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.


Anonymous Dr Melvin T Gray said...

How better it would have been to begin with a little praise for a few hours of excellent work by DI Justin Davies. Nope, too much reflection on incompetents working alongside good officers. Let us put it down to his 'blind luck' and the irrelevance of mistakes by others.

So its broad shoulders on bewildered police; no crisis in public confidence and the fool Judge Barnes reserving sharpest criticism for years of inadequate police work. What a relief to see the word 'unfortunately' appearing through yacht varnish.

27 March, 2009 09:04

Anonymous S Doomfist said...

It was really only a matter of time till something like this happened. Same as Baby P and Stafford Hospital.

27 March, 2009 09:05

Anonymous Mac said...

Another spot on analysis of how high profile cases actually effect working coppers, and what the real response behind the public pronouncements will be.

27 March, 2009 10:48

Blogger WeePeeCee said...

I read about this on the BBC News website yesterday and hoped you might write something about it.

Apparently the mistake was made when Kirk Reid was stopped and spoken to on the street. What the uniformed officers should have done, it seems, was take his name, address and DNA.
I'll have to look for that box on my paperwork. I seem to have missed it until now.

27 March, 2009 11:51

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

Unfortunately while senior supervisors are busy sending out emails, invoices to other depts, press releases, attending meetings,trying to fit up some lowly Pc for doing something and sometimes fitting in an illicit bonk or two whilst on duty they just dont have the time to get to grips with serious crime encouraging their staff and bringing up young inexperienced detectives by example and leadership to become the scourge of people like Kirk Reid...Oh no I have gone through that time warp again where Supts didnt look like 12 year olds(or acted like them either)

27 March, 2009 13:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose in future, when i'm out on patrol, I should take DNA from every person I meet in case they are a 'sex-attacker'. Hmm, wait a minute, we don't have the power to arbitrarily screen people's genes at street level... yet.

27 March, 2009 18:25

Blogger Metcountymounty said...

weepeecee - I thought exactly the same thing mate, he was stopped after being pointed out by a member of the public on the 'first missed opportunity' so according to the Police experts in the media he should have been immediately nicked on suspicion of RAPE, even though the officers were unlikely to have actually known the suspect description at the time. And so, by that very same token should EVERY OTHER person who fitted the extremely loose description of a 6'1" black male wearing sports gear and a hat who was within reasonable walking distance of the offence area, just to get their DNA to eliminate or catch them. Just imagine how that one would have gone down! I can see the Daily Mail's headline if we did that "Racist Police arrest hundreds of innocent men for RAPE because they were black and wearing tracksuit"

27 March, 2009 21:43

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03 April, 2009 21:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

evil or just plain stupid, inept is it just money and who has the juice????? dungbeetle
Mar 31, 2009 ... Dozens of police departments throughout Los Angeles County routinely have not tested DNA evidence collected in rape and sexual assault cases ...,0,4150400.story

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15 April, 2009 08:42

Blogger thinblueline said...


its just spin on project Saphhire been folded in to an SO command so all the borough Saphhire teams become centralised to cover larger areas of london rather than having 32 small teams who only care about there "patch" we will have 5 teams covering north south central etc...

there is no new wheel in this story

23 April, 2009 08:02

Blogger Dr Zen said...

But he wasn't just "stopped on the street". He was stopped because a passerby thought he might be following a woman.

Police took an emergency call about an assault, which, incredibly, gave his licence number. No one followed it up.

He was named as one of 11 suspects, but no one interviewed him. And no DNA was taken.

So he went on to do 20 more assaults, which no one managed to find even one thing to link to him.

Well, you know, everyone fucks up. The police fucked up. But here you are, and the police in your comments also, excusing the police for fucking up. It's not your fault. It never is.

26 April, 2009 05:52


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