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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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beasting or Bullying

Three soldiers have been cleared of manslaughter following a "beasting" session that led to a private's death.

But the judge, Mr Justice Royce, criticised the beasting, and also asked the jury to consider whether three non-commissioned officers had been put in the dock as scapegoats in place of Captain Mark Davis, who had apparently authorised the whole thing. In fact, I think he used the phrase "hung out to dry". Not trying to put words in the jury's mouth then...

This case all centres around whether subjecting someone to punishment that may be humiliating or physically difficult is a valid technique of training, or is just bullying. When I went to training school, we still had to parade on our "passing-out" day. This meant we had to practice drill, marching up and down like toy soldiers, on a regular basis. I HATED drill. I was also useless at it. For some reason, my arms and legs like to go the same side at the same time. Which is weird, because they don't do that when I run, or at any other time. I frequently got told off for my appalling "drilling" and had to go out on my own and march about with an ex-army guy yelling at me. I HATED this more than the normal marching.

My attempts at marching in the style of the Korean police did not go down any better.

However, I found the rest of training school fairly easy. The law and the role-plays were no problem, I didn't mind the rubbish accommodation or being away from home. Other people hated these with the vengeance I hated drill.

From one perspective, I was bullied, because I was rubbish at drill. From another, so was the guy in the class who regularly got under 25% in his law exams and had to re-take them in five weeks. (Getting under 25% in a four-way multiple choice test is quite some feat, by the way.) He probably felt about as stupid taking exams as I felt marching about with my arms and legs stuck together.

When does this turn from training into bullying? When the subject starts to cry? When they quit? When they collapse and die of an aneurism? When they kill themselves or someone else?

In today's climate of Equal Opportunities and Employment Regulations, drill has been dropped from police training because it isn't required as part of their role. It therefore couldn't be "justified" as a training requirement.

When I'm out on the street, and people who've never met me are calling me a "dirty slag", spitting in my face and waiting for an opportunity to jam a broken beer bottle into my throat, will I perhaps be better for those hours spent trotting about like a fool on a frozen parade square? If I can't take an ex-army guy yelling at me, how am I going to take that? In what way does 12 weeks classroom-based law training, visiting community centres, mosques and hospitals, wearing civilian clothes and doing every practical police exercise in a "controlled environment", prepare our new police officers for the job they are actually going to do?

But of course, in the twenty-first century, nobody is nasty to the police any more.

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


Blogger Dougal said...

Re:Nobody is nasty to the Police - Typical scumbag behaviour in any town on any given night (more frequent at weekends I would guess).

1) Political correctness needs to be killed at source
2) The gloves need to come off when dealing with scum like this

01 August, 2008 02:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

... people are nasty to you and you deserve it too

01 August, 2008 02:29

Blogger AngryDave said...

The Trolls have landed!
Nobody deserves to be assaulted while doing their job, and more importantly while doing the right thing.
As far as beasting is concerned, there needs to be something in the training to weed out the weak ones who will find the real thing much harder. We need our Soldiers and Police officers to be fairly tough to do the job that they have to do.
It is a shame in fact that many forces no longer do any practical training or exams, and trainees spend their days looking at powerpoint presentations and writting essays about them.

01 August, 2008 08:05

Anonymous bmez said...

While drill isn't the most useful stuff one can learn, there is something about the experience of being able to force oneself to learn something that doesn't appear valuable at the time.

It gives some insight to whether or not the candidate (or student) has or lacks stamina.

You obviously passed it as you didn't falter or quit when forced to focus on something you hated in the first place (and was rather bad at?).

Stamina is a good quality in workers (not just police) but really hard to ascertain without actually "trying it out".

01 August, 2008 08:57

Blogger uniform said...

The point of drill training is to see if a largish group can work in unison, when asked to.

Is that a requirement for modern policing? Would be if there were large scale national riots, with lots of lovely OT.

Bloggs you were tick- tocking; walking whilst swinging your arms isn't the greatest feat of dexterity known to man, but can get some of the finest minds the pressure to perform messes with some peoples minds. I suppose it’s like those that can bowl at cricket , or those who chuck down a dolly, quite a lot actually.

I once played a rough game when the star player said at half time; “give me the fucking ball I’m the sheep; you’re all goats “ all very biblical , anyway he had it thrashed at him from all angles , proved himself right by the way .

The world does sometimes delineate into those who can and those who can’t, it’s called weeding out and perfectly natural, but is it bullying?

Serves you right anyway for being the class swot.

The army needs to break down to build back up , very sad thing the death in this story , not helped by him being a social user of class A drugs .

Are Gordon Ramsay or Alan Sugar bullies for demanding excellence in the workplace?

01 August, 2008 09:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see any common ground between extra drilling lessons and that 'beasting', not in practice nor in principle. To suggest any similarity is absurd -- the late soldier had been placed in danger by being subjected to extreme condition by people who are obviously untrained to do so. The fact that their CO has ordered it, and did not face any consequence is infuriating. Some leader of Men he turned out to be.

01 August, 2008 13:12

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

The problem is that nowadays police training does not prepare recruits for the nasty side of police work nor prepare them for the fact that they are entering a job that is unique and that you need to be on duty ready to go as soon as you walk through the door.Whilst I would not advocate a total return to the Eynsham Hall of the seventies having nasty rough training Sgts giving recruits a hard time helps to prepare them for the big bad world out there when you are under pressure 24/7 by helping you to keep your temper.And I was crap at drill but what a sense of achievement when I finally cracked it-the two broom handles method worked for me-I will leave you to work it out for yourself.And regular inspections made sure we looked the part-not like the scruffbags I see today.

01 August, 2008 14:38

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankfully our force still do marching and parades, and standards are set high. We also get told we are too soft and to start switching on otherwise we will get turned over out on the streets, which is refreshing after being in the land of fairies for two years as a pcso and going through the application process. It's slightly darker over this side of the fence!

After spending some time in the military also, a good old thrashing/beasting goes along way. The police could really do with adapting it again, so long as its a group punishment ;)

01 August, 2008 18:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be a drill instructor, but I'm alriiiiiiiiiiiiiight NOW!

01 August, 2008 19:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

IG: but you leeeeft, right. by

so solly

01 August, 2008 19:31

Blogger blueknight said...

When I was at training school there were several 'tick tockers'. They were mostly 'cured' by parading in full uniform with a white plimsoll on the left foot and a white glove on the right hand to the cry of black, white, black, white.
The regime in the 1970s was fairly tough, but we got used to it. Our punishments were 9 pm parades in no 1 kit, fully pressed and bulled and duty squads which involved guarding a closed gate all evening or helping the bar staff wash glasses and microwave pies in the bar.
Punishments were routinely dished out for not pressing kit properly, not bulling boots properly, being late, bringing the wrong kit, hair untidy, or being out of room after lights out.
We played football and rugby did cross country and lifesaving and had to fight each other with boxing gloves on, (which still hurt.)
The Instructors used to say that someone on the previous course died doing the cross country run. I have no idea whether this was true or if it was their way of giving encouragement

01 August, 2008 20:21

Anonymous weepeecee said...

My force still does drill training and we were well prepared for the 'real world'.
Our PTIs didn't hold back at all on PPE training. Most of us ended up feeling 'bullied' at some point but it wasn't bullying, of course.

02 August, 2008 13:18

Blogger John said...

As a 22+ year soldier, I can see little point in police officers doing drill. The primary reason soldiers do it is to teach them how to move about in fairly large numbers in a organised manner. There is an element that responding to a drill command assists in the formation of military discipline of acting on a word of command without delay or query as to "Why?" It is also a good way to speed up the process of getting fit. So - no real place in police life I guess.
As to the beasting given by the 3 senior NCOs, the soldier was being reminded that he was a soldier' He had traces of E in his bloodstream and had acted irresponsibly at a party. The SNCOs were in a spot as they were acting under an officers orders. I know all about Nurnberg defences that that is no excuse but doing as one is told is a good habit in the military. The actions described were in no way out of the normal soldier reinforcement of discipline methods but his having used E was a factor - possibly unknown to the drill NCOs.
There is to be a further military inquiry and I imagine the Captain will get what passes for a beasting in the world of officers.

02 August, 2008 13:19

Blogger blueknight said...

We learned drill at Training school from the Drill Sgt who was ex Coldstream Guards.
Subsequently, on Public Order Training, we learned 'orderly movement', which was a form of drill that got everyone starting off on the same foot, wheeling right or left and coming to the halt etc, without losing spacing or bumping into each other.
It is necessary to know some drill or orderly movement to perform any sort of public order manouevre with shields or batons.
The only slightly amusing thing was that a lot of the public order officers were ex army, navy or RAF and they all performed their drill in different ways, the ex Navy ones would slide their feet instead of lifting and stamping.

02 August, 2008 16:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother was in the WRAF in WW2, a sargeant at arms, guarding airfields with barage ballons. She used that military discipline in her role as child raiser. She used to have us marching on the walk over to my grandmother's home every Sunday. It DID teach us to respond to her commands, instantly and without delay or asking why?

I in turn, used to "march" my first child up to school, in an attempt to get a sense of discipline and cooperation drummed into her. No easy task, as she had severe dyslexia and hyperactivity, which can test the patience of a saint! She always questioned, argued and challenged my authority, and as a last resort, to get through to her and make her listen and comply, yes, I would shout. A bit like a drill sargeant giving a verbal "beasting".
Some don't need that sort of "training", however some do, and this is what has been lost, in society and schools.

My kids were always well behaved in school and never gave the teachers any grief. My other two kids told me that some of the teachers in school [90's] shouted even louder than me. My mother didn't shout however, but she did slap and use a leather belt. That was in the 50's, when kids were seen but not heard. [unless they were screaming from the pain of it]

Yes, marching teaches instant response to commands.

03 August, 2008 01:03

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

There are good reasons why police officers should drill
1.It instills discipline-there are many times when police officers need to act on an order without discussion
2.It instills team work.
£.It encourages fitness by increasing stamina and cordination.
All of which are sadly lacking in the recruits I see today

03 August, 2008 10:29

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"" The primary reason soldiers do it is to teach them how to move about in fairly large numbers in a organised manner.""

Thats where our force f***ed up with the Rangers v Russia match,
Get rid of drill and PSU training at your peril Chiefs !!!

Ps Was thinking of jumping ship to Australia - but those lllleeeeggss on the South Korean ladies look lovely. If yours are as nice Bloggsy I might stay here though !

Hamish Macbeth

03 August, 2008 22:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Getting under 25% in a four-way multiple choice test is quite some feat, by the way." - ah, the Monkey Score as we used to call it in school!

04 August, 2008 14:04

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Even a monkey would expect to do at least 25%. And most people can narrow it down to at least two or three of the answers!

04 August, 2008 20:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamish, come to the warm side!!! it's a lot less PC down here than these bloggs make the UK sound.

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