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, March 26, 2009

How to Come Back From Blunders

In light of the news that the Metropolitan Police has single-handedly raped/sexually assaulted 26 women between 2001-2007, I thought my readers might be interested to know how the process of snaring a sex attacker like this affects your average front-line police officer.

As the PC who turns up to your door when you have been burgled/robbed/texted by a ne'er-do-well, I can tell you that the prospects of my snaring a serial rapist by anything other than blind luck are precisely zero.

When a serial rapist strikes, a lot of squads leap to action, and do a lot of very useful analysis. CCTV is downloaded all over the region, suspicious sightings are collated, victims are dealt with by trained specialists. The list of procedures that fall into place are endless. But ultimately what governs whether an arrest will be made is for one of the following conditions to occur:
  • Forensics link the offender to the crime.
  • CCTV images are released and someone recognises him.
  • He uses a car to commit the crime which is registered to him or someone linked to him.
  • He blabs about it to someone who reports him.
  • The police get there straight after it happens and nab him as he runs away.
  • On occasion, a police officer who is aware of the description will spot someone suspicious lurking somewhere odd and nick him on an instinct. This is quite rare.
The last two are about the only way I'll ever be involved.

In terms of successful convictions, you can't beat a combination of witness identification and forensics. Which is why most of the energy in these investigations goes into locating possible CCTV sources/witnesses and scouring the scene/victim for forensics.

Nearly every sex attacker builds up to their violent rapes with progressively more serious offences. Which is why, in 1995, police had the opportunity to take DNA from Kirk Reid which would later link him to a series of attacks before he reached 26 victims. Unfortunately, the early offences of people like these are usually minor, and are therefore dealt with by front-line police officers, because the experienced detective squads are too busy investigating the last serial rapist who never had his DNA taken twelve years ago.

So when the Met tells you it is setting up "a new dedicated rape and serious sexual offence command", don't think for one moment that this will mean experienced detectives dealing with first time sex offenders before they become serial rapists. It will mean that someone somewhere has been appointed the job of sending emails to front-line police officers reminding them that first time sex offenders might be future serial rapists, and how if this happens, it will be their fault.

I'm not singling out the Met: this is the way the government has caused us to work. Boxes need to be ticked, "lessons need to be learned", and appearance is everything. Whether the next serial rapist will be dealt with any better is irrelevant. In fact, it's irrelevant whether the police actually made any mistakes in the first place. As long as a public apology has been issued and one or two uniformed PCs have been disciplined, the whole unpleasant business can be forgotten. Except by the uniformed PCs, who will never really know just what exactly they did wrong.

Down here on the front line, our shoulders are broad.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Double Trouble

As if in some kind of landmark policy, Met Commissioner Paul Stephenson has ruled that his officers should walk the beat alone from now on. This will apparently make them more approachable, oh and double the number of patrols. Which conveniently means that he can get away with employing half the number of officers.

Here in Blandshire Constabulary, along with most other forces outside London, we have yoyo-ed between single and double crewing for years. Every now and again a chief comes along who notices that if everyone were single-crewed, there would be double the number of crews out there. Then another chief comes along who points out that this means needing double the amount of cars (in non-urban areas), and a decrease in safety. At present, Blandshire is in a state of sort-of-single-crewing. In that the Senior Management Team accept that it is unacceptable to transport prisoners single-crewed, but that they do rather like the idea of double the number of arrests being made. My colleagues and I spend a good proportion of our day arresting people single-crewed and then waiting with them at the side of the road until another colleague can come along to transport them to custody with us.

Despite being a delicate FEMALE, I frequently patrol alone. When I was first declared fit for independent patrol, I considered lone patrol as the only way to get to grips with my job and develop my own policing style. However there are some things officers should not do alone, although we do all the time. These include:
  • Transporting a prisoner. You simply cannot safely keep an eye on a prisoner and drive at the same time. Even in a van, if the person has been struggling, is very drunk, or injured, they are a risk to themselves in the back and should be monitored.
  • Forcing entry to a premise. This can be dangerous in itself, let alone what happens when you get in.
  • Pursuing a criminal. You often end up doing this alone, especially if you are a lot faster or slower than your crew-mate. But anyone running away might well fight if you catch them, so it's best to do it in pairs.
  • Search a suspect. Apart from it being against the Code of Practice to search alone, it's also full of hazards.
  • Pursuing a fleeing vehicle. Again, people do, but providing a proper radio commentary whilst driving at speed is not really ideal.
  • Attending domestic incidents. Domestics are probably the "moodiest" situations we go into. Not only will you almost certainly be arresting someone who doesn't want to be arrested, but the chances are the victim will also launch a violent assault on you.
  • Attending road traffic accidents. You need to be able to watch or direct the traffic whilst giving first aid/taking witness accounts, and you can't do those at the same time.
  • Dealing with assault/robbery as it happens. If you go legging it after the villain, who's going to help the victim. If you don't leg it after the villain, what will the victim think?
  • Attending sudden deaths. We go to these solo all the time, but we shouldn't have to. You never know just when a death is going to strike a chord with you, and if that happens it's best to have back-up.
  • Delivering death messages. As above.

These guys don't patrol alone. Why should we?

That said, there are a lot of jobs people do alone, and policing isn't necessarily the most dangerous. In fact, on-call electricians, builders or gas-men can be in lethal situations. But it isn't just about safety. A duo of police officers is far better equipped to deal with almost all crimes. It halves the amount of time spent doing the paperwork, and you're going to need a colleague when you go to nick the offender anyway.
You're also more likely to work harder if you're not having to do everything yourself, and if you have some company for the twelve hours you are on duty. So single-crewing is all very pretty for the public, and may well double the amount of visible police crews. But will it actually solve or prevent any more crime, or mean that anything is dealt with any better than it is now? I'm afraid it might well mean the opposite.

The crowd certainly felt able to approach this officer.

We're not all like Robert Enright.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting Ahead... 2

Following on from my outline of the improvements in police promotions nowadays, I thought it might be handy to provide a guide for those of you looking to clamber the slippery promotion pole in the near future. Consider it a checklist, or what you will, I’ve tried most of the techniques listed with varying degrees of success.

Before you start, you need to understand that the key to getting the job you want is getting to know the superintendent for resourcing. Never mind your local police commander, chief inspector of the department, or the chief constable him/herself. And never mind just doing a good job and expecting to be noticed. When it comes down to it in the bi-monthly resourcing meeting, and the woman in the grey top says “Sir we need to fill DS X's job in the Child Abuse Unit”, the superintendent will reach into his mind and think, “ooh, so-and-so is interested in that”. Bingo, you have your job.

Now, how to get the attention of this elusive superintendent, when you are a lowly PC or sergeant? Here are the ways that have worked for me:

1. Take up golf. An oldie but a goodie.

2. Make sure you are the main officer on some truly excellent jobs that get the attention of the local press, and do a stupendous and stirling job. Then, write to the superintendent and tell him about them before your inspector can claim the glory.

3. Failing (2), make sure you are the main officer on some total utter balls-ups that get the attention of the local press, and write a lot of emails complaining about how botched it all was. The emails will reach the superintendent, who will speak to you personally about it.

4. Cause absolute chaos by adhering strictly to force policy and Health and Safety. Eventually you will be called in to have a quiet word and the superintendent will never forget your name.

5. Be horrendously incompetent and preferably get somebody killed through your sheer arrogant negligence. When you come in for your disciplinary “advice”, you can throw in that you are kind of interested in a DS post, should one arise.

Stick to my advice and you won’t go wrong. Well, assuming you discount the fact that I haven't actually BEEN promoted since taking up these golden rules… and that I never did learn to play golf.

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

Sunday, March 08, 2009

How to Get Ahead

My readers will be pleased to hear that the process of being promoted in the police has, in recent years, moved away from the nepotism of the 1980s and 90s, and is now completely fair and above-board.

It used to be the case that those PCs who had been noticed as especially competent would swiftly achieve an Acting Sergeant post. Sometimes this was just luck as to whether the superintendent was on duty when a PC had a particularly good day, but the idea was that over time the good people would be identified. The promotion board would then be conducted by someone who had actually seen them in action as a sergeant and was determined to have them promoted within his area.

It was soon pointed out that this process was exceedingly unfair, as it meant that PCs who were totally incompetent and useless had absolutely no chance of being promoted. As a result, promotion boards were moved to headquarters and conducted by people who had never worked with the applicant. That way they couldn't be biassed against them by witnessing their daily cock-ups. Now, it is fair to say that competence has very little bearing on promotion, which is of course what every 21st Century employer should strive for.

On the other side of the coin, the disadvantage of headquarters-based promotion is that it prevents local superintendents from conducting legitimate vendettas against people they don't like for no good reason. Vendettas like these are the cornerstone of good area management: if newly-promoted sergeants and inspectors are allowed to run amok with their own leadership styles and ideas, how can the area ever place performance figures above commonsense where they belong?

Never fear, my own area has solved this crisis. For whilst formal promotion must be done through headquarters, nobody can stop local superintendents from giving temporary promotions and Acting posts to whoever they want. All that needs to be done is ensure that every post going is a temporary one, which can just be extended indefinitely. The chosen candidate is then assured of being the only person who has any relevant experience when they go for their actual board.

A victory over bureauracy, I think you will agree. The fact that over half of the well-qualified and competent PCs and sergeants in Blandmore have zero hope of ever being promoted is just a minor drawback.

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


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