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.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Systemic, Schystemic

This little story caught my eye today: three colleagues of the four firefighters who died in Warwickshire are about to be arrested for offences following a Health and Safety investigation. The article is not clear whether these are supervisors, peers, or senior managers.

I imagine that in fire-fighting circles, similar conversations go on as on police blogs regarding resources, budgets, bureaucracy and working conditions. I am not aware of senior fire chiefs speaking out in the manner of Chief Constable Mark Rowley about the effect of recent budget cuts on his front-line numbers. But I am sure some have.

My wonderings are: if a Surrey police officer should be killed on duty, and the investigation should discover that the area was under-staffed and this was a contributing factor to the death, will CC Mark Rowley's earlier comments save or condemn him? Will he be exonerated for the fact he spoke out against Home Office rule, or will he be castigated for allowing his officers to work when he had openly stated his front-line numbers were down?

Of course, CC Rowley never said, "These latest round of budget cuts are forcing my officers to work in dangerously under-resourced conditions." No Chief Constable would dare say that, because you can bet it would be turned around on him/her in any Health and Safety investigation following an officer's or member of the public's death. Should the horrifying conclusion be that the death was caused by systemic failures, responsibility for "the system" falls on one man's shoulders alone. No talk of government cutbacks will convince a jury that a Chief was justified in allowing troops to go out unprepared. What Chief Constable would face prison for manslaughter by gross negligence, by admitting that he/she is being forced to police the streets of this nation with laughable resources, both under-staffed and under-equipped?

And in the absence of such an admission, how do you ever prove the link between public dissatisfaction, fear of crime
, and the ever-dwindling blue line between order and chaos?

In the meantime, make of this what you will.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In other news...

For God's sake, Blog!, says Pope to priests.

I'll buy a beer for the first Chief Constable to follow suit with his/her employees.

I suppose the real question is: what happens when the Pope, or Chief, doesn't like what appears on said blog?

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Who polices the people who police the police?

Woman with child: "The officer went berserk."
Guy with rucksack: "I was terrified."
Group of three girls: "He took out the baton and started hitting people and screaming."
Bloke with red hair: "I was pleading with him to stop. I wasn't even armed."

Police officer: "The red-haired guy was wanted for burglary, but when I approached he said he'd cut me up. I shouted instructions but he failed to comply. I thought he was about to s
tab me."

Shock horror newsflash: people who complain about the police are angry when their complaints are not upheld!

"Why should the public have confidence in a complaints system when they know that the odds are hugely stacked against having their complaint upheld and are even more stacked against them in terms of the prospect of a police officer who has done something wrong being held to account?" asks former Commissioner John Crawley.

Perhaps he could take a stab at answering his own question.

Apparently the fact that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not upholding a large number of complaints is evidence of the fact that it's not doing its job properly. Did anyone ever stop to think it might be evidence of either:

(A) There is rarely clear evidence that the police are in the wrong.
(B) In general, most complaints against the police are malicious/unfounded/incorrect.

In my more than five years' service, I've received complaints from members of the public, criminals, lawyers and colleagues, for th
e following reasons:
  • I've arrested more than one person who wasn't guilty.
  • I've assaulted someone during arrest.
  • I've stolen someone's cash and clothing whilst administering life-saving first aid.
  • I've deliberately destroyed evidence.
  • I've lazed around in bed when I should be attending court.
  • I've waged a racist campaign against an innocent member of the public.
  • I've carved a swathe of rudeness through Blandmore, insulting people in various ways from swearing at them, to bullying and browbeating them, right through to criticising their driving.
In fact, it's pretty clear that PC Bloggs (or APS Bloggs as I'm lucky to be known), is a corrupt, violent, vicious individual who uses her uniform to intimidate and frighten law-abiding innocent citizens.

On a couple of occasions, complaints involving me have gone to the IPCC, and on a couple of others, I've been interviewed under caution by Professional Standards. I've had one or two meetings with the superintendent where I've been warned not to oversleep on the morning of court or forget to put in my statements that I've handcuffed someone. I've also on numerous occasions received letters two or three years down the line informing me that certain complaints have been dropped that I never even knew had been made.

Does all of this mean that the people who investigate police officers are not doing a good job?

Try telling that to the half dozen officers in my area alone who were (deservedly) arrested and charged last year for dishonesty and/or corruption. Or the hundreds who (undeservedly) suffered the stress of PSD or the IPCC storming through their workplace baying for blood.

The fact is, the majority of people who complain to the police are simply complaining because they didn't get their way. They are the same people who dial 999 to report children playing with balls in a play area, and then have a go at the police who arrive to speak to the children without their parents present. The same people who call to report being assaulted, and then lunge at the officers attending with a metal bar. Sometimes they complain merely to try and wriggle out of what they've done wrong, sometimes it's to claim compensation. But very often they don't really know why they're complaining, or what they hope to achieve. They just do it.

I'm bound to have some heated comments from people thinking I am blinkered, or unwilling to accept that the police can ever be wrong. I'm not. I have a dozen examples of times when I've heard complaints that were fully justified, and another few dozen where no one ever made a complaint when they should have done. But I've hundreds, maybe thousands, of examples of where the complaint should never even have gotten as far as putting pen to paper.

But then again, who wants to read a news story with the headline: Police Rarely Found Corrupt And When They Are They Go To Jail?

Result: Officer calls for assistance, ends up hitting red-haired guy 3-4 times with baton, as well as his mate. Half a dozen cops restrain both males. The crowd are appalled and all make complaints. Neither guy is charged with anything.
IPCC verdict: the red-haired guy closely matched the description of a burglar, but his behaviour made it impossible for the officer to confirm his identity. The officer acted in accordance with his training, genuinely fearing for his safety.
The newspapers say: IPCC backs feral police yob.

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Crewed Oscar, Zero Zero

The golden rules of being crewed on your own as a uniformed police officer:
  • Don't stop vehicles with more than one occupant until you've got backup on the way.
  • Always know what road you're on.
  • Always make sure the control room knows what road you're on.
  • Make sure another officer is on the same road as you, preferably in the same car.
In other words, single-crewing on the front line is not an option. Not a safe one, at least. Back in December most UK police bloggers wrote about this topic, as the government announced that single-crewing was a better way of policing (and as a lucky coincidence, cheaper too).

[Paragraph removed pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.]

Officially, Neighbourhood is not the same thing as Response. Unofficially, a motivated neighbourhood officer will attend the same amount, if not more, spontaneous and dangerous incidents as her response colleagues.

Officially, officers are asked to risk assess the incidents they attend and wait for backup or 'contain' an incident if they cannot attend on their own. Unofficially, if you're behind a vehicle that needs stopping, you'd better hope you're equipped for that vehicle to stop, and that you know the name of the unsigned part of the unsigned country road you're on (you know, just up from a bush and opposite that tree). Because once they see you, they might just pull over. They might just get out, take a dislike to you, and start to punch and kick you until you fall to the ground unconscious, where they might kick you a bit more. As you fight them tooth and nail, spray and baton, for your life, alone in the countryside, you might well think your number is up. You probably didn't want to die that way. Your colleagues might find you lying on the ground not moving, and for a moment they might think the worst, and wonder why they hadn't driven quicker, got there sooner, got in the car with you, saved you.

I've been writing this blog for some time, and what I've gleaned from colleagues across the nation and world has brought me to a bit of a conclusion about Neighbourhood policing. I'll share it with you:

There's no such thing as Neighbourhood Policing. There is only Policing.

Alan Johnson, there is no place in the world where a police officer, in uniform, in the city or in the countryside, in people's homes or on the streets, is not in danger. At least, in pairs, we have a fighting chance.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Assaulted... oh well

I used to further arrest people who kicked, bit or hit me during their arrest for another matter. Now, unless I think I have an injury that may cause some time off work or future problems, I tend not to bother. And where that statement is true, the reason for arresting the offender is not because I think there will be any kind of justice, but in order to get it recorded properly in case I am unable to work and need to claim for compensation or treatment.

The Scottish Federation has highlighted the sentences usually handed out for people who assault police officers. These tend to constitute a few quid fine which may or may not be paid. The last time I received compensation for being assaulted (yes, there has been more than once), it was about £60. I got £5 a month for twelve months. Which made me feel a lot better and deterred the offender from assaulting another officer for a good few weeks.

'An assault on a police officer is an assault on society,' any police federation member will state, as seen in this case where PC Stuart Dixon's attacker walked free from court. And most of us recall the case of PC Gemma Maggs, scarred by a violent thug who received a few hours' community service and less compensation to pay than someone sentenced the same day for graffiti - despite it being his second assault on a police officer.

The trouble is, it is normal to plead guilty to assault police, because it's nearly always witnessed by police officers or on CCTV (for example in a town centre). And when a guilty plea is entered, the defence can include mitigation which the Crown rarely bother to argue with: 'The officer was winding him up', 'He didn't realise it was a police officer', 'She's very sorry and has nightmares about her behaviour', 'She's since entered a drug treatment programme. Etc. It's easier to accept a guilty plea than go through the palaver and expense of a trial simply to confirm the facts of a case that has already been proven. This isn't just the case with assault police, it's the case with all offences, and as charging standards slip and slip to pursue offences that are easier and easier to prove, the plea-bargaining drops even further down until people who have stabbed and beaten others are being sentenced for Common Assault. Or those who have driven drunk, without insurance, injuring someone and fleeing the police in a crazed pursuit across town, are sentenced as though they merely had a pint extra and drove home safely.

The Federation rep in the above article suggests a mandatory nine month sentence for all assaults on police. Whilst this might be unrealistic in cases where it's a push or shove and the officer is uninjured, is it too much to expect that someone who thumps a police officer should spend at least a few days behind bars? I think most of us would rather see our attacker jailed for a month than asked to cough up a paltry amount of compensation that may or may not be paid. As would most members of the public who get assaulted when not on-duty as a police officer.

Most of the young thugs who have lashed out at me have never actually been to prison for any of their half dozen or dozen convictions. A sudden remand in prison for the weeks pending sentence might even filter through to their dense minds, the next time they are poised with fist clenched at the words "You are under arrest".

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

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Our policy is to use discretion to follow policy

Apparently, Ruralshire's opinion on snowball-throwing yobs is that "there is nothing we can do about [them]". I am disgusted by this approach, which demonstrates that the Discretion Policy is yet to reach Ruralshire and they are obviously still doing things according to the archaic National Crime Recording Standards, under which you might not suppose that crime could involve snowballs. Discretion is the new NCRS, and it has been rolled out force-wide, dramatically impacting on how we police.

So here in Blandshire we can and will do the following if you report a snowball-related crime:
  • The call-taker will use his discretion to create a crime report for criminal damage/assault.
  • The controller will use her discretion to establish that both of these offences are covered by the All Crime Initiative, therefore a PCSO will immediately attend.
  • The PCSO's discretion helps him/her ascertain that a crime has indeed occurred, and it might even be racially aggravated, and he/she will therefore pass the investigation to a police officer.
  • This is an eminently solvable crime (the offender being a youth aged 11-13, with brown hair, wearing a distinctive grey hoodie, male or female), therefore it will make an appearance in the morning meeting and APS Bloggs will be told to use her discretion to ensure a member of her team attends it without fail.

  • Straight after the morning meeting, APS Bloggs will craft a discretionary email to the Local Police Area (LPA) Commander explaining why her shift were unable to attend the incident all day, and save it in the Drafts folder.
  • Several hours later, the LPA Commander will sneak into the report room when APS Bloggs is out, and use his authority to dispatch one of her officers directly to the scene. The officer will phone APS Bloggs from custody and explain how, it being racially aggravated, he felt he had little alternative but to use his discretion to immediately arrest several grey-hoodied youths in the area.
  • The custody sergeant's opinion will be that the case should be immediately dropped, and so he will use his discretion to comply with the new Possible Daily Mail Article Policy, and bail all the youngsters for a specialist review by the Inspector In Charge of Ensuring We Do Not Drop Cases That Might Lead to Detection, Complaint, or Murder.*
  • The Inspector will pore over every scrap of paper relating to the snowball-throwing, race-hate scourge of Blandmore, and will likely order that all the youths be asked to sign contracts against snowball-throwing. This kind of disposal doesn't yet count as a detection, but it might some day soon.
  • At the end of the day, APS Bloggs will accidentally send her drafted email, much to the confusion of the LPA Commander.
As you can clearly see, if you are going to be the victim of a racist snowball attack, you had better be one in Blandshire, where our investigative standards are of the highest order.

If you think the above is funny, you obviously haven't been to Hertfordshire.

* Some critics have argued that the Possible Daily Mail Article Policy may not be strictly legal, but in this era of discretion it's really up to us now whether or not we obey the law.

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

Monday, January 04, 2010

Blandshire's New Year's Commitment

Back in October, Inspector Gadget revealed the straplines that make Ruralshire Constabulary the shining light among modern police forces.

I've been pondering whether Blandshire Constabulary should likewise have a motto, and after months of brainstorming, team-building exercises and picking things out of a hat, I have come up with:

Note: Due to the force-wide implementation of Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB), which means doing everything with a budget of zero, the Motto Development Department of my blog has saved money by borrowing a logo that is rarely used any more, in the hope that no one will notice. When someone does notice, I plan to vigorously defend the use of this logo until an Appeal Court rules against me, and then spend several million pounds developing a new one.

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


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