Monday, April 28, 2008

Fulfilling the criteria

I am now happily able to type with both hands again after slicing the fingers jumping over a fence the other day! At work, not at home, I might add.

Anyhoo as promised another sad tale of the mental health system at its finest. Myself and a couple of others turned up to an assistance call from the ambulance service. We met the man in green at the bottom of the stairwell who chuckled as he saw us. He told us we'd been here before.

I understood this as we got to the front door, and saw the distinctive red circular marks across most of the door and barely there door frame, and understood that this place had been visited by someone with the 'big red door key'.

The source of all this was inside the flat. The ambulance bods had withdrawn after getting stuff thrown at them, and called us in with our highly trained negotiating skills (note- sarcasm) to try and talk to the clearly imbalanced chap inside.

Lionel, aformentioned imbalanced chap, was up and down like the proverbial yoyo. One moment he was tearful, knowing something was really wrong, wanting the voices to stop- next extremely paranoid, yelling abuse, face contorting. Some of the insults thrown at us were in all honesty quite spectacular in their originality and vulgarity. Packets of medication are all over the place. He manages to tell us he hasn't taken any of them. Which is the root cause of his now unbalanced state.

To cut a long story short, Lionel actually did want to go to the hospital, and as a courtesy to the ambulance peolpe a couple of PC's went with them in the ambulance.

Once we got the hospital, once again, things got political.

Lionel has had a drink. So, despite him being clearly not the full ticket, the mental health wing refused point blank to have anything to do with him until he was fully sober. Which meant we had to take him to A&E. Who are totally inequipped to deal with a volatile, paranoid, abusive man.

And so start the rounds of "it's not my problem". Mental health / 136 department won't have anything to do with him because "they can't assess him". We were only there as the ambulance had called us, and have not invoked any powers and so don't need to be there. The A&E have nothing to do with him as he doesn't need any "normal" medical treatment.

Meanwhile, A&E tell us we can't go as the bloke has the potential for violence. I say to them they've a quarter of my response team babysitting them whilst he has committed no offences and is not 136'd.

I hate this. I know that Lionel has the potential to kick off, and I always try to help out A&E and ambulance staff, underpaid and overburdened as they are. But now I've gone up a rank I have to say that if there's no real reason for someone to be sat somewhere, then I need them back out on patrol. If I had dozens of officers on patrol, not so much of an issue. But I have 8.

So nobody wins. I tell the hospital they have until the hour to sort out their security as I have to have my officers back out by then. If Lionel kicks off, they'll have to call us back. I'm not happy telling them this, but patient security, and their lack of security staff, is something they have to take up with their management, it isn't something we can guarantee to help them with. Of course, Lionel is free to go when he pleases as he isn't sectioned or under arrest.

I don't know what the answer is with people like Lionel. I don't advocate locking them up and going by the "out of sight, out of mind" principle, but this "not my problem" problem is just as bad. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that it hasn't happened before.

Ideally, we need a comfortable, secure suite that someone can wait safely in until sober or not under any influence. But that would cost money to build and staff. So, it doesn't happen, and every time someone who is clearly mentally ill but has been taking substances to try and cope with it, they are ignored by the system.

It is only a matter of time before Lionel, or someone just like him, becomes another statistic like the Leicestershire link above.

I don't know what the final outcome was with Lionel, whether he walked out or managed to stay long enough for the psych teams to say yay or nay. We weren't called back in any event.

Even if he was admitted, it'll only be a matter of time before he's out again by himself, forgetting or ignoring his medication.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time waits for no man

Ridiculously busy at work at the moment. Unfortunately, it's not the "good" busy. Its the busy that keeps me tied to a computer most of the time. I've actually reached the point where I'm emailing stuff to and from home to keep on top of things.

Unfortunately for a response team sergeant, I don't really have the option of turning off the radio and cracking on with all the reports. Well, I rephrase, I could, but I don't, as I'd much rather be out there dealing with stuff than remotely directing people via the radio. So I guess the backlog of tedious stuff is kind of my fault.

As for hoping to have a quiet hour or so in custody to do this, forget it. I gave myself indigestion the other day eating my lunch so fast in the one 5 minute gap where I didn't have to do anything immediately.

When things do calm down a bit, expect a post that is yet another frustrating indictment of the mental health "system".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stop or Not

When I initially read this report, I must admit I laughed and said "doh" on behalf of the Hampshire police officers who managed to take out three of their own cars whilst chasing a stolen car.

Now I've had a chance to think about it, it did make me think (again) about the whole police pursuit business. Three teenagers driving a seriously powerful car- a Bentley Continental- clearly having no intention of ever stopping for a roadside chat.

I think the news report would be quite different if one of the three died in the crash.

At what point does the risk of someone getting seriously injured, including the thieves themselves, override the need for them to be arrested?

This country will never follow the American example of trying to induce a "controlled" crash before they lose control (see the sidebar vids for examples) to terminate a pursuit. We only have stinger (ineffective against runflat tyres) and TPAC, or boxing in, and a number of forces don't even authorise that as its too much of a risk of someone getting injured, or too expensive to train officers, or they don't want the repair bills. A lot of forces will never authorise a pursuit of a motorbike, mainly because noone can think of a way to end it without the motorbike crashing, which obviously means the person riding it will be injured.

Its another of those which shoulder to listen to questions- pursue no matter what the risk to the person failing to stop, or stop as soon as its clear that it'll likely end in tears? I'm only thinking of the night time pursuits like the example here, where the person failing to stop is the one most at risk of injury. If someone is pursued into a town centre or through residential areas half an hour after school closing time, then the pursuit should be called off, period.

Personally, I'd like to see some of the American ideas brought in. If the suspect can be forced off the road in a reasonable safe manner as soon as possible, then I think we should before he or she gets the chance to really get the speed up and put other people at risk. All police cars should be equipped with stinger, but again to cut training and equipment costs, only traffic officers are trained. And seeing how we only usually have one traffic car on nights, for a vast swathe of Suburbiaville and its environs, it usually is never available. No pursuit I've ever been on has a traffic unit managed to get in front for a stinger deployment.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Poles Apart

Had the joys of dealing with a group of Suburbiaville's economic migrants, or whatever the current favoured term for the swell of East European fellows currently residing here for purposes of plastering and plumbing are.

These people ought to have a photocall with a government minster, as they have clearly have embraced traditional british cultural activities during their time here, but have cannily updated it with a twist appropriate to their cultural origin.

What this actually means is instead of themselves getting completely inebriated with Stella, they use Smirnoff.

However, the traditional British activity of then beating seven bells of hell out of each other remains unerringly familiar.

None of this is lost on me, being a suitably citizen-focused officer, as I survey the scene of blood spread across two streets. At least I don't understand the what I am assured are genuine ethnic swear words being yelled at me.

Chap in back of ambulance with bits of cheap wine bottle sticking out of various limbs, and the owner of most of the blood spread across the pavement is doing his best to cheerily tell us not to worry about what happened. His emotions suggest somewhat otherwise and I am grateful that this is our last night shift, so we won't be on when he's stitched back together and released to sort this matter out on his terms.

His friends are bordering on downright contemptous. They are adamant we are not required to intervene in their minor argument. One in particular doesn't bother to hide his contempt at us trying to tape off pools of blood left right and centre. I can see he thinks we're quite pathetic.

Whats the point, he calls out, it was an argument between friends. Its all over now. He feels we should therefore adopt his attitude, and as such the crime scene is therefore all a pointless exercise he can walk right through it.

Unfortunately for him, the Pc who happened to be the first on scene trying to contain all this mayhem is now just about on top of things and the crime scene is under his command. He also happens to be 6 foot 5 and the size of your average house extension. Our friend is given suitable advice that although he might think our rules our daft you start breaking them then we're not so useless after all.

I kind of wish that he tries to re-enter the scene after being assisted to leave in the manner a disobedient puppy is moved from where he is not supposed to be. However, he decides not to.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Who to listen to

I was having a chat with a colleague from a different force the other day. I can't remember why the conversation started but once the usual pleasantries and regular comparisons were exchanged (crap shifts? yep. At work the whole time? Yep. Hours of work seen wasted by judges afraid or advised not to use decent sentences? Oh yes) the conversation turned to a recent incident he had been dealing with.

Billy the Burglar and one of his equally criminally inclined friends had had a little prang in the nice motor they had recently relieved the lawful owner of. No other cars involved, and no it wasn't a pursuit, or even a sniff of one. Just them, a crash barrier and some road signage.

Unfortunately, Billy was driving fast enough and not wearing enough of a seatbelt to be able to survive.

Herein lies the copper's moral maze.

Devil on one shoulder is almost glad of this. My colleague tells me Billy was a right piece of work, and as a result of him no longer partaking in this world they will now see a significant percentage fall in their residential burglaries. A lot of people will no longer suffer their houses being broken into as a result. The devil whispers to consider this as evolution in action.

Angel on other shoulder counters with it's still a waste of a young life, he was still someone's son, and asks what failings there have been in the system so Billy got to this stage of prolific burglar who steals for fun.

Who to listen to?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Under 18 = incapable of crime?

I would hazard a guess that Chris Sidoti is a liberal.

Now, I have nothing against liberal politics per se, but something caught my eye that I could barely believe.

Chris Sidoti is the author of the UK's first written bill of rights. Apparently, this will be enacted in Northern Ireland, according to the Observer. Good luck to the PSNI is what I say!

You thought the Human Rights Act was bad enough in letting criminals claim that criminal proceedings were against their human rights? Well get a load of this.

Mr Sidoti proposes that the age of criminal responsibility should rise to 16.

Wait, there's more.

The plan is that it should be 18!!!!

I'm sorry, Mr Sidoti, but GET REAL. Under your plans, the two teenagers who deliberately drove at the two armed cops in London would get away scot free. Crime levels would rocket, its the only way to describe it.

My old patch, nearer the centre of town, had a particular issue with cannabis dealing. Almost without exception, the dealers were 16-17. Most vehicle crime- particularly TWOC or "joyriding", is by kids under 18.

So Mr Sidoti would empty out the YOI's across the country because they're all misunderstood little darlings. Well, yes, at one point there may well have been an intervention available to deter them away from crime. But by the time they get there, it's pretty much too late. Giving them this get out of jail free card is out of touch, fantasist, and frankly dangerous.