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 the 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.