This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but all the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't pay my salary.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Cartoon Police Turn Violent

There are some things you simply cannot make up.  Devon and Cornwall just circulated this poster, before retracting it when someone pointed out that it depicted a riot officer bludgeoning a person lying on the floor.
D&C's response:
Clearly the graphic designer working at the force headquarters thinks that drunk people all dress like Jason Voorhees.  Alternatively, he was sniggering, "Let's see if anyone notices this" as he forwarded the jpg.
Personally, I think the more shocking aspect of this poster is the claim of a 45% reduction in violent crime, as if this is some kind of achievement.  It is in fact a meaningless statement on its own: if violence was up in every other month, the drop in January is hardly something to brag about and is mostly likely the result of natural variation.  Crime ebbs and flows like any other phenomenon, even if the police do nothing.   
In Blandmore, I'm afraid we are judged in a similar way.  The Chief Inspector points at a graph of last year's crime overlaid with this year's, and if the spikes this year appear in different places, he claims it a crime-fighting success.
I am no statistician, but it's no way to do business.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Rude and Lazy or Rock and a Non Soft Place?

Nothing is more likely to trigger The Daily Mail Headline policy than the thought of a complaint against police.  In fact, an incident log need only reference in passing that the caller is minutely displeased with the service they are getting, to result in a flurry of priority-setting and diversion of resources. 
Senior (and some junior) police officers react this way because they fear headlines like this, which damage the reputation of the police. 
As a sergeant, a complaint from a caller is probably bottom of my list of reasons to prioritise a case.  That's not me being contrary.  Not that I can't be contrary too.
When I am sitting behind the duty sergeant's desk at Blandmore nick, scanning the Incident Control System to decide which of the five pages of outstanding jobs to send my one available officer to, I have a checklist.  Is anyone in danger?  Could anyone be in danger very shortly if we don't attend?  Is someone very worried, scared or vulnerable?  Is it a serious crime?  Is there evidence to gather that could be lost?  Are they waiting in an inconvenient location for us to attend?  Beyond that I might consider how close the available officer is, how long each job might take and whether he/she could attend a few if done in a certain order.   If the caller could come to the police station later, then maybe a restricted officer (injured, pregnant etc) could deal with them, thus making best use of resources.  I then prioritise the jobs regardless of whether the caller agrees with my conclusions.  The angry caller isn't sitting in front of the same screen as I am.
Don't let the above make you think I don't sympathise with a burglary victim who has waited in all morning for us, desperate to clean up and change the locks.  If I have to ring them to apologise, I will even encourage them to make a complaint, to their MP or the Chief Constable, to highlight our lack of resources. 
But I also have to take a view.  The nature of policing is unlike any other customer-based business.  If you run an IT company or retail business, all your decisions will be aimed at pleasing as many people as possible, and providing everyone a good service.  In the police, sometimes you have to make a choice between pleasing one person or another.  In spite of the way we often refer to them, criminals are not our "customers", they are our targets.  And in the grey areas of neighbourhood or family disputes, and youth crime, it's not always obvious who the target should be.  Is it both sides, or neither?  I've had cases where a victim has complained about one of my officers for carrying out a slow investigation in which a suspect ultimately got acquitted at court, and had the suspect for the same case complain that they were locked up and charged with something they claim not to have done.  Which complaint should be upheld, or neither?
Tomorrow, I will no doubt sit through another morning meeting where the Superintendent In Charge of Being In Charge will tell me to make sure someone is convicted for a case where there is no evidence, or throw all my resources into finding someone who got drunk and stayed out all night with another man/woman, because their partner is a local Councillor and will complain if we don't investigate their missing person report. 
And I will nod and agree, and continue to do my duty in exactly the same way as before.  Because the day we let the fear of complaints tell us how we should be policing, is the day I hang up my boots and leave the job of police work for the politicians.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

No Yes Means No

I've blogged about rape repeatedly over the years.  It nearly always results in a fairly heated debate.  A lot of men (and probably some women) think that if you are female, support Rape Crisis, and emphatically state that rape is under-reported and under-convicted, you must be a man-hating, blinkered feminist who is blind to the reality of false rape reports. 
Now the DPP is announcing measures to tackle two key rape myths, both of which I have blogged about before.  The core of the measure is placing an onus on the defendant to prove, if it is an issue of consent, that the victim consented.  This could be construed as effectively making it the defendant's job to prove their innocence, which would fundamentally oppose the essence of the British Criminal Justice system.
I don't believe it does that.  I am female, I donate my book royalties to Rape Crisis, and I believe our national record on rape is pretty woeful.  I don't hate men, and I've dealt with more than one false allegation of rape.  (I've also dealt with dozens of genuine ones.)  I therefore like to think I am fairly rational about the whole subject, not that that is for me to judge.
I support the new measures.  I don't think they are likely to make a huge difference, as I don't believe there is ever really any confusion in a man's mind over whether his actions are consented to.  Which is why I don't think this measure is asking someone to prove their own innocence in an unfair way.  If he's lying about consent, he will lie about how he knew she was consenting, and it may be equally hard to prove.  But it's one more way he'll have to craft his story, and therefore one more chance to show a jury he's not telling the truth if it doesn't add up.
It remains to be seen whether the rape conviction rate will rise, if that's even a sensible way of measuring success on this issue (a whole other debate).  But this blinkered feminist is glad to hear about it all the same.

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Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Things of the Past

A hot potato of recent months is the use of police cells to incarcerate the mentally ill.

What intuition and foresight the Care Minister Norman Lamb has, to suggest today that the NHS, local authorities and the police, have pledged to stop locking up these mental health patients in police cells.  It's not as if anyone knew that this was a problem before last year, when ACC of Devon and Cornwall Police Paul Netherton tweeted about a 16-year-old being held in custody due to a lack of beds.  Well, not since the matter was reported in 2013, or when it was blogged about in 2012, or just about every year before that for ten years or more.
What we'll do, Mr Lamb, is just leave you here for the average time it takes to get the police doctor, followed by two mental health nurses and a psychiatrist, to assess you, then for the time it takes them to find a bed for you.  If you weren't crazy before we started, you will be by the end.
It took the tweet from the ACC to prompt serious attention on this subject despite the fact that Theresa May addressed the Police Federation on this subject in 2013.
I am sure the scores of agencies waiting to take these mentally ill patients off the police's hands, would fill an elevator.  It's not as if the NHS is feeling the effects of cuts on other agencies.  I am sure they won't mind finding a few more beds for depressed drunks who are suicidal for the few hours it takes them to sober up.
Maybe in some areas there is a robust system in place, but in Blandshire there is rarely a day when a mental health patient is not brought into custody.  The minimum wait to get an assessment done is about six hours, and sometimes the Mental Health Team simply refuse to come out, because from the description of the person over the phone, they don't think the person is mentally ill, even though the force doctor thinks they are.
Forgive me if I don't leap for joy that yet another politician is bandying around "pledges" on the subject.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Qu'est-ce que la liberte?

Charlie Hebdo will tomorrow publish three million pictures of the Prophet Mohammed, this time weeping.  Whether you consider this unwise, provocative, heroic or moving, there is a clear public desire to see the magazine rally in the face of utter destruction.
In the UK, the phone-hacking scandal instigated a real swing in opinion towards regulation of the press.  Cases of police taking bribes from journalists compounded the issue.  At the time, as an anonymous police blogger, I no longer felt sure there would be public support for my type of journalism.
Most of these people probably had no desire to insult people's religions. But they liked to know they could if they wanted to.
... I now feel ashamed to have feared for my job, when others are prepared to risk their lives in the name of freedom of speech.
Like it or not, the right to "bring the police service into disrepute" (not that I would ever do such a thing), is part of a free society.  Police chiefs who would discipline or fire officers who speak their minds, should read the words of cartoonist Luz and feel as ashamed as I.
That doesn't mean it's a good idea to use Twitter to verbally abuse the folks you police.  That's just rude, and the best satire should always be as polite as possible.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Trigger the Dail Mail Headline Policy Immediately

Chief Constable Lynne Owens: what an irresponsible woman.  This weekend, she has argued that the police cannot do everything, and that 20% cuts mean that we have to make a decision on what to prioritise.
I am staggered, and propose that Lynne Owens immediately be forced to resign by way of insidious Home Office campaign. 
When I joined the police, I fully accepted that most of my time would be spent searching for fourteen-year-olds whose parents sadly did not have time to search for them themselves.  To hold the hands of drunk people whose girlfriends had left them.  And to assist traumatised divorcees to de-friend their exes on Facebook.  I am appalled that this Chief Constable seeks to prevent me fulfilling my dream of becoming an official Stop-Gap while seriously ill mental health patients await assessment by more qualified staff.
No doubt, next, this crazed woman will suggest that you cannot maintain a fully staffed CID section under these kind of budgetary constraints, or that cuts will cause unpaid volunteers to start investigating crime and forensics.  Or even that scores of actual crimes may not be investigated at all if the severe austerity measures continue.
With these kind of Charlies in charge of our nation's police forces, however will commonsense prevail?




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Looking Back in Perturbation

This blog started in 2006 and had nearly 1.5 million readers before I stopped posting regularly in 2012.
When I look back, there are two themes in my last few posts, which did not occur to me at the time:
1. Freedom of speech was under attack from the Leveson enquiry.
2. Policewomen were being killed.
The feeling that I could be seriously harmed on the front-line, and then stuck on for writing about it, was too much.
But the events in France this week have moved me to write.  I set this blog up to give an insight into what it is like to be a female police officer in the Twenty-First Century. This meant talking about what it is like to be a police officer, and what it is like to be a woman.
When I started blogging, it was the Year of the Woman Police Officer.  There had never been more opportunities for females to join the police and surge their way up the ranks.  At the time, I thought it was just the beginning.  This was my earliest post about Equality. 
As a young female PC, all I wanted was to be treated the same as my male colleagues.  I honestly believed that women were on the up, and saw no ceiling to what I could achieve, if I wanted.  In fact, it drove me mad to see pregnant and part-time mothers being allowed to do whatever they wanted in terms of hours and duties, when I was breaking my back on the front-line.
More recently, in this Telegraph article about the deaths of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, I talked about how budget cuts had done for equality what feminist campaigning never could.
Now in 2015, I see those PCs' deaths as a kind of tipping point.  The conflagration of Winsor, budget cuts, and a lack of public stomach for seeing young women (more so than men) killed in the line of duty, has enabled forces to reduce and restrict the options for women year on year.  A fact they will most strenuously deny, and which I don't believe to be intentional.
Blandshire Constabulary has re-written its flexible and part-time working policy since I joined up.  I learn from colleagues in other forces that this is the same nationwide.  Now, if as a woman you want to be a dog handler, firearms officer, or sergeant (and above), it is almost impossible to start a family.  Returning to work as a mother and a sergeant, you are expected to fill a full-time 24/7 sergeant's role, and there are fewer and fewer options for those who cannot do so.
This is a complex situation.  Far too complex for one post on the matter. 
It is enough to say that policewomen are still being killed in the line of duty.  And freedom of speech has never been under more deadly threat.
The matters I wrote about eight years ago are not resolved.  And we should not stop writing about them.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Out Back

For anyone who stumbles into this disused box room during a spring clean of their favourites tab, I thought I'd out a short note of explanation on about my absence over the last year or so.  

I never took a decision to stop blogging, but it tailed off for various reasons.  Some personal - I became busier at home.  But also because of work. I started my blog to put across what it was like on the front line of Britain's police force. I did end up satirising performance culture, and bureaucracy, and the insidious world of senior policing.  But really my aim was to fly the flag for the front line bobby.  I never intended to keep blogging if I was no longer front-line, which is the case at the moment.  Although the role I do now is still police work, I am a lot less likely to be assaulted or vomited on. Well, by non-police officers anyway.

I believe that those who take the greatest risk have the most right to tell others what it's like out there.  I still fight daily fights for common sense in uniform, and I still have a lot to say about the world that politicians think we live in. I guess I've become a bit jaded when it comes to my ability to change anything - some of those we bloggers talked sense to 3-4 years ago are now the worst instigators of lunatic policy when it comes to the police. 

I will go back to the front-line, and I hope I come back to blogging. The archive will remain up for anyone who's interested, and to remind myself what I joined both my force, and, for.  Contrary to what a lot of people think, the two aren't mutually exclusive. 

For now, stay safe out there.

Sgt Ellie Bloggs

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Monday, December 24, 2012


It is impossible to over-state the disastrous consequences of Andrew Mitchell's innocent cycle ride towards the gates of Downing Street on 19th September.

On the one side, rank and file officers have a gut feeling that the Chief Whip called officers plebs.  The feeling was not helped by his refusal to say, in meetings with W.Midlands Police Federation, exactly what he did say if he was denying the word "plebs".

On the other side, the case has added to the public's gut feeling that the police are not to be trusted.  This strong feeling is not helped by the police officer who allegedly posed as an independent witness to the incident.

"Always a pleasure."

"Excuse me, did you say Pleb?!"

As an observer, some things should be obvious:
  • At the time officers filled out the police log of the incident, they were not intending to make an issue of the incident or publicise it. Therefore to assume it was fabricated is a bit far-fetched.
  • It took Mitchell three months to cough up a full account of the incident, which he only produced after seeing and publishing the CCTV.  Call me cynical, but "adverse inference" springs to mind.
  • Any police officer writing a phony email posing as someone he isn't, and diving head-first into a political firestorm, is a cretinous idiot.
For the Police Federation, it is a political catastrophe.  The Home Office already detests the police staff association, seen as belligerent, old-fashioned and as full of dastardly mystery as a Masonic lodge.  Reform of "the Fed" is now inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing for front line officers if it can be reformed quickly and from within, rather than handing the job over to those who are so suspicious of it.

Speaking personally, all I really want from the Federation is someone to represent me when I am treated unfairly or in the proverbial - whether through my own doing or someone else's.  This includes standing up for my pay and conditions, but it doesn't include political warfare on Government ministers.

The Federation sees the upcoming reform as an assault on the office of constable.  As a police officer, I agree.  As a member of the public, I want police officers to be signed up to a code of conduct on or off duty.  I want them to be experienced and skilled at all police matters.  I want them to have discretion to show compassion, and the integrity to put their foot down.  There is no doubt that under the Tom Winsor formula, a diverse police force representing the needs of society is under threat.

I'm just not so sure that this argument is one for the Federation.  And they risk losing the battle over pay and conditions while they are distracted by politics.

Apologies for the patchy nature of my blog this year - I've had a lot on!

Hopefully in 2013 I will find more time to devote to it.

Happy Christmas, if my readers are still out there.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Jack o' Night Tales

Oh what a tangled web has been woven by the Leveson Inquiry.

On the one hand, police blogger Nightjack has settled for damages of £42,500 from The Times, who exposed his identity, partly by way of hacking, in 2009.

On the other hand, prosecutions are becoming more common for those who offend and distress the public by posting what I like to term "brain vomit" on their Facebook and Twitter pages. In the latest two high profile murder cases, people have been arrested following sick and twisted posts online.  In less serioues cases, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has made clear that online "banter" is not a subject for prosecution.

The mainstream media has a complicated reaction to the private and social medias of blogging, Facebook and Twitter.  But more and more the standards applied to public media and the current restrictions on free speech in everyday life, are being applied to those using the internet.  Should it worry us public sector bloggers, or reassure us?  Most of us are committing only disciplinary offences (rather than criminal), at the most.  But what about comments we fail to remove, that cause widespread offence?  Or material that is used in ways we did not predict or permit?

As more and more prosecutions for public order or malicious communications occur, it will become clearer just what is and is not acceptable online.  In the meantime, hopefully the only offence this blog will cause is that caused by those perpetrating the folly highlighted here.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


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