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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Friday, August 29, 2008

Mysteriously Varnished...

In Blandmore we don't deal with many cases like the mystery of the vanished Foster family in Oswestry. On Monday night their manor house burned down and there are rumours that shotgun cartridges and blood was found in the courtyard.

A lot of our locals do go missing, however, and the reasons can be narrowed down to one of the following:
  • Their parents have draconian old values and disagree with 12yr olds running around sleeping with adult men, burgling and drinking, so the kids have no choice but to run away on a daily basis. We have no choice but to look for them.
  • They are mad and don't want to be un-madded.
  • They are due in court and likely to go to prison.
The third category are usually caught by a simple system - they are circulated as "Wanted" on the Police National Computer and will therefore be arrested at some point when checked by the police. Despite this, if someone in their family reports them as "missing", we also have to circulate them as "Missing" on the Police National Computer. The main difference between searching for people who are Wanted and people who are Missing is that Wanted people get visited at 4am, Missing people in the daytime.

Occasionally Missing people turn up dead. We had one guy who went out for a drink, got separated from his friends and got a taxi home instead. Five days later after we kept reassuring his mates he would "turn up", he turned up in a field next to a motorway, fifty metres away from a car we didn't know he owned, dead. Because of this, we have to search for Missing Persons as if they are all dead.

If only we weren't spending all our days running round after alive delinquent 12-year-olds, we might have time to find the people who are truly Missing.

By the way, some news. Updates to follow as we learn more.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not again.

Once again, senior officers in the Metropolitan Police are not only airing their dirty laundry in public, but hanging it up inside out and drawing rude pictures on it.

I don't know why, but all this talk of an Asian officer being discriminated against for so long that he only ever rose to the piddling rank of Assistant Commissioner, is grating on me. There's only one solution: I must be racist.

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Comme CICA, comme ca...

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is in the news again, this time for a £9000 pay-out to a girl kidnapped and sexually assaulted at the age of three.

The case could not really have been much worse, with the child being kidnapped, assaulted at least three times, then driven at speeds of over 100mph away from police before being thrown out of the car and left lying at the side of the road. Craig Sweeney admitted the offences and received a "life" sentence of 12 years. The judge originally explained his sentencing:

"Judge Griffiths Williams said that if Sweeney had pleaded not guilty and had been convicted the minimum sentence would have been 18 years. Because of his guilty plea he had by law to reduce that tariff by one third to 12 years. The judge said Sweeney would normally have been considered for parole after half his sentence had expired. Because he had been in custody since the day after the offence he considered Sweeney would be eligible for parole after five years 108 days."

This reads as an apology by the judge for the constraints of sentencing guidelines which forced him to announce the tariff. Let's be clear, Sweeney will still have to be declared as no longer dangerous before his release. But then again he was considered not to be dangerous when he was originally released in 2004 for a sex attack on a six-year-old girl... so at least we can be reassured the system works.

There were some valid comments made in my previous post on this subject, that CICA is a statutory body and can only award compensation according to strict guidelines. Others commented that the money should come from the offender (if he has any). At least we can presume the three-year-old wasn't drunk at the time of her abduction, or else her pay-out would be even less! Would any level of compensation be appropriate, or enough?

How many times must we read about violent sex attackers being released from prison to offend again? At what point do we say that anyone who rapes a child should never, ever be released, or the most severe of restrictions placed on their liberty? Rapists of older children are generally treated less severely than younger. At what age should their victim be before any risk of a repeat attack - even the smallest - is unacceptable? Nine? Six? Two?

Are judges speaking out about this kind of thing? Or are they part of the problem?

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yet more non-police:

Police numbers are always a hot topic. The government, and the previous government, will boast about how there are now thousands more police "on the streets" than there were before. Boosts in recruitment of PCSOs are described as boosting police numbers. Now more money is being ploughed into Special Constables.

It is fairly clear that the government's strategy is to continually build up funding for non-police police, such as PCSOs, Specials, civilian investigators, etc, whilst reducing it for the police itself. The model of civilians with powers that all link together to form a fully-functioning world of criminal justice is quite a clever one, but here is why I think all this cash should go on more "real" police officers instead:

As a police officer, I can patrol, arrest, bosh doors, deal with motoring, investigate crime, put together a case file, seize evidence, charge and interview prisoners, give evidence in court, and chat to Mrs Jones about the sad demise of her favourite cat. More importantly, because I am trained to do all those things, I can also apply my judgment as to when each is needed.

Here's a real example of some every day police work. I get called to a report of some kids mucking about on the High Street. On arrival, there's a broken window, bits of glass across the pavement and a group of kids a bit further up the road acting nonchalant. A passer-by tells me one of the kids did it, and points out the offender. I go towards him, he legs it into a car with his mates. I leg it to my car and manage to stop him round the corner (he's in a metro, ok!). I arrest him, book him into custody, seize fragments of glass from his hair and clothes, take a statement from the witness and the owner of the window, go back and interview the kid, then charge/caution him. I do my statement, and the file, and later give evidence in court. Yes, I'm out of action for the rest of the shift, but the chances are the kid will be convicted (assuming it's a good identification by the witness).

Under the snazzy twenty-first century model of policing, here is how this would be dealt with: A PCSO attends a report of some kids mucking about, as it is designated "non-confrontational". On arrival there is a broken window and a group of kids up the road. A passer-by points out the offender, whereupon the PCSO immediately requests a police officer to the scene to make the arrest. As the police officer approaches, the kid legs it into a car. A traffic officer is summoned to the scene. Miraculously, the traffic car manages to stop the offender nearby. The police officer is called to arrest the kid. In fact, this will have to be a different police officer, otherwise the identification evidence will be ruined. In custody, a civilian attends to seize glass and clothing. A statement-taker is called out to get witness statements. Then, a trained interviewer is brought in to interview the kid. All seven police employees then do witness statements of their involvement in the case, and pass all the information to a file-builder, who prepares the file for court. Any questions the file-builder has must be directed back to the relevant officer/officers, all of whom are required in court if the offender pleads not guilty. None of this is including the fact that a video identification procedure may be required because there was lack of continuity of the suspect, which will involve a further 4-6 weeks on bail and a special video identification officer who will also become a witness. Nobody is solely responsible for the case, so the victim is confused and gets passed from department to department, and the case ends up so complicated it fails in court anyway, or never gets there.

For murder enquiries, frauds or other complex investigations, all these cogs are useful, and fall into place. For simple day-to-day police tasks, which constitute 90% of what we do, it is absurd.

I haven't even started on how the use of non-police alters how we deal with these incidents to start with, in that the above could well end up classified as unwitnessed crime, therefore not investigated at all, or even attended. This is already happening in Blandshire.

I could go onto describe how PCSOs are being used to stop-check offenders for possible crimes, despite not really knowing what they are looking for or what to do if it is the right person. They are being used to do welfare checks on people we are concerned about, despite little idea of how to assess whether a door needs to be forced or not. They attend serious crime scenes and car accidents, to direct traffic and pedestrians, but would be unable to act if the offender/driver appeared in front of them. Civilian crime investigators likewise are generating investigations into shopliftings, burglaries, frauds, without playing any part in the resulting arrest, file or court case, therefore having no real concept of the goal. Any feedback into their work comes a year down the line when the case has failed at court and the investigator's contract has ended anyway.

None of this inefficiency is measurable. But it is insidious and irreversible, and it is utterly ruining the British police force.

I'm not against change for its own sake, I just have an old-fashioned belief in skilled and versatile employees, well-paid and well-trained, and motivated by a deep-rooted faith in the system in which they work.

Failing that, there's always Beach Volleyball.

Coming soon: "Perverting the Course of Justice" by Inspector Gadget. Expect an early review here...

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Drunkards get less cash

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has been criticised for cutting criminal compensation by 25% if the victim has been drinking.

As far as I am aware, this applies equally to all victims, but it is a rape victim which has sparked the argument. This victim thinks that the reduction is harping back to the 1970s when people said drunk rape victims were "asking for it".

The first point is that most rape victims are drunk. This is because, frankly, drunk girls are easier to rape. It takes less force, they act less rationally, and they are not believed. However, drunk people of any gender are easier to commit crime on full-stop. Most mugging victims I deal with are drunk, as are assaults. This is a fact of life.

I have never seen an advertisement informing people that if they are drunk when they become a victim of crime their compensation will be reduced. This was clearly introduced because the powers-that-be feel that being drunk is irresponsible and they want to discourage it. In fact, it is the sort of financial incentive to sobriety that even local Blandmoreans might heed. But if it is intended as a legitimate social concern, WHY ON EARTH is this not publicised? How can it possibly act as a deterrent to drinking if no one knows this might happen?

There is no point pretending that this scheme does not seek to lay blame on victims for being drunk. I don't necessarily disagree with the idea of deterring drinking. It is worth bearing in mind that the money handed out by CICA does not come out of the offender's pocket - it is public money. So it does not represent any benefit to the offender.

But it is dangerous to assume that a crime occurred due to drunkenness, because in most cases alcohol only contributed to the situation and did not cause it. "Normal" guys do not become rapists just because they are drunk, even if they drink to assist them with the "courage" to do it. On the flip side, "normal" girls (or boys) can fall victim to rapists whether drunk or not, although most rapists will pick on a drunk one because that is their modus operandi and is much easier.

Yet the courts place great emphasis on drunkenness. Sometimes it is held against the offender if they were drunk. But in some cases, it can be a criminal defence. In others, evidence of their own drunkenness provides mitigation if convicted. If being drunk is a defence to acting stupidly, why are victims of crime penalised for it? If we agree that being drunk and wandering the streets is irresponsible, why do we not punish OFFENDERS more harshly who do it, as well as penalising the victims?

The comments of this judge, in a case where both parties were drunk, sum it up qutie nicely:

"No doubt it would not have happened were you not so drunk that night, but the fact you were drunk does not afford any real mitigation. The fact you would not have done it had you been sober makes no difference to her."

The same does not appear to hold true the other way around.

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

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lack of Postage

I may not be posting much this week. I have been struck down by a bout of Olympic flu, the symptoms of which are as follows:
  1. Taking up a new sport which no one has ever heard of, such as rhythmic gymnastics, or handball.
  2. Singing along to the national anthem with tears in my eyes during the one medal ceremony where Britain has won a gold.
  3. The feeling that I will have achieved nothing with my life if I do not win a medal at London 2012.
As I worked the weekend in Blandmore, I was proud to see the locals honouring our sporting prowess in Beijing. Instead of getting plastered, losing all their money and sitting at my boots imploring me for a lift home, they have been getting plastered, losing all their money, sitting at my boots imploring me for a lift home AND deploring my lack of patriotism when I refuse.

In case you are wondering, the sport I will be taking up to win my 2012 medal is beach volleyball. I'm not too great at volleyball, but I'm hoping my strong interest in the beach will do.

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

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Newsflash! Emergency services make sensible decision!

I am outraged at the news that coastguards decided not to undertake a hazardous rescue mission of some drunk teenagers who did not need rescuing. The teenagers were on a cliff and were too drunk to walk down, but in the morning they made their own way home.

The BBC is right to label this a "top story". The pernicious tendency of emergency services to avoid those who do not need their help is clearly on the rise. Only last week I was driving my marked police car when I saw a fellow officer TOTALLY IGNORING a dog-walker, and the following day two PCSOs walked straight past some kids playing football without doing anything!

If we are going to stamp out this scourge of apathy, the media must take action. I would like to read many more descriptions of incidents where people who were not in any danger were left in that condition for several hours.

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No Comment

If you didn't kill your daughter, and someone asked, "Did you have anything to do with your daughter's disappearance?" would you answer:

A) No.
B) Absolutely one hundred percent no.
C) I can't believe you're asking me this!
D) No comment.

Everyone has a right to say No Comment. A lot of people do so as a result of legal advice, for better or for worse.

A "no comment" answer is generally considered to represent non-cooperation with the police. There are a lot of reasons why an innocent person might choose that path, for example:
  • Protecting the real guilty party.
  • Other illicit activity which they don't want to reveal.
  • Concealing adultery.
  • Pride.
  • Wanting to wait for the police to reveal all their cards.
But in murder cases, it's usually a good idea to deny the offence if you didn't do it.

A short while ago, a colleague dealt with four guys for burglary. They had been found in a van with the stolen stuff from the burglary. Three of them gave the same account in interview: that the fourth guy had picked them up in the van and they had no idea the stuff was stolen. The fourth guy went "no comment".

As a result, the officer in the case had to compile the evidence for CPS advice, then complete a full "not guilty" file when the offenders were charged. The case went to an early hearing a month later.

In court, the fourth guy said the others' account was true, and pled guilty.

Did he get a higher sentence for wasting the police's time by not answering their questions, as he is supposd to? Did he, heck.

Not that I'm making any links to the McCanns, of course... After all, once the police or courts declare a suspect is not being charged, they must be innocent.

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

Sunday, August 03, 2008

From Chapter 6:

Fear For Welfares come in at a rate of between one and five a day, and they range from elderly neighbours who haven’t been seen for a few days, to lost children and suicidal relatives. Our job in such matters is to locate the relevant party and solve whatever crisis led to the concern for their welfare in the first place. This is usually fairly simple and can be achieved by a quick snap of the fingers and muttering of some magic words.

The incident at 14 Bishop Drive is the sort of thing which will be attended daily in each police area across the nation.

The controller elaborates. ‘Caller is from the Mental Health Team. They’ve received a call from a patient saying she is going to kill herself. Could you attend to check on her welfare?’

The Mental Health Team is part of the local authority’s Social Services Department. They have a Crisis Team on duty 24/7. Despite that, it naturally makes sense to send us: after all, police officers have the psychotherapeutic training to counsel a suicidal woman and the necessary legal powers to deal with her. Don’t we? The answers are, ‘No’ and ‘Sometimes’. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act allows us to detain a person who might pose a danger to themselves or others if they are in a public place. In the privacy of your own home, however, you are free to be as mad as you please. People can be sectioned from their own homes and locked up against their will, but this is done by doctors and social workers (such as members of the Mental Health Team). But they have far more training in Arse-Covering than we do so, as here, their back-up plan is to make sure it is the police’s fault (see Victoria Climbie).

Being a cold-hearted public servant, I’m generally not too fazed by these calls. You turn up, find the crying person, comfort them for a short while and then phone the Mental Health Team back and say, ‘Are you on your way?’

The answer is invariably ‘No’, which leads to the customary batting of responsibility between us and them. This can take up to an hour. Sometimes the problem can be solved by phoning the person’s estranged mother who now lives abroad, waking her up and blaming her for her daughter’s imminent suicide if she does not immediately get on a plane and come to her side.

Failing that, the Ambulance service is always there to take final responsibility should we leave and the person tops herself later. ‘Well, she was checked out by paramedics,’ we say, with a regretful shake of the head. ‘They refused to take her to hospital so don’t blame me.’

It turns out we have been called to Colleen Moore, a manic depressive anorexic in her late twenties.

When we arrive she answers the door in her underwear, which is one of the signs I look for to identify a ‘maddie’. Rich doesn’t do skinny women in grubby underwear, so I have to ensure Colleen is wrapped in a curtain before he can enter. Once inside, she moves out of the curtain and into the lounge virtually naked, which means that Rich says very little for the rest of our stay. I think I can safely say that Colleen is the saddest woman I have ever seen. The sadness just pours out of her; it is suffocating. She is clearly starving herself, her bones sticking out under grey skin, her lank hair just hanging off her head. The whole impression is of a kind of deflating soufflé. Within three minutes, I almost want to kill myself.

Usually, a suicidal person will happily tell you all their woes – about how their sister just killed herself, their brother is in jail for rape, their parents abused each other and her... in a way, it’s actually quite reassuring. You think, You don’t end up like this unless you are extraordinarily unlucky in life, so maybe I’ll be OK.

Colleen, however, says not a word. She just sits in the corner, with her back against the wall, thin knees pulled up to her chest, and sunken, red-rimmed eyes staring into space. She’s immune to my questions about medication, alcohol, illnesses and the like. Rich and I stand off a little and go through the various parties we could pass responsibility to, discounting ambulance, mental health, social services and family. Finally the time comes when we have to leave, the prospect of her suicide looming. A quick phone-call to the sergeant ensures that this, if it occurs, will be his fault.

I try a last-ditch effort. ‘Colleen, is there anything you want from us... even something you might not think the police can do?’

Tears rolling down her face, she looks up at me and whispers her first words. ‘Just a hug.’

I don’t hug people much, and certainly not members of public. This isn’t because I don’t care, nor that I don’t sometimes want to. I just don’t. So I take her hand and pat it, feebly.

‘There, there,’ I say.

She looks up at me and nods; I think she understands my inability to do the one thing she needs.

‘Thank you,’ she murmurs. ‘God bless.’

And we leave.

We wander in for some tea and sandwiches and the rest of the night passes at a crawl. It gets to 07.00hrs and I’m ashamed to say that I have not affected Positive Intervention once in all of the nine hours I had in which to do so. I’ve returned a drunk home, reinforced street discipline in a wayward teen and spent fifteen minutes holding a lonely woman’s hand.

I haven’t met a single target, or filled out one form. As far as the Senior Management Team is concerned, I may as well have stayed at home.

Maybe tomorrow night I will.

God bless the police.

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

Friday, August 01, 2008

Spam spam spam spam spam

Today I received notification that my blog had been "locked" as a suspected Spam Blog. This is defined as follows:

"Blogs engaged in this behavior are called spam blogs, and can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text."

It appears Blogger utilises a robot spam detector, that identified my blog was generated by an automated machine functioning according to pre-programmed algorithms. This automaton propagates gibberish and hinders other people who are using the Internet legitimately.

In other words, it identified that this blog was written by a police officer.

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


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