This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but 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 pay my salary.


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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Police Kill Again

Yet again the police, this time Greater Manchester, have brutally murdered a woman in her home. Katie Summers was stabbed to death by her ex-partner and the family state "It is a police officer's job to notice when someone is in danger... and scared for their life". They believe the police thought Katie was wasting their time.

The IPCC concluded that GMP did not properly identify the risk to the victim. What this means is that on each visit by the police, a risk assessment was filled out, and when the Domestic Violence Unit (or Public Protection Unit, or Unit for the Protection of Vulnerable People, or People's Front of Protective People) received the risk assessments, they failed to put them in a "High Risk" blue folder and instead opted for the less effective grey or green (Medium, Low).

The importance of these coloured folders cannot be understated. Had Katie Summers been in a blue folder, various policies would have kicked in, including:
  • DVU (or PPU, UPVP, PFPP) to deal with the offender each time he was arrested, instead of local shift or prisoner-handling officers.
  • Overtime to be authorised to deal with any incident involving the couple.
  • Mention in the Morning Meeting of the latest incident, with an edict by the Superintendent to "see that he's locked up for good".
  • A remand in custody to be sought by police following interview.
  • DVU officer to attend court in the morning to pressure the prosecutors into seeking a remand in prison.
Without the special colouring of the folder, Katie Summers would have been dealt with as any other victim, meaning that busy shift officers would have the job of interviewing the offender, would be unlikely to push for a remand in custody and if remanded, would not be working the following day to attend court. It means police alarms and address flags may not be put on the address, and less effort put into finding safe housing for the victim if required.

All of this leads one to conclude that GMP is directly responsible for Katie Summers' death, as they attended on eleven occasions that year and should have identified the risk as BLUE.

Unfortunately, real life isn't as simple. Blaming GMP for wrongly classifying the risk fails to take into account the following "real" issues that face the police in dealing with domestic violence:
  • Nearly all domestic violence situations involve dozens of previous calls.
  • There is not enough staff in DVU to deal with every high risk offender.
  • Unless there is a history of extreme violence, evidence of a serious offence (GBH or worse) and the offender has told police officers and the court that he intends to murder the victim, the court will be unlikely to remand him in custody. This is because most people don't go onto murder their partners following a criminal-damage-to-mobile-phone or text-message fiasco, and we can't lock them all up just in case.
  • Police officers are not psychic. If someone says they aren't afraid or in danger, it is valid to take that into account when assessing their risk.
  • Domestic Violence officers are not psychic either. Every single case they deal with could end in a murder. 99% don't.
  • If a victim does not support prosecution against their partner, a prosecution in 99% of places can simply not take place. Most forces now try to prosecute regardless of whether there is in fact any evidence of any crime, with the result that a lot of non-murdering spouses find themselves going through the court system for the pettiest of domestic arguments. The courts will not and should not convict a lot of these people.
Most officers are so terrified of the situation GMP finds itself in that they arrest people at every domestic they attend. Very often they arrest both parties, just in case. The senior management team can't understand why so few of these arrests result in prosecutions. And they don't seem to understand why all potential murderers aren't in prison. They seem surprised that DV murder victims have had contact with the police a dozen times before they died - as if people wake up one day after twenty years of being a normal person and suddenly stab their partner to death.

I dread the day that a domestic I attend evolves into a murder. But I'll go on dealing with each incident, and supervising my officers at them, in the way I deem to be moral, compassionate and right, and not because I'm worrying about the colour of a folder.

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

13 Comments:

Blogger Hogday said...

As someone who has had much anxiety over decisions in DV cases, I totally respect your sentiments. Policing DV is one big judgement call. A wise and well considered judgement will no more save a victim than the current blanket system, that has done its level best to engineer-out the vagaries of the human psyche and include virtually everyone as a suspect.

18 December, 2009 12:57

 
Anonymous Serpico said...

I’m glad that someone has at long last written an article on DV, as it is a topic that I hate to see happen, however the definition of DV needs to be re-examined. How can police officers that attend the same address numerous occasions still have to risk assess the IP even though both parties are in drink and there is a history of violence towards each other. Personally I think that we should go into these situations with a bill that says ‘This is how much money its going to cost you for us to spend our time trying to sort your problem out for you, or we should simply saying ‘Grow up, act like adults, we are not attending, we have better things to do’

18 December, 2009 16:06

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SMT have a paranoia about "being criticised" which might halt they climb up the slippery pole which means that on every possible occasion they will try to push the blame siseways or down any direction but themselves.Unfortunately so many constables oblige them by not filling in forms or appearing not to care about the victim-this means that the weaknesses in the current system are not exposed-it is much easier to blame someone who doesnt fill a form in than it is to say"He/she is a violent thug who should be locked up but she/he wouldnt help us to help her by making a statement etc and even if she had then the idiot would soon be released to twat her/him again and actually there is not a lot the police can do about a couple who seem hell bent on self destruction"Now I dont know the full details of this case but it looks as though the "ordinary" bobbies did there bit so were watertight which is a lesson for everyone over the festive period.
Happy Christmas

18 December, 2009 17:14

 
Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

That last comment was from me by the way

18 December, 2009 17:14

 
Anonymous R/T said...

At the risk of sounding patronising - very, very well put. Btw - I hate the way that the media attempt to portray this type of (thankfully rare) VIW as a lovely person and not the dolescum that about 90% of those I've ever dealt with are. Sorry but there it is.

18 December, 2009 18:05

 
Anonymous Outed said...

Spot on.

18 December, 2009 19:26

 
Blogger blueknight said...

any figures on the number of domestic murders that occurred 20 odd years ago, when the Police could not deal with, let alone arrest for common assault. And then like now, the old Sec 5 POA 1936, only worked in a public place.
I do not know the answer, I am just wondering.

18 December, 2009 21:15

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

Spot on. Courts wouldn't have done anything anyway.

18 December, 2009 21:46

 
Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Its high time the press and SMT were put well and truly in their place so that front line coppers could return to discretionary policing.

Discretionary policing need not be the uncaring, risky policing that the SMT seem to think it is.

However effective a police officer may be, the day has not yet arrived when psychic powers are part of the skillset. They can't always know that when the parties involved either don't want to pursue a complaint, or promise not to re offend, that they will actually end up killing or injuring each other.

And if they do, why the hell is the blame laid at the door of the police? The only person(s) responsible are those presumably adult participants. Society These people have to take responsibility for their own domestic situations and be prevented from occupying resources that are better prioritised elsewhere. The media and SMT could do a lot more in terms of deflecting the focus away from the police responsibility for DV incidents.

Of course police should attend where its obvious to one and all that their presence may prevent injury or danger to life, or where it has already occurred. If it happens, unless a police officer saw a battering going on and ignored it, or had firm evidence someone was in immediate danger, all the risk assessments in the world wont magically prevent a violent incident.

This SMT risk aversion, fearing the consequences of common sense, peddled through the media by the higher ranks, seems to be a major obstruction to effective policing.

20 December, 2009 05:35

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a pity that "Crime Analyst" above is not the Home Sec! Such common sense words and wisdom, shining a beacon light in a fog of confusion.

Psychic powers are often treated with scorn and disbelief, by the narrow minded and the ignorant, and especially by the "higher ranks" of the medical profession. If they had their way, anyone who had the gift of insight, or experienced accurate visions, would be classed as a "mental case"!

Perhaps your post, Bloggsy, should have stated that MOST police officers are not psychic, as it isn't the case to say that ALL are not psychic. Some are, and there IS documented proof of that fact, but the government are sitting on it. Because they don't like to admit that they have made mistakes.
Pride goes before a fall.....NuLabour and the Tories!

Even if a police officer DID have a psychic "flash" of insight into a danger facing someone [or many] it does not mean that those people will actually take any notice of the warning voiced by the psychic officer. Also there is no control by the psychic as to what they are given insight into, as it IS directed by an unseen higher power.
It may well be a persons destiny, or karma, to meet an unfortunate and violent end, and if so, that cannot be prevented by "psychic powers".

However, where psychic ability and the accuracy of the information given HAS been proved to be credible, and GOVERNMENT fail to take notice and act accordingly, well......that's just negligence, at best. And if millions of lives are placed in mortal peril because government dismiss the information obtained by psychic skills, well...... Would the press and the SMT blame the psychic officer because s/he didn't shout loud and long enough to get the message heard by the arrogant and ignorant?

Minority Report Officer

20 December, 2009 22:56

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every domestic is a tightrope.

Do too much and you are liable for wrongfull arrest and "heavy handed police oppresion", with crys of "what happened to common sense and discression?" and "Can a man and woman not have an argument anymore?".

Too little and you are an incompetant who is an uncaring fool with blood on your hands.

Basically if you get it wrong either way you are hung out to dry by the SMT as they will trawl through it with a fine tooth comb and the hindsight brigade will point the blame squarely at the attending officer for their lack of psychic ability.

This sort of theing should be incorperated into the recruitment propagander....

"CAN YOU.... TAKE THE BLAME FOR A MENTALY DERRANGED ALCOHOLIC CRIMINAL STABBING HIS EQUALLY DERANGED ALCOHOLIC COMMON-LAW WIFE AFTER YEARS OF ABUSE?. SHE HAD BEEN GIVEN EVERY CHANCE OF HELP BY ALL AGENCIES NUMEROUS TIMES BUT SHE REFUSED TO LEAVE HIM. YOU MUST STILL REALISE THAT EVEN THOSE YOU ATTENDED THEIR ADDRESS 6 MONTHS AGO, THE FACT YOU DID NOT ARREST HIM FOR A BREACH OF THE PEACE EVEN THOUGH SHE CLAIMED THAT NOTHING HAPPENED AND HAD NO INJURIES IT IS STILL POSSIBLY YOUR FAULT THAT HE KILLED HER. YOU WILL BE LIABLE FOR SUSPENSION AND AN 8 MONTH INVESTIGATION WHEREBY YOU WILL LOSE 3 STONE IN WEIGHT AND BE ON ANTI DEPRESSANTS FOR A FURTHER 2 YEARS.... COULD YOU?.... IF YOU CAN THEN YOU ALSO ARE CLEARLY MENTAL SO COME JOIN THE POLICE".

Plod Against the Machine

21 December, 2009 16:38

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were failings in this case. The BBC news article states that a frontline officer requested a follow up with DVU but nothing happened, multiple police call outs in a short space of time should ring alarm bells etc etc. The thing is this isn't specific to DV, it's the sort of thing that often happens in the police due to organisational problems and lack of resources.

If a specialist trained DV officer had attended they may have been better equipped to get through to Katie and would hopefully have had more time to deal with her than a frantically overworked and often inexperienced response officer. A specialist officer with a good knowledge of DV is more likely to identify the warning signs this "man" exhibited such as extreme jealousy and know facts such as most DV murders involve a woman murdered after she has left. These are mistakes in the system that shouldn't have happened. Why are police officers given massive responsibilities but little training, support and a system that just doesn't work?!

Bottom line is the police are doing what they can and can't be blamed for a man choosing to murder his ex partner. What says it all is that despite evidence that he was a violent thug who planned the murder, he still only got a minimum term of 17 years! Why would someone give a statement against their partner in a system that just doesn't work?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7908338.stm

Sara

21 December, 2009 18:43

 
Blogger AJ said...

I would have liked to have seen the police do more in this and simular cases, and I am sure that if they had limitless resources they would have done. It seems that people are always ready to demand that the police do more about various issues but I suspect they would be less ready to pay for the additional resources that would allow it to happen

22 December, 2009 08:04

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

 

View My Stats
eXTReMe Tracker