Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Even when we get it right

Glad Shannon has been found. It's never long before the Police are criticised though is it?

Does the Daily Mail genuinely think that WYP didn't want to find the little mite just as soon as possible? Every cop wants to be the one that finds someone like that - to rescue an innocent.

Then again, it was always said, those that can do, do. Those that can't teach. And those that can do neither write about it.

Gonna stop writing now as I've just checkmated myself there. Off to work now.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Mike Todd

As so many others have already said, Mike Todd's passing is a tragedy. I never knew him, only OF him.

He seemed like a decent bloke, a copper's cop who despite his rank didn't forget what the job was about. There are many Chiefs (and DCCs, ACCs, Chief Supt's and more) who have forgotten how to make an arrest. Mike Todd didn't.

Whatever the events that transpired, I hope the media lay off, give his family and friends the chance to mourn without dredging up rubbish and not second-guess the Coroner.

It's enough that we're a good cop down, without rubbishing his memory in the name of "news".

Thanks Boss. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Did you choose Shannon or Maddy?

Madeleine McCann disappeared and in about 3 weeks there was a fund of £2.5m that had been donated by well-meaning supporters of the search for her.

Shannon Matthews' appeal has raised £50,000 in nthe same time.

The McCanns are, outwardly at least (because do we truly know what goes on behind closed doors?), a respectable middle class family, married, tax paying and aspirational for many.

The Matthews live on a council estate, Shannon's mum is unmarried, Shannon has a different dad to her mum's current partner... you get the picture.

It is to the eternal discredit to us as a nation that we differentiate so much between the two cases, yet money talks, and we have placed our bets.

Neither child were anything other than the victims of (as yet unknown) circumstances. Neither family can categorically prove that the microscope should not rightfully fall upon them, and neither child deserved whatever fate befell them.

But does Shannon deserve to be judged so much more harshly by society simply because of her ancestry?

You have a 9 year old child, who is, probably, streetwise to a degree, has been out before (we have all seen kids that age out at 7pm - I do every night of the week) and you have a 3 year old, left alone with her 2 infant siblings in a hotel apartment whilst her parents dine with friends, having left them all day in the creche. Who's more culpable?

My prayers are with both families, but my faith in society is somewhat eroded once more, because we chose the shiny brochure and wrote off another family.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Last chance saloon

So, the annual memory test of Promotion Exams has now finished its penultimate sitting.

For me, I think, that signifies one more go at the present system before it is consigned to the annals and replaced with a Diploma in Higher Education in Police Leadership and Management.

Regurgitating reams of legislation isn't necessarily going to help you as a decent skipper on the street, and pretty much most people who have been successful in these exams previously have promptly cache-dumped the vast majority of what they learned as soon as it wwas committed to paper. It proves you can learn lines, basically. It doesn't show you can think tactically, lead a team, manage incidents, make critical decisions and so on. I can see why they're being replaced.

I have a number of reservations about the diploma that's being brought in though. Does a Sergeant need to be able to write a 5,000 word discursive essay on the hisory of the Criminal Justice system, comparing and contrasting the modern way to previous ways?

Can an uninspiring student be taught how to be a charismatic leader in whom his troops have an innate sense of confidence and belief?

Talent can't be taught or learned, though agreed - it can be developed, to a certain degree.

In any other industry in the private sector (which is how our esteemed leaders in Westminster seem to think we should asipre to) promotion is based on ability. Someone showing flair and promise that turns into accomplishment in one role may be earmarked for promotion Frequently they are given more responsibility until they are ready for the job at hand and, to a degree, already competent. They don't have to do exams, diploma etc just to qualify themselves to be looked at.

Not that any of this matters. We have a system that won't change for me or my ramblings, so my choice is Diploma (18 months, a lot of pressure), exams (last chance, a year of study to make sure I pass), or sack the lot and not think about promotion (I don't want it just now, but I want the opportunity to consider it in the future.)

I think the exams just shade it.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Traffic proactivity

Staffing is a huge issue where I work. I have no doubt it is elsewhere as well, but up north, here in bonny Scotland, i can be a bigger pain in the rear at times.

When, as is sometimes the case, I am single crewed, there's precious little I can do with regard to interviewing, arresting or detaining and charging.

What I'd like to do at times like these is get out in the car, be proactive and get some traffic cases under my belt. I genuinely enjoy roads policing, and so it's a source of great frustration to me that I can't issue FPNs and deal with offences without corroboration. It's a bigger pain that in England and Wales cops can.

It's the same legislation - Construction and Use and RTA 1988 generally, but has to be applied differently up here.

I feel hamstrung by this, and this the Scottish Executive ought to look at it. by removing the necessity for corroboration with regard to Road Traffic Offences, and applying the legislation as it is further south, I believe a huge amount of man hours could be placed proactively back on the streets, without the need to fund one additional, new cop.

Just a thought, chaps.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

This year, I will blog more.

It's been a while, for various reasons, study, and just hard work still at work. With a bit of luck I'll update here more frequently now.

I've been reading a number of job related blogs, including the ubiquitous Gadget, who speaks sense in bucket load quantities, Bloggs and Copperfield. Those, plus the forums I occasionally inhabit all speak of the trials and tribulations of chasing sanctioned detections at every opportunity, alienating the public and trying to keep the bosses smiling.

It's maybe a wee bittie better up north of the border where it appears that discretion when dealing with some offences is still an option, but do I think this will last. I don't know. We are becoming more accountable to statisticians and accountants than before, yet they haven't managed to find a way yet to quantify that more cops on the street reduces both the fear of, and likelihood of crime occurring.

It seems to be that it's only worth considering if it's measurable. Not convinced on that one.

Rant over - back soon.

Monday, 15 October 2007

A bit schmaltzy, but

... I'm just off a weekend of late shifts, and I'm knackered, so spontaneous thought isn't happening just now. The below was taken off a police forum I have a look at - it's pretty true, although a bit saccharine sweet.

When God Made Police Officers

When the Lord was creating police officers, he was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And the Lord said, "Have you read the spec on this order? A police officer has to be able to run five miles through alleys in the dark, scale walls, enter homes the health inspector wouldn't touch, and not wrinkle his uniform. "He has to be able to sit in an undercover car all day on a stakeout, cover a murder scene that night, canvass the neighbourhood for witnesses, and testify in court the next day. "He has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals. And he has to have six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said, "Six pairs of hands... no way." "It's not the hands that are causing me problems," said the Lord, "It's the three pairs of eyes an officer has to have." "That's on the standard model?" asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. One pair that sees through a bulge in a pocket before he asks, "May I see what's in there, sir?" (When he already knows and wishes he'd taken that accounting job.) "Another pair here in the side of his head for his partners' safety. (These are not needed when single crewed) And another pair of eyes here in front that can look reassuringly at a bleeding victim and say, 'You'll be all right miss, when he knows it isn't so."

"Lord," said the angel, touching his sleeve, "rest and work on this tomorrow." "I can't," said the Lord, "I already have a model that can talk a 250 pound drunk into a panda car without incident and support a family on a government pay check."

The angel circled the model of the police officer very slowly, "Can it think?" she asked. "You bet," said the Lord. "It can tell you the elements of a hundred crimes; recite the caution and its meaning in its sleep; detain, investigate, search, and arrest a burglar in less time than it takes five learned judges to debate the legality of the stop... and still it keeps its sense of humour.

This officer also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with crime scenes painted in hell, coax a confession from a child abuser, comfort a murder victim's family, and then read in the daily paper how law enforcement isn't sensitive to the rights of criminal suspects."

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the peace officer. "There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model." "That's not a leak," said the lord, "it's a tear." "What's the tear for?" asked the angel.

"It's for bottled-up emotions, for fallen comrades, for victims, for the pressure, for justice.” You’re a genius," said the angel.

The Lord said "I didn't put it there"

Coming next time - "When God Made Politicians"

Friday, 12 October 2007

Promises, promises

So the SNP have backtracked on their pledge to provide an extra 1000 cops on the streets of Scotland.

They're now saying they want the equivalent of an extra 1000 cops by reducing red tape and paperwork and freeing up desk-bound cops.

Naturally the federation's nae happy about this, and quite understandably - an election promise seems to have gone up in smoke.

Although, it does seem to me that it's maybe not a bad idea to unshackle some of this plethora of cops who don't get out beyond 9-5. It should be a condition of service for every cop, save those on light duties, to complete a certain amount of operational police shifts each year. I get the feeling that a sense of perspective may be forthcoming, that the front line would get some badly needed support, and the public would see a greater police presence. Plus, all that body armour that is supplied to cops would not be sat gathering dust.

We all signed up and made the same promise, so it's time that some were held to it more than they currently are. Once we do that, we have a greater case for gunning for the SNP.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Smoke and mirrors

Gordon Brown says he values the unique and important job the Police do in the UK. Alistair Darling re-iterated it yesterday.

Why then, won't they honour an agreement that has been in place since 1979, and pay us a fair wage for a fair day's work?

That's it for this post. If I don't stop now, I will still be typing at midnight.

Any cops reading this, please, if you haven't already, raise this issue with your local MP.

Any MOPs reading this who agree, please do the same.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

a 21st Century Tale

I knew when I joined the Police Service (note Service, not Force – more about that later) that it wasn’t like The Bill.

In actual fact, I totally did appreciate that fact that the job I was about to embark upon was not like the TV. What I didn’t appreciate was just how different the reality was, and is…

Freewheel downhill seven, fast, blurred years later, and my partner and I are standing in a squalid, festering room, within a squalid, festering flat. A small skeletal Jack Russell wanders out of the bathroom across the hall and comes over to sniff my boots. It’s just done its business next to the toilet bowl. The irony isn’t lost on me, but it’s way too grim to come close to making me crack a smile.

Uncle and Aunty let’s call them, both sit in tatty, dusty armchairs. Uncle doesn’t speak, he glowers with ill-disguised contempt at me. Aunty punctuates every sentence with “officer”, a poor attempt at sincerity that she hopes we’ll buy, stop asking awkward questions and leave.

Uncle’s brother is wanted on a warrant. It’s normally a piddly matter, a non-payment of a £50 fine. It could have been sorted out quickly, with us either taking payment, or arranging to pop back in a day or so when he has got the cash.

We’re supposed to straight arrest him if he hasn’t got the money on his person, but in reality, it’s a Friday night and the cells will be filling up of their own accord over the next 2 days – the custody Sergeants don’t need the additional pressure at this time of the week. So we extract a promise to pay. Most people appreciate this and keep to their word, and all’s well. The one’s who don’t know that they’ve had their chance, and they’ll not have the same courtesy extended to them again. It’s not “by the book”, it’s the real world.

This time though, our target, the sibling of either Uncle or Aunty isn’t there, having not paid by the time he had promised to. He could be anywhere now, as he rents a series of places in the back of beyond, staying there until he realises we’ve sussed he’s living there.

Like many of his type, he has a constant; one residence, of sorts, that’s linked to him.

In this case, it’s his brother (full, half, step, who knows) who has taken on the additional mantle of caring for his off-spring as well as giving him a fixed abode. Seven children of ages ranging between about 2 and 9, who all have the same pallid complexion, jet black curly hair, dark brown eyes and streams of mucus running from their noses. Well known through the estate, they are particularly lawless, kicking footballs against cars, breaking windows, tormenting the local cats and dogs… according to Uncle they’re just kids being kids and hang anyone who says otherwise. It’s low level stuff, but it drives the aggrieved understandably to distraction.

Hang on, I didn’t behave like that though. Nor did my partner. Neither my brother, sister, my friends… actually anyone I knew when I was growing up.

We get a plethora of complaints about these kids, but all but one of them seems to be below the age of Criminal Liability, and as such we the cops are snookered. The most that’s been done has been referrals to the Social Work Department, but their intervention is questionable, as the kids are still here, there and everywhere.

Today’s a bit different though. It’s my first visit to this flat, and I know it hasn’t been visited for a couple of months. I also know that we’ve not really been invited in, more stepped over the threshold in a bid to take control of the situation. In short, there’s been no chance for Aunty and Uncle to tidy up (or, frankly, hide as much crap as possible).

So I look around at the sight of it all. Dog mess is in the hall and freshly in the bathroom. Mould is everywhere, coating the seal where the (apparently underworked) bath meets the filthy tiles. As I shift my weight onto my right foot, my left foot sticks to the carpet. It’s an effort to extricate it from whatever substance is causing it, but one that I scarcely try to hide. I’ve been in too many places now where you have to wipe your feet on the way out to worry about causing offence. Frankly, if they don’t care, why should I?

But, I do care about these kids. They’ve not asked to be put there, they’ve not had the good example set to them. They are a way for their parents to screw the Government for more cash. I guarantee that they will all, at some stage, be diagnosed with ADHD, cause trouble in school until they are permanently excluded (it was called expelled – maybe someone could enlighten me as to the reason behind the change in phrase), and carry on in the only way in which they know how. These kids have a one way ticket to the local gaol. They just don’t know it.
Anyway, I digress. I DO care about these kids. I care that they are being raised in squalor that would be excessive for Beirut. At least there it’s out of their control. I care on a number of levels. I would have hated to have been brought up in this mess. I couldn’t let my cat live in this mess. Nobody deserves to exist in this kind of mess unless they choose to. These kids are devoid of any form of choice.

I look at my partner and we share a silent moment. We’ve worked together for just over a month, but it’s more than enough. In the job, you have to get on with colleagues quickly, and trust them almost immediately. I spend more waking hours with my partner at work than I do with my wife at home. I know her thought processes, I know how she’s going to deal with a situation before it arises. It’s a silent, unspoken comfort for me, and equally I know it is for her too.

I make an excuse and leave the living room as she keeps speaking. Shreds of threadbare carpet line the soles of my boots. I step over the dog mess, head for the front door and call the Sarge. I paint a picture of what I’m seeing and request the duty Social Worker to get his or her backside round here yesterday. I have a decent skipper, and he gets right onto it. He’s covering his back, yes, but this particular sergeant is a good man. He’s got kids, principles and has 4 years to go. He’s way beyond sycophancy to get up the greasy pole, and in many ways he’s come full circle, back to doing the job for the right reasons – because people deserve better.

We wait until Social Work turn up, who, to their credit, take the kids, there and then. Many a time I have fallen out with the SWD’s inaction. Today they are a credit, and I realise that they want to make a difference. The kids are out of there and they are, as I discover later, re-homed.

As they are led, tearfully, out of the flat, I think about the residents who would have cheerfully seen them strung up. They simply don’t know do they? What goes on behind closed doors…

We speak in the car as we pull away from this sink-estate of gloom. Have we torn apart a family, or given the kids a chance? There’s only one answer. What awaits us back at the office now is a ream of paperwork. It’s a heavy thought but it’s worth it.

I know that Uncle and Aunty will spit every time they see us in future. So will the kids’ dad. I know too that we’ll be blamed for the break-up of this nuclear family. I am glad. I am glad that I was in a position to do something positive. It’s about taking decision, standing by them and enforcing laws, statutes and standards. Yes, we provide a service, but we are a Police Force, in my view. We provide a service, but we are a force.

It’s not the stuff of The Bill today, it’s nowhere near glamorous or fast paced enough, and it’s nothing like the role plays we did in training school.

I get home after the shift has finished – 3 hours to be precise, after completing all the various form, mostly seem to be in triplicate. My wife asks me about my day. I am shattered. She reads my lethargy in answering to be flippancy or disinterest in my job. Truth is, I’m so interested and bothered about it, I’m too tired to answer her.


For what seems to be the eighth day this week, I am sat in the witness’ room at the town’s court. There is an expectant hush in the room that resembles a huge dentist’s waiting room.

The absence of goldfish tank or distant sound of a drill don’t make it any better.

Civilian witnesses, as always, are plentiful and looking nervously around, not knowing what to expect and pretty intimidated by the grandiose surroundings.

The cops are all sat nonchalantly as if they’ve been giving evidence all their lives. This, for at least some of them, is a huge act. We do a bit more than dress as Police, but so much of the job is about acting – looking confident, sounding like we know what we’re saying and doing. Here in court is the biggest test for us.

The civvies are too busy with their own worries to notice, but we cops all check each other out as we enter the room. You can tell how much service a cop has by looking at his shoulder number, and that should give some indication of how many times they’ve been in the box.

Anything less than 4 years’ service and despite the confident exterior, it’s a good bet that this could be that particular officer’s first time taking the oath – that’s despite turning up to court on numerous occasions to simply be sent away again.

The cop next to me, I have known for years. He’s a decent, dyed-in-the-wool copper who has turned down promotion at least twice, because he won’t play the political game. If he turns up to your house, you know he’ll do his best for you. He’s also a deadpan, bitingly sarcastic scream. He has the ability when interviewing scrotes, to have them saying the most outrageous things, all of which are recorded to be played back before the court. He once recorded an accused person’s reply to a charge of assault as being, “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy”.

It’s funny enough to see it happen, the accused singing along to a song at the worst moment, but to hear it read over in court, completely out of context is worth paying an entry fee. It is the high point of that day’s proceedings, even the defence can’t help but titter away, and there are snorts of barely suppressed hilarity in the public gallery. The judge isn’t impressed, but he lets it go.

A heavy-set, tanned chap who walks past, all airs, graces and dominance, has just bought a yacht. He called it Legal Aid. You see, by entering a Not Guilty plea on behalf of a client, the lawyer gets a fee, about fifteen times as much, as by entering a guilty plea.

It drives me mad that I am paying for him to milk the system and sail away at the weekend.

My taxes, and yours, and your friends’, and the law-abiding granny who got mugged for £7.34 and a bus pass last week, OUR taxes allow the defence to get progressively and steadily richer by the hour, defending the indefensible, then wasting more money by changing a plea at the last minute.

Captain Bligh LLB did come unstuck once, when winding into a traffic cop, who, using his professional judgement, called a car at travelling between 85 and 95 miles per hour. Legal Aid II’s skipper puffed himself up and asked the cop just what driving experience he had. “I have served 10 years in the army where I drove jeeps, tanks and all manner of weird and wonderful vehicles. I have served 15 years in the Police, 10 in the traffic department, and an authorised to drive pursuits, and drive the highest performance Impreza the force has. I am a qualified driving instructor. I believe my opinion as to the speed of the accused’s vehicle is accurate beyond doubt.”

Bligh picked up a pencil and threw it across the room. “Fine. How fast was that pencil travelling then?” he sneered, turning his back to the cop and sitting down, feeling very pleased with himself.

“I don’t know” said the cop, “I’ve never driven a pencil”. Game, set and match. Another one I didn’t have to pay to see. A small victory for the taxpayer.

Here’s a thought. In Scotland alone, in 2005-2006, spending on Legal Aid came to £147.9 million, for a population of some 7 million. You do the maths, but Live Aid didn’t get such a good payout from us, the public, and Children In Need is small fry.

Someone, call the Police, we’ve been mugged.