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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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Have-a-go" Tories

Apparently the Tories are going to make life easier for people who intervene in crime in good faith.


The Conservatives claim "
there is evidence that the police and prosecutors are too ready to accept allegations made by criminals against people who try to apprehend them". So they want to amend the Crown Prosecution Service's code, as well as Health and Safety laws, to encourage people to "have-a-go".

This all sounds great. Except that there are already plenty of laws protecting people acting in good faith to prevent crime. Certain powers of arrest under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 apply to the general public as well as the police. There is s.3 Criminal Law Act 1967, which enshrines the right to self-defence. There is Common Law: oodles of case law in which people acting in good faith were protected by courts.

So the law/code/H&S isn't the issue.

The fact is, the police are not "ready to accept" allegations made by criminals. We are forced to accept them by the National Crime Recording Standards, which state we must record an allegation as a crime within 24hrs of it being reported. If we then decide to file it without bringing anyone to justice for it, it will count as a negative slice of our violent crime pie chart.

This situation is the same whether the allegation is one by a criminal against someone trying to detain him, a drunk who thinks he might have been assaulted but might have just fallen down, someone trying to claim robbery to swindle the DSS out of more cash, etc. The government doesn't believe the police will investigate these claims unless we are forced to, the idea being that some genuine allegations will get dismissed in the same bundle, hence NCRS.

So it's the rules on crime-recording which need addressing.

But all that said, if the Tories think that Health and Safety law, and the fear of prosecution, are the main reasons why the public won't get involved in street crime, they need to think again:














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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ten Days Per Burglary

Glynn Brookes has spent the last few years committing burglaries on the homes of people away on holiday. Today the newspapers are trumpeting his MAMMOTH 12 year sentence.

Mammonth for a first time burglary, but it equates to just 10 days per each of his 400 burglaries committed. Of course, he wasn't charged with all four hundred, but he confessed he did them. Someone from Nottinghamshire's Perfomance Group must have been swimming in glee the day they got him in the traps. No doubt they'll spread the detections out over a couple of years...

The part of the story I love is the information that Brookes learned how to avoid the police by watching TV shows about forensic techniques. He must therefore have swaddled himself in an asbestos suit, including catheter, out of fear that we are able to pluck DNA from the air and reconstruct a crime accurately from two specks of dust on the wall.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

E-Hell

Blandshire Constabulary's email system goes in spates. This week it has reached climax. This partly because over time, I gradually find myself on more and more mailing lists, currently numbering about eighteen. These include: All Response Officers; Response Teams; Blandmore; Blandmore Response Team 4; Breathalyser-Trained Officers; All Drivers; etc.

Today, I had emails about the following things (the word counts are approximate):
  • Information on a new ASBO handed out to a local crook, 145 words.
  • Photographs of villains for identification x9.
  • Instructions to make sure all detections are logged by tonight, 469 words (there was some other stuff in there too, don't ask me what).
  • List of officers with items stored in the property freezer, with instructions to remove them if no longer needed, 1498 words.
  • Order to stop using the current stop-search form and begin using the new one, 203 words.
  • Order to wait until 1st October before using the new stop-search form, 99 words.
  • Information about the canteen's closing times, 65 words.
  • Reminder of the dispersal order in place in the Porle Estate, 388 words.
  • Information about a new law that is going to affect the way I police, 1092 words plus two attachments.
  • Summary of the new law that is going to affect the way I police, 840 words plus pictorial attachment.
  • Instructions to register for a course about the new law, with a list of dates I can't make, 420 words.
  • Request to email some guy about problems we are having with some system, 75 words.
  • A further request similar to above, but some other guy and some other system, 76 words.
  • Description of the new procedure for handling charge/bail forms in custody, 661 words.
  • Description of the new procedure for filing crime reports, 802 words.
  • Attachments from the Federation explaining why and in what ways Jacqui Smith is evil, 2310 words.
  • Reminder of what to do if our Airwave radios stop working, 199 words and a picture of something random.
  • Information that Airwave radios will be going off-line for 2 minutes at midnight, 24 words.
  • Weekly newsletter for Blandmore local area, 777 words.
  • Weekly newsletter for Blandmore command area (slightly bigger than local area), 482 words.
  • Letter from Area Commander explaining that we are expected to know information sent to us in email form and will be held to account if we don't read it, 112 words. This one had the subject line ***DO NOT DELETE WITHOUT READING***.
This is over and above the 50 or so emails I got which were specially for me, many of them telling me in what way I had failed to comply with one or other of the above.

Blandshire Constabulary can't afford to train us in person any more when important changes are made to our job. But rest reassured that they still have the money to pay people to send emails like these.


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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I feel dizzy...

Following the success of this week's Caption Competition, here's another one.











Choose from the following captions:
I may be suspended, but the sequel will be out in time for Christmas.
Fed up with Ghaffur stealing his limelight, Dizai arranges his own suspension.
The Met unwittingly plays into the hands of its racism accusers.
More headlines please, I just haven't read enough about top ranking officers arsing around at work.


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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Caption Competition




Captions below, the winner will receive a fabulous prize (namely, the glorious knowledge that they are the winner).

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Not Wasting Police Time

If you think it's time bloggers and police officers stopped making people laugh and started hammering home some hard truths about the state of the nation, Inspector Gadget would agree.

There are no cheap laughs in Perverting the Course of Justice. You WILL laugh, when you read about how Gadget is not allowed to change the clock in his office in line with daylight saving hours, in case he falls down and hurts himself. If he does change it, the union rep will change it back. You'll also laugh when you read about Operation Inclusive Festival (formerly known as Christmas). And you'll chuckle despairingly at the description of the "mystery shopper" due to turn up at Gadget's police station to test his managerial skills.

But most of the book, written by a serving police inspector, will not, or should not, make you laugh. You will read about a police force in decay, full of number-crunchers and policy-followers who have abandoned commonsense in favour of targets, performance indicators and positive media coverage. This isn't skirted over or lightly-satirised by Inspector Gadget, but dissected and exposed in all its horrifying glory. Think Wasting Police Time meets Private Eye.

He goes further. The decline of British policing into farcical bureaucracy is matched by an equal decline of British society. Gadget gives example after example of feral yobs, out-of-control teens, savage and violent criminals the like of whom the police face daily. You read about people who think nothing of thrusting broken bottles into the faces of bright young policemen and women. People who lay their babies in front of police car tyres to prevent them being chased. People who ransom their own kids back to the police for money seized from their criminal activities. And it's not just the police who are ill-equipped to deal with these people. The desperate scramblings and ineffectiveness of the police is matched by other agencies: hospitals, Social Services, the courts.

Some of it might make you shake your head in disbelief. Not if you are a police officer, especially one on the British front-line. Or it might make you reach for your pen and scribe a letter to your local MP. It should.

If it doesn't make you shake your head, doesn't make you write that letter, doesn't provoke dinner-time conversation and a tad more sympathy for the front-line uniformed cops who grapple daily with this tide of lunacy, I'd suggest that you resign from the Cabinet tonight and - as Inspector Gadget would say - "reset your moral compass".



Note: Gadget's book is from the same publisher as mine, but I don't get any money for promoting him. At least, not yet... hint, hint...

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Conference or Confederates:

From yesterday's Daily Mail:
"The case centres around the right of police officers to confer when compiling their accounts of an incident. If the Saunders are successful in their legal action, this practice may be scrapped, changing the face of policing in Britain."

For non-police readers, it is commonly held that it is legal and normal for police officers to confer whilst writing their statements. The crucial word is "confer" rather than "collaborate".

In general, it is preferred that members of the public do not confer before giving statements to police, although some discussion is inevitable when a group of people have witnessed something.

The reason this is different for the police is - and this is just my opinion - that in general the police have no axe to grind. In bog standard, day-to-day cases of common assault, criminal damage, theft, public order, etc, etc, police officers are not going to risk their jobs by conspiring to fit up a random punter. You may see it in movies, you may read about it in papers like the Daily Mail, but it just doesn't happen. To be quite honest, I couldn't give a toss whether some guy I nick on a Friday night for spitting in some other guy's face gets convicted or not. I've had him off the streets on the night, I've acted in good faith, that's really all I care about.

But in a case where a civilian has been shot by a police officer, now that's quite different.

Perhaps the answer is that we need clearer guidelines on how officers are to give their statements under these circumstances. In Blandshire, a supervisor would normally take their statement rather than them writing it themselves.

Or perhaps the answer is that we need to invest in our recruitment and training methods, trust our police, and have the back-up that we come down hard on anyone found abusing their power. After all, would we rather we uncovered the few corrupt officers, or that the majority became too afraid to act when we needed them to?



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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

VAL

After many years of speculation and fruitless experimentation, I am pleased to announce the successful switch-on of the Very Ambitious Leader at Blandmore Police Station.



VAL can fire two opposing beams of instruction, generating antipathy between departments at a rate close to the speed of light.





So far VAL has just completed one circuit of the police station, but the analysts have already detected undulations in the comfortable backsides of the third floor.

Over the next few weeks, VAL will be cranked up to maximum speed, at which point he will be circulating at a rate of 11,000 crime reports per second. The departments responsible for the crime reports will be set on a collision course and the aftermath should teach us a great deal about the formation of the Twenty-First Century Police Force.

Charles Hammond, an expert in Crime Management, Investigation and Detection, states: "We can expect to see small explosions as these departments collide, and these may trigger other, larger reactions. There is a small chance that the universe will implode. But if it doesn't, we might actually start getting better at policing."

Some people don't think we should be messing with the fabric of Police-Crime. But realists say that there is no need to panic, as it is unlikely that VAL will have the effect predicted. His five predecessors never managed to cause any ripples in any kind of continuum. VAL is not likely to be any more successful, however big and bad he may look.






Pessimists say that VAL is all talk, and that you cannot really affect the big outside world from within a 27km dungeon deep in the cesspit of society.








I don't know what all the fuss is about. If VAL really does cause ripples, and there are too many collisions, surely someone upstairs can just pull the plug and plunge us all back into darkness.

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

Friday, September 05, 2008

A new definition of "could not":

An official report has found that David Summers "could not have been stopped" from killing his ex-lover Diane Edwards and having sex with her corpse.

An injunction was taken out against Summers for threatening Edwards after she broke up with him in January 2006.

For breaching the injunction, which carries a maximum five-year jail term, he was given a suspended sentence. He then removed the electronic tag issued to him by the court: another breach; another chance to issue a maximum five-year jail term.

In The Salisbury Review next week, you can read my thoughts on cases like these.

They are thorny, because we can't treat every jilted lover who reacts badly and makes some threats as a potential murderer. And it's worth remembering that civil injunctions are handed out by the bucket-load on very little evidence.

But breaching court conditions or injunctions is a good indicator that someone's behaviour is going to escalate. Let's not forget Garry Weddell, the police inspector who breached his bail one week by entering an area he was forbidden, and the next week reentered it to murder his mother-in-law. This was a man who was already on bail for murder, yet no action was taken when he breached the conditions designed to prevent him reoffending.

"Could not" is a strong expression.

More accurately, not all these murders can be or should be prevented, at the expense of innocent ex-lovers who have no intention of killing anyone. But the judges who freed Summers and Weddell, their defence lawyers, the prosecution and the police officers who took them to court in the first place, will always wonder if they could, or should, have done more.

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yes, I did hear Dame Helen on rape...

My regular readers will know that I often post about rape. It also features in my book, where I try to demonstrate the complexities of it more deeply. Despite this, I am not a die-hard feminist who thinks all men are rapists, and that until we have a 100% conviction rate for rape we have failed in our aspiration to become a modern society.

This week Dame Helen Mirren has been quoted as saying that a woman who is raped because she changes her mind at the last minute "[can't] have that man into court". The usual suspects have come out with the standard quotations:

"This is not helpful."

"It's an outrage."

"It will make it even harder for women to report rape."

But Dame Helen is not saying that the kind of rape where a woman consents until the last moment, then refuses and is forced to have sex, is not rape. By contrast she tells us she has been raped in this manner herself. She is drawing attention to the fact that a conviction for this kind of rape is nigh on impossible to achieve and it is almost cruel to lead a woman to expect the case to go to court or have any kind of success. She might also be drawing a distinction between this kind of rape and the kind where a guy - without any reasonable expectation of sex - forces a woman into intercourse (whether with physical force or intimidation).

I would like to know, though, how Dame Helen draws a distinction between the following cases:
  • A woman has a friend round for dinner, they get a bit drunk and flirty and begin to undress. She changes her mind, he forces her to have sex.
  • A woman's ex-partner comes round uninvited and she reluctantly lets him in to discuss childcare. Without any encouragement, he forces her to have sex.
The first situation fits into Dame Helen's description of "date rape", where the woman has been toying with the idea of sex but decides against it. The second is out-and-out rape with no mitigating factors.

In court, the two examples would be portrayed by the defence in exactly the same way.

In court, I have seen convictions for both kinds of case, and acquittals for both.

I try not to dwell on conviction rates. Rape is a hard crime to prosecute and even harder to convict. Plus a court case may not always be the best option for the victim, in the same way that it isn't always the right answer for domestic violence, child abuse or racism.

Whatever your views on rape, its credibility and the right process for dealing with it, it is wrong to label Dame Helen's remarks as "unhelpful". She speaks from the standpoint of being a victim herself, so how can her view - or the view of anyone who has first-hand experience of such a crime - be ignored?

The system we have now does not appear to be working - either to victims' satisfaction or accuseds' - therefore all discussion on the subject should be welcomed and nobody's opinion should be dismissed out of hand. As long as we treat all parties involved in these cases with dignity and respect, and we make our decisions based on common decency and hard facts rather than Home Office targets and public outcry, we can hope to improve.


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

Monday, September 01, 2008

You Couldn't Make it Up


I have just received my Ruralshire T-Shirt.














Sadly, now that I've blogged about it, I cannot wear it out in public for fear of shouts of "Oi, didn't PC Bloggs just get one of those - you must be her!" This is the kind of thing you have to consider when leading a double life as a police blogger.


You also have to consider what you will say when the PCs at the next table in the canteen start discussing police blogs in loud voices and declaring which one they like the most and whether or not they think you are "fit" in real life. My preferred choice is, "Bet she's a dog" and "That Inspector Gadget's selling T-shirts now, isn't he? Why don't we all buy them?"

Fortunately, this isn't a major issue for me because
(a) Blandmore Police Station no longer has a canteen. It has an Incident Room with a coffee machine in the corner,
and (b) No one would ever start a loud conversation about police blogs within earshot of the Senior Management Team, and you can guarantee if we DID have a canteen, there would be several members of the SMT in it at any one time.


Seriously, the T-shirt is rather smart, so I recommend them.

I'm still waiting for my copy of the book. I haven't actually ordered it, but I'm hoping one might arrive anyway.



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

 

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