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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Monday, September 13, 2010

Full Circle

When I joined the job there were enough of us on a response team for my sergeant/s to do the following:
  • Assign 2-3 of us to deal with handover prisoners at the start of the shift.
  • Assign 1-2 of us to catch up with enquiries from the day/week before.
  • Assign 2 of us to plainclothes patrol in crime hotspots.
  • Have a couple of us mentoring/tutoring new PCs.
  • Make sure a double-crewed unit attended every violent incident, with another double-crewed car floating nearby.
  • Rarely, if ever, allow us to transport prisoners single-crewed.
The setup was simple: if a job was called in by a member of the public and my team was on duty, one of us would attend it. My sergeant would oversee what we were doing, and my inspector would probably have a chat to me about a job or an incident every other week or so - and crew up with one of us to attend incidents every day.  We had quite a bit of discretion, and a lot of low-level crimes were probably never solved that could have been. Most of our prisoners were charged by the custody sergeant, but a lot of the cases failed at court due to the total lack of specialism of the officers dealing.

In the last decade, partly driven by government targets and performance culture, partly by high profile disasters and cock-ups involving the police, things have changed. Departments have been invented to take on vast amounts of what response teams did, for example:
  • There is a prisoner reception team to deal with prisoners.
  • There are civilian statement-takers to do our enquiries, and a department to prepare court files.
  • The only officers in plainclothes are on special operations and come from departments of detectives investigating auto-crime, burglary, robbery, or trained surveillance units.
  • New PCs are mentored in a special unit where they are protected from anything too nasty.
  • Back-up comes in the form of neighbourhood officers (if help is needed between 8am-midnight), or force roamers - traffic, dogs, and armed units that might possibly hopefully be where you need them, when you need them.
  • Officers transport prisoners single-crewed constantly, using caged vans to make it slightly safer, because they get bored of waiting at the roadside for assistance that never comes.
The officers to staff the squads and units have all come from response, so our numbers are a third what they used to be and safe minimum staffing levels have been hacked down with no scientific or methodical risk assessment as to whether this is actually safe. One inspector  now covers multiple stations, which means he can't crew up with officers on a regular basis and has no day-to-day supervision of the team.  Custody has become a tangled mess, with at least three decision-makers in every case disposal, if it's hate crime or domestic this goes up to five.  Far more people are arrested to try and meet targets for auto-crime and assault detections.  Fewer prisoners are charged due to high evidential standards, but the cases are better quality and many succeed at court.

All of this means we are a force with the ability to churn through vast numbers of investigations.  It is expected that every single job attended will be pursued to the nth degree, however slim or remote the chance of a positive result.   If performance and risk aversion are all you care about, we are a machine.

Well performance and risk aversion are expensive, and the money has run out.  Suddenly discretion is back and front-line response is being lauded as the only "real" policing.  Squads and units, civilians and specialists, are all fair game for cuts.  And when they go, the number of staff that return to front-line policing will be 10% of that which left it: partly because they are staffed by people who couldn't wait to get away from front-line policing and will do everything in their power to avoid going back, and partly because the specialist nature of the squads meant they were functioning on a tenth the staff, so natural wastage has not been replaced.  Unfortunately, nobody has told the senior management team that detections don't matter any more, or that the policing pledge has gone.  And so we are still expected to produce better and better performance.

We have gone full circle, and arrived back where we started with half the manpower.  As a sergeant now, I am faced with dilemma after dilemma, and no one upstairs is giving the answers I need:
  • I will have handover prisoners and bails to deal with, but assigning the 2-3 officers needed will deplete my shift by a third. So one officer will have to cope, and he will have three months service and will never have dealt with a prisoner on his own before.
  • I won't be able to spare 1-2 officers to catch up on their enquiries, as they'll be needed to pick up new ones.
  • My officers won't be in plainclothes, as I need them all on uniform response. No departments will be either, so who will be out turning over drug-dealers, monitoring prostitution, or catching burglars in the act?
  • I will have to tutor new PCs with staff still in their probation themselves.
  • Every officer will have to be single-crewed to maximise our numbers, which means two cars attending every violent job, with two more for backup.  Force roamers won't be able to help as they'll be spread over a wider and wider area, and we can't use caged vehicles for safe single-crewed prisoner transport as vans are expensive and are gradually being phased out.
I hope some of this is comprehensible to people who aren't in the police, because it isn't to those who are.  The message is, do ten times the work with no extra staff, and no helpful suggestions how.  And somehow, front-line services will not be affected by these cuts.
On the plus side, we are now being forced to cut much of the bureaucracy and target-chasing that has hamstrung the police for the last decade.  Somehow it appears we can do without these vital and cherished performance drives and risk policies after all.
On the downside, being a police officer on the front-line at the moment is a bleaker and bleaker prospect.  Just how exactly I am going to motivate my team when I brief them tomorrow I have no idea.

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


Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

You think this is bad, wait until they realise they haven't cut the knife deeply enough to make their fiscal targets.

I won't bore people with explicit details, but even good, well-run private companies struggle to achieve above 2% in pure efficiency savings annually. The home office is claiming 8% can be achieved without job losses, which I suppose is in theory possible, but since the decision will be kicked back to the middle and senior managers within the public sector there is NO CHANCE of it happening without heavy losses.

Simply put, turkeys don't vote for Christmas!

13 September, 2010 19:25

Anonymous ParkiePlod1980 said...

The joys of single patrol, the fact is it doesn't work and far less work gets done than when officers are double crewed especially on lates and nights, why put yourself on offer for this job ??? The funny thing is the way it is being pushed now by senior officers who wouldn't have the bottle to work single crewed themselves in the modern climate because they've spent their whole careers avoiding confrontation!!!

13 September, 2010 20:31

Anonymous Metcounty said...

How do you motivate them?


Just resign, you dumb bitch.

13 September, 2010 20:51

Anonymous SWCopper said...

Very eloquent Metcounty........

13 September, 2010 21:05

Anonymous Skeptik MOP said...

I wish you all the luck in the world. Because you're going to need it, and so are we - the British public. I cannot understand why the Government cannot see that reducing the efficiency of the Police Forces in England and Wales at a time of economic crisis is a seriously bad idea.

I think that the other problem is the head up their own arse mentality of your leaders. Somebody somewhere needs to think creatively. Or actually, just start thinking and stop navel gazing.

13 September, 2010 21:08

Blogger Pie said...

This is complicated, but it makes sense (I'm in nursing, and the NHS is the same, all rubbish from the people upstairs expecting more than we can physically give). I'm sorry it's like this for you at the moment, can't imagine how difficult it must be for you! Good luck.

Metcounty, not sure what your problem is, but get the f*** over it already.

13 September, 2010 21:34

Anonymous DBRG said...

Metcounty - keyboard hero. You'll be offering us all for fights next.

Why don't you resign? Is it because actually you could never do anything except hide behind your screen and rant at the cruel hand of fate that left you an intellectual and emotional cripple? Is it any wonder your wife left you?

Meanwhile, back at the factory, Jack.

We're are rooted, we are. I don't know what the budget review will bring, but if they come on four horses I wouldn't be surprised.

14 September, 2010 00:29

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

If Harriet Harman and the unions have their way, there won't be much time for in fighting. She's stirring them up in readiness for mass strike action.

Back to the eightie, mutual aid and inner city street rioting on a large scake. That will scare the bejeezus out of the chair polishers forced out onto the streets.

I'kk be the first to stick my head above the parapet.... Great post Ellie. Not all of the visitors will appreciate your words but the public that read these pages need to be made aware of the truths... of all the crap you all have to deal with on a day to day basis just to get the job done.

Keep it coming Ellie, these pages may help you vent your frustration at not being able to find all the answers.

14 September, 2010 01:44

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Apologies for the spello's ... must stay off the jd & cokes before getting on the computer!

14 September, 2010 01:46

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The government will have got it badly wrong IF they allow ACPO ranks to still receive their hefty bonus perks, on top of a generous salary, whilst CUTTING the budgets for front line policing.

The government will also have got it badly wrong, IF they allow the tax evaders of an estimated £40 BILLION to get away with it, whilst at the same time they take a sledge hammer to the sick and disabled on benefits. Not so long ago New Labour were shunting sick and disabled COPPERS on to state benefits, to save money from force budgets for those officers disabled in the line of duty.

The government will have got it badly wrong IF they also take a sledge hammer to the unemployed, at a time of national JOB LOSSES, because of the government's spending cuts.

Yes, it's going to be a few tough years, but common sense and basic humanity dictates, that the above government plans will CAUSE civil disorder, increase crime, and punish the sick and the vulnerable.

IF they do decide to reduce police numbers, that will be a clear indication that the government really DO NOT CARE about public and police officer safety. There may well be riots and anarchy.

Government appear to want to just keep on flogging an 'over worked horse' until it collapses from sheer exhaustion.

14 September, 2010 02:42

Anonymous recidivist said...

metcounty -
1) get your own insulting acronym for the c3po's - that one's mine!
2) you're the type that inspire most decent members of the public to think ACAB and that Harry Roberts is our friend.
Get to Afghanistan like a real man and do the country a favour.

14 September, 2010 02:57

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just kiss and make up.

14 September, 2010 07:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellie, I was shaking my head reading how things used to be because as a fairly new officer it's completely alien to me. 2-3 officers for a handover? We can barely scrape 1! I'm stunned seeing just how much it's changed.


14 September, 2010 09:19

Blogger Stressed Out Cop said...

Great post and clearly you are on team.

You know it's getting bad when I'm throwing my sections at I grades and even pitch up single crewed myself because there is truely nothing left to send - Insps doing domestics ? strategically not good, and yep I'm now the only Insp on nights covering the lot.

The SMT response, take another 2 off me to another squad / despite us already backfilling roles where civil staff have been redeployed.

This time last year I had 42 officers for operational deployment. I presently have 31 (1 of whom is permanent APS replacing my absent PS .. now that's a story). I will be in high 20's soon.

You can do the maths .. time off is refused to the troops unless the Insp "decides" to run short - so whose fault when it all go wrong? I still run short to give them time. Watch out for team fatigue .. leads to PS Andrews situations.

Of course I fiddle the call stats and work the team hard .. but for what reward to them? We're succeeding right? so can make do with even less.

I can do no more with what I've got. The frustrations make me want to scream at my SMT for whom team is a long off memory from their early careers. Yes - old style reliefs were great .. try bringing them back .. whoever does will get promoted on that idea.

What to say to your team? Tell them the way it is and just ask them to produce the Best they can not the Most.. you can ask no more. I've actually taken to positiveness in a big way to put it into perspective.

"Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice."

It's you and the team against the world - keep them going .. with the knowledge they are doing goodness in helping others .. that's their reward.


PS/ To The Troll - I send you loving kindness and a big Mwah

14 September, 2010 13:20

Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't forget, its 25% over 4 years not all at once.

Theres no money, and now your chiefs are going to have to manage properly, trouble is they're also part of the problem (hense all the posturing going on at the moment over the airwaves, even the MoD is at it)

Turkeys don't vote for christmas, but if only the majority of the farces can convince them to do the right thing

14 September, 2010 15:44

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post ...

14 September, 2010 19:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is Metcounty ..
Bet hes a very angery man and is a bully and picks on woman ! Have respect mate

14 September, 2010 19:38

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same story all over the public sector. Do more, take more crap and just feel blessed that our employers see fit to keep us.
I so think it is time you gave your troll a name. Clearly he is confused about his identity.

17 September, 2010 13:18

Blogger thespecialone said...

I posted on Gadget's blog about what we have to do. Train everybody, and I mean everybody, at a certain skill that they will never use once the training has finished. But that ticks a box because loads of people will have been trained in that skill!! Never mind they dont need the training! Oh and the training everybody idea came from somebody who hasnt a clue about the real world. Not on that, those that actually need training to the higher level have to wait months because the budget has been cut for training!! Yes. I am in the public sector madness.

17 September, 2010 13:54

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You think that it is bad now?
Just wait for the pay cuts....

18 September, 2010 11:04

Blogger English Pensioner said...

You will be pleased to know that my daughter, who works on the civil staff of a major police force has has her department's staff reduced from 13 to 7. The boss took early retirement in a huff and my daughter as acting i/c has just 4 staff as two are off sick. She tell me they are getting through the work far better than before, no unnecessary time wasting reports or meetings. These days its a quick phone call to people like the CPS or the arresting officer, not a meeting involving Uncle Tom Cobley and all! But then she wants to get results, having joined the civil staff as the next best thing to being in the force. So some are doing their best to help.

19 September, 2010 20:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been 5 years on shift now, and sadly that post rings so true. Moral is rock bottom. You can keep whipping your racing horse, but its unable to run any faster.

23 September, 2010 13:06

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 6 months as a neighbourhood officer (advised to do it to make my CV stand out when promotion does finally return) I have volunteered to go back on shift......................."MAD" I hear you type, "NOT SO" type I. I am 41 years old and love it, love it to bits. All the bullshit, paperwork, paper tigers handing out bollockings via email, endless requests from CPS / File builders / Trainers, It's all worth it, for those ten or fifteen minutes where your pulse is racing, the adrenaline kicking in, sirens wailing, clambering over fences, walls, through woods and trees just to get to someone to put the handcuffs on and say the immortal words to him. It really, really is all worth it. Here is an Ernest Hemingway quote which puts it all in perspective

"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and
those who have hunted men long enough and liked it, never
really care for anything else therafter."

Good hunting brothers & sisters.


28 September, 2010 12:15

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion from what I'd guess you would call a civvie ! We all know that the higher rankings are just carreerist bum lickers - mostly unable to make any reasonable decisions or choices or have an original AND effective idea (I believe A&S are introducing video boxes to replace police stations) Why would people walk to a video box rather than phone ? Still - good idea which will garner promotion or bonuses I would guess !

Anyway - regarding front line cuts - why do you not all just hand in your resignations on the same day ! You may not have the right to strike - but you have the right to withdraw your labour ! And I guarantee that some serious thinking would take place in response ! The fact that you are responsible is what the clowns controlling you bank on ! You will get no sufficient answer until you show resolve ! the public WANT a good police force - you'd be doing us ALL a favour !

09 October, 2010 09:41


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