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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Serious Stuff

As an Acting Sergeant on shift, I could be and frequently am in charge of my team's response to any of the following incidents:
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Terrorist attack
  • Fatal car accident
You will be comforted to know that at all hours there is a highly-trained specialist on hand to have an input into these incidents as early as possible, to negate the chance of APS Bloggs blundering in and activating the Possible Daily Mail Article Policy. This specialist in question is very often the Duty DC - the detective constable covering the night shift when most serious incidents happen. The Duty DC may well have half the service I do (trust me, that's not very much) and could even be in their first week of an attachment to the Negative Statistics Crime Team (a team nominally consisting of detectives, but who mainly deal with auto-crime and burglary). Of course, the DC has the phone number for their DS and DI, and someone somewhere has the key to the cupboard wherein lies the book that contains the password to unlock the phone number for the superintendent's personal landline. Which is a lot of help when you're standing staring at a dead body and wondering what to do next.

The fact is, many murders and - I imagine - bombings, are initially reported as "Neighbour heard screaming next door" or "There's been a loud bang up the road". It is therefore usual for uniformed response officers to toddle along to the scene to find themselves faced with something quite outlandish. For example, not so long ago a team at Blandmore attended a "Sound of breaking glass in the alleyway" job to find a dismembered body smeared over ten metres of said alley. And I once turned up to a "Disturbance at a school" to find myself facing a masked man with supposed explosives strapped to his back.





"PC Bloggs, can you attend Eyjafjallajökull? There's been a report of a loud bang and some smoke."











So it's all very well having these highly-trained specialist probationers on standby, but for the first 5-10 minutes of the melee the decision-maker is quite often either a PC with six months' service or, if he can get in on the radio, yours truly. Truly.


One of my first thoughts when I read newspaper articles like this is often to wonder what scene the police turned up to, and whether they were prepared. What it must have been like to try and prosecute a man for sexual offences against a child, to have it dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, and to turn up to the man's murder less than a month later. To then go out and arrest a child for the murder.

If you swap the sexual offence for a minor theft, and the murder for a black eye, this case sums up a large number of the incidents my team attends. In the odd case, the offences are rape and murder. The officers attending, their training and their mindset, and the content of the call to the police preparing them for what they will find, are the same.


Which is why the only 'real' policing is response.



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15 Comments:

Anonymous Mac said...

I agree, the only 'real' policing is response. I still believe this after 20 years and have found my way back there.
I constantly tell my officers who get itchy feet for a move as soon as they finish their probation 'It's a 35 years career and at the end of it all your favourite war stories will be from when you were on shift, so don't be in a rush to get off.'
There's nothing the so called experts deal with that Response didn't go to first.

28 April, 2010 01:25

 
Anonymous A Polis Man said...

Have to agree with the real policing remark!

much like it's not a real sport if a slightly overweight 50 yr old can still be competitive. eg. golf,fishing, shooting,archery

It's not real policing if a slightly overweight 50 yr old can be competitive!

You know how it goes, shift work, weekend working, erractic meals, frequent violence, changing work patterns, substance abuse (yours and thiers!) unrelentnig stress, emmotional turmoil- definately for the younger and fit.

The afore mentioned non-sports much like some other parts of policing are skills, needed and valued and in terms of policing skills essential, skills learned by experience, guile, natural ability, flair and hard work!

The problem is too many have not done enough real policing and haven't the ability or time to be competent in the other, they are therefore only intrested in promotion to avoid real policing yet can't manage the skilled policing reqquired, these people are easy to spot, they have pips/crowns/laurel wreaths, home office id's or westminister offices!

28 April, 2010 10:02

 
Blogger jerym said...

A brilliant post!

28 April, 2010 10:06

 
Anonymous Security leicestershire said...

Well good for you, its a pity the caa did not call for advice on what to do after a loud bang and ash clouds !

28 April, 2010 10:52

 
Blogger Hogday said...

Totally true. In all my time on tactical firearms ops, I always used to tell my nearest and dearest not to worry about me, as 90% of the really dangerous stuff takes place long before me and my gang arrive at the scene, by those with less training, less kit and with precious little else to go on but their wits and judgement.

28 April, 2010 12:43

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say that the "only 'real' policing is response" and i totally agree, having been on Response in the South East of London for a number of years now...

But, and its a big one...response is going. Slowly and steadily its on its way out. Why else would we be downsizing response teams, increasing the size of SNT and single crewing vehicles (and don't get me started on single crewing in an area where drugs, violent crime and gun crime is at its highest for years...)

There are talks of a Pan-London OCU. Response teams covering the whole of the south-east. WHen you consider the need to reduce costs and increase the amount of work that we do then it makes sense.

Anyway.

28 April, 2010 13:15

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Response is the very tip of the pointy end, I agree. Jack of all trades, master of all trades. Yet historically this has been the most maligned, least valued 'department'.

I get thoroughly fed up with a couple of things - firstly, the two-years-and-a-day microwave cop who has 'done their time on Response' and wants out. Can't hack it, more like. The second is normally a DS, who picks up mightmare-job-from-hell the following morning and wants to be ultra critical that all the i's aren't dotted and t's crossed. Where were you at 3am as four staff tried to contain the murder scene in the dark, in the rain, drawing on their combined 7 or 8 years service?

Response is becoming a specialism in its own right, and should be recognised as such. There aren't many cops with any serious time in who are as versatile as the humble response officer. I seem to be in a minority, but it's my honest belief that EVERY other squad or department in the Force is there to support front-line response, not the other way round.

28 April, 2010 17:18

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I imagine you could probably be even more divisive and think of loads more examples of how ineffective and useless CID (and most other units are).
Whilst I totally agree that an effective response action is normally key to detecting serious crime the real problem with policing is sh1t and/or lazy cops on ALL units - response included.
It utterly f@@ks me off (now back in uniform) hearing the constant drone of criticism of every other unit by response bobbies who have never done anything else.
Ultimately we all have to work together. Good policing is good policing regardless of the department.
(Having said all that I imagine I am probabably the first to bite at the obvious troll :-)

Tang0

28 April, 2010 17:30

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

The problem with Response is that there just are not enough meetings.

28 April, 2010 17:58

 
Anonymous Short Caution said...

Hey I'm on CID and take issue with this post.
Well I would if I thought what I did was 'real' policing. Recently I was told by a retiring Detective Chief Super, that we could only function as a CID, because 99.9% of the time. The first Reactive officers on the scene did the right thing, and the 00.1% where they did not, they did the wrong thing for the right reasons.
This is in contrast to the vast majority of SMT who seem to think that nothing has been done correctly until they have had the chance to tinker with it.

28 April, 2010 20:03

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Tang0, I most certainly did NOT say how ineffective and useless CID is. But their highly effective usefulness often comes in well after all the important decisions have already been made. Which is why it's called "Response".

28 April, 2010 20:57

 
Anonymous Mac said...

Short Caution,

I reiterate what Bloggsy said. I'm not disparaging the members of other teams, just that they are generally 'after the event' and generally lack knowledge outside of very defined criteria. If they need something doing urgently, they come to Response.

In the old days I could go to the CID office and find someone for advice on any aspect of investigation. Now I'd be out of luck if I wanted advice on an assault, but the only person in the office was the burglary investigator.

I pine for the days when all there was, was Response, CID, Traffic, and Firearms Support, with each having a very wide remit, leading to good retention of shift officers and a wide skills base for officers to learn off each other. The fragmenting of the force into hundreds of little departments each concentrating on a very small part of the whole job means that officers define their career paths in very narrow lines and as a result see Response as holding them back only 2 years into a 35 year career. I seriously worry that if we had a 7/7 in our force the number of people who could grab a uniform and had the skills to cover 'normal' policing whilst response dealt with the incident would be shocking, through no fault of their own.

Take myself as an example. Nothing special, not been a 'Response' officer for a number of years (I'm a Response shift Inspector). But because I was a shift PC for 8 years (fairly normal at the time)before I went anywhere else, I can still attend jobs and provide a minimum service, including making arrests, with the exception of the finer points of paperwork, which I ask advice from PCs for.

Lastly, when defining 'real' policing, consider how an average member of the public would define the role of a typical police officer. Toy car sets come with marked pandas, traffic cars etc. I've never seen a kid playing with an ummarked Corsa, pretending to be a CID officer. Likewise they never seem to be re enacting a NAG meeting.

29 April, 2010 12:14

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only been in the job for 8 years, 90% of that as a response PC. Recruits in WYP are now coming through and being tutored and the rest of their probation on NPT and never getting any experience of confrontation. This is no fault of their own but they rarely attend incidents as a first responder and if they do, they haven't a clue. I have seen a massive change in the abilities of new officers even in my short service. The issue is, they will be the SMT of the future. Never having done "real" police work.

30 April, 2010 18:06

 
Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

Anonymous is spot on; this isn't a deliberate shift, more a sign of where the forces have gone in their focus.

There are a fair few good ones going in that are there to do the job and earn a living rather than get the new Audi on the drive or a cushy gig, but they aren't the majority any more.

30 April, 2010 22:50

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Mac,
Couldn't agree more. Strict remits are what cripple us. As a consequence, the one department with no remit at all is bound to be the most flexible and well rounded. Specialising in one area inevitably means deskilling in others.
That's fine if you recognise it for what it is rather than rolling your eyes when a Response handover arrives which doesn't meet your exacting standards. That's when the internal conflict begins...

As a mate of mine often says, "The battle is out there, not in here"

01 May, 2010 10:47

 

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