Been a mad day. Been flying around like a youth chasing the last hoodie on sale in the world. Frankly, I'm absolutely shattered and I am indeed asking myself the question just why am I on the internet when I should be in bed.
Job is bonkers all round. Our vehicle fleet is at a third strength at the moment, and we are begging other stations to lend us something to fill the gaps. Then I hear someone up in the ivory towers has noticed that crime goes up at weekends and has released a load of cash for officers to "volunteer" to do overtime patrols at the Urbantown booze hole drunken crime hotspots.
An utterly short-term solution. A substantial number of constables (and their grumbling- oh yes we're grumbling- sergeants) in yellow jackets wandering round in a bad mood will probably have an effect on the number of incidents, granted. The reported crime rate will fall and someone will have a big congratulatory slap on the back for coming to the shocking conclusion that more police officers on the streets mean less crime.
But why can't someone look beyond the immediate quick solution of yellow jackets and invest this money- which someone has found from somewhere- in the response teams, in their vehicle fleets and equipment, and even the CID and case handover teams, so they can do their jobs properly with a proper amount of officers with proper equipment. Give it time, and see if the crime will fall. I would argue that it would.
But all that will happen now is that when the crime rate has fallen and the chiefs and money gurus say well done and withdraw funding for the extra patrols, the muppets left to urbantown's drunken halfwits will be the response teams (probably when its our turn for weekend nights again). And so the crime rate will go up because we're understaffed with inadequate vehicles and have to spend most of our time dealing with our own enquiries as the handover teams are completely overwhelmed and can rarely take anything on.
And so the chiefs go back to the money gurus and plead for money to combat this "new" crime pattern blah blah etc etc and so ad infinitum.
I think I'm even too tired to be exasparated. I'm just like- whatEVER. I'm off to bed.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Been a mad day. Been flying around like a youth chasing the last hoodie on sale in the world. Frankly, I'm absolutely shattered and I am indeed asking myself the question just why am I on the internet when I should be in bed.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Well I am not pleased to announce I can now verify the Bloomberg report below.
Check out the MP's website here, the reports page here, or download the report directly here.
And it barely gets mentioned in the uk news sites.
Why do we bother with this job? Do we deserve to get set on every 20 minutes? Does anyone care as long as nothing happens to them?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
A UK police officer is assaulted. 5 out of 6 of us since 2002. Can include myself in there quite a few times over. There is at least one person with a conviction for assaulting me.
According to this report 70 officers a day across the UK are assaulted.
Why can I not find this report on any of the mainstream uk news sites? Is it not newsworthy? Is it not relevant? Why has a US website run this story before any of ours?
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Having real difficulty getting out of nightshift bodyclock. Its like a three day hangover, not amusing.
For those who hadn't noticed I've fiddled about with the sidebar, have put on a few youtube vids about police pursuits. These are one of the most difficult things to call in the job. Yes they are exciting (hence their proliferation on youtube) but they are dangerous. In the UK even if its just the suspect who gets injured its the officer who was pursuing who gets questioned more. I've heard rumours (anyone know for sure?) that a suspect injured after crashing when he was chased has successfully sued the police- if they didn't chase him, he wouldn't be injured. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Police drivers should always be professional about these kind of things but the first one shows we're not always. in the second the driver is calm and controlled and it ends in a good result but was so close to mowing down a pedestrian.
The third shows another lucky escape, this time with a baby involved.
The fourth shows a very terminal end to a pursuit.
I'll try and keep it updated every so often with other examples. The aim is to get people to realise its not squealing tyres and blah but the decision not to pursue can often be a lot more difficult than deciding to.
Monday, April 23, 2007
A number of reasons why.
Frustation at the lack of frontline resources. The last few days have been particularly busy and we have completely lacked the manpower to adequately answer calls. Took over an hour and a half to respond to one priority call, you know, the kind where we should be there within 12 minutes? I only know of that one because I booked in the resulting prisoner (and yes, it was a domestic)- there would have been plenty more calls where it took just as long to turn up, if at all. By the time someone becomes available and the control room ring the informant back the suspect is long gone (if there is one), its gone cold and there's nothing left but reports for assault or criminal damage or theft or whatever. And we're forced to put off sending a unit again because by now another urgent call has come out that takes priority, so the bewildered and shocked victim won't get to see a police officer until the following morning. Call that a good service?
I met some people in a local takeaway (No police canteen? Don't be silly. Its the weekend). Really nice folks, we were chatting away while Mrs Leng and her family beavered away in the kitchen getting our tea. They were a touch surprised when I told them just how few police cars covered their neighbourhood (and the surrounding ones). By that time, half the cars had prisoners in and we had the grand sum of 2 police vehicles covering a big area. No neighbourhood police teams on at this time of night I'm afraid. Just us, the slightly mad officers staffing the response teams at all hours (i.e. not just monday to friday) because for some strange reason they're committed to trying to make a difference for when someone has to call 999.
Frustration at humanity. In Urbanville centre, there is a well organised group of persons (having to hold my tongue here) who come to town to prey on the people out getting drunk and careless with their belongings. I lost count of the sheer volume of calls from people saying either they've seen someone pickpocketed or have lost something of their own.
Frustration at the justice system. It is nigh impossible to convict these pickpocket gangs. The person who takes your phone out of your pocket doesn't keep it. Within seconds it has changed hands 5 times. The victims are drunk. The witnesses are invariably drunk. I know it would be a completely futile exercise going to court. The person seen to have taken the item hardly ever (ever!) has the item on them. Poor witnesses, no evidence of item on suspect. CPS won't take long to decide there isn't enough evidence. I've come to the custody desk in the morning before and seen there are seven or eight (thirteen once!) people arrested for the original offence. But by the end of the day, all are out, NFA. Maybe once or twice one will be charged.
The only way to catch these guys is dedicated surveillance and dozens of police officers in plain clothes. But that costs money, needs an awesome amount of paperwork to justify the surveillance, and the crimes are low value, low impact. Got a better chance of voting in my own pay rise.
So week after week its the same story. Who said crime doesn't pay.
Frustration at the courts. A prolific scumbag (harsh words I know, but this one is an exception. I don't know his history, of how he's ended up the way he is. I just deal with the end result- i.e. a victim- again and again. And this bloke deserves the title Scumbag.) was sent to court a couple of months back with a raft of offences. But this bloke is clever, not a brain-addled drug addict. He turns up to court very remorseful, shaved and in smart clothes, calls the magistrate Sir, spins a yarn about his attempts to reform and always makes sure he has a few offences taken into consideration to demonstrate this. He got off with a 2 year suspended sentence last time for a raft of offences that should've got him 5 years.
So he's back out. Our burglary rate has gone in one direction. He likes nice cars this chap, and is breathtakingly arrogant in his driving after he's broken into your house and taken the keys. He knows our rules of pursuit and deliberately makes it as dangerous as he can so we have to call it off. He is good enough to rarely leave any forensic evidence at the scene but we all know its him. Driving around in one stolen motor to turn over someone else: person, house or business. The anger of my team is palpable. We're all hoping its us on for when the dice falls in our favour. Every so often, it does, and we'll have everyone available, and an insomniac who spots him at work screwing somewhere, and we'll have him. But in the meantime, we're as frustrated as hell.
I'm off down the gym.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Reading through Constabulary Magazine the other day, one of the eponymous job publications that somehow turn up every so often in the nick.
Their headline news is the upcoming new strategy and review for the police announced by the government.
The federation are bit annoyed about not being told about this. Enter Jan Berry, chair of the Police Federation:
"If the aim of this review is to work with the Police Service to develop a shared vision, it doesn’t bode well that as the organisation representing 140,000 police officers throughout England and Wales that we heard about it through the media this morning.
We have been calling for an independent review of policing for the last seven years and noone has been listening. We’ve had five years of piecemeal reform of different parts of policing – none of which have brought any clarity. To announce yet another review will just add to the confusion that already exists"
I liked this bit, still Jan Berry.
"Broken promises to reduce bureaucracy, indecent focus on the quantity of detections rather than the quality of service, poor IT structures and the loss of officers’ discretion to act independently, have fundamentally damaged the trust between the public and the police and the police and the Government."
Compare this with the optimistic title of the governmnents review: "Building on Progress: Security, Crime and Justice"........
As I read on, I find myself reading Ken Jones, who for those who might like to know is President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (banner headline on website: THE VOICE OF THE SERVICE). You'd have thought that he might've taken a similar line to the Police Federation: who do after all represent most of us old bill in the country. But what's this?
"We welcome this policing review to which we have submitted ideas and highlighted challenges. Whilst we wait to see the detail, we are determined to continue to do all we can to reduce bureaucracy, build on neighbourhood policing and make the best use of our resources"
There's a bit of buttering up of the government now, in almost laughable senior police management-pep-speech:
"Neighbourhood policing has made massive progress inembedding local teams in communities. We have seen public confidence levels in policing rise, and we want to improve our partnership working to ensure that we have the support and commitment of all agencies"
Ah here's why the big fat compliment to the Government Neighbourhood Policing initiative! There's a tiny tiny hint of dissent against the goverment, but only a smidgen:
"We can do even more if there was less bureaucracy and fewer targets. If the review is able to ease these pressures ‘space’ will be made for us to customise what we deliver according to what people need in their neighbourhoods"
But to round off, a couple of sentences again in suitably appropriate upper-management police speak:
"We police with the consent of the people. We are always looking for ways to be more accessible and accountable but we need to make sure that the chain of accountability from street-level policing through to police chiefs, and authorities, is not broken"
Police federation (and most police bloggers say):- Government: You're crap, and have made our life more difficult, and we feel the public are more frustrated and less trusting of us than ever before. The 95% of us not on The Latest Greatest Thing (i.e. PCSOs or safer neighbourhoods) and have to deal with the dross, dirt and despair that goes on outside the community panel meetings and reassuarance patrols- like kids in police protection, domestics, mental health problems in the community, suicides, sudden deaths, missing persons, people hit by trains (check this link- how terrible is her story??? Come on, humanity!), boozed fuelled violence, rape, messy RTA's (shall I go on?)-are fed up, under resourced and demoralised.
ACPO President says: Neighbourhood policing is great, well done Government, brilliant idea. Review? Brilliant. You can tell us again that Neighbourhood policing is great. (Tiny voice:) a little less obsession with target culture for the 95% of officers not on neighbourhood teams would be nice too. PS did I say Neighbourhood policing was brilliant?
Read Ken Jones's response in full, you decide if I've quoted him fairly or not.
Read the "Building on Progress" review, if you can be bothered with its 104 pages. I read the first paragraph by some politician called Tony which said "We have been tough on crime and the causes of crime", at which point I gave it up as a useless exercise remembering this article by a certain Inspector.
I don't know why, but I'm looking forward to the comments on this one.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I'm going to leave the whole PCSO / government / finance thing alone for the moment. They're not going anywhere. I've just read through the comments on my post, and over at TUPC, and well its all a tad depressing and frustrating really. I'll bang my drum on another time.
So instead I'm going to post about a time when I had to take a kid into police protection. This is something that I do far too often for my own liking. This happened several months ago, but I can still remember it.
I want to post about it just to remind myself (and in a different way, you the reader) of the realities of police work. I could go on and on about the politics of policing and at the end of the day will have made no headway at all. However, things like this baby do happen. Its easy for me to forget about, sat in my study with warm spring sunshine flooding in, just how depraved and wrong (I don't have sufficient adjectives to describe, really) some people in 21st century society are.
It was about 6am after a busy night shift. Normally, things are quiet by now and I was pootling back towards my nick. The initial call started routinely enough, as they often do. "Can a unit attend Block Street, a female in labour....." Well, okay, not that routinely. These calls get pinged straight to the ambulance service, you know, the medical people? Basic first aid I might have, delivering babies not one of my areas of expertise.
The radio operator is thinking the same thing and has paused with the transmission open while she reads through the script on the screen in front of her. When she starts speaking again her voice has a harder edge to it. "The unborn child is on the at-risk register".
Looking into it later I see there for once has been good communication between our Child Protection Team and the ambulance service. The CPT had asked the ambulances to flag the address so when they call for an ambulance, we know about it.
As "luck" would have I left Block Street all of 3 minutes ago. I'm going to have to go anyway by the sounds of things and spin the car round. I wait outside for the ambulance. I quickly fire a couple of questions and my mobile number for the control room to do checks to verify why this kid is at risk.
The ambulance rig arrives after a minute or so and we all go in. A late middle aged woman opens the door and beckons the crew in. She sees me and my colleague following and instantly her demeanour changes to hostile. "What the f*** are you doing here?" I reply something about how we always get called to these things if we're nearer. She seems to accept that and either way ignores us as she shows us where her daughter is. I look around the flat and note the broken furniture, filthy floors and walls, and the mattress covered with a single stained sheet with the pregnant girl on it. I don't get a chance to look at the kitchen. I can guess what it'll be like.
The ambulance crew confirm she needs to go to hospital like now. We leave the flat and I follow the rig to the hospital. I badger the control room on the way getting some history to this family. A bell rings with the info I hear in my earpiece. I've met this family before. I've sat in a different hospital whilst I was based somewhere else a good few years back, guarding a 2 month old baby from this same family. I wasn't told why then, just that this baby was forcibly taken into care and needed 24hr police protection from his own family.
It seems we're not waiting 2 months this time.
I get the night duty social worker to call me. Even knowing the above I still have to have solid reason to take this baby into police protection as soon as its born. He tells me that now the child has been born they have a full court file prepared and will have an emergency hearing first thing to legally and permanently take the child into their care. My role, as it turns out, is simple. If the family try to take the baby from the hospital before this court hearing, we have justification and power to take it into police protection. He gives me some of the circumstances.
I don't need to hear much.
By now, we're in the maternity ward. I get some strange looks off the midwives. I explain to them why we're here and confirm the layout of the ward and make sure the exits are covered. The baby, mother and grandmother are in a self contained room. I don't sit in and watch. I don't think I could look them in the eye.
I try not to think about the 3 year old killed in a road accident earlier in the day which I was told about at the shift start handover. We even went down the very same road where it happened en route to the hospital this time. Flowers are already attached to the remains of the railings, still with bits of police tape left flapping in the breeze. I begin to boil up at the terrible irony that earlier a child was taken from parents, and here I am doing the same thing, just this time from a family who don't deserve to have children. I wonder what the parents of the three year old would say to this lot.
The early turn skipper arrives. They're already up to date with whats going on, and having been able to research the relevant databases they know more than me. They'll make arrangements to take the baby to a different hospital, one the family don't know. One member of this family is dangerous enough that the duty officer is considering an armed guard.
The early turn sergeant tells me and the other night duty units to go. Its well beyond changeover time now. She's arranged for someone else to do the reports, for which I am most grateful. I go home in silence, a thousand unanswered questions in my mind.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
For those with the time, read through the Observer's recent report on mental health. Summary: in-patient care - i.e. for those most vulnerable and dangerous- has been completely ignored by the government, who have channelled all the money into community based schemes instead. Any police officer anywhere will read that report with a sense of impending doom. I for one have lost count of how many people I've sectioned. At one stage, when I was a PC, it was literally one a month.
The short sightedness and short-termism of this government is frankly embarrassing. The whole debacle about PCSO's sums it up. Central london response teams have more PCSOs then PCs according to one commenter on TUPC. Someone please, please prove me wrong but as far as I can tell the only policies and initiatives this government can come up with are short term, poorly thought through, and are designed with the principle intention of making the government look and sound good to uneducated or unaware voters, and bollocks to what difference it really makes to the people who have to implement them.
Check this out. The government has allocated £315 MILLION pounds to recruit more and more PCSO's. 16,000 of them. The government is desperately trying to con people that Safer Neighbourhoods are "extra frontline resources" (they're not), equal "Public Reassuarance" (except if you dial 999, they won't be the ones turning up). And hows this for a quote, from the above link:
".... in some areas community support officers and employees of local authorities such as wardens will be best placed to deal with local problems.
But in other places - perhaps with more acute crime problems - police officers will be doing most of the work"
So where's theres crime.... oh, it'll still be the police officers dealing with it! Why oh why can we not have some investment in PC's? In response team officers? We shall forever be the poor men (and women) of policing. The first to be blamed when it goes wrong, but the first to be relied on when it goes belly up. The government will spend a third of a billion pounds on their latest greatest policing initiative but demand police and response team budgets are slimmed.
I can't stand politicians. I really can't.
Well things most certainly have been busy last fortnight or so. The couple of days off I did get round Easter were spent on a long-planned weekend away and a bit frantic finishing-decorating-jobs (which I still have little bits to do, darn it). One of the tell tale signs of working in this job is that your weekends are planned about 6 months in advance. I'm up to June already, seriously.
Quite a few things have raised my eyebrows workwise in the last 2 weeks. A prominent regional newspaper ran a front page headline on a job my team dealt with, which was so hilariously underinvestigated and inaccurate (the media report that is, not my teams job) I still find it hilarious. Its amazing just what crap "witnesses" say to hacks, and I'm like "I was there, that really didn't happen".
I find it equally astonishing a major incident at a major public building has barely made any news headlines. There was such a cluster of emergency vehicles of all types you probably could've picked all the strobes up from space, yet it warranted barely a paragraph on a news website (sorry, not giving the link, otherwise I might as well publish my photograph and warrant card!)
Anyway, for the time being here's a post I started last week, that I never got the chance to finish until now.
I was out and about fairly late at night- or is that early in the morning?- slowly pootling up the high street when I noticed the Citroen going in the opposite direction, headlights and foglights on, stuck right up the backside of another car, snaking about left and right. Some youngish bloke driving it.
I don't like the look this, I say to the Pc who's got the short straw of being paired up me on nights. I spin the car round and look down the road. He's floored it once he's past the speed camera and has pulled off an overtake just before one of the main junctions.
We're sooo having a word. He's stopped at the next red light further on, and I get behind him. Not sure if he's seen me yet. Checks show up nothing, registered keeper in the next county.
Lights change and we're off. And we're off. Flick all the switches and get the disco lights and noise on. He jumps the next red light, bumping the car off the curb as the tyres squeal round the tight left bend. I'm just about to shout at the Pc to put this up on the radio when I realise he's just turned into a small car park with no way out. Now I don't know if he always planned to stop there or whether he meant to go for it and just cocked it up. Either way, he's now stuck between a concrete wall and my grille which is about 3 inches away from his bumper (just in case he tries to force his way past, he can't get any momentum up to take me out).
The Pc jumps out and yells at the driver to get out of the car. Which he does, with an sullen "amIbovvered" attitude. I get out too and go to him.
"What the hell are you playing at?"
"What, I aint done nuthin"
"Nothing? What bit of red light and curb did you not notice? Not to mention your nice little overtake back on the high road"
"Yeah well it weren't red, I didn't see yous behind me"
I stop. I've noticed he's swaying. His words are bit slurry. I lean in and catch that all too familiar smell on his breath. I glance over at the car and see 3 young teenage girls looking out at me with a mixture of excitement and fright in their expressions.
I look at sullen attitude boy. You stupid, selfish prick.
I get the breath gadget out of the car.
"Had a drink tonight?"
"Yeah only shandy why"
Breathalyser procedure explained. "Blow here".
I look down at the gadget. I show him. "See this little red light? You've failed. You're under arrest".
Attitude boy suddenly goes through a complete facial expression change and becomes scared schoolboy. "I was only drinking shandy, I just went for a drive, oh god oh god". I hope my expression tells him how much sympathy I have. None. I know he's way over the limit, and he's come out to show off to 3 girls, friends of his family. A recipie for disaster. I know far too well how this story sometimes ends.
I get a colleague to come down to pick up the girls, take em to another nick. I'm not so stupid to leave them in a car park on the rough side of town on a Friday night. Attitude boy's wife is paying for a cab home for them.
Proper breathalyser back at the nick and he's over twice over the limit. The immensity of his stupidity is beginning to hit him now and he's crying down the phone to his wife. I spoke to her just after he was arrested and she accused me of making it up, he'd only been drinking shandy all night, he's not drunk, he can't be. I think I might have been a bit rude to her by the end of it. "Which part of lots of shandy means he's still pissed do you not understand?"
I know that in an evening I have probably made this man's work life and freedom a whole load more difficult. But driving a car is a privelege and a responsibility. Not a right.