenience. I start off the myriad forms with the same questions repeated about 6 times. These forms have been developed as a result of various people getting their high paid lawyers to blag them off a drink drive as a result of some poxy technicality like they had mouthwash in the preceding hour- anything to just make the breath machine not 100% accurate and so inadmissible, even if they were completely bladdered and were 3 times over the limit.

Anyway, I surmise this plunging neckline in front of me is going to have a high paid lawyer so I make extra sure everything is precisely by the book.

And she's more than double the limit. Oh dear oh dear.

This is where the fun begins. I have to wait for her to be sober so I can charge her with the offence. Police doctor advises 3 maybe 4 hours. This has the added benefit of ensuring she isn't released still too drunk to drive. Hopefully the Range Rover will have a nice clamp on it by the time she gets out.

I tell Posh Totty she's spending time in the cell to sober up, knowing precisely what reaction it will get. I am not disappointed. Cue one hysterical crying fit "I caaaaaaaaaaaan't go in the cell, pleeeeeeeeease". Unfortunately for her I am not one for bending to her every whim unlike what she is probably used to, and one of the female detention officers escorts the streaked mascara to the cell "with pleasure, sarge".

Am I wrong for taking some kind of guilty amusement out of this??

National Crime Reporting Standards (ish)

Morning all

A shocker for you all today. Police don't always exactly comply with the ethos of the National Crime Reporting Standards, aka NCRS!!!

NCRS state "All reports of incidents, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, and whether crime related or not, will result in the registration of an incident report / log by the police".

Then.... "Following initial registration, an incident will be recorded as a crime (notifiable offence) if on the balance of probability
a) The circumstances indicate a crime defined by law and requires recording in accordance with Home Office Counting Rules
b) There is no credible evidence to the contrary

Once recorded, a crime will remain unless evidence becomes available to disprove it has occurred" (click here for original source)

The first part is generally not a problem. Any time you call 999 a computer generated log is started. Its how the 999 call gets routed out to the officers on the street.

Its the second bit where corners are cut.

An example. Its a Friday night in urbantown. Someone calls in a fight on the high street. We despatch someone. However, these fights are normally over within 30 seconds, or the sight and sound of approaching blue lights dissuades the combatants to continue. One of two things frequently happens.

1) We never find any of the combatants.
2) We find them, and both parties swear nothing happened or refuse to tell us anything.

When this happens, (note- not including times when someone is actually injured and/or talks to us), particularly in the first case, then nothing more happens. No crime report is generated, even though we have a witness (and more often than not, cctv) of affray at the very least. Technically, that means we should generate a crime number. However, we tend not to, as it is "unnecessary" work. We cannot find a victim, and therefore no crime, right?

Well, not according to NCRS. We have a witness to a crime and on the balance of probabilities it has occurred. Therefore, we should generate a crime report until we can prove it didn't occur.

However, we don't. The balance of probabilities is magically weighted somehow to that it did not occur and so no crime report goes on. Everyone knows we are short enough on a weekend night and invariably have enough work to do with the more substantial fights and where people are injured and booze fuelled domestics to worry about the times when it was handbags.

Chiefs are happy to let this deviation from NCRS go, as it means there is less violent crime shown on the figures and less unsolved crime.

Myself and some of the other relief skippers were discussing this over the weekend. Normally we're happy for these things to go as too right we'd rather have people available for the genuine calls. But we're starting to come to the conclusion that perhaps we can be our own worst enemy. We always complain that we're too stretched, especially at the weekend. Minimum strengths are calculated by some formula I'm not told about but the volume of crime must be a factor in this calculation, especially violent crime.

So we're thinking (we haven't yet decided to properly go with it) maybe its time we really stuck to the rules regarding NCRS. Every time CCTV pick up a scrap, or someone on a passing bus says they've seen a scrap, then recorded as affray it shall be. It won't be investigated as we still don't have a victim, but on the books as violent crime it shall go.

The PC's aren't going to be too happy in the short term as yes, sorry, extra typing on the computers for reports that are going nowhere. But this could cause a stir and you never know, higher echelons of management might get a bit of pressure on, and we might even get some people out of their offices and doing some bleeding work when we're most stretched.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Happy vs Sad

I've got about halfway through my 108 posts trying to put these reference label jobs on them.

I've noticed something. I have quite a few posts about sad stories, when things have gone wrong. Whether this be due to the circumstances of the individuals concerned (mental health, road accidents, suicides) or the frustration of various things meaning something can't be done right or the way I think it should be done, or whatever- there is an overwhelming bias towards the negative on this blog.

Why is this? Am I trying to get sympathy? Am I just a miserable git who focuses too much on the bad and easily forgets the good? I don't know.

I don't think its just me, either. Regular media seem to pounce more on the negative police stories than the positive. The recent police bravery awards are the exception, and even they don't get much of a mention beyond the Sun.

Take a look at the recent 21/7 trials. From keeping an ear to the radio and an eye on the headlines the majority of the focus has been on how "we" (the police) failed to keep proper surveillance on the group. No congratulations for the hours of paperwork, interviews, documentation, evidence gathering, exhibiting, forensicating, etc etc: instead criticism for not being superhuman enough to arrest them before they tried to blow themselves up. I'm sorry but exactly how many surveillance officers do the media think we have available??

Type in police to the BBC news search engine and the first link - the "BBC Best Link", no less- is how to complain against the police. It doesn't take long to find an example of an officer being charged with 'molesting' a recruit. I think it is fair to say that an offence committed by an ordinary citizen would barely feature anywhere but the fact it is allegedly committed by a police officer means it gets a mention on the news.

So I've decided I ought to make a bit more effort to focus on the positive side of this job rather than the general sea of malaise that this blog seems to be! I wonder how it easy it will be.

PS I wonder what the enquiry to Northamptonshire Police's failure to attend an emergency call in time will reveal. Probably that there was insufficient resources available that day. And what will be done about it? Probably nothing.

Dammit, I'm all negative again.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Blog admin!

I'm starting to go through the various posts and properly tagging them. Reasons are mostly selfish, really: some of my posts took some time and effort but once they're beyond the first page they get forgotten quite easily, not least by me.

I'm trying to keep the tags to a minimum, and in categories I think people would want to see (or not)- whether actual jobs I've done, things in the media I've seen and nattered about, issues like community / neighbourhood policing initiatives, PCSO's etc.

Feel free to suggest any more........

In the meantime, I ask you all to go over to TUPC's blog and read the recent story. A very, very good post that puts you in the position of an armed officer and asks that question that everyone has an answer to after the event: what would you do?

I've posted a reply but I'm not firearms trained, and would barely call myself firearms aware. Be honest with it, and post what your first reaction would be. Not your second after a moments thought, because you wouldn't get that at the time.

Friday, July 06, 2007

No winners, only losers

This is one of the posts I need to reiterate it is my opinion!

The claims by Mike Barnetts dad caught my eye on the news yesterday- see here or here for just two reports- and made me sufficiently het up to want to write about it.

Mike Barnett was the poor soul stuck in a storm drain in Humberside. Despite efforts from the combined emergency services, he died.

Now let me make it clear that I have every possible sympathy with Mike Barnett senior. I simply cannot think of a more awful way to lose a son.

However, whilst I understand his anger and frustration that Mike was not able to be rescued I don't think launching a tirade of criticism at the people who were there trying to get them out is really on.

Take a look at the photo (courtesy Sky). The bloke behind Mike up to his neck in the water is a police officer. He and his colleagues put their safety on the line, standing on nigh the same spot in the same water to keep his head above it. The fire crews and police divers repeatedly went under the surface with the wicked currents to try and cut him out.

Mike actually died from Hypothermia, not drowning. I'm surmising they actually did manage to get him out from the drain.

Mr Barrett senior states the emergency services took too long to get there, no-one seemed to have a clue what to do and just argued. A helpful friend said "all they needed was a chain and a land rover".

I feel I have to say something in defence of the people who turned up. I agree Mike's situation turned out to be one of the most tragic but there were hundreds of other people in grave situations. The Hull fire chief stated 58 people in dire circumstances were successfully rescued. There would've been hundreds of calls through the switchboard in a completely unprecedented emergency situation.

I agree that the folks who turned up probably didn't know quite exactly what do and didn't immediately launch a well rehearsed and practiced rescue plan, for the simple fact that a situation like this had never occurred before. The "helpful" suggestion of a chain and a land rover isn't really handy as they are not items of kit I have ever seen lying idle around a police or fire station. If someone had turned up with such items, I think they probably would've been used.

As to the suggestion that they should've just amputated his ankle I would believe the people there were convinced they could get him out soon enough without maiming and permanently disabling before the hypothermia was too severe. Tragically they were wrong.

My point is this. Whilst I can sympathise with Mr Barrett Snr's grief I don't think it is fair to say the rescuers didn't do enough, thus implying they didn't care. I can guarantee you that every one of the blokes in the police and I'll wager my house the fire service too would've worked their butts off and put themselves on the line to try and save him, and will be nearly just as devastated at their ultimate failure.

I'm all for learning and improving from situations, and if people are found to have ignored best practice then yes they should be criticised. But here there was no best practice. They really were making it up as they went along and I can guarantee outside of Mr Barnett's family no-one will feel the sense of frustration and loss greater than those who were there trying to haul him out.

(Slightly edited for dodgy grammar and spacing 9th July)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A good job

In amongst all the chaotic breathlessness that follows a terrorist incident anywhere in the country struggling in amongst the huge volume of calls regular police work still goes on.

Got called to an old dears flat recently. Her neighbours hadn't seen her for a couple of days and there's no reply to the door.

I put two and two together and thinking the inevitable make my way along. I check the PC en route is taking some of the door forcing kit with him. I'm expecting the routine run of reports that accompany a "sudden" death. I've never really agreed with the term sudden death. Many occasions I've been to a death the last thing it is sudden. Prolonged and lonely are more often accurate.

Anyway, we get there and speak to the caller. She's a bit more excited than I would expect someone to be who thinks their friend is dead behind a door. Turns out she's got a response from Gladys inside.

Gladys has had some kind of fall and can't move herself off the floor. She's managed to pull herself to her hallway. We shout some encouragement through the letterbox to her and set to work dismantling her door.

The door is mostly glazed and Gladys is too near it for our liking. Police methods of opening locked doors tend not to be subtle and a shower of glass is not what we need. The door is not really ideal.

The windows are wooden framed. A bit of work with a crowbar later and we're in. I won't forget her face. Exhuasted and barely enough energy to hold her head up she greets us with a smile that spoke volumes. A mixture of such relief and happiness her 3 day ordeal is over. Old eyes moist with tears.

Our job done we the ambulance boys head in. The paramedic, a young lad, pseudo-flirts with the the old girl with cheeky comments as he lifts her into the wheelchair. The knowledge it is over has given Gladys a boost and she puts the paramedic back in his place with a couple of returns like how she'd have him for breakfast. Young man.

What with all the flooding and bombs and whatnot this job has been a bright point in the last few days.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thanks but....

What with all this terrorism we are encouraging people to report anything suspicious. I agree. See something that doesn't look right, call it in. But there are some rules of common sense that should not be abandoned. Your neighbour placing his rubbish in a different place to normal down the alleyway does not make it suspicious! Really.

"But I thought I saw some rubber gloves in the rubbish".

Right. Auto-terror alert.