Friday, August 31, 2007

Leading from the front

Gordon Brown, August 2007: speaking about not paying public sector workers their recommended (by independent panel) pay rises: "We have succeeded in tackling inflation and having a stable economy because of discipline in pay over the last ten years. That discipline will have to continue".

MPs in December 2006: requesting a 66% pay rise.
MPs in 2003 voting some of themselves more of a pay rise.
MPs in 2001 voting themselves more of a pay rise.
And don't forget their 23% increase in 1996.

Whatever, Gordon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Public Relations

Been sent an email from an officer who states he is in the self proclaimed flagship of British police services, The Metropolitan Police. Paraphrased slightly to ensure names and times remain ambigiuous, and swear words removed.

"I am a level 2, or public order trained officer. Over the bank holiday weekend myself and my serial have been on standby at the Notting Hill Carnival.

We have been kept back, in a hall, awaiting deployment in case of a major incident or fight- large scale public disorder. I was one of several dozen if not 100+ plus officers held back in this hall.

Now there was one point early in the morning when the carnival parties were still in full swing and the booze and cannabis (thats another story) were in plentiful supply. As you might expect, a couple of fights broke out.

One or two of these fights became quite serious. The carnival has dozens of PC's on the ground. Most of them are what we call level 3 public order trained, i.e. have no riot training. One or two of these PCs found themselves in a quite serious fights and unsurprisingly asked for backup.

There were over 100 of us probably nearer 200, ready to go in that hall in full riot kit, ready to deploy as soon as the command was given. No such command was given. We sat in the hall listening as it became more and more urgent on the radio. Urgent assistance was required. Next thing, officers were down.

Still we had no command. We were standing up, adrenalin going full throttle, waiting to be let out to help our colleagues.

No command was ever given.

It turns out Gold (overall command) or whoever was his deputy wasn't prepared to release us. I have no idea how they justified it but it boils down to they were prepared to sacrifice the safety of a PC or two in order to not deploy the riot police with all the negative media that that would undoubtedly follow. At least two PCs were put in hospital just so the management could say it was a quiet successful event"

I have no idea if this is true or not. I was happily nowhere near Notting Hill this bank holiday. But if this is the case- I am hoping that some of the commenters may be able to verify this story- then this is a damning indictement of the modern police service. Safety of individuals play a poor second fiddle to the corporate and media image that senior management wish to portray. I hope the hospitalised PCs make a full recovery and sue the living daylights out of the Met under the Health and Safety at Work act.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Daily Wail continued.

As I was saying the other day. Daily Mail reader is shocked and appalled to wait 50 minutes for a real police officer to turn up to a fairly nasty assault on his son.

I say real police officer. I have got to admit that I am beginning to get a little irate when I see reports which refer to a PCSO as a community police officer. You might say that it is just a minor play on words but there is a significant difference. A PCSO is not supposed to be a police officer, and to refer to them as such is inaccurate.

I've debated PCSO's and their distinction (or not) from police officers before on this blog (with particular regard to uniform and appearance), and its a post which consistently gets referrals from search engines, and I don't propose to debate that again. My view remains the same, namely that there should be more of a visible distinction between regular officers and PCSO's. I was at a motorway services the other week and a PCSO was there handing out leaflets. Now don't get me wrong, she was doing an important job of making people aware that service stations are a criminals dream with all those unattended cars with sat nave, ipods and even caravans available for the taking. But I could only tell she was a PCSO when I got close enough to read her epaulettes. Her hat even had a chequered black and white band round it, black stab vest, black trousers. To a ordinary member of the public, they would've thought she was a police officer. But she was not. A criminal intent on doing no good may decide to have a go yet she has no protective equipment beyond the stab vest and no training for dealing with it.

But anyway. Back to the Mail.

First of all, here's my perspective. I am unashamedly a uniform response officer. For me, it is what the majority of policing is about. With the exception of some ultra-specialist departments like surveillance and counter-terrorism nearly everything else the police deal with, a response team officer (I include specialist response teams like firearms and traffic here) will be the first to encounter it and make the initial moves. You'd think that therefore most other departments should therefore act to help and back up the front line. Unfortunately it is usually percieved the opposite way round, namely uniform response should do more to help the other departments.

In my division, the regular response teams are quite distinct from the neighbourhood teams. PCSO's only work on neighbourhood teams. Therefore I cannot comment on exactly what they do.

What I can comment on is the impact they have had on myself as a response team supervisor. And the answer is minimal. I appreciate this may be unpopular with some readers who are PCSO's (I know there's one or two out there) but here is why. I have only heard one usable relevant piece of intelligence sourced from a PCSO, which was when he recognised a wanted character. I cannot deploy them to any kind of call. I can only use them on a counter-terrorism cordon, and even then it has to be one where I cannot give them a scene log as they've never seen one before. It feels like we have just as much youth disorder as we've ever had. So I take exception to the Home Office stating they are there to support police officers. I have never seen this support.

Now if I was a neighbourhood police team sergeant, I would anticipate I would have a different story to tell, of how his or her PCSOs have got the time to engage with vulnerable community sections (e.g. the elderly) and how their job is not about crime and detections (true enough) but about building bridges. My argument remains the same though. For the 14000 PCSO's you could have 8-9000 PCs who would be able to do exactly the same job- and a whole lot more. My understanding of the the way this was budgeted, certainly to start with, is that the PCSO budget was extra funding made available by central government. Therefore the PCSOs have not taken over a PCs role, i.e. every PCSO has replaced a PC: the PCSO is in addition to the PC. I say 8-9000 extra PCs would make more of a difference, even in the ringfenced safer neighbourhood role.

I note the home offices definintion of a PCSO's purpose is completely unquantifiable, in complete contrast to their attitude towards police officers, which is measure everything, set a target relating to everything and then cut budgets if these targets are not reached, which of course really helps.

So we have: Reassure people (has anyone seen a survey to find out if this is the case? Perhaps I ought to do one of those poll things); build confidence in communities (ditto! In my area, I have never seen a PCSO round where I live, and I live in a fairly large town. According the board up next to the local Co-Op, there's two dedicated to my ward. Where are they?); and support police (er... maybe).

Do tell me if I ever sound like a scratched record going on about this, won't you....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Daily Wail (again)

Well, I'm glad to see the Daily Mail still gets completely hysterical about anything police related.

Example one: unfortunate tale of a man down south.

Example two: That PCSO headline.

Lets start with number one. Lad goes down to Portsmouth's 24hr european cafe culture one weekend night and encounters random hooligan and gets a pasting. Not taking anything away from the victim, my only surprise with this story is that anyone is surprised it took a response team officer that long to turn up. In all honesty I wouldn't have been surprised if it was nearer the four hour mark, let alone fifty minutes.

I can completely sympathise with the person at the 999 call centre. Its interesting how what would actually be a civilian operator suddenly become "the police" with its deliberate effort to tar everyone with the same brush. That as an aside, I would anticipate that operator had had dozens of calls from people on that late saturday night. Some of them (well, I read some of our official propoganda in a moment of boredom and found 70% of 999 calls are actually not emergencies) and this poor sod at the end of the 999 line, obliged to make a record of every call recieved was probably more than a touch frustrated at the sheer volume of idiots calling with nonsensical claptrap that would still under this that and the other charter require a police officer to go and speak to them in person. So when he or she gets a genuine call through, like the one in the article, lo and behold noone is available. Or of course there have been sufficient serious calls to mean all available response officers are already dealing, as what is reported here. The 999 operator would've been more of aware of that, too.

I must admit I've used that line before- when I've been haring round from call to call and someone says "what took you so long?" I tell them there's only 6 of us on tonight covering so many thousands of population, and if he doesn't think that sufficient to write and complain to his MP. And you know what, I wish they would.

I don't know quite know why this particular tale warrants a trumpeting around the Wail. There would have been hundreds of people calling 999 across the country at the weekend and found that the police response takes more time than they would expect, or demand.

I have sympathy with the Mr Bayliss senior too. Not his sense of moral outrage at being told to phone his MP, how could some possibly be so rude, but for the circumstances of it. Most decent people can remember how many 999 calls they've ever made and it is quite a significant event, amplified a hundredfold when its your own son.

But Mr Bayliss junior, now that things are over, you had opportunity to make a difference to other people, to try and stop such things happening again by joining up. I'm sorry but withdrawing your application isn't going to help anyone.

At the end of the day, the 999 operator is right. I would bet Hampshire's finest would have loved to have come and locked up a drunken violent hooligan. At least, I would hope so. But they were unable to simply because there weren't enough of them. And the blame for that lies with the MPs.

Which would lead me on nicely to the second article. This is where all the money for PC's has gone. Most forces are recruiting more PCSO's than PCs.

But I'll continue with this another time. This is enough for now.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Well I never

I've just noticed.

I'm one year old this month. 10 days ago in fact. Happy birthday me!

Here's my posts from August 2006 (all both of them).
(Link now works!)

Back to the Future

Well, a little rest has done me a world of good. For the best part of the last few weeks (joys of several re-rostered rest days and a bit of leave thrown in) I have been resolutely not thinking anything job.

However, the time is nigh where I shall be launching myself back in the deep end.

When I say deep end, I don't mean jobs- calls, or interacting with the public. That shall have to wait. I am going to have to wade through a pile of emails sufficiently high enough to remind me of the mountains I was climbing only a few short days ago.

I have a sinking feeling that I might a simple, but possibly fatal error before I ran out the station leaping for joy at the commencement of leave.

Cue drum roll and sounds of impeding doom riders, please.

I did not set my out-of-office email autoreply to "on".

I shall therefore expect one or more of the following.

- Emails urgently warning me for court.
- Emails urgently dewarning me for court when someone actually bothered to check the duties to see if I'm in. The Witness Liason Office or whatever their title is these days have an annoying habit of warning absolutely everybody for a court case, and then checking the roster. They even check on what date you've booked your leave to see if you didn't pull a crafty one. I got warned for court on the first day of my honeymoon. I had great pleasure in telling the somewhat snotty bloke where he could stick his warning as I had booked that leave about a year in advance.
- Emails warning a PC that he has certain work on some job outstanding cc'd to me (because the PC is on leave.)
- Utterly useless tripe sent to the entire division about how the lift in HQ is having scheduled maintenance.
- Emails advising me that a PC still hasn't completed certain work on some outstanding job (because he's still on leave).
- A good work email celebrating the fact that someones latest politically thumbs-up scheme has gone down terribly well. Too many examples to mention.

These emails shall be dealt with in the usual manner:
Delete without reading (50%).
Read briefly and delete. (40%)
Read, consider actioning, then delete. (7%)
Read and actually do something positive, like reply. (3%).

This will probably take most of the shift. The greatest sense of achievement of returning to work will likely be sourced from getting the email inbox back down to zero.

On a more serious note. Am I the only one who gets just a tang of worry about going back to work after time off? Not about nonsense on email I might add. But I do worry that in time off I'll have forgotten something. I haven't had to think about police stuff for a fortnight or so, and part of me says "Do you still know what you're doing?" (I ignore the voice which says you never know what you're doing.....)

Still, I ignore that voice too. I always seem to get back into things just as quickly as occasion demands, which is usually 10 minutes or so after parade. Except night duty, when things have usually gone wrong about half an hour before parade.

Anyway. I still have a couple of days before the joys of going back to shiftwork. Could go and top up my tan. Ha! If you include rust / weatherbeatenness as a tanning type that is.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Feet up, warrant card down

Apologies for the lack of posting, but I have joined the stampede to somewhere a little warmer and a little less wet (most of the time), although I understand the weather back home has improved somewhat the last few days.

Although whats this about foot and mouth? Not again, surely?

I shall return from lands afar (ish) soon, whereupon I shall have to get back into the habit of carrying warrant card again. It has been a lightness in my pocket not carrying it the last few days.

Stay safe y'all

Update: Normal service shall shortly be resumed.