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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Monday, August 13, 2007

Station Stereotypes: The Case Investigator

Whilst it may be hard to believe, a good proportion of calls to the police actually relate to crimes. These calls are mixed in amongst the far more important reports of children, footballs, dogs and neighbours, and detract from the good work police officers are doing to tackle these scourges.

So the more minor crimes, such as bilkings (making off without paying for fuel), shopliftings where no one's been caught, credit card frauds and thefts by employees, are sent not to uniformed patrol officers, but to the Crime Desk, to Maria.






This is not Maria





The Crime Desk is a jolly place where people take calls from people who take calls from Mops (Members of the Public).

Gone are the days of police officers wasting their time on these investigations. Maria will single-handedly process a dozen of such crimes each week: she sends out proforma witness statements for completion by the victims, she receives CCTV and burns off pictures of the offenders, she carries out phone subscriber enquiries, bank account checks, police national computer queries. She is a multi-tasking diva, even finding time to forward cheeky emails about the state of Sergeant Steelbutt's behind.

Eventually, many of these investigations uncover named offenders. Unfazed by this awkward turn of events, Maria will generate a mound of paper over the next few weeks including witness statements, exhibits, CCTV, photographs etc, and bind all of these into a bright orange envelope. It may sound far-fetched, but on the Crime Desk, they have an unending supply of elastic bands and even treasury tags, and safely ensconced in both the orange package will be inserted neatly into the internal mail.

PC Bloggs will receive the parcel gratefully, delighted to see that all she need do is run out and arrest the named person, with all enquiries done ready for a criminal prosecution. If she has time, PC Bloggs might even send a thankful email to Maria, making sure to point out that whilst Sergeant Steelbutt's behind is nice and everything, Inspector Shagabout has much tighter trousers.

On her next night shift, PC Bloggs will turn up at said offender's doorstep and march him into custody with the proud feeling of someone about to gain a detection for her force. Five hours later, the prisoner is released from custody with no charge when the CPS point out that:
  • The exhibits are numbered incorrectly and have been lost in the property store.
  • The CCTV stills of the offender are blurred, do not show the offence and the date is wrong.
  • Two of the witnesses have not signed their statements.
  • There is no evidence that the person arrested had anything to do with the crime.
  • There is no evidence that a criminal offence has actually taken place.








A better use for Maria's mound of paper



Maybe it should be possible to investigate crime from behind a desk. Maybe it's the rules about exhibit-numbering, identification, CCTV and evidence that need changing.

Maybe until they do, Maria would be better off being trained up as an actual police officer. Until then, at least you know who to call if you have a question about someone's bum.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright of PC Bloggs.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Rod said...

Good piece, Bloggs.

"There is no evidence that a criminal offence has actually taken place."

Am I wrong in the knowledge that the arresting officer is obliged to ensure that an offence has been committed (especially by the arrestee) before making such arrest?

Otherwise it is unlawful.

14 August, 2007 13:22

 
Anonymous Dray said...

Think it's fair to say Rod, that the officer makes an arrest based on the evidence, and the CPS express an opinion based on the evidence.

I have no idea how I managed to say that politely... (twitch)

14 August, 2007 18:57

 
Anonymous rod said...

Sorry if I appear impolite, dray, but that appears to be nonsensical semantics.

The CPS follow evidential guidelines which are available to Police officers who should follow them.

If there is no evidence of a crime before the CPS then there cannot be any before the officer. If there is no evidence that the arrestee was involved before the CPS then there cannot be any before the officer.

My question has not been answered.

Is not the arresting officer obliged to ascertain that the arrest is evidenced, warranted and lawful?

Do not feel obliged to be polite to me. If you know the answer please give it.

14 August, 2007 20:32

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try 'reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has taken place' and interpret it whichever way you will.

14 August, 2007 21:04

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and you can arrest in order to gain evidence ie by interview, forensics etc etc so in the wording, no, you have to have 'evidence' of the offence or of the guilt of an offender.

14 August, 2007 21:06

 
Anonymous Dray said...

Fair question. But your assuming a top down structure.

"The CPS follow evidential guidelines which are available to Police officers who should follow them."

Officers are front line. Not CPS.

CPS are the morning after.....ish ;)

14 August, 2007 21:15

 
Anonymous rod said...

Anonymous - Thank you but I am further confused. Is this what the Police rely on?

My view:

No evidence of offence = unlawful arrest

Evidence of offence but no evidence that arrestee is implicated = unlawful arrest

Yes or No?

Is it the responsibility of the arresting officer?

Yes or No?

14 August, 2007 21:24

 
Anonymous rod said...

dray

I do not assume a top down structure, I only assume a lawful structure. There are guidelines for arrest, are there not?

One of them must be that a crime has been (or will be) committed and another that there is a bona fide suspect.

14 August, 2007 21:32

 
Anonymous rod said...

Otherwise, guys, if a murder takes place in Blandshire the entire population can be arrested to "gain evidence and forensics" etc.

14 August, 2007 21:39

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rod, example: a car spins out of control and crashes. A guy is seen to sprint from the driver's seat and leg it into a bush.

Police attend and catch the guy in the bush. There must be a reason why he did a runner. Police "suspect" the car is stolen, even though the owner might be asleep in bed and hasn't reported it yet. They "suspect" the driver has stolen it. They arrest him on suspicion of stealing the car.

Enquiries establish that the driver is the owner of the car. Later following interview, the driver admits that he had half a lager earlier and thought he might be over the limit. He isn't. Case closed.

Sometimes you suspect an offence until the interview clarifies things, or further enquiries following arrest do.

14 August, 2007 23:48

 
Anonymous rod said...

Anonymous

A convenient and quite understandable example. The guy acted suspiciously. He asked for it and the Police had reasonable suspicion that a crime may have been committed.

PC Bloggs is handed a file (not in the heat of battle) that shows no crime and that there is no evidence that the arrestee is involved (according to CPS who can't or shouldn't think any differently from a PC or vice versa).

This is not a case of heat of the moment. She has been handed a bummer and should question it as it is on her that the onus of an unlawful arrest lies.

Am I right that the onus is on her? That is all I want to know.

Maybe Bloggs can tell me what the rules of engagement are. My understanding is that a lawful arrest lies with the person who is doing the arresting not the person sending them on the errand.

15 August, 2007 00:11

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

The point is that all the file will tell me is that we suspect an offence has been committed and we suspect this guy's done it. If I don't make the arrest, we'll definitely never get a prosecution. Most likely, an offence has happened and he did do it.

The CPS have their own standard of deciding if an offence has happened however. Namely, that unless there's CCTV and five witnesses, it didn't happen.

I'm not going to stop arresting people just because they haven't done anything, thank you very much!

15 August, 2007 00:26

 
Anonymous rod said...

PC Bloggs -

I find your final paragraph alarming and depressing.

You either face a large number of unlawful arrest suits or specialise in arresting only the illiterate innocents "who haven't done anything".

15 August, 2007 10:06

 
Anonymous carl said...

i think bloggs is being ironic, rod (at least, i hope she is).
in the good old days, we had discretion and police officers could choose whether to arrest. now it's paint by numbers.

15 August, 2007 10:18

 
Anonymous rod said...

Who is printing the numbers?

And what about Article 5 - Human Rights Act.

15 August, 2007 13:59

 
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