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, December 10, 2009

Cutting off our nose

The dust has settled on the announcement that police forces will have to cut £500m in total. A few of my readers may remember that around the time I started this blog seven figure police budget cuts were being announced nationwide. The main impact this had on front-line response officers like myself was that we had to fill out two forms instead of one to claim our overtime.

Insidiously, other practices were brought in, and the management started to harp on about "single-crewing policies" and other such measures. It wasn't overtly linked to the budget, although we had our doubts that single-crewing could possibly benefit the force in any other way.

As I've said before, I consider myself an avant-garde lone rangeress of the Twenty-First Century. The day I was declared "independent" I tore out of the police station leaving my colleagues for dust and raced about town on my lonesome targeting the lawless evildoers of Blandmore with my stern arm of justice. Or at least I collared a few detained shoplifters. When I got my blues-and-twos ticket, it was all my sergeant could do to stop me haring into every dangerous situation without a shred of back-up. To be an independent-thinking, mistress-of-my-own-destiny, single-crewed saviour of society was why I joined the job.

But you learn early on there are some things you just shouldn't do single-crewed. And if you're on the front line as a response officer, everything your job encompasses is done better with a colleague. Moving into office-based roles, best practice interviewing techniques of victims, witnesses and offenders all recommend double crews. Certain traffic offences have to be corroborated by two officers - and ALL stand a better chance of prosecution if they are. The list goes on.

So when I read in an announcement about budget cuts that single-crewing is supposed to increase visibility and make the public feel safer, forgive my cynicism. When I go onto discover that more money is being ploughed towards victims of anti-social behaviour, it is almost beyond response. If you had a gang of violent teenaged yobs outside your house, throwing bottles at your car and threatening your children, what would make you feel better: to know lots of money will be spent on the poster campaign to catch your killer when you go outside to tackle the kids; or to know that a vanload of officers is available to scoop up the perpetrators and lock them up for the night?

Alan Johnson hastens to reassure us, of course, that he doesn't expect single-crewing to happen in areas where it could be dangerous. Like George Street, Luton? Universal Express travel agent's on Morley Street, Bradford? Lenton, Nottingham? River Derwent, Workington? Cuckoo Road, Birmingham. Elizabeth Avenue, Stalybridge. Most of these officers weren't single-crewed. God help the public if they had been (in the Luton case, for instance).

The job of a police officer is to go to situations where someone has called for help. If the 999 call sounds risky, a single-crewed officer will not be sent, and will be told to wait for back-up nearby. Believe it or not, many of us didn't join the police to hide round the corner while a member of the public screams for help. The "risky" calls do not just come from those drug-infested city centres or "problem" housing estates. They come from homes and streets up and down the country. Many cannot be predicted, nor prevented.

We have a single-crewing policy in Blandshire. My single-crewed shift officers spend a great deal of time waiting for back-up before making arrests/attending domestics, or shuffling between marked cars with prisoners so as not to transport on their own (a very high risk enterprise). I spend all day juggling what jobs they can and can't go to, and trying to find units to assist those who need help. All my officers are willing to go to incidents alone, but they shouldn't have to.

At least, they shouldn't have to under a false pretext. If we can no longer afford to police this nation safely, let's at least be honest about it.

There shalt not be two officers. Two is the number there shalt not be.

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot on Bloggsy. How many Cops will be killed or maimed before the folly is exposed?. Single crewing is a subject which crops up every 2 years or so that I can see. I have and can work single crewed but doing so should be a judgment call by the officer on the ground based on them risk assessing the situation. It should not be the default situation for the following reasons:-

1. Most self defence taught to officers is developed with double crewing in mind. Apart from the obvious dangers of entering a conflict situation single handedly the majority of the officer's tactics are inadequate.
2. The prisoner transporting logistics (leaving cars unattended often in dodgy locations)takes more time than it saves single crewing in the 1st place. Also when unattended police cars are damaged (happens quite a bit) it costs more money than is saved.
3.Having to back up other officers continualy (on day shift for me at least 3-4 times) not only makes single crewing farsical it costs more in fuel.
4.More vehicles needed = more money.
5.An officer is a lot less likely to be proactive when single crewed as the majority of the time they would rather leave a stop search if they are out numbered rather than risk a kicking.
6.It is often boring and demotivating working on your own and as the work load is not shared officers are less inclined to take more on and can find excuses / hide when a low priority burdonsome job comes in.
7. If on a nightshift it can be very dangerous to be single crewed not just because of the obvious dangers of drunken/violent criminals but due to not having anyone to share the driving with. Fatigue can quickly set in and an officer is more inclined to fall asleep at the wheel.
8. Often simple jobs shared by two officers can be dealt with in less than half the time it would take one officer. Thus saving more time/money.
9. Working with other officers allows the junior officers to learn from the senior officers much more quickly. This obviously produces a better officer much more quickly who is therefore saving even more time.
10. In the majority of cases a better quality of evidence is obtained when two officers attend an incident. Leaving less room for conjecture in court and so theoretically saving more time an officer has to spend in court.

I could go on but basicaly single crewing is not only counter productive it costs more in the long run in money and more importantly lives.

PC A Hunn

11 December, 2009 00:01

Blogger Russell Haynes said...

its a shame really, but i guess it will always be the person in the office making the decisions, not the people on the ground!
We HAVE to double crew when transporting a prisoner, but, 7am - 10pm we're single crewed. So last time we double crewed to transports, we returned to find the police car in bits! Lights missing, smashed widows etc etc... well done policy maker!
I can complete a burglary call in an hour single crewed. CJA's, house to house etc. Double crewed, 15 - 20 minutes as one takes the statement, one puts on the crime and does house to house.
Every week night now is a weekend night and nearly all jobs need double crewing.
HOW can we be saving money if we are driving 2 cars, 2 tanks of petrol, taking over twice as long to complete a report and even if we go to a greify job, two officer still attend as back up...
This country is falling fast... i'm following Copperfild.. Canada here i come!

11 December, 2009 00:03

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11 December, 2009 01:14

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

PC A Hunn is right, it crops up every two or three years. All points made are valid - but here's the most valid point of all. It keeps cropping up because WE DON'T DO IT! I single crew a lot, but as a supervisor I'm a different sort of resource. Depending on time of day, intel, local developments etc it may be appropriate to single crew. It certainly won't happen after tea time, as that's when the dodgy jobs start to come in (as the stats will tell us!).

As per my last comment, Alan Johnson and his yes-men and women can agree on what they like, I will decide what is operationally safe and viable for my cops and that is what we will do.

11 December, 2009 09:28

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

Yes!!!My spirit lives on!!!

11 December, 2009 10:57

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah proper Skippers... I remember those. My old Sgt used to send us out "single crewed if the boss asks". i.e. Put 2 Cops on each area (normaly one senior, one junior) and if anyone with pips asks you were dropping your mate off for a statement. Simples.

He did expect you to split up if there were 2 easy jobs (i.e just details needed) on the same patch in order save time getting them done. But thats just common sense anyhow.

PC A Hunn

11 December, 2009 13:02

Anonymous Civvie Despatcher said...

Couldn't agree more. We've been single-crewed for a couple of years now, and it just doesn't work. Worse than that, it's a false economy - so many jobs need more than one officer that we end up sending two units, using twice as much diesel and causing logistical nightmares as to who gets the cars back to the nick.

I've never heard anyone in the job say that single-crewing is a good idea.

12 December, 2009 10:46

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14 December, 2009 00:12

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Johnson has a long and glorious history, as someone who sells out. Many years ago, when I was a Postie and a union rep, Alan Johnson was telling us we should fight for the workers rights. It was "brothers" this and "sisters" that.

Then he joins the government as an MP, gets a cabinet post, and sells theo CWU down the river faster than you can sneeze.

I feel sorry for the "proper" coppers, the ones who actually still police us, be they regulars or specials, as opposed to the office dwellers whose only risk is a scald from hot coffee.

You want to save money? Sack 50% of the management levels and the Force PR department, leave the troops alone.
(this was a partly political broadcast)

14 December, 2009 12:40

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Single manning is an operational decision that can only be made by the supervisors in the thick of it at local level. Another example of politicians meddling with things they know naff all about in practice.

The Home Office bog paper this comes from was was meant to reform the police service and slash red tape, but has put them on a crash course with front line police officers by attacking overtime.

Alan Johnson wants to slash resources for the vital police work at a time when the public are beggingf for officers to spend more time on the street.

This white Paper of Johnsons' is laughingly called "Protecting the Public: Supporting the Police to Succeed" We posted a copy on our site to show just how out of touch they are. We haven't even started ripping it to bits yet.

So, he plans to save £70 million on police overtime over the next six months.

On the run in to the election, Labour are getting desperate. There is a distinct lack of really constructive ideas and its obvious they've run out of steam and have no idea how to reform policing.

The front end is where the financial support should be focused and overtime is a vital part of delivering the policing the public wants and needs. Overtime should be allocated on a common sense basis according to policing priorities, authorised by Sergeants and Inspectors closest to the coalface and best experienced to make the decision.

"Supporting The Police to Succeed" - It would be funny if it wasn't so inappropriate with proposals that could push police morale over the edge.

Noticeably absent from the white paper, were any proposals to freeze the pay of Chief Constables, or monitoring the activity and cost of the police empires of ACPO and others.

On the contrary. Johnson and Straw are aiming their vote catching sights on the PC's & Sergeants, having made sure the Chiefs are kept sweet... No pay freezes here chaps.... remember these ......

Our latest on ACPO/SMT bonuses and perks makes the blood boil.

Rant over .... Acpo next!

14 December, 2009 18:18

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

A bit more for you ...

• 2 year PC salary 26,787
• £3.5 million paid out to promote the "Pledge" would put another 131 coppers on the street.
• SMT ranks represent 3% of strength yet 5% of wage bill
• If SMT ranks were paid 3% of wage bill it would shave £91.8million off wage bill
• That £91.8million would pay for 3427 pc’s on 2 year level
• If the 2.5% wage rise for SMT were frozen it would save £5.6million
• That £5.6million would pay for 209 pc’s on year 2 level
• Our best case estimates show ACPO bonuses at least £1.1million
• Bonuses alone would pay for 42 more PC’s
• PCSO’s wage bill (best case) £331million for 16,508 officers
• PCSO wage bill would pay for 12,358 more PC’s

That’s £443 million in savings from these five measures alone, which is the equivalent of over 16,000 PC’s back into strength.

Even if, in our wildest dreams, all of these measures were introduced, it would all be in vain if the same powers did not :-

• Stop the rot on crime figure fiddling – It’s conning no-one anymore, and lining the SMT pockets with millions in bonuses, ignoring the operational needs of front liners and the public.
• Strip out the trivial stuff, the “my blokes ex is threatening to kill me by text” type enquiries that consume a ridiculous amout of resource.
• Investigate and disclose the ACPO/SMT fat cat pay scales issue. This threatens to dwarf the enormity of the MP’s scandal and must be flushed out.
• Determine the current best use of available resources. If the media and the police blog reports correct, a frightening per cent of “available resource” is deskbound in admin roles for unnecessary non core policing projects.

It’s all very well making the right decisions on spending, but all this is to no avail if the hole in the bucket remains unplugged. Every possible leak in terms of wasted police time and fiscal resource has to be plugged, to get back to the common sense coppering.that the public (and the majority of front line staff) want to see.

Officers at the sharp end must be empowered with the discretion to prioritise which calls to attend (the real stuff, not the crappy shit you guys are lumbered with every day).

If the Government hadn’t shown themselves to be so inept in handling the economy, and so bent in its performance culture and bonus payments, we might have some tiny morsel of hope that they would do something about all of this. I won’t hold my breath.

ACPO should be earning their humongous salaries/bonuses/perks by proving their worth. If they focused more on a global purchasing strategy than empire building/protection it would save millions and actually start delivering some value, which would help persuade any Government that they are actually capable of managing “UK Police plc”. Only showing they have that ability will Government back off and turn the spotlight on another sector.

On the basis of their “Nero fiddles while Rome burns” strategy, UK policing will be knackered.

Police Pledge? A complete waste of money aimed at a public that stopped listening years ago. £3.5million spent on pr campaigns wont achieve public support. Only common sense discretionary policing that you/we all want will restore public confidence.

There are plnety of more suitable targets for cost cutting if he could be bothered to look.

Perhaps then he might drop this utter crap about single manning saving millions.

14 December, 2009 18:39

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Crime Analyst, are you suggesting that senior managers get no pay rise at all for going up the ranks. Most do not get paid that well compared to other jobs with that much responsibility. What incentive is there for intelligent, forward-thinking and brave leaders to go for the top jobs if they aren't paid well, when they could look elsewhere in the private sector? I'm all for cutting costs in some of the other areas you suggest, but cutting the SMT's salary is not the answer.

15 December, 2009 00:42

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Hi Ellie,

I completely agree that intelligent, forward thinking brave officers who prove their worth at each rung of the ladder, should be properly remunerated. The basic salary should, in my humble opinion, exceed that of the equivalent payscales in the private sector, to reflect the huge burden of responsibility.

The main purpose of our analysis (from which this was drawn), is to highlight the overall disparity of proportionality with items such as bonuses and perks.

One such instance was the case of the Chief Constable of Cleveland, Sean Price who is paid £126,471, and had his salary topped up last year to £200,000 with perks including school fees for his children, private health and £32,000 a year car allowance. Last year he received “honorarium” of £24,000 after crime in the force area fell by 17.3 per cent. That brought his salary to £200,000 — more than that of the chiefs of much bigger city forces, such as Merseyside and the West Midlands.

It is hard to justify expecting the public to pay a Chief Officers stamp duty and school fees or buying cars for spouses.

CC's are paid up to 15% of their basic in bonus, DCC' up to 12.5% and ACC up to 10%. For the purposes of our report, we only applied 5% across the board to reflect the bonus picture.

Not all Chief Officers accept the bonuses, reflecting the variance of opinions on the subject.

We sought to illustrate the areas where the disparities appear disproportionate. They may well pass muster under independent scrutiny, as each force has its own unique challenges and the strengths and qualities of the individual have to be taken into account.

As I understand it the Police Negotiating Board are involved in setting remuneration levels in conjunction with ACPO who set out the framework for performance standards.

Our analysis covers broader issues than the basic pay alone, (such as bonuses paid to ACPO ranks for crime reduction, which the frontliners frequently reported as being a less than sound basis for an incentive type arrangement). I apologise if the post presented out of context of our report is open to misinterpretation.

It was your final line "If we can no longer afford to police this nation safely, let's at least be honest about it", that prompted adding our findings to the site, if for nothing else to stimulate debate.

As you rightly point out, single crewing is a false economy that causes a logistical nightmare for supervisors and does nothing to ensure the safety of officers.

The the distinction of high rank in public service, together with the job security and the prospect of a gong, was once thought compensation enough for a chief constable. To reflect the change of times,basic salaries should be commensurate with the role and responsibilities and at least be comparable to the private sector.

A main focus of our efforts is to encourage transparency. As you suggest, if the truth is that the nation cannot be policed safely on present finances, then this must be addressed. Cutting essential operational overtime and imposing single manning from on high, when there are other more suitable areas that should be subject to closer scrutiny, seems more like a quick fix pr exercise in vote catching than a real long term solution.

15 December, 2009 02:27

Anonymous Mac said...

As someone who has to authorise overtime with Bloggsy's two forms (I've long been convinced we work on the same LPA or at least BCU) I can tell you now that single crewing directly leads to more overtime paid out not less. Two officers pitching in means that they can often get the outstanding paperwork done inside the 'free half hour'. An officer on their own will incur paid overtime.

15 December, 2009 14:22

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Mac, will the government White Paper prevent you signing both forms? The problem is, if a PC drops what they are doing in the middle, they can be stuck on for neglect of duty depending on the task. So they have to stay on. And if they work it, they have to be paid. So the forms are pointless. Then again they'll probably do away with them soon and replace them with something equally bureaucratic and difficult to fill in.

15 December, 2009 22:56

Anonymous Mac said...

I don't know about what it says in the white papers because I'm never interested enough in such things. All I can say is that I am a soft touch for authorising overtime and the only issues I'm interested are 1. If I authorise two hours, I want to know why they claimed 4 - if it's justified like unexpected delays in custody etc. then no problem. 2. Likewise I like to check that the regular claimers are incurring it as a result of their hard work and not either taking the p**s or have training issues that mean they take longer to do certain tasks than everyone else. It seems to work because I can't remember the last time (if ever)I ever refused anyone overtime, although as I used to do any overtime going as a PC I am poacher turned gamekeeper and everyone knows that as long as it's justified no one has to worry about any grief from me.

19 December, 2009 16:39

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Mac, What you say seems to make perfect sense. If it's justified you sign it, if its a p**s take, you don't. Can't see anything wrong with that. Looks like honest common sense working well.

It's a pity Mr Johnson is so far out of touch with reality he can't just let you get on with using your experience and discretion to get the best result for everyone.

19 December, 2009 16:53

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14 January, 2010 04:33

Anonymous Anonymous said...

crime analyst is spot on, our area has been pushing the single crewing policy for some time, it is the norm, they just don't get what everybody else highlights here, but then they are divorced from reality.

I have often said I would get rid of CP3O's what earthly use are they? give me, as analyst states, the extra PC's it is far better use of funding. I would go further and advocate a national Police force trimmed of SMT and the behmoth that is the compltely useless human resources, that has increased so much since starting in the job, yet bizarrely our numbers have not!

The savings you could make by combining areas on kit, vehicles, losing CC's would be a significant figure. I realise though that's just a pipe dream...

15 January, 2010 18:15

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