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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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will the real blogger please stand up?

Dan Collins invited me along to a real life political/literary function this week: MEP Daniel Hannan in 'conversation' with author Theodore Dalrymple. You can read several different versions of how it went here, here and here.

On attending such a prestigious event, the main concerns of a police blogger are of course, in this order:
  • What should I wear?
  • Will I see anyone I know? Unlikely at an intellectual Tory gathering, but you never know.
  • What name should I use?
  • Having chosen the apposite identity, will Dan Collins blurt out the other one?*
  • Will there be photographers?
  • Will I feel an uncontrollable urge to leap to my feet and ask a question that draws the attention of the entire room, before accidentally revealing my force to a room full of journalists?
Having established none of the answers to the above before setting off from home, I made my way to Chelsea in good time, then lurked around the corner for a good half hour to make Dan think no one was coming.

The event was interesting. Clearly prison doctors have similar dealings with society as police officers, and I found myself agreeing with most of Dalrymple's theories, for example:
  • Crime is not caused by heroin.
  • There's no such thing as an underclass, there are just humans.
  • You have to WANT to be caught to be prosecuted for any half-serious crime nowadays, whereas the police are pretty good at the trivial stuff.
My conclusion is that the NHS is exactly the same as the police, and that by becoming a prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple has managed to combine two of the most entangled bureaucracies in our country. Which probably accounts for why he is generally depicted as pessimistic and morose.

I have a different view. I was once accused by a supervisor of being terribly negative about my work (I know: shock horror), because I'm always pointing out where we're going wrong. But the truth is, I'm not negative. If you are resigned to your fate, if you have given up, or given in, you become quiet and submissive. Those who critique, criticise and debate, do so because they haven't given up. They still believe things can change.

It is when we stop talking about the problems that we really have a problem.










* Yes.


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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blandshire Welcomes Professional Judgment

In the Twenty-First Century, police officers no longer have Discretion, we have PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT (or PJ, as I intend to coin).

The Chief Constable of Blandshire Constabulary is happy to welcome PJ to our streets and urges all front-line officers to use it.

PJ can be used to determine that a crime has not happened, to avoid recording of snowball-throwing. This is excellent, because whereby at the moment it is Blandshire Constabulary's recording procedures that can be held accountable for petty arrests and unsatisfied victims, from now on it will be individual officers, because the latest force guidance confirms that it is entirely the officer's decision what crime gets recorded. If the officer feels the crime didn't happen, they can now feel free to say so.

Of course, if the non-existent crime is solvable, ie someone has named an offender who did not commit the said non-happened crime, and the officer fails to record it because it didn't happen, then the guilty officer should soon expect an email from the Senior Management Team urging them to use their PJ to record and solve the afore-mentioned non-occurred unactioned non-crime.


This is because PJ functions within strict boundaries
, as prescribed by the SMT:
  • If you apply PJ properly to a domestic crime, you will likely come to the conclusion the crime HAS happened and that someone SHOULD be arrested.
  • Likewise for race hate crime, or violent crime, or any other kind of crime that is currently being measured by the government under their new non-measurement of crime scheme.
  • PJ does not apply on the evening of the week's detection tally, or the night before the monthly Performance Group.
Confused? That's the idea.

The truth of Professional Judgment is that it does create accountability: in fact, it shifts the accountability squarely on the shoulders of front-line police officers and away from their second and third line managers. Because while the edicts from the top level are urging discretion and personal judgment, mid-management are still floundering in a sea of crime statistics and performance measures. Mid-management are still sending emails about trivial crimes that should have been solved and serious investigations that should have achieved convictions without the slightest scrap of evidence. Mid-management haven't got the message about Professional Judgement, or if they have, they're too scared to use it.


Who, in the Twenty-First Century, is really going to send their sergeants and PCs an email saying, "If you felt that walking away from the situation was the right course of action, I'll stand by you", or "Let's not waste custody space and court time with these piles of garbage"?


On paper, Professional Judgment is a way of holding officers accountable for their decisions. A way of impressing on them the ethics and principles by which they police. A way of encouraging thoughtfulness and compassion.
In practice, it's a smoke-screen. It's a way of pretending that decisions out on the streets are those of the officers and the officers alone.

They aren't. The emails are still coming. The performance culture persists.


Don't believe what you read.






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

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Am I being racially HARASSED?

It appears that the woeful tale of Ali Dizaei has brought out the voices in all our heads. As a police officer, a good proportion of my time is spent trying to ascertain whether the bizarre set of circumstances being related to me by a caller is the concoction of a disturbed mind, or merely the result of another Blandmore marriage.

Most people's reality is somewhere in-between. If you find yourself constantly being stop-searched, frequently arrested (invariably in a violent and aggressive manner), are deprived of your rights to phone-calls, solicitors, medical attention or clothing, are woken by police throughout the night, get fitted up for things you haven't done and repeatedly kept in custody after charge, before picking up the phone to The Daily Mail to complain of police discrimination, please consider the following questions:
  1. Do you wear weather-inappropriate clothing and hang around burglary hotspots on dark nights?
  2. Do you often find weapons/tools lying around on the ground and conceal them within layers of your clothing for no reason?
  3. Do you tend to run/hide when you see police officers coming?
  4. When having the circumstances of your search explained to you, do you tend to shout 'This is harassment, man' repeatedly at the top of your voice so you are unable to hear anything else?
  5. Do you continue to do the same when brought in front of the custody sergeant?
  6. Do you answer 'yes' to all the questions about your health and welfare, including intention to commit suicide, contagious diseases and medication?
  7. Do you while away the boring hours in custody head-butting the walls and trying to form a noose out of items of soft clothing?
  8. Do you demand the doctor, then refuse to come out of your cell to see him/her? Do you then wait until the doctor has just left custody before stating that you will now see him?
  9. Do you refuse to be interviewed, or threaten to carve up the first police officer to open your cell door?
  10. Whilst in custody, do you share your thoughts on retribution against members of your family?
  11. Do you regularly oversleep on the morning of court/bail?
If you answered yes to any of the above, I recommend an NPIA course on self-awareness ("How does MY behaviour influence the behaviour of those AROUND me?"), before you reconsider the question of police harassment.

If the answer is genuinely no, apply the same questionnaire to your significant other, parent or sibling.

In reality, the bulk of people who get badgered and harassed by the police are usually doing something to encourage it. The trouble is, you only need one or two examples of where they aren't to set the public opinion of such cases.

Ali Dizaei first united the public in support of the supposed corruption of his force. Now his conviction has sealed that opinion, perhaps for good.

How do we win back the support of society, without ceasing our relentless pressure on those who commit crimes against it?


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

Monday, February 08, 2010

Dizzy Dizzy Dizzy













1998: "
Mandy, I am going to declare war on you and I have declared it as of now. See what I will do to you. From now on you are dead. I will start with your mum first. If, in the next hour, you don't leave a message. I am so emotionally disturbed now, that anything is possible from me... You think it's a bluff? I give you an hour and see what I will do to you. If you think I am worried about my career, to get back at you, you must be joking. Just remember what I did to ******'s husband. It is not safe for you to stay in that house. You are not safe. I am going to come and catch you, on my mother's life. If you are at home, get out . . . because if I see you, I am going to lose it right now. 'You want war, bitch, you're going to get some war. You will see now what I can do, so you will cry for years. First, I will start with your family, then I come to you and your reputation. I will spread all over London that you are a prostitute."

2000-2001: "A witch-hunt of Orwellian proportions."

2003: "Absolute relief, I'm delighted that I have been unequivocally vindicated."
"The fact of the matter is, 44 officers crawled over my private and personal life over four years, and spent £7 million of taxpayers' money, and the best they could come out with is that I had some unpleasant telephone conversation with an ex-partner in 1998... This is only about the handful of officers who set out, as I said previously, to destroy my life, my career, and actually destroy the National Black Police Association. And I think that's the key."

2007:
"Not One of Us."
Public apologies. Integrity intact. We're Sorry.

2009:
"It is outrageous that the CPS, for the second time in four years, has commenced prosecution against the president of the National Black Police Association, Commander Ali Dizaei. This has not happened to any other senior police officer in the history of the MPS or the CPS."

2010: Guilty.

Oops.

In all of this, spare a thought for PC Andy Moore and PC Andrew Collett. Imagine turning up to an assistance call by your Chief Superintendent, and arriving to find you don't believe a thing he's telling you. Imagine having him present to you an arrested male, and asking you to transport him to custody.

Whilst the abuse of businessman Waab al-Baghdadi is of course the clearest of the allegations against Ali Dizaei, the abuse of internal power is perhaps more pernicious and more damaging.

What are we to expect next from the glitterball of Mr Dizaei's life? An appeal? More reinstatements, climbdowns, apologies and compensation?

"This has not happened to any other senior police officer in the history of the MPS or the CPS."

There's a reason.


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

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

Monday, February 01, 2010

Legal Cops, Illegal Search

Kent is not having a happy time.

While we all bate our breath awaiting the outcome of Crouchergate, Kent Police have now admitted breaking the law by sending out a notice to officers policing Kingsnorth Climate Camp encouraging them to search people without lawful grounds.















As a police officer, you often rely on the policy decisions of your force to ensure you don't do something illegal. If I receive an email with a map, with the words "A s.44 Terrorism Act Authority is now in place in the attached area, you may stop and search anyone you come across", I will read it out to my team in briefing and they will go out and act upon it. If it later turns out the map is inaccurate, or that the s.44 power itself is illegal, a police officer may well end up carrying out an illegal search. Anything found in that search may well therefore be inadmissible in court, and any force used to complete the search will be excessive or even an assault. Which is why, when I receive emails of this type, I save them in a special folder called "IPCC".*

It is also why the officers who shot Jean-Charles de Menezes were exonerated of any guilt in the numerous enquiries that followed.

Which is confusing really, because it is hammered home in training that a police officer is responsible for the lawfulness or otherwise of his/her own actions. You can disobey an order from a senior officer, if obeying it would entail doing something unlawful. But police officers act on wrong information, or under a misapprehension of the law, on numerous occasions, and are rarely found individually guilty of offences because it's accepted that you have a right to trust your force's policy and guidelines. Who is actually held accountable for a policy or guideline that leads to a breach in law is another matter. It is often no simple feat just to identify who wrote it.

At present I receive a lot of emails to do with arresting people for 'race' crime and domestic abuse, keeping people in custody for their full twenty-four hours in the hope of a charge, 'turning over' baddies perpetually, plaguing offenders who have a curfew with 2-3 bail checks a night, etc. There's usually a clever "(justifiably!)" or "(within your powers!)" squeezed in brackets into the emails, but the messages are clear. I read the emails, I grasp the official motivation as well as the unofficial. I file them away and carry on policing as I see fit.

Policy is not the law. The law is not policy. Breaching either can get you fired, but breaching just one of them can put you in prison.

We ARE responsible for the lawfulness of our actions. We DO have the power to say no. Once you have stripes, it becomes easier to stand up for yourself, but the trade-off is the dwindling prospect of those stripes ever transmogrifying into pips. No one wants an inspector who knows the law too well.




* I don't really have a folder called that. But you get the gist.
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'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

 

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