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, October 27, 2008

The Vortex of Nights

I know I am working nights when I get my news updates from Mock the Week. I didn't know there was a recession on until the custody sergeant told me, whilst he watched me seal up a wadge of notes from a drug dealers pocket.

It has been a busy time in Blandmore, and shift numbers are diminishing by the day. I can't remember the last day all of my team finished work on time.

The SMT are blissfully unaware that staffing levels are low. Let me clarify: they aren't unaware, and they aren't blissful. But they're not doing anything about it all the same. "There just isn't any more money." This is strictly true. But we can all rest easy that the area commander doesn't sleep well at night worrying about it. I don't sleep well at night either - for some reason my sergeant frowns on it if I sleep in a police car.

There literally is no more money. Especially since the force invested it all in Ice Save.*

Fortunately, there is also no more crime.

Most of us down on front-line response are sympathetic to funding and budget issues. But most of us also suspect there is money, just not being spent how it should. We'd like to see some of the current money being diverted away from crime auditors, analysts, performance data recorders and auditor-auditors (those who check the work of auditors to make sure it's being done properly). We'd like to spend our man-hours on locking up burglars and reassuring residents, rather than on investigating children shooting other children with BB guns and neighbours being racist to people who are just as racist back.

The funny thing is, I think the public would agree with us.

Where, between front-line response and the Chief Constable, is the loose connection? Where is the message getting lost? Before I am sure that, one day, our Chief Constable used to think exactly like us.


* This is "irony". No Police Authority would be stupid enough to stick a load of cash in an offshore investment while we are desperate to use it NOW in Blandmore.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

La Pensierosa

Yet again the media is up in arms about police forces miscounting crime. The claim is that forces are counting serious assaults such as GBH, just as ABH, and ABH as Common Assault. By the same token, I imagine they claim many Burglaries are being counted as Thefts and many Thefts From Motor Vehicles as Criminal Damage.

I'm not saying this doesn't happen.

But Blandshire Constabulary actually has a fiddle-fighting desperado to prevent these machinnations. She's called the SCRUTINEER, and her job is to learn the Home Office Counting Rules inside out and thoughtfully consider how best to follow them blindly regardless of the circumstances.









Any time a PC wishes to "no-crime" something (ie downgrade a crime report into a crime that hasn't happened), or to downgrade a crime from more serious to less, the Scrutineer will go over the crime report with a fine-tooth comb. Hence, I can attend an incident where someone has blatantly made up a robbery in order to claim double their benefit money, and spend the next three months arguing with the Scrutineer in my attempts to get this no-crimed.

Or imagine an incident where someone has claimed to have been stabbed, only when I arrive they refuse to show me the stab wound, show no signs of bleeding, and won't give a statement. It the "victim" refuses to provide a pocketbook signature confirming they were NOT stabbed, then not only will I be unable to no-crime this, I won't even be able to downgrade it from a Wounding to a Common Assault. Let's face it, the guy hasn't been stabbed. He said it to get the police there quicker, or because he panicked. But according to the statistics for that month, Blandshire has a knife crime problem.

I could talk about this for hours. Take Racism. As soon as the word "racist", "black", "country" or "Muslim" is mentioned, an incident becomes racist in the eyes of the Scrutineer. I attended an arson once where someone's car had been torched. The fire brigade told the police control room it might be racist, because a group of black kids was watching it burn, and the car belonged to a white guy. When I turned up, the white guy was amazed at this conclusion, and actually knew the black kids quite well and got on with them. But because the fire brigade had perceived it as racist, it remained and will remain racist forever.

All of the above makes Blandshire Constabulary excellent in the field of Recording Crime In Line With Home Office Rules. It makes us pretty rubbish in the field of Recording Crime in Line With Commonsense, and that of Actually Spending Time On Crimes People Care About.

So when the papers claim that forces are fiddling the figures to make them look better, I am fairly confident that Blandshire won't be one of those forces. We're actually fiddling the figures the other way.


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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seen to be doing the right thing...

Picking up on some of the comments on the last thread, here's a truly tragic story of a father whose seven-year-old child was killed riding a quad bike, as he drove behind her supervising. He saw her get thrown onto the bonnet of an oncoming car and die. He's just been convicted of manslaughter, which is of little consequence because he's been given a nine month suspended sentence.

I have to ask, just what purpose did it serve to prosecute this man for causing his own child's death? Will it "teach him a lesson", to have gone through a court case at a time when he can probably barely live with himself. Will it stop other well-meaning parents from killing their children - as if they will all be at it without deterrent? Will it prevent the man getting a job, if the employer knows the circumstances? Will it make society, or his other child, or the roads, any safer?

The sentence given clearly reflects the judge's opinion of the situation.

Ms Henry, defending, said: "
He clearly will never forgive himself for what has happened. He is already living a life sentence."

This isn't the same as a PC who has driven dangerously and caused a death. A prosecution there may well act as a deterrent, and is probably required in this day and age for the family to be sure the case has been properly investigated.

But the prosecution of the father in the above case is a good example of what drives the Criminal Justice System in this country. It isn't about morality, commonsense, or fair play, and it certainly isn't about justice.

In the twenty-first century, appearances are everything.


Update: some good comments here.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Not-So-Special Constabulary

PC John Dougal has appeared in court charged with Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, after hitting and killing a 16yr old girl. I don't know the circumstances of the case - here's one witness' report that might explain why he's been charged. It's pretty tragic for everyone concerned.





Hayley Adamson, 16






This is just one of numerous examples I could give of my police area alone, where police officers are being prosecuted for motoring offences and use-of-force incidents - mostly of a far more minor nature. In cases where police officers have committed offences, the cases are looked at by Crown Prosecutors from neighbouring force areas, to avoid suggestions of corruption. And quite often the CPS will prosecute police officers where they would never consider prosecuting a member of the public: partly because they hold the police up to higher standards, partly because they don't want to get accused of being in on it.

I don't think police officers should be allowed to speed whenever they please, nor tweak people's handcuffs to make them stop swearing, nor receive gifts in return for a good service. But the point is that this used to be acceptable, because people recognised in return that the police had a difficult job to do, and that they were putting their necks on the line - physically and morally - to do it.

We still put our necks on the line. In fact, our position financially, legally, socially, is as fragile as it ever was. And gradually the small special privileges of the role (free tea at the local cafe, parking on double yellows for a minute to grab a sandwich, not having to queue at tills, the freedom to pop home for a moment during the day if it's on your patch, etc), are being removed. To some, these privileges are a legitimate return for the job we do. To others, they are a notch away from corruption.

It's hard to argue in favour of overlooking minor indiscretions for the police without being labelled corrupt. I don't take liberties myself, because it isn't worth it. But as the privilege of being a police officer is erroded, the public still expect the same tireless commitment, the same performance, the same service, and they are surprised when they don't get it.

PC Dougal's mowing down of this girl isn't a minor indiscretion, and I hope I wouldn't drive that fast without blue lights or sirens. But I'm not supporting corruption when I say that I feel for him, and that I wonder how many other avenues to prosecution were considered. There but for the grace of God go all of us.

If society wants the police officer to be like any other job, it can be achieved by carrying on down this route. We can keep rigidly to the restrictions of a normal job, even when it means sitting at a red light while you get beaten up round the corner; arresting you for the pettiest of allegations by your neighbour; refusing to do overtime if we've exceeded our 48-hour-week; taking our hour meal break and driving 10 miles back to the nick to do it.

I just think society needs to think very carefully about what it wishes for. Because the public will be the first to complain when it all goes wrong.

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Dark Arts

As part of my ambitious, career-woman-drive for promotion, I have lately been attending the Morning Meetings. Gadget can tell you more about them.

These take place at 8.30am, and are attended by the duty sergeant, a local intelligence officer, the Local Police Area Commander, and representatives from various departments. There is also a woman in a long-sleeved red top who sits in the corner. Her job is to burrow through every computer system we own and collate a list of what crimes have occurred overnight. She reads out each one, and the LPA Commander decides whether or not he can alter its classification. Quite a few burglaries are transformed into thefts, and several broken car windows change from attempted thefts to criminal damages.

Having reduced Blandmore's "volume crime" figures by 5%, the LPA Commander then goes onto solve a number of offences himself. For example, the burglary at Corinthian Way where the glass was removed from the rear patio window.

"Who does that kind of thing?" he will muse.

The pressure is on. The local intelligence officer suggests a few names of burglars who are known to prise glass out of windows. The duty sergeant will say that one of them was seen by the night shift on the weekend.

Now that we know who has committed the burglary, the LPA Commander sets an action for the early shift to arrest the offender.

Next, there is a round-up from each department. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) run through all the incidents which response officers botched the night before, and the LPA Commander requests that a few emails are sent to the officers' inspector. Then, the detective sergeant responsible for "DA" speaks up. I have not heard of this department before, but his report also consists of all the incidents botched by response officers the night before, and the LPA Commander requests that a few more emails are sent, this time to a different inspector.

My sergeant will then tell everyone how we have half the number of officers on duty that we should, and the LPA Commander tells him to make sure this number improves throughout the day. The priority of the day is set. It is to erradicate racism from Blandmore.

As we leave, I ask my sergeant what "DA" is. It turns out Domestic Violence has been re-named overnight, and Violence is now Abuse.

The representatives of each department trudge back upstairs to begin collating the sheets of statistics for tomorrow's meeting. It will take most of the day.

The LPA Commander asks the woman in the red top to make him a cup of coffee, while he prepares to go through everything again in the Later Morning Meeting.

I turn my radio back on and race straight out to a report of a fight in progress. I fail to erradicate racism that day or the next, but no one minds.

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Invisible Police Officer

The house is a bungalow, but has been extended with a large conservatory: I’d guess the couple have lived there for some years, having retired with reasonable pensions and grown-up children who work. In the conservatory, beside two dog beds and a plush sofa, is the old lady I have come to see. She’s in an armchair, supported by five cushions, TV controller in hand. One of the dogs is lying at her feet, whimpering. It’s a scene of idyllic middle class lifestyle: well-off, comfortable old age. There’s a big garden, beautifully-tended. I think there might be herbs.

The only thing amiss is that the old lady isn’t just sitting there waiting for This Morning to start; she’s dead. Her husband tells me that he got up to make her a cup of tea and when he came back with it she’d died. The family arrive and sob as I fill out the paperwork. I am not sure whether to refer to the dead body as "your wife" or "your late wife".

Another morning, another sudden death: this time an old man. He went out for his daily stroll; forty minutes later his wife looked outside and saw him lying sprawled across the garden fence, still warm but absolutely gone. Children in the neighbouring garden are jumping on a trampoline, their faces flashing in and out of view as they peer at what we are doing. Because he’s in public, and has fallen oddly, the inspector wants to send detectives, spotlights, and a tent. I’m the senior PC on scene, and on arriving I made the decision there hadn’t been foul play. I don’t tell the inspector, but I’ve already had the body moved inside where his wife wanted to sit with him alone until the undertakers come. She couldn’t bear him lying out in the cold, with kids and strangers staring at him. In something of a panic, I persuade the inspector we don’t need to send detectives and he gives in. The post mortem proves me right – luckily.

Again, a death. A young man, in a multi-occupancy room, asleep in bed with two other people present who claim not to have noticed him die. The first young body I’ve seen, it looks too young to be dead and I keep thinking he’ll get up every time I turn my back. I imagine reentering the room to find the sheets pulled back and the bed empty. We secure the house and wait for scenes of crime and the police doctor. The doctor thinks he’s overdosed, so we let the other occupants go.

The next one, a woman with MS, whose health has deteriorated for twenty years. Her husband tells me she had gone blind that week and had been in severe pain all day. The family don’t want a post mortem done, they don’t want the police there at all. They just want the body blessed by their priest. Paramedics think she might have been dead for a while before they were called. I glance at the mug containing the dregs of her final dose of medication. Perhaps it contains an overdose. Perhaps her husband helped her die, hence why they won’t cooperate. Perhaps he’s just grief-stricken. If we create a crime scene, and we’re wrong, what damage will be done? I speak to the inspector. We quietly seize the bedclothes, and the mug, and tell the family this is normal. It isn’t normal, but telling them we’re suspicious could be catastrophic. The post mortem shows the lady died naturally of heart failure.

A toddler, killed in a freak accident by a piece of furniture. I don't have to see the body, but I see the faces of officers who have. We're told to arrest one parent for murder, but later, they're released without charges.

A fire, a child trapped. Charred bodies and wails coming from the street. Fire investigators, CID, chief inspectors. I’m not needed, and I leave.

The people I met at these incidents won’t remember my name, or face. But they’ll remember every word I said and every action I took.

Is it policing, if there’s no way to measure it? Is it policing if there is?

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

Friday, October 03, 2008

Excuse me, sir, are you a nonce?

If you enter Telford Town Park without a child, be prepared to be asked to account for your behaviour. Park wardens will be trying to keep paedophiles out with this sanction.

Blandshire Constabulary adopts a MULTI-AGENCY APPROACH to paedophilia. The Multi-Agency Approach is a handy modern tool and can be applied to virtually any problem. It essentially means that instead of just the police getting upset when nasty paedos do nasty paedo things, a lot of other people get upset too, and get paid to do so.

Blandshire Constabulary's own contribution to public safety is the Bad Man Officer, who sits upstairs in the Public Protection Unit. Her job is to keep tabs on all convicted sex offenders prowling the area. She knows* their registered addresses, what offences they have committed, what their likelihood of reoffending is. It is also her job to discover if they are evincing worrying behaviour that might suggest they are about to reoffend. One such symptom might be if they kidnap and rape a three-year-old.

*When I say "she knows", this means she can log onto a lot of systems to get this information. So can any normal police officer.

One of the BMO's most important roles is to apply for Orders against sex offenders who seem to be about to reoffend. The Order, vitally, makes it illegal for the subject to commit an illegal sex offence.

Following Telford Council's decision to quiz innocent passers-by on their predilection for children, pond life, squirrels and/or swans, there's been some discussion in the media about how large a threat paedophiles really pose. Some pundits aren't sure if society is really at greater risk from paedophiles than in the past (you might argue less, because it's harder to get away with it nowadays). Others point out that this policy is in fact ENCOURAGING the kidnap of children, so that people who don't have any can borrow some to go to the park with.

I've dealt with two or three really nasty stranger paedophile incidents during my service. I've seen hundreds of nasty non-stranger, inter-familial child abuse cases. So how is quizzing people who don't have children going to protect them, again...?

Incidentally, my favourite bit of the Mail article is where outraged Miss Whittaker, 34, has her say on this disgraceful policy. No, she is not upset about the infringement on human freedoms or the wrongful labelling of innocent adults as potential sex offenders, but about the "dangerous implication that if you have a child with you than everything is OK and you won't be questioned". Clearly Miss Whittaker feels that all people, whether with a child or not, are suspected paedophiles.

NB Is this the same Miss Whittaker who was thrown out of the park for dressing as a penguin the month before? If so, perhaps her remarks above have been taken out of context.


Why is this man in Telford Town Park? I
s he a paedophile?





I should add, I have no idea who this man is. But NOR DO YOU.







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

 

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