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.

(All proceeds from Google Ads will be donated to the Police Roll of Honour Trust)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Accounts and Accountability

A lot of police blogs talk about Accountability. This phrase is often mis-translated to suggest that we think the public should have a say over how their local police force is run. This - of course - would be a disaster.

In fact, it is widely accepted that Accountability really refers to police chiefs being accountable to the Home Office. The Home Office is run by people who have never been burgled, do not live on streets with the likes of Adam Swellings, and who think groceries cost £20/week. This enables them to be objective about crime and to fully understand the need for "performance analyses" and "strategic priorities".

When I first read that patients are to have a say in how their local NHS services are run, I thought someone had taken Accountability to a ludicrous extreme. Fortunately, I am pleased to discover that patients will come to their conclusion based on a series of indicators decided by the government, thereby keeping the ultimate rating safely in the hands of the people who know best. That way, hospitals based in the most deprived areas, with the worst health records, who are swamped with the sick and injured and who can't afford to pay enough staff to treat them, can get the cut in funding they deserve.

I soon hope to see Mops* able to rate their local police forces based on ratings handed out by the Home Office. If they feel they are getting a poor service, they should soon see a reduction in the funding of the force that has let them down. This will solve the problem overnight, as police forces will soon realise that they should put all their efforts and budget into gaining a good rating according to these guidelines, rather than wasting it all fighting crime.

*Mops = Members of the Public
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in all good bookstores and online.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Version 1
The Evidence: I've applied for a job four times and been unsuccessful. Others have only applied twice and succeeded.

The Conclusion: It's racism.

Version 2
The Evidence: This bloke keeps applying for a job and failing. Other more suitable applicants have been given the job.

The Conclusion: He's not right for the job.

Then again...

Version 1
The Evidence: My force accidentally shot an innocent bloke. No one was found to be personally responsible for it. We had to pay a fine, but now it's all forgotten.
The Conclusion: It's not my fault, I'm still a good leader, and there's no point persecuting someone just because they happened to be at the helm and steering the wrong way when the ship hit the iceberg.

Version 2
The Evidence: The Metropolitan Police cocked up in trailing and shooting a bloke with zero evidence he was connected to terrorism. Formal court proceedings found them guilty of breaching Health and Safety laws. Sir Ian Blair was in charge when it all happened.

The Conclusion: It doesn't matter how many people you kill in the name of systemic failures, what's more important is who you let into your boys' club.

If I were Sir Ian Blair, I would right now be putting all my retirement dosh in a far away, offshore Cayman account where no one can touch it.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drastic British sanctions for terror regime!

Robert Mugabe is no doubt tonight considering the error of his ways now that the British have struck out at him in the only way they know how:

He has been stripped of his knighthood and next year's cricket tour is cancelled.

That'll learn 'im!

Still, I take comfort from the fact that just three weeks ago, Gordon Brown rejected calls to revoke Mugabe's knighthood. I wonder just who is running this country right now. Her? Or him?

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

The R Word

The police take accusations of RACISM very seriously. Never more seriously than when the accusation is levelled at the police themselves. In fact, in Blandshire Constabulary we have several people whose sole job is to deal with complaints of racism.

Here is a quick guide as to what you can expect when you phone in your complaint that the cop who arrested you last night was RACIST:
  • An inspector round to your house to take a written complaint.
  • A Detective Inspector allocated to the investigation.
  • The DI will dig around and produce an assortment of police officers of varying ranks to be included in the investigation, whether or not they were the subject of your complaint. If possible, this selection will include a non-white officer, because they can be RACIST too.
  • Formal notices will go out to each officer concerned to let them know they are under investigation. Until this is resolved, they won't be able to transfer forces, so they can't escape retribution that way.
  • Evidence will be gathered to show that the officers are RACIST, preferably including records of previous cases where someone involved was not white.
  • Each officer will be interviewed formally and accused of RACISM. They will also be accused of UNWITTING RACISM.
  • Each officer will deny RACISM or UNWITTING RACISM.
  • The DI will personally update you of the results of the investigation. This will usually be that they have uncovered some mistakes and incompetence, but cannot prove any RACISM whatsoever. But they have a big pack of paper to prove that they took RACISM very seriously.
  • You will go away none-the-wiser, but feeling greatly encouraged that you have certainly upset a lot of people.
In case you are wondering how this differs from the process used to deal with incompetence, particularly among sergeants and above, here is that process:
  • Several people notice that a particular sergeant/inspector or above is particularly incompetent.
  • Their mistakes are discussed at great length.
  • A lot of people moan and bicker about them.
  • The sergeant/inspector is promoted.
  • Finally the sergeant/inspector does something so unbelievably stupid that somebody dies.
  • Another sergeant/inspector who had nothing to do with the incident resigns.
As you can see, our processes for dealing with both RACISM and INCOMPETENCE are highly robust.

I know that there are racist coppers. I haven't met any, or known I was meeting them. There are also numerous incompetent and lazy coppers. They don't hide it as well.

Either way, I can guarantee you that nothing taught to us in training, handed down to us by supervisors, or demonstrated to us in disciplinary proceedings, has any noticeable effect on any of it.

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

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sorry isn't good enough:

My post on killer drivers a few days ago prompted a clash of views. Some people strongly feel that if you make a mistake whilst driving and someone dies as a result, you should be jailed for a considerable time. This seems to hold true regardless of whether or not there was any negligence involved.

This view reflects the fact that in the Twenty-First Century it is unacceptable to make a mistake. Boris Johnson's aide, James McGrath, has had to quit this week after responding to a question on black immigrants leaving the country (to escape the new London Mayor), with the words: "Let them go if they don't like it here". Everyone accepts that James McGrath "is not a racist", however his comment is, apparently, unforgivable and he can therefore no longer do his job.

Since becoming a police officer, I've said one or two stupid things, and done one or two inexperienced things, that have led to justifiable complaints. I've also said quite a lot and done quite a lot of perfectly brilliant things which have also led to complaints. (Not all members of the public appreciate my sense of humour.) In all the complaints, regardless of how justified they were, I was told not to contact the complainant but to let my inspector or Professional Standards investigate it. The message is that even if you are keen to apologise, "sorry" will probably not be good enough and you will just make things worse.

In two cases, I ignored my instructions and phoned the complainant directly to apologise. Both times they were exceedingly gracious, thanked me for the apology and dropped the complaint.

We are scared to say sorry nowadays, in case it's used against us later, or in case it doesn't work. But sometimes, sorry isn't just good enough. Sometimes it's everything.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Part One of My Minister's Guide

After a long absence, it is time to welcome the return of my Twenty-First Century Guide to Policing. Today, I am looking at the job of Police Minister. To the outsider, it might seem like a pretty tough role, to balance the needs of communities, the economy and businesses against the personal needs of police officers. In fact, an idiot could do it, if you just follow my ten golden rules:
  1. Make sure you develop a strong background in political science, political theory, and railways.
  2. The police need a solid figure who will keep his role no matter how much he cocks up, so don't be afraid to abandon all your beliefs in favour of kissing butt.
  3. Once you've decided what you stand for, say anything to promote it. You are the Minister for Police, so if you need to back-track later, no one will remember what you said.
  4. Stay out of thorny issues like police pay. That is not a matter for the Police Minister to be concerned with.
  5. Make sure to dispense expert advice on front-line police matters.
  6. It is not wrong to spread terror and dread if in your heart of hearts you know Gordon Brown is right.
  7. There's no point spending money on things that help the police do their job better, because the savings won't be seen until the next government is in.
  8. Never be afraid to attack the Opposition for expounding ideas you said you once promoted.
  9. No matter how rubbish you are, you will never be fired, because no one actually knows who you are or what you do.
  10. Never forget that police officers ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. You are only doing your job properly if they all hate you.

PS I apologise for the rather spiteful tone of this post. I promise to revert soon to the more important matter of Gadget's hair.

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

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Power of the Strike

Hauliers have won a 14% pay rise, putting them on about £9000 more than the average PC on my team. I work between 35-65 hours per week before overtime, am run ragged between jobs on a team with half the number of staff it should have, face confrontation, gore and exhaustion on a daily basis, with a high likelihood of getting assaulted more than once in a year.

Lorry drivers sit behind a steering wheel and eat crisps.

What would the police get if we threatened industrial action in a serious way?

Probably prosecuted.

But then again, Blandshire Constabulary didn't declare a profit of £13.9 billion last year. Apparently there is "no business case" for a generous pay award for the police. Which is great, because clearly the police is no business.

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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Them Killer Drivers

Once again, travesty as a MURDERER receives just a £2500 fine. I am sure Brake will have something to say about the driver of a dustcart who caused fatal injuries running over an old lady and today walked free from court. When will people realise that all traffic trials should be presided over by a panel of people each of whom has had a relatives killed in a car crash?

The anti-motoring lobby had been on the up until this point. Recently we saw the introduction of the offence of Death by Careless Driving, whereby those savage sadists who maliciously forget to check their blind spot can finally get their comeuppance. Therefore today's sentence is a slap in the face for those brave souls who have campaigned tirelessly to make it compulsory for drivers to wear prominent armbands displaying a skull and crossbones at all times.

The world will not be safe until we stamp out the scourge that is DRIVING altogether!

For some reason, when I enforce speeding like this, I don't get the response "Haven't you got anything better to do?"

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life, the Universe and...

There are various degrees of belief in the 42 day detention of terrorists.

Chief Constables appear in favour of 90 days' detention without charge.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith campaigned for the 42 days which was passed in Parliament last week. But now it's been passed, she will probably back-date it to 30.

The Tories are against it. But only because Gordon Brown wants it.

John Major thinks it will make things worse.

And David Davis is so upset by it he's resigned.

I wonder, after all of this palaver, how many terrorists will actually be detained for the full 42 days before charge. Let's not forget that it has to be extended periodically by a magistrate up to this period, the police cannot just throw away the key. I have never worked on a terrorism investigation, but I somehow suspect a lot of the evidence is gathered before an arrest is ever made, and that the police have a fairly good idea where they plan to look once the offender is in custody. At this stage, either the evidence is found or not, and if not, I imagine it could take far longer than 42 days to find it. Let's not forget the instances where police have been wrong - perhaps it was all for the best in those cases that they had some pressure to prove or disprove their case quickly.

There are countries in the world where you can detain terrorism suspects indefinitely with no legal advice, no evidence, and no charges ever being laid. I am not sure I want to live in one of those countries.

The great answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is not 42.

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

Monday, June 16, 2008

Treading Water

At 5 Grove Road is a man with a knife who's about to stab his wife. We know this, because he dialled 999 and told us so. After he stabs her, he's going to stab his son, then his daughter. And then he's going to kill the first cop who comes through the door. At the moment, that's likely to be me. I am therefore waiting at a distance that cannot possibly be misconstrued as coming through anything, waiting for units with taser to arrive and electro-shock the man to his sense.

It's Friday night in Blandmore, and while the man at Grove Road considers his options, a thirteen-year-old robber fresh out of custody climbs the stairs of a multi-storey car park and stands on the edge of the top level waiting to be noticed.

There's disorder brewing in the town centre. The 24hr newsagent has been serving out of hours again and the teenagers are gathering outside it and scuffling with each other. We've had five or six calls, but every time we go down there the kids are "fine". The inspector is deciding whether or not to shut the place down.

Three miles from where I sit drumming my fingers on the dashboard of my panda, a young wife deliberately writes out a final farewell to her husband, leaves it on the doormat and goes out without her coat or inhaler.

Finally the armed unit arrives and 5 Grove Road is surrounded, insofar as one officer can actually "surround" anything. Negotiators are called. Tactical decisions are laid out on the table. Some will result in the deaths of innocent people. Some will bring glory to a brave armed officer. Almost all of them will result in PC Bloggs sitting alone in the dark for a further nine hours.

At the car park, Kyle Rodgers gets bored of waiting to be noticed, and phones his mum to tell her he's about to jump.

In town, the kids start offering cannabis to passers-by.

The negotiators have Mr Kidson on the phone. They establish his basic needs: the deaths of everyone he knows, followed by his own.

Three miles away, a young husband comes home and begins a frantic search. He calls the police, but without knowing whether his wife is "high" or "medium" risk, the police aren't sure how quickly to attend. They set off slowly and are diverted to a report of a teenager standing on the edge of a multi-storey car park.

Mr Kidson decides that if he only had some cigarettes, he might not need to kill anyone.

The newsagent reports that two younger teenagers have just had their mobile phones snatched outside. The inspector gets on the phone to the chief inspector. If they shut down the newsagent, the press won't be good. If more kids get robbed, the press won't be good. It's a toughie. The inspector doesn't feel that there are enough police officers in Blandmore on a Friday night. The chief inspector is adamant that Something Is Being Done About It.

Hours pass. Laws are made and broken.

Mr Kidson stops cooperating with the negotiators. Armed units sneak into the house and taser him where he sits quietly in an armchair. He'd fallen asleep mid-negotiation and his knife-hand dropped to the floor as the armed officers entered, making them think he was about to slash himself.

In town, thirty teenagers slope off home and make plans to meet back there the following night. The inspector gets to the scene with closure order in hand, and wonders what all the fuss was about.

For another eight hours, officers plead with Kyle Rodgers to come down from the multi-storey.

In the meantime, somewhere by a river, a young wife slides off her shoes and slips down the bank into the dark cold depths. She doesn't tread water, and she sinks.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Child Revisited:

Blandmore is in the throes of a Non-Festive week at the moment (these are the worst kinds of week and take place for 70% of the year), consequently I am too tired to post anything new.

Here is "The Child Who Wastes Police Time", from August last year.

Danny is eleven. He's a scrawny kid, with an unflattering home-made haircut and clothes that are too big.

Right now, he's sitting on a bench outside a parade of shops in the Porle, the nether region of Blandmore. I spot him under a flickering streetlight, the orange glow lighting up the shadows under his eyes.

It so happens that Danny is a Misper - a Missing Person. He ran out of his foster carer's home at 6pm and we've twice been passed a description of him over the radio, which is how I know to park up and approach him. I should mention that I have a knack for locating Mispers. This is not to suggest I have any kind of special skills, nor that I try any harder than anyone else to find them. I just do.

It is clear within two minutes that Danny has no intention of getting into my police car and going back to his carer's house. He is quite happy sitting on the bench, making shadow animals on the floor between his feet. I suppose, technically, I have the power to forcibly drag Danny to the car, in handcuffs if need be, and take him somewhere safe. Instead, I turn down my radio and sit down beside him.

After five minutes of silence, Danny tells me that he hates his foster carer. He hates his new curfew, the rules about supper-time, not being allowed to slam his door or swear. He hates not being able to ride his bike in the street, because it's been confiscated to stop him running away on it. He hates being at a different school to all his friends, and he hates being told he can't take the train to London to see them. He hates that he sees his mother less than once a month, and he hates that when he does, that fat woman from Social Services is always sitting in the corner making notes.

For ten years, Danny's only rule was to keep well away from a series of his mother's boyfriends, and to call 999 when she put a needle in her arm and started turning blue.

Danny agrees to come to the nick, where I tell him that he's only eleven, and when he's an adult he can choose where to live and how often to see his mother, and can ride his bike anywhere he wants. He and I both know that's a long, long time, and by then he will be in and out of the probation service for fighting, swearing and stealing.

I help Danny write a letter to Social Services and show him how to use our fax machine to send it - no mean feat. Then I drop him back to his temporary home and the carer greets him with a shrug and the words, "There's some cheese in the fridge." I follow up the fax with an email telling Social Services that the carer's home is clean and warm, Danny has his own room and appears to be looked after. After some thought, I add that he's depressed and lonely. I feel like a real hero for that bit.

The fat social worker did read Danny's letter, and I heard he got moved to a new foster carer, just around the corner from the last. He still goes missing from time to time, but I haven't yet found him back on that bench, and I haven't yet arrested him either.

I don't know if he remembers me.

Copyright of PC Bloggs.

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

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Ten Thousand Leagues

I was discussing league tables this week. Technically, hospitals and police forces aren't put into league tables. But they are given scores which means anyone with an abacus can work out which hospital/force is bottom/top.

It seems to me that the purpose of a league table is for people to make an informed choice, based on it, which provider to use for whatever service is offered. So with schools, parents can apply to a better one based on the table.

I think it is only fair if the same is applied to hospitals and police forces. On dialling 999, the caller should be immediately asked to name their first three preferences of service provider. No matter that they might have been taken ill in Tunbridge Wells, they should be allowed to demand an ambulance to take them to Barnsley. Likewise a member of public who gets robbed in Slough should have the choice of giving his statement to the police in Lancaster. In this way, under-performing hospitals and forces would soon find little business coming their way, and would therefore be unable to meet any of their targets whatsoever. Which would help.

I know, I know, you're wondering what a brain like mine is doing trapped inside a response officer's body.

Don't worry, I'm sure they'll promote me any day.

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

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Holiday Blues and Twos

Bank Holiday in Blandmore.

Ducks on the river, lemonade in the park, family lunches, picnic knives and forks, red cheeks and children skipping. Long cool evenings and a stroll home. Teenaged lovers texting each other, holding hands, kissing under the trees. Fairground rides and volleyball. Pimms.

Beer. Punch-ups with bouncers and stealing cars. Teenagers shagging in the woods, Facebooking death threats to the girl with glasses. Long nights of drinking and a stagger home, no cab money, no address. Children stamping on younger children, nicking their mobiles. Lock-knives and knuckle-dusters, and dragging drunk girls into alleys. Families fighting, death in the park. Cops combing the river.

Tuesday morning. Coffees and elaborate epaulettes. Strategies, priorities, pipelines. A long day of planning and a BMW home. Crime rates, incidents of note, targets and spreadsheets. Litanies of last night's errors. Stamping on sergeants and emailing job threats to PCs. Laughing about a funny thing that happened to the tasking database. No blue lights. No knives or knuckle-dusters.

Bank Holiday in Blandmore?

It depends who you are.

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

Monday, June 02, 2008

Police "try" common-sense

A pilot scheme is taking place in Surrey, Leicestershire, West Midlands and Staffordshire, whereby officers will be permitted to use 5% of their brainpower when attending incidents. Until now, officers have relied on government targets and local policy to make decisions, but in a radical move, they will now be expected to think AND act at the same time.

Critics have labelled the scheme as "hare-brained" and say it is just a new fad that will pass. Others fear that it signals an insidious shift in the minds of Chief Constables, away from the statistics that keep us safe in our homes and towards a new, desperate age of commonsense and rationality.

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


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