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)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

"999... what is your non-emergency?"

Julie Spence thinks that the public do not expect police to attend every 999 call.

If she's referring to people who dial 999 to ask how to boil an egg, or because they need to renew their driving license, she probably has a point. And it is perhaps unfortunate that her quotes in the above article are put in conjunction with a report of a man who called 999 to be told no police were available, and was then beaten up by his assailant.

However, her remarks reflect a Senior Management Team blindness to the reality down on the front-line. During my first month as Acting Sergeant, I was the duty skipper on a Friday night. At about 1am I ran out of troops: my seven or eight PCs being either in custody or at other emergencies. Over the next hour there were a number of unresourced jobs, and at least four of them running simultaneously were of a nature where the public would expect the police to drop everything and attend:
  • A 'no requests' 999 call with a female screaming at the top of her lungs in the background.
  • A guy being beaten up by a group of five others.
  • The pressing of a 'high risk' domestic violence victim's panic alarm.
  • A burglary-in-progress: three masked intruders smashing in a window to someone's house.
I had literally no staff to send. My inspector had no staff to send from other areas. The next areas over again had no one. The jobs were not attended.

Three hours later I returned to the station and logged onto the terminal. The four above jobs were still there, unattended, along with ten or fifteen less urgent ones (involving missing teenagers, assaults where the victim just got home from hospital, burglaries from last night). I updated the inspector that we still had four 'grade ones' unattended.

'Well they're not exactly Grade Ones any more, are they?' was the response.

As the rest of my team was still not back from their commitments, I drove to the four locations myself to establish that- bizarrely- the woman had stopped screaming, the guy was not lying in the road, the high risk victim's alarm had stopped, the burglars had run off. As it so happens, my inspector was right: by the next night the jobs had transmogrified into missing teenagers, assaults where the victim just got home from hospital, and a burglary from last night.

Since the above, our minimum staffing levels have decreased, we now have a single-crewing policy, we aren't allowed to drive more than a certain speed even on 'blues', and we're under more pressure than ever to detect priority crime which means carrying out lengthy enquiries into every incident no matter how minimal the chance of conviction.

No doubt my blogging about this will be labelled 'undermining public confidence' in the police.

Well I have news for CC Spence and Blandshire's Senior Management. It isn't blogging about unresourced jobs and under-staffed response teams that scares the public: it's under-staffed response teams. It's picking up th
e phone in your hour of need and no one coming.

If you don't like us blogging about it, DO something about it.

Who's making your neighbourhood safer after 2am?
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger John R said...

Actually I agree with both you and Julie Spence. I really don't want you to rush out to help someone to boil an egg, but I really do want you to rush over here if my wife is screaming on the phone. But I'm not sure that what I want to see ranks very highly in the list of priorites any more.

I made a similar point on inspectorgadget's "Police Inspector" blog earlier today, saying that although the individuals have the best of intentions the police force as an organisation is no longer MY police force. It has generated some interesting responses.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

06 February, 2010 21:57

Anonymous MarkUK said...

I'm really glad that Julie Spence doesn't work for the Ambulance Service.

A Category A call to the ambulance should be attended within 8 minutes and it doesn't matter whether the call is in a residential area a mile from the nearest ambulance station or a remote cottage on Dartmoor.

Some of these calls turn out to be mistaken - your "chest pains" are the result of having a cough for the last three days and the muscles between your ribs are a bit strained. However, you weren't to know it wasn't a heart attack, so you did just right.

There are also calls where someone simply wants a lift home.

However, in most calls, someone is ill. Some are actually more ill than they think.

Can you imagine the reaction if the ambulance simply didn't come?

06 February, 2010 22:02

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Er, MarkUK that happens just as frequently as it does with the police. I've been with someone seriously ill awaiting an ambulance, both on and off-duty, waiting for so long that they recommended I just take the ill person to hospital myself.

06 February, 2010 22:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worked in a BCU like yours. Started off with 18 PC's on the shift. 6 years later it's 8 cops, 2 of which are A/sgts with less than 4 years service. Doing 50% more jobs (thanks NCRS) and investigating each job to the nth degree.

Car park is always full though. PCSO's and Neighbourhood cops galore. Teams and teams of PC's and DC's who can send emails to response cops informing them that this person is high risk or that person is an area target. That they should be dealt with robustly or with kid gloves depending upon their previous or ethnic background.

Why despite all these "resources" does it seem that there is never anybody to go to the priority 2 jobs after 10pm?. Oh yes it's because good old fashioned cops on the streets is not sexy enough. It doesn't get the Supt his bonus or promotion for tackling the Spectre that is honour based violence or homophobic hate crime.

We pander and jump through the hoops for the minority left rather than aknowledge the elephant in the room that is basic everyday crime and disorder.

My job is to keep the lid on the chaos, pray that no one dies on my watch, cop or mop and jump through the hoops for fear of being a racist/homophob/malcontent and lose my familys only source of income.

PC A Hunn

06 February, 2010 22:30

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

'Can you imagine the reaction if the ambulance simply didn't come?'

I can, but that doesn't automatically make it anyones fault as such.

Let's say you have eight ambulances available, and nine people all dial 999 reporting equally serious - but separate - illnesses or injuries.

Each of those nine seriously ill people needs to go to hospital.

What do you do?

I know nothing about average response/transport times, but lets say 8 minutes charter to get to the patient, 10 mins to stabilise, 10 mins transport time to the nearest hospital, 5 mins handover/booking in/reloading. That's half an hour before any of those 8 ambulances is free to start making it's way to the 9th call, which could be ten mins drive away again. If you call the next station to borrow one of theirs, what's the likelihood it's less than 43 minutes away?

Now the ambulance WILL arrive eventually to call number 9, but possibly too late to help, and definitely much much later than the now annoyed caller wanted.

Whose fault is it? No-ones really. It's a simple matter of supply versus demand.

Resources in ANY industry are finite. Demand which exceeds supply will result in delay. Too many customers at Tesco? You have to wait for a checkout. Too many cars needing repairs? Your garage can't fit you in until next week.

The main difference between delay in Tescos and delay in the Police or Ambulance Service is that one results in you missing the start of Eastenders, and the other can result in death. That doesn't make it any less likely to occur. In fact, delay in the Police or Ambulance Services is probably more likely to occur as the demand is much less easy to predict than the amount of customers Tesco will get through its doors at any particular time. You can be fairly sure that more people do their shopping on a Saturday morning than a Monday lunchtime, but people can get stabbed/get hit by a car/fall off a ladder/have a heart attack pretty much at random.

Now I know that Ambulance Service staff don't have anything else to do other than attend sick people and deal with them, so there is something to be said for not having Police doing pointless, non-Police type things, but even if you had massive response teams, there'll still be plenty of occasions on which there are simply more calls waiting than there are Police Officers to send to them.

06 February, 2010 22:59

Anonymous RD said...

In my pond, in the States, are approach is the opposite. Emergencies calls are the priority. Handle the crisis, get on to the next call. Minimize investigations to slow evenings or until after the next shift comes out. Your job is to respond.

06 February, 2010 23:46

Blogger Oscar said...

Well, I'm doing my part. I've been waiting for the last 2 years for the recruitment season..., but it seems that it's never coming. It could be thought that you have plenty of coppers out there and that you are not at all unerstaffed.

I think you like too much to be kept inside in the warm ;)

07 February, 2010 00:07

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are officially in England and Wales 61,383,000 people and there are officially 149,012 police officers on ordinary duty along with 62,000 civilian staff also 15,000 specials, No mention how many side kicks PCSO's there be.
and 10,000 ANPR cameras watching cars.
Crime is down according to the Economist less babies by teenagers, Murder by a third.
Thus to little old me it must hunky dory, only the Tories are complaining, The Prisons are full yet there is less crime.
Those Stats again, the chiefs are getting their bonuses as crime be down.
'Sumert' stinks, the rot usually starts at the head.

Thinning out usually starts at the bottom , so more money is available for the expense to go to meetings in Singapore, to find out why crime is not so popular there.

Sgts., Take a leaf out of the SAS, get pips & crowns to sign chits then then tell them to go back to play Tiddly winks or rest their weary pen.
Dungbeetle amongst the animal leftovers

07 February, 2010 01:41

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

I remember reading something in David Copperfield's book that rang very true - We aren't understaffed, it's just what those staff are actually doing that makes the difference.
Uniformed response are at the bottom of the pile - they can't refuse any job, they have to do initial enquiries on absolutely everything. So they will be the first to run out of resources, time etc.

I have long thought that, much like the Army, non-combatant cops should have some kind of identifying mark on their uniforms, a bit like Brigade staff have red flashes on their tunics. You may see it as a status symbol, but we all know you're a REMF...

The real issue is that Response do far much more than 'just' Response because they have to deal with what they pick up. That's the difference with RD's scenario.

We have a new list of who should be called upon for jobs and in what order. Because of some bizarre wording, my team are the fourth port of call, after Response, OS and Beat Managers. Also at our level are divisional CID. Worthy though many of them are, I think you're more likely to see my lot turning up at a job than options 2 and 3.
It says Police at the top of my warrant card, so that's what I'll continue to do

07 February, 2010 01:53

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the 5 years before I left to do 'serious work' exposing catering scams for the MOD and others, I can't remember us not being able to get to serious incidents (30 years back). We did get to a lot of stuff single-manned and without realistic back-up or equipment. I don't recommend a return to this. I seemed to be coping, but in fact was cracking up.
I'd go for making Response the key job with the cops doing it given far more powers to screw over the scrote and get them straight in front of magistrates 24/7. The career structure needs to be collapsed, including that of worthies on Police Authorities and elsewhere in the parasitic legal system. Several books in this no doubt, but we need a return to sense and fairness.

07 February, 2010 06:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In short, why is a judge on £150,000 and a retinue of arse-lickers to feed him worth more than cop saving your life hoping for OT to pay the mortgage? We have this all wrong.

07 February, 2010 06:48

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

We know that at certain times of the 24 hour period demand is strongest and at certain times of those certain times more jobs are urgent.
These times are not 9/5 Mon to Fri
so why are all the resources concentrated at the wrong time?
It is not that difficult surely?

07 February, 2010 09:31

Blogger Stressed Out Cop said...

The same over at my place .. and guess what? Reduced ND strength by another 1 last week !!!!!!!

07 February, 2010 09:44

Anonymous copperbottom said...

bit of an unfortunate place for the buses' exhaust pipe...

just think- in the states I would be retiring now...

anyway... the sarge is right- sort of...

There are a lot of officers- but they are not doing the job that most MOPS would imagine they should- running a panda... or walking a beat...

It would be an interesting exercise for a MOP to submit a FOI request to get the figures for:

how many officers in your force area?
how many in front line -response and NHT?
what are the others doing?

I suspect there may be some interesting replies from the HQ...

07 February, 2010 11:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I agree but I about the collection should acquire more info then it has.

07 February, 2010 13:21

Anonymous MarkUK said...


The ambulance may turn up (too) late; as ginnersinner points out, resources are limited in all the emergency services.

However, they do turn up unless cancelled.

07 February, 2010 20:00

Anonymous MarkUK said...

Sorry, meant to put this in my last post.

I don't want to start a row between ambulance and police!

Yes, things are different between the two services. However, I'd hope that a CC would at least have the aspiration to attend all real jobs even if it was impossible. At the shitty end of the shovel, you know that you can't, but it doesn't make good reading for the boss to say so.

It's her responsibility to get the resources, or at least some of them, not to take a defeatist attitude. Anyway, how does she know what the public think? She's hardly a typical MOP.

07 February, 2010 20:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a great non job recently. High priority two female complaining about nuiscence parking in her street. It's happening so regularly she is feeling suicidal.

Best thing is... She doesn't have a car. She just objects to people parking infront of her house.

Ffs!. Due to insane policy makers this loon has priority over a burglary victim.

07 February, 2010 20:23

Anonymous John77 said...

(i) Staff levels on friday evening should be at least twice the level during the rest of the week
(ii) Uniformed staff should not spend time doing clerical work - most of that could be done by civilians if it were not for a stupid rule that rate-capped local authorities have to pay for civilian staff while uniformed staff pay is mostly met by HM Treasury
One Friday evening I heard a burglar alarm from the nearby NHS building - I went out and I and a passer-by discovered there had been a break-in so he dialled 999 on his mobile. After we had waited over an hour and he had made two more 999 calls, he left; eventually I went home. More than four hours later, after the rest of my family were in bed and asleep, the police arrived and I ran over to tell them what I knew.
The current system is like an open invitation to burglars "pinch stuff on a Friday evening because all the cops will be too busy dealing with drunks in the town centre". The next time someone broke in, it took over three hours for the police to come

07 February, 2010 21:01

Blogger blueknight said...

Mark UK,
I worked in a place that used to run out of Ambulances.
I came across a man in the street who was suffering breathing difficulties. Called the Ambulance, giving the location, waited for the Ambulance (hoping that it would not come to the point where I had to attempt CPR) but none came. Then after what seemed like ages one turned up at the wrong end of the cul de sac. It drove round the block and finally rrived at the scene full of apologies about how they did not know the area very well.
It turned out that they had come from another town a good 20 miles away. They had been called to a little village between the two towns and when my call went in, they were the nearest available unit.
One night a man was knocked down by a car and was lying in the road, having possibly broken something. No Ambulance. We got hold a of a blanket from somewhere to keep him warm, but still no Ambulance. Then it began to snow, again. So we got a large wooden board, slid it under him and took him to the Hospital in the back of the Police van...
The point is if you have too many calls for the number of units on the ground, whether that be Police, Ambulance or the RAC, some calls will not be answered........

07 February, 2010 21:51

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

"pinch stuff on a Friday evening because all the cops will be too busy dealing with drunks in the town centre"

That's not 'the current system' - that's the way it is. And it's hardly the Police's fault is it? We don't put all those drunks there and force them to fight. They drink, they fight, you call us, we go and deal with them. Which means that when a burglar alarm goes off there's no-one left to send.

I fail to see how you can blame the Police for that. What do you expect the controllers to do when they get the tenth 'pissed up bloke beating someone up' call on a friday night - think 'I'm not sending someone to that because there might be a burglary in ten minutes time'?

I take you back to my Tesco analogy - yet how often does the Daily Mail shout "Tesco in 'No chickens left' Scandal" on its front page. 'They told me they'd have some more chickens to sell on Monday - I think it's an outrage!! I pay my shopping bills, and I expect there to be chickens on the shelves. They said they'd had an exceptionally busy day, with more people than usual buying chickens, but it's JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH'

07 February, 2010 23:53

Blogger adrian said...

It's almost as if Western Governments were undermining Western civilisation by design isn't it.

Cultural Marxism


More here

Lord Monckton calls for arrests Pt 1 of 5

08 February, 2010 04:40

Anonymous Steve D. said...

When I first started at Carter Street Police Station (later renamed Walworth Police Station) in 1990, M district of the Met Police (i.e. the borough of Southwark), had 3 main stations – Carter Street, Peckham, and Southwark. Each station had a 24-hour custody suite and put out between 25 to 30 officers on night duty, i.e. a total of about 80 officers to cover the borough.

About 8 years later the minimum night duty staffing levels had reduced to about 18 at night per station. Then came “Borough Policing” and the borough was split into two stations, i.e. Walworth and Peckham. Southwark’s area was split between the two and became an admin station.

Strangely, despite having half of another section to Police, the Police response teams did not increase at all, and so now there were only about 36 officers covering the borough on nights.

When I left the job six years ago, the minimum night duty cover was about 14, and this included a Station Officer, Gaoler, and two CAD room staff (uniformed officers). The rest of the CAD room was civilian. Therefore only about 10 officers were on the street each night from each station.

In 14 years, the London Borough of Southwark has had its Police response team reduced from about 80 officers on night duty, to about 20. At the same time the population and level of crime has increased, not to mention the unimaginable increase in paperwork etc.

For me that really sums up the reason for our problems policing the community today!!!!

08 February, 2010 09:49

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

One of the biggest reasons for demand outweighing availability is the Policing Pledge. We don't have an effective crap filter at the point the call is taken, because the caller is distressed it's automatically got to be visited within the hour.
I don't see anything wrong with saying - This is not a Police matter, we won't be attending, here is the number for the Council to sort out your parking issue. Instead, we attend, tell them there's nothing we can do and shout the Control Room for the number for the Council. Quite what did we achieve by that? Oh yes, we complied with the Pledge.

I don't often suggest we should emulate the French but, now we have an 'extended Police family', perhaps cops should be like the Gendarmerie and deal with law enforcement, PCSOs could be like the Police Municipale and deal with neighbourhood issues and Council Wardens (or whatever we're supposed to call them) could be like the ones you see wandering round the markets issuing fines for littering.

We are here to protect life and property, not to sort out your poxy parking dispute or Facebook abuse

08 February, 2010 09:53

Anonymous Serpico said...

Don’t get me started on Facebook or text messages. In general we both know how it starts i.e. "I’ve got this message right from my ex-mate who told me that she’s gonna beat me up. I’ve heard that she’s hard cos my brothers cousins ex-girlfriend who is now going out with my best mate use to go to school with her and she was well hard then". My reply "Lets have a look at this message then". IP passes over the phone to me, to which I glance through it and in the sent box, the IP has replied back to the alleged offender 'U fink u hard innit, Im goin 2 knock u out'. To which I tell the IP straight "If you are going to get punched, that’s life, there is nothing we can do about it as you have just antagonised the situation further". Her reply, "What’s antagonised?, and I want you to do something about it" My reply "This is childish school ground behaviour by the both of you. We have got better things to do, you need to sort it out yourself" Followed by me walking towards the door and making an exit.
I detest facebook and apparent threatening text messages.

08 February, 2010 12:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree - bu the positioning of the exhaust pipe on the bus is a little inopportune?

08 February, 2010 13:56

Anonymous shijuro said...

well on a cheery note - due to the freeze on recruitment and the natural wastage - we are all going to be VERY much busier soon....

especially from the cops that joined at the end of the 70's early 80's...

all to go very soon and not to be replaced...

still- could be worse... could be unemployed...

08 February, 2010 14:44

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have it easy this days. One Xmas I was Panda Control and attended all the incidents!

08 February, 2010 15:42

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like Ali Disai is "having it easy". Heard on the lunchtime news that he has been found "guilty" and condemned as "corrupt". What a TOPSY TURVY WORLD we live in. Yet another case of "White is Black, even if his skin colour is brown!

The Met have just "boiled" a GOOD EGG, and that's a crying shame.
Ali Disai [not sure how to spell his name] HAS BEEN STITCHED UP by the "rotton eggs" in power who have well and truly "scrambled justice".
Operation Beelzebub - codename LAWRENCE - Royal Protection Officer.

I have no axe to grind. I do not know Ali Disai, but I am aware of Intelligence records which stated that a number of GOOD EGGS would be harassed, smeared and stitched up by this ROTTEN GOVERNMENT.

999 would probably "no crime it"....because the one right at the top has his "placemen" everywhere, to suppress the truth.
God Bless the Internet, and this blog.

White Christian Officer.....

08 February, 2010 16:31

Anonymous John77 said...

I was not saying that the drunks were the fault of the police. I was saying that if you know there is seven times as much demand for police on Friday nights, the Friday evening roster should be at least twice as big as that on other shifts.If you had read the first line of my post, you should have realised that the last paragraph was a comment to support it.

08 February, 2010 17:20

Anonymous Paul UK said...

I think the real reason why the "Daily Mail" is having a go at Julie Spence may be found on this Blog. She has joined the Press Complaints Commission and guess which newspaper has the most complaints against it? Here is what she had to say.

"Throughout my career in the police service, I have seen first-hand what it is like for ordinary members of the public who find themselves caught up in the media spotlight, or subject to media scrutiny. I have been impressed by the proactive work that the PCC does with vulnerable people, and am looking forward to contributing to the work of the PCC as it continues to make rulings which balance rights and freedoms with wider responsibilities"

you can link through to the blog here

It is also interesting to note that the "Daily Mail" was responsible for the story about the police not being allowed to wear regimental badges, this blogger discovered that all that happened is that the Mail had looked up the clothing regulations for the police and applied the Daily Mail "Could"

08 February, 2010 17:55

Blogger marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

09 February, 2010 08:00

Blogger VBW said...

Obviously whoever made this poster had no idea were it would be seen.

09 February, 2010 15:18

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Maybe they should have used a senior officer's image on the nearside of the bus.

I see your message, I also see you're all piss and wind...

12 February, 2010 11:12

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, This is spot on! Puts to bed
many contradictions I've read

19 February, 2010 17:43

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, This is awesome! Clears up
several misnomers I've seen

19 February, 2010 18:14

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, This is exactly what I was looking for! Clears up
some contradictions I've seen

19 February, 2010 19:59

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, This is spot on! Dispells
several misnomers I've seen

19 February, 2010 20:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, This is awesome! Dispells
several contradictions I've read

19 February, 2010 20:28

Anonymous Mouse_N said...

Interesting to see this...

I'm a final year medical student and was out with the Paramedics for a day a few weeks back. We got a 999 call to go to a patient who was threatening to commit suicide. As she was known to be violent in the past, the Paramedics were duty bound to call the Police and let them go in first.

We arrived at the scene in about 8 minutes. We then waited for the police to arrive.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited a bit more.

Several calls to dispatch and one hour and fifteen minutes later, the boys in blue arrive.

Now not only could this patient be long dead by then (she wasn't), but we had an ambulance out of action for a long period of time. The NHS is underfunded enough as it is.

As you rightly point out, your managers need a slap round the head and told to sort it out.

23 February, 2010 02:59

Anonymous NFC from MS, CB, RW said...

I served in the 1970s and 80s when all calls were answered and a result recorded and that was at a time when there was a lot less Officers in the met. What went wrong? I personally think that political control is the problem, we didn't have then but now it appears that Police Officers can't make a decision with referring it upwards.

09 June, 2011 20:51


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