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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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From the neighbourhood to the national...

No, not the most boring heading for a post ever, but the title of the government's Green Paper on Policing, which came out last week. In fact the full title is:

"From the neighbourhood to the national: policing our communities together." Whatever that means.

I am never quite sure what makes something a Green, White or Blue Paper, unless it literally is just the colour that happened to come out of the printer that day, but if a reader can enlighten me, please don't.

The Green Paper consists of a "vision" for the future of policing, and one of its proposals is:

"Setting only one top-down numerical target for the police service to increase public confidence in the police and other agencies to reduce crime."

Does this mean that a numerical target will be set and the setting of said target, whatever it may be, will increase public confidence in the police and other agencies to reduce crime? Or that the target will be to increase public confidence in the police and other agences to reduce crime. Either way, I don't see how that's numerical, and I don't see how it's only one target either. Or how you can set the police a target to increase confidence in other agencies.

Anyway, certain parts of the Green Paper disturb me even more. For example, the national standards promised to the public by the police will include:
  • 80% of your Neighbourhood Police Team's time on duty will be spent on your patch.
This disturbs me because it appears a totally arbitrary percentage which will not make the public safer or reduce crime. For example, you might have a neighbourhood team who are tackling persistent prostitution or drug-dealing on a certain patch. At most there will be one neighbourhood bobby for each small patch, but to tackle this problem others are drafted in from nearby patches, thereby removing them from their own patch. Then, as part of their operation, the 6 officers might make 5 arrests a day. Each prisoner will require an officer to deal with them, in the custody suite which is centrally based and many miles off the patch in question. Voila, 0% of five officers' time has been spent on his/her own patch, although it was spent on valid and useful policing.

If you wanted further proof that the phrase "Neighbourhood Policing" is utterly meaningless, there it is. The thing is, as a response officer in Blandmore, I attend emergencies, urgent jobs, non-urgent jobs and welfare matters wherever in Blandmore I am needed. The whole town is my patch, I know all of it, and I am just as effective anywhere in it.

At a time when there aren't even enough response officers to attend vital 999 emergencies, why does the government insist that we ring-fence officers into smaller and smaller areas? This only works if you have a flood of officers to choose from, and are confident that you will not regularly need to deploy them to the next patch over, or the one next to that.

If the public really knew how thinly we are spread, how desperately close we come on a daily basis to not being able to attend the most life-threatening and urgent situations, while Neighbourhood Policing Teams sit in their "patches" tightening their bicycle clips and attending meetings about dog-fouling... if the public knew how criminals roam the street with minimal fear of arrest and zero of punishment... this Green Paper would have been met with an outcry.

But then again, they do know. We've been telling them for years now.

Are they not listening? Do they not believe us? Do they think it's all our fault?

Where, oh where, is the outcry?

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm I wonder if this is a bad time to have just passed my interview and medical from a non HDPF into the HDPF. Ahhhh well I havent handed my notice in yet so their is time to change my mind :-p

30 July, 2008 18:45

Anonymous notellin said...

Those 15,000 PCSO's could be cashed in for 10,000 fully sworn constables, that would be a good start. Its not exactly a flood per se but it might make our "regular customers" have to carry a brolly when they go out. Not hard to do either since about 2/3 of them seem to want to be fully sworn bobbies anyway, at least if the numbers applying are anything to go by.

30 July, 2008 19:20

Anonymous notellin said...

That is 2/3 down here where its warm rather than up there where its not as i have no idea what they are up to. Although i heard a rumor that even further up, you know above the Arctic circle, that the Scots don't even have them at all.

30 July, 2008 19:28

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the real truth about Matthew Sims burglary by those alleged nasty masked men? what were they looking for I wonder? and what is their relationship to Mr Sims? And his previous dealings with police? And this alleged 999 call: did he give the correct address? did he scream at the operator to "get the f**k round here" and refuse to answer any more questions?

So many questions - so little time.

30 July, 2008 19:39

Blogger Big Fella in Blue said...

I am a beat officer rather than a response, which means I shouldnt attend any response jobs only concentrating on neighbourhood issues and priorities. Thats what I should be doing, what I actually do is attend all jobs on my patch and other patches what ever type of call they are if response are busy. I try to attend any job on my patch even if response are going so that they are free to go elsewhere if they are not needed. I also have to adhere to the priorites set for the neighbour, complete the tasks and consultations, meetings etc etc on top of a work load.

But I also get used for warrants off my patch, football duties and any ops where they cant get staff. I also get used as a response driver when the shift numbers dwindle.

So does NPT work? in a word NO. Could it work YES.

If they get PCSOs to run the NPT and put the PCs on response it could work. It means I could just get back to being a police officer!! Instead of what I am, I dont know what I am?? HELP ME

30 July, 2008 21:10

Anonymous NyseriA said...

A little like BFIB really.

I am a beat manager but still managed to attend at 3 grade 1's last shift and do tend to assist with all other jobs on my beat where I can.

Quite simply, I cannot physically find enough time in the day to do all my work AND all the work of response.

NPT's could (and are, to an extent in some areas) be an excellent concept because the number of prolific offenders that we keep under wraps is quite sizeable.

As for the Daily Mail article. The two words preceding article, say it all.

Gadget said it best, so many questions, so little time ;)

30 July, 2008 21:48

Anonymous PC Michael Pinkstone said...

So many questions - so little time ... for any context whatsoever.

And talking of 'beat' - I am. Completely. Time for bed.

Perhaps it will all be different tomorrow ...

31 July, 2008 00:41

Anonymous Captain Slow said...

We have recently had a number of officers re-assigned to yet another new initiative leaving even less of us to keep the wheel on. This means that on a daytime tour of duty, it is normal to arrive and find pages of jobs - 1s and 2s that have been delayed for hours until the morning crew can get in and turn out because the night shift are all tied up with prisoners. This in turn has happened because the prisoner processing teams have been taken off nights and now finish just after midnight - because of course we only arrest people during the day.

31 July, 2008 10:27

Anonymous Anonymous said...

a green paper is still open to significant consultation. a white paper is basically a bill; only minor changes can be made without the government being accused of a "U-TURN!!!!!"

so maybe this won't become policy?

but isn't the idea behind neighbourhood policing not necessarily a bad one, it just depends how you define a niehgbourhood. for example, a good neighbourhood bobby knows the troublemakers in her area, knows who's likely to be calling with a serious issue and who's just moaning and therefore, ideally, is allowed to use her discretion in deciding how to respond. I supose the "therefore" part is currently a pipe dream. i mean what i'm saying is that i think the phrase "neighbourhood policing" is based on an idyllic vision of 1950s village bobbies popping around for tea and knowing everyone in the village by name and having a good relationship with them. so now they just throw the phrase around but gov policies won't necessarily help to achieve that.

31 July, 2008 19:53

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"radical new plans to cut red tape and give the police more freedom to get on with the job of reducing crime", would this red tape be the same red tape introduced by the same government touting cutting the red tape by any chance? If you can make any sense of that then you deserve to become an MP!
As a MOP with a great deal of respect for what the police force try to do with their hands tied behind their back (I know it's a service, but force sounds so much more like it can accomplish something) I am totally p1$$ed off with the bull$4it forced down our throats by a government that hasn't got the slightest idea about what the general populace wants from it's police force.
Personally I don't want to see reams of statistics and colourful bar graphs telling me how well the police are performing. All I want is a visible presence that makes me feel safe.
A return to dialling 999 for all incidents wouldn't go amiss either. By the time you've decided what category an incident falls into and found the relevant number it's too bloody late and the perpetrators have normally buggered off!
I'm sure some anonymous person will come along and tell me I'm being naive, but I'm also sure that I'm not alone in wishing that policing could return to an era where local forces and individual officers were trusted to know what was required from them without the interference of people who clearly haven't got a clue.

31 July, 2008 20:23

Anonymous MOP said...

Government White Papers are those that are parliamentary papers laying out policy (so the likely direction of new legislation), to allow for comments to likely legislation. Green Papers are consultative, so do not represent policy, and are meant to stimulate debate. So you should read it in this light - (Sorry, Officer Bloggs, but I did have to say that before going onto the rest of this post.)

I think that the single target number is meant to meet some of the demands from the police (and public) blogosphere for the end of the insane target driven culture. So the idea is that the government will say something like "we want the overall detection rate to be 45% this year" or "Up 2% on last year". This is meant to restore operational command to the police SMTs and enhance the public perception of crime.
This will do nothing of the sort as the politicians and some senior police officers will no doubt still want to micromanage things from the top.
The 80% figure for neighbourhood teams just shows that the headline "single target" is so much hot air. Even when talking about a single target, they cannot resist talking about requirements and there will still be no end to the constant calls for special taskforces to deal with the latest hot topic of the day.

To make things better we should remove the insane NCRS bureaucracy and thus freed up woman hours (from paperwork) and manpower (from behind desks)(Note that I used man and woman interchangeably here)*. Also we need more prison places, so that the persistent offenders stay for much longer in prison. More money for rehabilitation, more drug treatment.

* The entire thing should be binned. In its place should be a good inspectorate checking that teams do "crime" the right things and that investigations are being done properly. Such a human check would improve quality of crime detection and recording, rather than having everything made into a crime and then requiring endless box ticking exercises, it might spread good practice - although no doubt there will be some naughty coppers who dont crime the right things, but this would be an improvement on the present paperwork and it isnt like the system isnt gamed - with the full approval of the powers that be. However, the politicians dont trust the police to be honest and such a system relies on people, while bureaucrats and pols like their little forms. Lower quality and costly, but helps to keep bureacrats busy and deflects responsibility.

31 July, 2008 21:31

Anonymous Albert Lash said...

I am a journalist and I think I know what is meant by the one target of increasing confidence in the police's ability to reduce crime.
It is simply reducing the appearance of crime. Local papers used to visit the cop shop every day and be told of all the local crimes. They used to put many of them in the paper.
It doesn't happen the same now. All constabularies now have legions of 'communication officers' who seek to minimise public consciousness of crime by simply telling the press very little.
Has anyone tried ringing the police press line lately? I have - the biggest crime, apparently, was a burning car. For crying out loud.
Less reporting of crime? Voila! The public believes crime is reducing and the target is hit!
Evening all.

31 July, 2008 22:01

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this Government ....

They harp on about making the police more accountable to the public - more meetings, more statistics - and getting the Police to tackle priorities set by the community...all fancy stuff.

They take the same line with the health service, fire and council...

accountability, public priorities, stakeholder liaision etc etc etc..

Then in the same breath they refuse to honour their commitment to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty/further annexation by the unelected EU superstate.

Rather smacks of blatant hypocracy really!

31 July, 2008 22:24

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Excellent comments on this topic. But if we all know all this, how is it still happening?

Watch an old episode of 'Yes, Minister', then double it, and you will have your answer.

31 July, 2008 22:35

Anonymous MoP said...

The government wants to improve the public accountability of the police. But worryingly it will be to dog shit people. Just the ones who complain.

AARGH. It is like asking me my opinion on where I should have a triple heart bypass. The public are not doctors, they are not able to make an informed choice. Can we stop pretending that there is some point to this public choice thing.
The public are not policemen, they dont know what the competing priorities are, they shouldnt be consulted.

The one area I think the public should be consulted is on police incompetence. I want the head of whichever moron police boss who signed off on arresting and prosecuting the bloke who tried to do a citizen's arrest on the two kids throwing stones. This kind of thing poisons police-community relations far more than anything else, and no one was publicly flogged as they should have been.

BTW I dont have a problem with stuff like the Oxford grad arrested at gunpoint or even JC Menezes. Split second decisions made with a gun are very different from leisurely gross stupidity swiftly reversed under media scrutiny.

31 July, 2008 22:44

Anonymous MoP said...

Aha. But did you see the wonderful bit where the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office was tasked with reducing the amount of data collected by the Home Office by 50%. Now this is really Yes, Minister territory. I imagine the target will be achieved by something along the following lines:

Data collected by HMIC and passed to the HO will not count. So just reorganise all reporting associated with NCRS to HMIC. This will require a large increase in staff at HMIC, who will then report to the same bureaucrats who got the data before.

Data collected and handed to the new locally accountable police boards will also not count. This data will then be collated and sent to HO. All regional crime targets will be handled in this fashion. More bureaucrats will be hired to deal with the police boards and they will then liase with the original HO bureaucrats.

The Perm Sec (Sir Humphrey Appleby CMG) will achieve his target and be rewarded with a KCMG. The police will have the same amount of paperwork and data collection, but will have had to sacrifice some extra front line officers to fund the extra bureaucrats at the HMIC/NPIA and local police boards.

Cynical me? No, just a big fan of Yes, Minister.

01 August, 2008 00:19

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer be a surge, provide unisex cots, 8 hours on shanks , 2 for kip , one hour for paper work and 10 mins for grub, 50 mins for inspection, then back to 8 on surge etc., this will work untill the locals depart for a new patch, or you need surgery.
Listen to the new Casa Blanca.
Now the old Casa Blanca [k]new a thing or two, round up the the usual suspects, are for the good old day.
So glad I be sans eyes, sans teeth , sans everything.
curious what be the percentage of the vegetables that be rats that require the delousing in your patch.

01 August, 2008 04:15

Anonymous Andrew Wimble said...

I am sure that most people would like to see a familar face in a police uniform patrolling their area and acting as a first point of contact with the Police and that is what I understand comunity policing to mean.

Given how popular the concept is it is not surprising that the Government like to promise more community policing as I am sure if earns them a few votes. It is a pity really that the Police do not have anywhere near the resources needed to to turn the Governments grand statements into reality, and I cant see them getting thta kind of resources any time soon.


01 August, 2008 11:45

Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

Quote:"Setting only one top-down numerical target for the police service to increase public confidence in the police and other agencies to reduce crime."

I want to vomit. As a fairly serious student of service delivery and quality systems, I always take to heart the words of W Edwards Deming (*) "Eliminate arbitrary numerical targets". Why on earth do our politicians force on to people who by experience and intuition know far better than them, approaches which informed people have known for decades, not only don't work, but indeed can't work ?


All better now

(*)Deming was the statistician and management guru who taught Japanese industry the methods of quality control - which they applied with remarkable results

01 August, 2008 15:35

Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

mop 31 July 21:31 quote "I think that the single target number is meant to meet some of the demands from the police (and public) blogosphere for the end of the insane target driven culture."

You may be right about the intent, but using a target to drive out the target driven culture is as likely to work out well as standing in a bucket and pulling on the handle in order to lift it off the ground.

Oh, and for the benefit of any ministers reading, that method can't lift the bucket off the ground, although if enough force is applied it will damage the bucket.

02 August, 2008 12:27

Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is an excellent post and the comments are well thought out as well.

This topic sits smack within my current role.

As stated above somewhere, NHP could work if it was allowed to but the basic problem is simply numbers of available officers. Core shift are now so depleted that their only available support who is wearing a uniform is NPT, including PCSOs. Yes, believe it or not attending officers are being 'backed up' by PCSOs if they're in the area, contrary to their role and training but who can't just stand by and do nothing. Part of the problem is that everytime a new 'squad' is created non-detective officers suddenly decide they don't need to wear a uniform and rock up in jeans and T shirts every day even though their role isn't remotely 'covert'. That way they'll never be deployed to an incident.

The 'single target' they are talking about is apparently 'customer satisfaction'. Example: 80% of residents when asked will state they are satisfied or very satisfied with the job their police and partners do'. This will presumably be achieved by way of regular, independently audited surveys (more bureaucracy anyone?). Chief Constables would be able to achieve this however they like and some might decide the way to do it is to put out a greater visible presence butI expect the only departments to benefit greatly to be the survey department at HQ and the press office. We will be collecting all the same statistics we do now, because too many people need to justify their existence. The only difference will be that when they are bad the press office will keep them quiet and when they are good they'll ram them down the throat of anyone who will listen. How dependent will we be on mischievious local press editors then??? It won't be about whether we are doing a good job, it will be about whether we are PERCEIVED to be doing a good job. And as we all know, these days that relies on 'spin'.

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15 April, 2009 10:39


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