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, 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.

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

15 Comments:

OpenID inspectorgadget said...

I usually start my conversations with members of the public who have had a HIDEOUSLY BAD SERVICE from us with the following phrase:

"I'm really sorry but at the moment Ruralshire Constabulary couldn't organise a piss-up. Let me sort it out for you"

You would be amazed how many say "Oh, OK then. Thanks" Some of them say "I work for so-and-so and that's a complete FUBAR too!"

Only those who have never had to actually produce anything themselves are difficult.

23 June, 2008 19:29

 
Anonymous XTP said...

Once or twice [:-)] I had complaints in from decent people who I may have been a bit rude to - first thing in the morning, long day etc. You all know how it is. I would have been quite happy for the governor to have apologised on my behalf and have it left at that. But I've always felt that the DPS are looking for any little thing to trip us up and sack us! I know that's over the top but that's how it's perceived.

Fortch, at the mo, I have a good boss who has boshed off the only complaint I've had in the last 12 months. It was from some evil poor (Copyright NJ) mouthbreather and was (I promise) completely groundless. I can well imagine less-strong inspectors not having the courage to deal with it this way, though.

23 June, 2008 19:44

 
Blogger uncommon said...

"sometimes, sorry isn't just good enough. Sometimes it's everything."

Ellie,

Smack on: IG is clearly on the money too. Mind you: he's wearing a white shirt: he should apologise: all day, every day:)

I can't tell you how many times I've heartily apologised: even if I didn't quite foul up terribly, but things did: and after I said sorry...things got better.

An apology disarms the other side: usually....

Not just at work:)


brendan

23 June, 2008 20:07

 
Blogger Bystander said...

You are dead right about the blame culture and the thirst for vengeance when someone has made a simple mistake. Can anyone think of any offence other than Death by Careless where you can get 5 years for a human error?

23 June, 2008 20:21

 
Anonymous Dangerous said...

I've always beleived that the principle of "Sorry, I was wrong/out of order" was the very best answer.
Funnily enough the only times I have doubted this principle have been since I started working for the Police!!

23 June, 2008 20:29

 
Blogger uncommon said...

"the only times I have doubted this principle have been since I started working for the Police!"

Dangerous,

Would you care to say why that might be?

Not interrogating: just wondering if the world out there has changed since my dinosaur days.





brendan

23 June, 2008 20:36

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""Some of them say "I work for so-and-so and that's a complete FUBAR too""
I got a load of grief off some bloke who had been waiting 4 days to see the cops. When I asked him what job he did and he said "project manager for the nhs" I knew I was on a winner.

"You know what its like , working for a government controlled, micro-managed organisation with an unhealthy interest in collecting statistics, an over zealous pre-occupation with "diversity issues", and a obsession with trivia and paperwork at the expense of helping people and getting the job done."

"Fair enough mate - good point" was the reply.

23 June, 2008 22:59

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, admitting the problem, and saying sorry is both honest often works well. What doesn't often work is trying to weasel your way out of things. When will politicians learn eh!

24 June, 2008 22:08

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, when will politicians learn!

The two DC's from GMP did apologise to me, on behalf of the force, for the abuse done to me as a child by one of theirs, my godfather. It was sincere at the time and it did make me feel a little bit better. But as you quite rightly say, "Sorry" just isn't enough. And they didn't have the full story at the time.

Read the latest comment on "One persons word", and you decide if "Sorry" is enough.
I don't think so.

VERITAS

25 June, 2008 02:53

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Veritas - shocking no doubt.

But can the Police apologise for something committed by "one of theirs" out of duty time.

And is this what this article is about?

I hope the man went through the courts and I for one wouldn't back him up - however the article is more about on duty failings rather than criminal acts by a copper off duty.

25 June, 2008 07:00

 
Anonymous spanishinquistion said...

The Morris enquiry, and its spawn, the latest Police regulations, currently working its way through parliament, are supposed to address this issue.

It recommends resolving matters locally without reference to PSD or even Inspectors.

The IPCC bogged down with loons has seen the light and is recommending more and quicker local resolution, even if it’s dressed up as “finding the learning “and “identifying the training need”

80-90 % of complaints are unsubstantiated; why should anyone say sorry if there is nothing to say sorry for?

Unnecessary apologising may mollify complainants in very low incidents, and you can baffle with a bit of bull if you like.

However, any robust institution, happy with its performance, should not be afraid to say no, and mean it.

The illusion of a win-win solution is a sham, Life’s not like that; it just creates a middling soup, and emboldens others to excuse all their own poor behaviour.

You wouldn't do it for you children

Why do it for adults?

25 June, 2008 10:10

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7.00

No the "man" did not go through the courts. He, along with his pervert mates were given an army "beasting". He abused and killed little girls, by raping them, on and off duty. Nothing was done in the 1950's because the paedophile ring were "men" of rank and members of the judiciary.

And YES the police could apologise, put the records straight and PAY ME as promised, for job done.

Veritas

26 June, 2008 00:58

 
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