This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. 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 (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The wonders of...

The Twenty-First Century is grand. Among the blessings of modern technology we find webcams, video-phones, state-of-the-art CCTV systems, Bluetooth, Wifi, face recognition, long-distance directional microphones, nanotechnology, high resolution scanners, digital cameras/phones, satellite navigation, PDAs, touch-screens... the essential tools for the modern police officer.

You would think.

Sadly, of the above list, I have used exactly zero as a useful part of any investigation. This is not because our victims aren't out there zealously collecting technological clues to the identity of their attacker. It is because of something called The Budget.

Here is how you play a DVD clip on your computer at home:
  • Load up the clip.
  • Surf the Net to find the software that will play it.
  • Download the software. FREE.
  • Play the clip.
Here is how you play a DVD clip on a Blandmore police computer:
  • Load up the clip.
  • Find it is incompatible with Windows 98 (as is everything).
  • Phone up IT and ask them what to do.
  • Fill in a form.
  • Submit the form online and by post. This is sufficient if you really can't work the fax machine.
  • Wait for two-three days while it receives Approval from the Budget-Meisters.
  • Not Approved.
  • Send the clip to Tech Services.
  • Wait three weeks.
  • Receive a VHS tape back from Tech Services.
  • Search the station for a video-recorder.
  • Locate one at last.
  • Search the station for a working television.
  • Locate one at last.
  • Play the clip.
  • Discover that all quality has been lost in the transfer from digital to video, and the offender is now just a pulsating ball of static.
To any company out there thinking of installing a top-notch security system with in-built burn-to-DVD capabilities, do us a favour: just stick in a VHS tape and hit Record.

Copyright of PC Bloggs.


Blogger Big Fella in Blue said...

AAAHHHHH, the digital age comes to policing or not as the current case is. Some of the local businesses have hard drives which captures excellent CCTV footage. I seize a burnt copy on CD thinking right now Ive got you! Then I find out IT Help say sorry we cant use that type we dont have the program. I go back to the business get them to burn on the program and go back to IT. Nope sorry the program wont work on our system!!!!!!
What a joke - annoyed and tired I just put into a statement exactly what i have seen and hope it goes through!!!!!

26 February, 2007 23:12

Blogger Noddy said...

We have the kit, but the Fiscal can only afford a VCR to play it in court, so guess what? I honestly could do better myself with a laptop with a dvout.

27 February, 2007 03:44

Blogger dickiebo said...

Blimey. This sounds like the equivalent of our lads in Iraq & Afghanistan with their useless/lack of, kit.
Surely to goodness, somewhere, somehow, there must be somebody lurking who has the balls of Churchill, and wants to be a politician! Pleeeeese!

27 February, 2007 10:56

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once offered a high quality digital portrait photograph of the offender on a floppy disc to the Wiltshire Constabulary so as they could share and all would know exactly who they were looking for but it was refused as they were not allowed to put other peoples discs in their computers even though virus scanning technology had long been invented, they left without a description.

27 February, 2007 10:59

Blogger busybizzie said...

Never has so much faith been placed in such a hopeless bit of kit.
A tip for people out there. Before you spend a small fortune on state of the art CCTV ask yourselves this question; Do I want to help the Police catch whoever just burgled my premises or do I want to stop them doing it in the first place?
If the answer is the latter forget CCTV and spend the money on locks, controlled entry and window bars.
If you answered the first, prepare to be very dissapointed.

27 February, 2007 11:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Windows 98? Jesus. I'm surprised you can get any work done for the system crashes and viruses.

27 February, 2007 13:26

Blogger ExtraSpecialCopper said...

You mean you can get hold of the dvd in the first place? Everytime I try to get some the person can never get it out, they have to wait for a manager to get it out once they are back off holiday in a week. Oh, and it gets overwritten by accident too.

27 February, 2007 16:21

Blogger PC South West said...

I hope you are kidding!!
The dreaded multiplex VHS tape system is an absolute nightmare. What is a reasonable image when you view the footage in the pub, club or shop is just a complete jumble of lines and snow when we try to decode it back at the nick.
Digital CCTV is so much better, one file per camera and none of this trying to get to the right part of the tape.
I know there are still some problems with getting the file to play on what is almost as bad as a ZX81, but it's good when it does play. Some of us are technophobes though are we not.

27 February, 2007 16:41

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another wonder of technology: the UK's endemic surveillance -[347]=x-347-545269&als[theme]=Privacy and Human Rights


27 February, 2007 17:02

Anonymous sleepy said...


27 February, 2007 19:46

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say your not alone....
We have a wonderfull system where if any images are recorded on disk by CCTV we have to
Place disk into computer (only one available...)
play disk to see images...
Set the VCR to record off the Computer monitor
Then record from the monitor whilst playing the disk.

talk about reverse engineering...

after all this you can just about make out what 'ethnic background' the suspect is...

27 February, 2007 20:35

Anonymous MJD Medals said...

I found that it was possible to view a DVD on my area however, only on one machine on the area - this involved a 20 mile trip to find that the machine was in an office that was locked - the only person 'authorised' to work the machine was not at work (only works Mon - Fri 8-4) - he was also the only person with the key to the office and the password for the machine. Resorted to driving back 20 miles then driving home, loading DVD clip into my machine and then e-mailing it in to work, driving back to work - good job we are only playing at this!

28 February, 2007 23:57

Anonymous technical person said...

It's sad but true.

Having seen this from the other side (working for a supplier of CCTV products\services), I can vouch for the fact that the digital revolution that's been going on in CCTV for the last 10 years has passed largely unnoticed by the Police. That said, there are significant variations between forces - not surprisingly, the larger city forces are probably the most up to date (relatively speaking).

The problem is standardisation, or rather the lack thereof - any given technology will be long obsolete by the time 43 police forces have actually agreed on which one it should be, so they've never bothered.

In fairness, though , it must be said that if a CCTV user were actually to ask at their local nick which format they would find most useful in the first place, *before* they have an incident, it might help things along a little...

01 March, 2007 02:17

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