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.

(All proceeds from Google Ads will be donated to the Police Roll of Honour Trust)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another blogger falls

The day has come at last. PC Ellie Bloggs' secret persona was uncovered in front of a crowd stamping their feet and yelling. The identity of the mystery blogger has been revealed to be none other than ex-Formula One racing driver Michael Schumacher!

The blogging world remains unimpressed:

"PC Bloggs' identity was revealed months ago to be rally driver Ben Collins, so this is clearly just a stunt to get more readers." (PC Copperfield)

"To be honest, I've always suspected she might have been Schumacher." (Inspector Gadget)

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Booking Off

Three police bloggers have nightjacked it in this week, out of fear of possible repercussions, including Max, Metcountymounty, and Plastic Fuzz. From my own point of view, I don't say anything on my blog that I don't go on about at work (no doubt to the tedium of my colleagues), and I guess if it's misconduct to harp on about what we'd change if we could then a few of us would be out of a job.

Once again, the latest subject is Resources. Blandshire Constabulary has come up with an excellent solution to the never-ending problem of failing resources. I like to call it the Resource Spiral, and this is how it works:
  • First, it is identified that there aren't enough of a certain kind of police officer, for example Detectives.
  • On discovering there is absolutely no resilience in any department to take detectives from there, drastic measures are needed. All Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs) across four stations are immediately combined into one great big CID covering all four areas. This means two-thirds the amount of detectives are able to provide 24hr cover.
  • Over time, it is realised that the needs of the four areas are slightly different, and that really they could each do with their own CID. For a while, the detectives on the Uber-CID are run ragged covering all four areas at once, until they gradually start to apply for other forces or areas. Uber-CID is just coping with half the number of staff they used to have.
  • Finally, the department is split into four and based at each station like before. Only with half the number of detectives they had to start with.
  • The Resource Spiral is complete.
The brilliance of this cost-cutting should not be under-stated. What other business can halve their staff without reducing workload, without anyone noticing?

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

Friday, June 19, 2009

It would be inappropriate to comment...

It seems to be commonly accepted that it is unwise to comment on an ongoing police investigation. Which is why you will often read in the press phrases such as "enquiries have begun into..." or "police have been called in..."

In actual fact, there is rarely any reason why commenting on an ongoing police investigation will jeopardise anything. And yet when I find myself standing on a cordon guarding a scene of intense public scrutiny, I am usually phoned by the press officer and given one of select few phrases to regurgitate to any passing journalist, including:
  1. "Police have been called to investigate reports of a disturbance."
  2. "At 0500hrs, an assault took place. An investigation has been launched."
  3. "A police incident is taking place and the following roads are closed..."
Half the time, this leads frustrated journalists to try other sources. On one occasion a reporter actually sneaked past my cordon and entered the scene of the Police Incident at great risk to the Seventeen Year Old Male In A Distressed State. Perhaps if I had been allowed to say, "Look, there's a guy up there threatening to kill himself, we're in the process of talking him down and if you stick your big nose he could throw himself off the roof and on your head be it, possibly literally," I think most journalists would keep a respectful distance. Either way, it's not going to make them more likely to interfere.

Through this blog and my book, I've met journalists/editors/producers in print and radio, TV and Internet. I have found them without exception to be reasonable, respectful individuals, albeit often with a different agenda to me. So why are journalists I meet at work so often obstreperous, obstructive and abusive, as opposed to those I meet as PC Ellie Bloggs? I believe it is because Ellie Bloggs tells them the truth about frontline policing, however unpalatable. At work, I tell them only what my employers want me to (which isn't lies, but isn't always the truth).

Of course, I could throw caution to the wind and blurt out whatever I wanted to the press on my cordon. A large part of me wonders if the results would really be as disastrous as the press officer seems to think. Leaving aside cases of ongoing kidnap/terrorism, where we sometimes have to play a tactical game with the media to avert tragedy, when would it really hurt to say: "Well we're looking into the expenses saga because on the face of it, it looks as though some MPs might have acted illegally. We'll keep you posted on what we find." Would this really undermine a future prosecution?

I don't anticipate this kind of frankness appearing in the media any time soon, especially not triggered by the police.

Mr Justice Eady
believes that the nation is desirous of "openness and transparency". How ironic that it is the anonymous police bloggers he is trying to shut down who have actually had the more trusted and open relationship with the public.

Our bosses should be taking note, and figuring out how to get this relationship between police and public to work officially.

Thank you to all my visitors this week who have reached me via Woman's Hour. The BBC have loose plans to turn my book into a TV comedy too (to be confirmed), so soon the world will be bombarded with the truth about policing, whether or not Mr Justice Eady approves.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Live by the Sword

Episode 4 of Radio 4's dramatisation this week, and Day 4 of my week of daily blogging. If you're new to my blog, which two-thirds of you are, I don't normally talk so much about being a blogger, and you can expect a return to vindictive, pointless sarcasm next week.

I read in The Telegraph today blogging described as an art form, and anonymous public sector bloggers depicted as brave wandering heroes of the Internet. I never thought of myself that way, but I will buy a scabbard immediately. I doubt very much that any public sector blogger went into it to achieve hero status, and most of us try very hard to come across as bog standard examples of our profession. It has been surprising and gratifying to read the flood of public support for Nightjack's predicament, and I think it's fair to say that if the public were this supportive of the police in general, most police bloggers wouldn't feel the need to exist.

They aren't supportive, because the public aren't stupid, and they know they're not getting the full story from politicians and police chiefs. Bloggers aren't appreciated by those who believe facts should be diluted and prepared for public consumption, as if poor old Britain should be protected from the nasty mean truth.

In 'Diary...' today, you can hear me single-handedly attempt to take out a vicious robber, resulting in a pile of thrashing police and robber limbs. One of the dilemmas for police, and the situation that often results in headlines of "brutality", is that in 90% of violent confrontations, two unavoidable facts make our input less than effective:

1) We only want to arrest the person, we don't want to hurt them.
2) They want to get away far more than we want to stop them.

As a lone, somewhat lightweight female with minimal training in combat, it simply isn't possible for me to effect an arrest of someone who doesn't want to be arrested, not without severely swinging the odds in my favour. I'm not a cage fighter (you'll be disappointed to hear), and I don't go into combat situations wanting a "fair fight", but only when necessary and when I expect to win. This means swinging the odds in my favour with a baton strike, deploying my incapacitant spray, or a serious amount of punching/kicking. If all my opponent wants to do is get away, I am always going to come across as the aggressor, because I am.

The fact is, it can be a frightening business policing the streets alone. I enjoy it, and I think all police officers should be capable of lone patrol and able to handle themselves until back-up comes. But most of us didn't join the job to get our faces kicked in, and we face that prospect with the full knowledge of little support from the public or the criminal justice system.

It is that knowledge that leads us to blog, in an attempt to remedy one or other situation. I am most grateful for the support of my readers, and I hope some day it will translate into support from my 'customers' too.

But it's worth keeping a perspective. What we do off-duty is not heroic, it is informative and (hopefully) entertaining. What we are sometimes asked to do on-duty is where the fabric of our hero status is tested.

PC Gemma Maggs:
What "Living by the Sword" really means.

PS Daniel Finkelstein obviously didn't appreciate my input on his column yesterday - despite publishing numerous comments critical of The Times, mine didn't make it past moderation... I'm sure it's just an oversight.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Real Blows in Life

Yesterday I was inundated with text messages, emails and calls warning me to BEWARE THE TIMES! Well, I had a few texts from close family and a lot of emails from strangers.

If you want to know what it's all about, read Dan Collins' blog, as he says it all really and far more objectively than I would. I do however think it is ironic that police blogger Nightjack's identity has been revealed by the ruling of a judge who on the same day ruled that the Beckhams' old nanny must make a formal apology for breaching their confidence some years ago. Of course, the Beckhams aren't bloggers, just international celebrities whose lives are generally available for public consumption. So clearly they require more protection than an erstwhile Lancashire detective constable who donates his off-duty earnings to charity. It's worth pointing out that Nightjack's force have issued a mere "written warning" for his most terrible and awful misconduct (this is just one level up from a verbal warning and below even a preliminary misconduct hearing).

There's a lot to say on the matter, and I strongly recommend Googling Mr Justice Eady alongside the words "Max", "Mosley", "Gordon Kaye", and "gagging order".

But back in the real world, things like this are happening. Most police officers who die on duty are killed in car crashes, as you can see if you check out the Police Roll of Honour Trust.*

When you read the comments on Gadget's blog about PC Pratt, most of whom I am sure never met him, you realise perhaps why front-line cops are a bit protective of each other, sometimes blindly so.

There aren't many jobs where you can spend eleven hours of your shift cursing bureaucracy and lose your life in the twelfth.

Stay safe out there.

Update: Daniel Finkelstein defends The Times.
I usually try to say something clever when I blog, but all I can muster up is the words utter codswallop. Read the comments below his article, the public ain't fooled. People have published anonymously for centuries, and writers like Swift and his contemporaries used to have great fun writing under one name and then responding under another. The public understood this was the game and decided what to believe. As Finkelstein's commenters point out, no one objects to a reporter checking out Nightjack's credentials to make sure he really is an English Detective. Had he turned out to be Sir Ian Blair, or not really a police officer, that's a story. But essentially their headline was "BREAKING NEWS - BLOGGER IS EXACTLY WHO HE SAYS HE IS SHOCK!"
Still, I have a feeling their victory in court will be their own punishment.

All proceeds made from advertising on this blog or articles I am asked to write go to the PROHT, which commemorates fallen officers.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tea and Pizza

I am often asked how long it took me to become cynical after joining the police, and whether I was disappointed/overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork that existed. These are fair questions, but I actually think I went into the police with fairly open eyes. Anyone who joins the police without being aware there might be a bit of paperwork involved will probably fail on the part of the interview where they ask what "research" you have done into the job.

What I wasn't expecting, what I had no idea about, was that there are homes in Britain where it is advisable not to accept a cup of tea. And where you have to wipe your feet on the way out. As police officers will confirm, these homes are identifiable by the washing machine in the front garden and the huge plasma TV in the lounge. To a true young English lady like myself (well sort of), the idea that some people live without even the social grace of a sanitary cup of tea to offer a guest, was fairly shocking.

The point is, it's all very well the government/press/senior management (delete as applicable) going on and on about domestic/racist violence, measuring us on crime performance, hauling us over the coals every time we fail to prevent murder, accusing us of brutality and setting us a target of customer satisfaction. As long as they understand who our regular "customer" really is.

On Radio 4 today you can hear me visiting some regulars.* There's Mr Grahams, who thinks his ex-partner's new partner's ex-partner is sending him junk mail about pizzas. There's a guy defecating in the middle of the road. There's Unconscious Bloke and Blinking Female, whose families have started open warfare on a quiet Blandmore street. And there's the pink-headed stranger, who's tried to manhandle a six-year-old child into his car. Mixed in amongst them are the public: variously seen crossing the road to avoid defecation; demanding why the police took so long and came so unequipped to deal with warfare; frantic with concern for their son and baking brownies by the trayload. Which of these two groups do you imagine takes up more of our time?

The Mr Grahamses of this world will never be satisfied by commonsense approaches, full discretion, nor a robust if unsightly use of force. They will never write letters of thanks for our time or wonder whether they should deal with the issue of parking spaces and junk mail themselves. They will continue to feed off the state, seeing the police officer in their home as "their right", regardless of who else is waiting.

Everything the government does to improve policing, everything our senior managers pass down to us, caters for Mr Grahams and his self-serving, unremitting wastage of society's resources. And this comes down to the fundamental problem with treating the police like a customer service organisation: because if we are policing effectively, some of our customers will be, and should be, dissatisfied.

* In case you're wondering, no I don't have an accent like the woman in the Radio 4 drama. If you want to hear what I sound like, I appear on the radio from time to time. I can't tell you when/where, as that would make it too easy...

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

The "W" Hour

As my long-time readers will know, I consider myself one hell of a risque gal. Not only have I chosen a career highly unsuitable for a young lady, I have also indulged in disgraceful humour both on and off-duty. It just isn't the done thing for a woman to attempt comedy, and I receive my just deserts in the form of dressings-down by my commenters, emails inviting me to be stalked, and reviewers who deign not to find me funny.

This week my book, Diary of an On-Call Girl, has been dramatised for Woman's Hour. This means portions of it will be played/acted out twice a day from 15th-19th June. This makes it a good time to dredge up the old "W" word.

It's easy for female bloggers/police officers to play the Woman card, and claim unfair treatment by virtue of gender. But is there really any difference in the way I am treated by my readers, colleagues, or the public? I can't give a definitive answer, because I've never blogged as a man (nor dressed like one at work despite comments to the contrary). But I can point out some experiences I've had unlikely to be shared by a bloke in the same situation.

  • Being referred to continually as "Ellie" in my comments pages, usually preceded by a patronising depiction of my work as ill-conceived or lacking depth. For "Ellie", one might substitute "woman" or "dear" (depending on the venom of the commenter).* The subtext being, you couldn't expect a woman to think this through properly. This isn't something I've seen in male bloggers' comments.
  • Having readers evince an unhealthy interest in my looks. You might point out that to some extent I've encouraged this, with my book title, cover, and occasional flashing of my TITs.** But this still wouldn't happen to a male, nor could he try to make it.
  • Hearing the response, "Really, but you don't look..." when I tell people what I do.
Of course there are examples of overt sexism I've experienced, at the hands of utter morons. These affected me so deeply I can't remember enough to bother mentioning them. And there's probably been some hidden sexism that may actually have inconvenienced me, but I'm blase enough not to have noticed it.

My overall experience has been that any disadvantage I feel by being a woman in a still male-dominated job is balanced by as many advantages. And that holds true for my writing too. There are things I'd like to change, largely surrounding attitudes towards sexual assault and rape. But I'm not a man-hating feminist, and I'm open-minded enough to see that some of the attitudes I revile are based on unpalatable truths, and it is the truths that need changing first.

If you haven't read my book, you can listen to bits of it this week - feedback is welcomed and will be fully incorporated into the sequel... if... when...

I know I must have some female readers out there, and I'd like to know your views on the above. Is it really harder being a woman, or do we just talk about it more?

* I should add I don't mind being referred to as Ellie, it's the context.
** As you will know, these are my Terrific Investigating Techniques.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Parting Shot

I missed out on events at the start of May, think I was in Crown Court or something that week (although that usually means I am glued to my computer playing games to while away the hours spent waiting). Anyway, apparently PC Pinkstone departed his force with some kind apocalyptic email to senior ranks. He now continues blogging from abroad, where he can't vote for two years.

I once discussed with a colleague how we'd "go out" if we ever quit the job. The words, "piece of my mind" and "blaze of glory" were mentioned. In reality, if things ever came to that, I think silence would be about all I could muster up.

Of course, it's fun to fantasise about what one would say in one's parting All-User Email. I think mine would read as follows:

"Dear All,

Well I'm off to pastures new and thought I'd spend a moment to tell you all just exactly what I think of this organisation and its vast array of well-meaning bureaucrats.

I must say golly what a terrific bunch you are! Daily I am staggered by the PROFESSIONALISM, INTEGRITY and gosh-darned-old-fashioned-jolly-roger-stiff-upper-double-jointedness of you people. This week I have seen no fewer than FIVE examples of criminal-busting supercops bringing fiends to justice left, right and centre. The public feel SAFE, victims are PROTECTED. Well done!

There is a downside, of course. Sadly as I departed I met a colleague who didn't buy into the importance of the Victim's CHARTER, respect for diversity, or slavishness to domestic violence policy. Folks, this just isn't good enough. You must do better.

A big fat choccie bar to the first officer to email me in Canada saying he's locked up an auto-crime offender.

Toodle pip.

Harsh words I know, but people need to be motivated, and that's how my Area Commander does it.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Divide

The Guardian tells us today that there is a postcode lottery in the success of convictions for rape. At face value it's fairly outrageous that in Dorset the conviction rate is 1 in 60, as opposed to almost 1 in 5 in Cleveland. But this statistic means nothing unless we know the conviction rate for all other crimes in those areas. Perhaps Dorset's Crown Prosection Service or police force is rubbish in general. If the people of Dorset have lost faith in their criminal justice system, perhaps the rate of victims unwilling to go to court is higher than in other areas.

Either way, as usual the statistic is being used as an indicator of how effectively the police are dealing with rape. It would perhaps be far more telling to provide statistics on how many people reporting rape in those areas felt they got a good service from the police. There's little comfort in convicting a rapist if his victim finishes the process in a worse state than after he raped her (leaving aside the obvious point that he will hopefully be in jail for a few years).

I'd like to know where the cases in Dorset are failing: are they dropped pre-court, is it that the victim doesn't show up, is there an "abuse of process", is "bad character" being allowed as evidence on both sides, etc? If the problem is with a lack of depth of the investigation, how is Dorset Police resourced at the moment? Are they strapped on the front-line, so the initial attending officers are over-worked and missing vital evidence? Is it a particularly young/inexperienced workforce? Do they have a high turnover in CID?

Every month or so I attend court for a case I may have had a fleeting contact with at some point in the last two years. About half of the cases fail on the day, because of one or other of the above reasons. That's not rape, that's ALL crime. The criminal justice system demands such perfection of the police and prosecution that it's bloody hard even to put together a drink-drive file without missing out something that the offender will use to get off.

That's the court system we have in this country, and if you find yourself in court for something you didn't do, you'll be glad of it too. If you find yourself in court for something you did do, you'll be equally glad. Reaching a balance between those two facts is where the difficulty lies.

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

Monday, June 08, 2009

Anonymity Anonymous

My publisher Dan Collins of Monday Books has written a piece about my book for this publishing blog. I think I also wrote a piece, which according to the blog will be on there next week. I say "I think", because at times I find my life to be a blur of early, late and night shifts, interspersed with requests for interviews, articles and/or photos of the real me. At times I forget I've published a book, and at others I forget I'm a police officer. Sometimes both.*

In actual fact things are strongly weighted towards the late and night shifts, with the interview/article requests coming in bundles when something newsworthy breaks about the police. [Somewhere in between I write the sequel to Diary, study for OSPRE (as and when), and have a fairly active selection of hobbies too.]

The interviews are a double-edged sword. Anyone who reads Dan's blog (you know who you are) will know of his frustration when I do an interview or piece of publicity, and end up voicing about four seconds of opinion with no mention of the blog or book as agreed. The frustration for me is not the fleeting nature of the interview, nor the lack of publicity for my writing. It is the lack of context in which I am interviewed.

As a police blogger/author, and a serving policewoman with very little influence over the machinnations of Blandshire Constabulary, I do not do radio interviews to regurgitate official policy, defend the indefensible, nor lambast the honest British public. If a radio producer needs a police officer on their show to explain why traffic cops have set up a ticketing operation on his route to work, or talk about the use of the baton, every force in the country has a press office that can oblige. If they want the controversial view, there are Fed Reps, and Norman Brennan.

Police officers are supposed to represent their role on and off duty. Bloggers are a slightly different animal. We work only for ourselves, we represent our own opinion, and that is all.

So I'm happy to give interviews, as a police blogger, as long as the people listening to me are aware that's what I am. Whether it means they give me more or less credence than a non-blogging police officer is up to them.

All forms of fame are fleeting. It's best to enjoy them while they exist, relish their memory, but not miss them when they pass.

It is the work I do in my day job that lasts.

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

* For any PSD reading, the phrase "I forget I'm a police officer" should be read in the spirit in which it was written. Namely, subversion.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

From Blair's Babes to Brown's Bitches

Europe Minister Caroline Flint has "had a bit of a strop" and walked out of the Cabinet this week. Apparently, Gordon Brown is sexist and just plants women in his Cabinet as Window Dressing.

WHEN will whingers like Caroline Flint just stop bringing down the reputation of women everywhere? Her claims are simply ludicrous. You need only look at some of the successful females in Brown's (ex)Cabinet to know that he admires and respects women, and trusts them to run their ministries all by themselves. There's Jacqui Smith, who was allowed to fall out with the police as publicly as she liked, and moreover was single-handedly responsible for the government's humiliation on Gurkhas. Hazel Blears, who took her own initiative in paying back her stolen gains. Both women showed strength and autonomy by sticking to their policies on cannabis and PCSOs in the face of inconvenient scientific research.

If you need proof that Britain has moved on from the dark days of female oppression, you need look no further than my day-to-day experience at work. Barely a week passes in which I am not invited to join one or more positive action campaigns to Develop My Inner Strength. And I can't remember a month in the last year in which a woman was not promoted to an Acting DS or Inspector's post in spite of half a dozen more competent male candidates in the queue. All this is excellent for my self-esteem as a lowly woman, and I will be taking advantage of it myself in due course.

One other thing that Caroline Flint is overlooking is that she is a VERY ATTRACTIVE WOMAN. She cannot possibly expect to reach the lofty heights of Jacqui or Hazel with those looks holding her back, and would be far better off to have a couple of babies and enter an online bra-modelling competition.

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

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Yet again we are at that time of year.

It is the time when between
10 and 15 buffoons have us glued daily to our TV screens anxiously waiting for news of their next hilariously British catastrophe. With the nation's most powerful politicans playing out their pantomime, I'm almost tempted to go into politics. I think I could do better.

It is that thought which made me go for promotion. When you see your line manager fumbling through their day's work, trying to compromise between pleasing the organisation and pleasing his team of boot-stamping front-line PCs, it's easy to think you can do better. It's easy to think you'll stand firm in front of a stampede of policy, bureaucracy and micro-management. It's easy to imagine hacking effortlessly through years' worth of red tape and form-filling. But if it is that easy, I guess more people would be doing it.

Regardless of how good I may be at it, it is no easy process to get my stripes. Word-of-mouth, references, jolly good examples of jolly good police work, are no longer enough. Nowadays, a sergeant must know if s/he is transformational or transactional, and what this year's force priorities are. What is the difference between a delivery plan and service delivery? What are the six strands of diversity and how are YOU going to personally champion each and every one of them?

Is it possible to progress in an organisation where the only way to get promoted is to sign up to the very things you hope to be promoted to overturn? If you do progress, is it possible to stay true to the reasons why you did it?

Coming soon: The Application. Brace yourselves.

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


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