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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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.


Blogger Joe said...

Can't see it, myself. I think two police officers will be more approachable because they won't feel so threatened as a single officer, but maybe that's just me seeing things from the other perspective.

I don't think anyone seriously thinks it's dangerous to approach the police (yet), if they have a reason to.

17 March, 2009 12:48

Anonymous Dr Melvin T Gray said...

The new Commissioner has politics on his back in addition to psychological pressures that involve tinkering and stumbling upon successful change. Everyone has to be reassured that differences are being made but the key element will be to protect front line police. It would be folly to make such an announcement without detailed risk assessments and a piecemeal introduction.

At the extreme end, unplanned confrontation with a dangerous armed criminal may be no safer in pairs when officers are themselves armed. On a more day to day level, what would really worry me if I were an officer patrolling alone, is the weight of my own evidence in any future matter where a different version of circumstances was claimed. The PCSO in lighter weight boots will certainly not greet this news as well as it will be relished by defence lawyers.

17 March, 2009 13:47

Blogger Metcountymounty said...

The argument that the public don't like approaching officers when there are more than one of them is complete bollocks, especially when they are clearly busy or doing something slightly more important/dangerous. It doesn't matter what you're doing or what you're dealing with, people will always come up and talk to you or ask direction. I've been holding someones intestines in one hand and and trying to plug a sucking chest wound with the other after a rather nasty and blatantly obvious stabbing and someone STILL came up to me and asked me to deal with their credit card being eaten by the cash machine, and they weren't even drunk. And as for being asked for directions whilst I'm having a scrap with someone on the floor trying to restrain them, I'll lose my rag if I get started on that one.

I've got no problem with lone patrolling for everyone as long as you have the capability to answer and deal with all of the incoming calls effectively which we invariably can't so you will end up sending single units to jobs where double crewed would be better and more able to resolve much quicker.

I'm on a response team so when I'm out walking (if we ever have enough people in so all the vehicles are crewed) don't expect me to get anywhere fast, even a normal ten minute walk could take a good half hour during the day because of being stopped all the time, and it doesn't matter if there are two or more of you. Unless we are expected to blank or ignore people and tell them we're too busy because we're going to another call it is impossible to get anywhere fast when you're out walking in uniform. I've got friends who are on safer neighbourhood teams and they regularly go out on their own and patrol, because they aren't slaves to the radio.

You can either have all the available Police officers out on the street walking around to talk to and provide reassurance that we are there, or you can have all the calls answered and people nicked and dealt with properly so the case has the best chance of getting to court, you can't have both.

17 March, 2009 14:20

Anonymous 20-1 said...

It's hard enough trying to convince a court (if your prisoner actually gets that far) that you're telling the truth and they're the baddie when there are 6 of you providing evidence against them. With just one of you that makes it your word against theirs and everyone knows who the courts will believe....

17 March, 2009 17:52

Blogger crowlord said...

Oh how ofent do we hear the dispatcher issue those magical words "I will try to get you some backup" which generally equates to some poor soul getting a kicking because of the madness of single crewed.

Nope I don't see why anyone would find two officer unapproachable at all and you do need someone to watch your back.

17 March, 2009 18:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I see a senior officer in uniform out on his/her own in the Town Centre then I might agree. They always seem to have a bag carrier with them. All my best jobs came about when double crewed, usually from stops that single crewed I would have thought twice about.

17 March, 2009 19:20

Anonymous Aaron Sheffield said...

MCM @ 14:20.... you sure as Hell ain't no Robert Enright, buddy!

That's for sure!!!

17 March, 2009 22:38

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Metcountymounty....the public are entitled to have both, if they are providing the money to pay for the service. It shouldn't be that extreme, that the public have to suffer an inadequate disfunctional service. An "either or" situation just isn't good enough.

And I fully agree with DO need someone to watch your back. What on earth are the Met thinking of?

18 March, 2009 00:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that Stephenson is another political officer who doesn't have the balls to say "I need more coppers, more vehicles and a hell of a lot less paperwork."
Why say that and jeopardise a pension when ideas like this make headlines.

18 March, 2009 00:14

Blogger Noddy said...

Thank God for the wonderful need for corroboration up here in Jockland.

18 March, 2009 01:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the bigger scraps I've been in happened spontaneously in a restaurant/cinema complex on a sunday evening. Two of us managed to deal with about eight people.

Single crewed it would have been slightly more difficult.

18 March, 2009 02:16

Blogger Bullseye said...

I do get the impression that the politicians, police chiefs and media think that the only reason bobbies patrol in pairs is because we are lonely or scared.
If they dn't realise the reasons for pairing up now then they never will and the job will go to hell in a handcart.

18 March, 2009 10:54

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the books and blogs - but I think I'm missing something.

If it were me, I would be okay with patrolling alone - as long as I knew that back-up would be responding ASAP if I made the call.

From what I read above in the comments, I get the idea that this is not always possible in the UK in general?

For example, in the Los Angeles area, there are many single units - although ofcourse they all have their own car.

If one officer puts out a call for assistance, the others drop what they are doing and come running. So, if one deputy or officer is handling a traffic stop, or robbery investigation, and he or she hears the call - they can make the decision to abort the stop and respond to the call.

Is that not possible across the pond? Once you initiate a contact, are you locked into until the end?

Forgive my ignorance, but that is the impression I get.

By the way, I think all the officers do a great job, US or UK! Especially when surrounded by all that micro-management.

18 March, 2009 17:49

Blogger Metcountymounty said...

Aaron Sheffield - and you're clearly no Stephen Hawking. As I've never compared myself to Robert Enright, what's your point?

anon 0013 - I completely agree, the public ARE entitled to have both, christ knows I would rather we could but the simple fact is that at present we CAN'T give both. We can't go back to the old ways of nicking someone, walking them into custody and having a one page booking in and then a short statement, a custody sgt/inspector to authorise the charge and then an admin officer to do the file for the prosecuting inspector to deal with at court, and get back out on the street in under an hour.

It doesn't work like that and it can never work like that again, the court system as it stands simply won't let it because of miscarriages of justice that have happened there are many more checks and balances in place, even though the significant majority of which were from pre PACE cases.

If we nick someone on our own for anything other than a fail to appear warrant then we are out of action for at least 4-5 hours and there is no getting away from that, doubling up means we can get that down to 2-3 hours for a pair and get back out. I have no idea how many times I've heard misguided idiots saying "get out of your cars and walk the beat" and then in the next breath say "oh the Police can never get to you quickly when you need them". Unless we all learn to fly, get scotty to beam us where needed, or have it happen right in front of us, there is always going to be a delay and if you want all the calls answered and dealt with then you need an extremely mobile and fast response capability, which a copper on foot certainly isn't.

I would love to be able to have a copper on every corner and a well equipped and manned response capability like they do in Japan, but again, the public will never get it because the government cannot justify the cost (to themselves as well as sections of the public who demand quantifiable value for money) of a Police officer walking a microbeat and covering the same set of roads/houses every 20 minutes and effectively not doing anything other than being seen.

In the Met alone we are dealing with in excess of 10 - 13,000 jobs every single day. Double that to get the number of calls from the public to 999 (again just in London) and you get an idea of how busy we are already with the resources we have. If you think an average of 1500 officers across the whole of london who will actually be dealing with those calls (on a good day) as well as all the prisoners resulting from those calls, you can see why a lot of calls never get dealt with, let alone allow us the time to actually proactively patrol.

There is a large amount of bureaucracy that we will never get rid of thanks to mistakes of the past but the simple fact is we cannot deal with the amount of work we already have with the numbers of people we have so to get what you and I want, we are talking about a massive increase in the Police budgets to pay for officers and resources, but the whole argument is pointless when we continue to nick the same people over and over and they just get let out after being convicted.

Then you've still got lots of crime and a public livid that they've paid for considerably more and got nothing back.

18 March, 2009 22:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Metcountymounty - Thanks for your very detailed explanation. And to put it simply, Oh what a mess!

19 March, 2009 02:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Society be strange? We process more people [ law degrees] to get other people free of being punished for committing crime than we do for brainwashing people to prevent the criminal act. Such be the reaction to people that once liked to punish people for stealing a loaf of bread and putting them in chains or stringing them up for stealing an old nag.
That be my comment for having less bodies on the streets patrolling and protecting the unwary from providing wealth to the unwashed
than having more bodies sitting in luxury reading their law books finding ways to let crime pay. Forget freedom and pursuit of happiness for majority of law abiding citizens.

As to seeing two men in blue , 'me' first thought be , Oh! dear! lots of cockroaches here about, watch 'me' wallet.

The elected ones want full employment and I read that there be 2 million looking for a paycheck, surely it be better paying a few farthings for safe streets than a few bob to the loss souls to drink in the local pub..

19 March, 2009 19:36

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please just look after yourself hun!

19 March, 2009 20:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will certainly try to my love. U2 X

20 March, 2009 01:29

Blogger Hamish Macbeth said...

The only Officers I see "double crewed" are...

(1) Van crews - for prisoner transport.
(2) The Chiefs going to meetings with their bag carriers/staff officers etc etc
(3) Officers in training school always work in twos whe teaching a class of up to 20 people. FFS - even the education system manage 1 teacher to 30 unruly pupils!

20 March, 2009 08:26

Blogger Hamish Macbeth said...

""For example, in the Los Angeles area, there are many single units - although ofcourse they all have their own car.""

Errr and they have their own gun too...
I wouldn't have any problem whatsoever patrolling the shittest area of the UK - with a shotgun, onboard computer system, caged area in the rear of the car, set of mirror sunglasses etc etc

20 March, 2009 08:29

Anonymous Aaron Sheffield said...

Metcountymounty @22:08 " Aaron Sheffield - and you're clearly no Stephen Hawking. As I've never compared myself to Robert Enright, what's your point?..."

Point is you ALWAYS portray yourself as some kind of "Hero"

Been beaten up at the bus-stop again lately?

20 March, 2009 12:39

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will now sit back and wait for the rise in assaults on Police and not guilty pleas where there are a shed load of witnesses for the defence against the lone word of the bobby.
Also the number of stop checks will decrease by lone officers.
When the SMT were PCs there may have been enough respect around for coppers to walk a beat on their own. Unfortunately, society has not progressed - far from it - and their is no respect at all for anyone in authority. In fact there are those who actively confront any form of authority and we will see the results of this very soon.

20 March, 2009 17:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaron Sheffield......Oooooh Aaron, sour grapes or what? Metcounty most likely IS a HERO. He's a cop isn't he? ALL the good cops are Heroes. All of them. And without them there would be total chaos and anarchy in this country.

Are you a cop Aaron?
If you are, why are you bitching about Metcountymounty?


21 March, 2009 01:09

Anonymous Aaron said...

Hiya "Anon" @01:09

MCM, old ripened ovary of a plant, your ineptitude and bluster shines through like a signature

22 March, 2009 18:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya "Aaron" @18.00 on the 22nd March. Not much of a psychic are you? You appear to assume that my comment - "anon @01.09" was written by MCM. You are wrong.

I'm M.T.M - Minni the Minx, and inept I am not. Bolshi, fiesty and often sarcastic, oh yes, and loyal. And where dear Aaron, was my "signature"? I was anonymous, until you made yourself look foolish. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

23 March, 2009 23:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

.. I wish you'd told me that earlier.

I feel like such a fool.

24 March, 2009 21:54

Anonymous Log Entry said...

Are you OK, Ellie?

25 March, 2009 16:01

Blogger PC Plastic Fuzz said...

We already patrol alone. We don’t have enough resources to double crew.

26 March, 2009 21:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Bloggs, whilst I usually support yours and other 'celebrity status Bloggers' views I must disagree this time. There's nothing wrong with patrolling single crewed as a rule and to think otherwise is pure paranoia. I accept the need to go to certain incidents would require a double crewed unit but in the main Officers should be confident in their own ability and work alone. It ain't such a bad world you know.
PC Common Sense

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15 April, 2009 08:43


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