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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Monday, July 26, 2010

Music to a Blogger's Ears

Several years ago Nick Herbert MP's office contacted me for some views on needed reforms to the police. I understand his office contacted dozens more officers, serving, non-serving, anonymous and named. At the time, the Conservative paper produced resonated with many serving officers, but was meaningless because the party was not in power.

Now they are in power, and have released some serious plans for the police. Some quotes from the Home Office paper, which by some amazing coincidence appears to have been named after this blog...
  • "We will abolish Police Authorities."
  • "We will transfer power back to the people – by introducing directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners."
  • "We will do away with central targets."
  • "Police officers should be crime fighters, not form writers."
  • "The Government... will have no role in telling the police how to do their job"
  • "The service itself needs to examine its internal processes and doctrine which can lead to unnecessary bureaucracy. Action needs to be taken to challenge the culture of risk aversion that has developed in policing. Officers all too often collect information just in case it is needed rather than applying a common sense approach. This culture change will need to be supported and embedded by chief officers..."
  • "[The CJS]* cannot go on being a system where half of the police say they would speak critically of it."
It's all good stuff, although we have heard some of it before. The difference now is that things HAVE to change, because there isn't any money to keep doing it the way we have been.

If all goes to plan, perhaps I can hang up my blogging boots in 2012.

Then again, there's nothing in Theresa May's paper that addresses how two youths who happy-slapped an old man to death may be walking free from prison in under a year.

The pair were also convicted of other attacks which could have ended the same way.

The little figure by the railings is the victim's three-year-old granddaughter, who remains traumatised.





Perhaps I won't ditch the boots just yet.



* Criminal Justice System

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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Risk

A radical shake-up of the police is reported today. I am delighted to see that so far the shake-up consists of:
  • Scrapping one national crime agency and replacing it with another.
  • Getting rid of the people who oversee each police force and replacing them with some others - albeit locally elected.
  • More general claims and statements by Theresa May that she wants to free the police from bureaucracy.
I am one hundred percent behind plans to reduce bureaucracy, and PC "Stuart Davidson" Copperfield has some great ideas/examples in The Telegraph.

The trouble is, the true heart of bureaucracy in the police and other public sector agencies is Risk. The fear of getting it wrong, being castigated, sued or even criminally prosecuted, is the key driver behind half of the hoops we jump through.

We need to see concrete examples of the IPCC, CPS and senior officers backing those who act in good faith, supporting those who make mistakes, and accepting that you cannot prevent all annoyances nor all tragedies without unacceptable impingements on the liberty of the wider public.

That is something the public are going to have to get on board with if they want a functional police force. I don't see it happening any time soon, and stories like the case of Ian Tomlinson do not help our cause.




Side-note: sawn-off shotguns do not "spray out" pellets until the shot has gone 15-20 metres, due to the velocity with which it leaves the barrel. In fact the spread is barely any different to a non-sawn-off one.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PC Bloggs Investigates... Wibble

Sir Denis O'Connor is a worthy and laudable man. An ex-Chief Constable of Surrey Police, now knighted and the Acting Chief Inspector of Constabulary, you might expect he has a firm grasp on the real issues facing the police today.

Which is why, when Sir Denis' HMIC report states that some officers work as few as 171 days in a year, the best results being 208 days, you can't blame well-respected broadsheet newspapers for jumping at the news. From much of the report, it is clear that Sir Denis has kept his finger on the pulse of police blogging for the last five years: he names risk-aversion and performance culture as two of the biggest causes of unnecessary expenditure in the police.

But let's dig a little deeper. The average civilian in an average job works approximately a 40-hour week, broken down into 5 days of 8 hours. Over the course of a year, this equates to 260 days spent
at work. After 25 days' annual leave and 5 days' sickness, that's 230 days, barely more than half of the year themselves.

Police officers generally work a variation on a 24/7 shift pattern that takes into account the need for
overlapping shifts on weekends. This means the shifts are usually 9-12 hours long, let's say an average of 10 hours. It won't be broken down this way, but this means to reach their average 40-hour week, police officers are effectively working a 4-day week (some weeks will be 6-7 days, others 3-4). They have less home and social time on days they work, but more days off. Therefore their total working days a year equals 208. Taking into account sickness and annual leave, that comes out at 178 days. Not including overtime.

The media don't care about the above, why would they? Their job is merely to regurgitate supposed facts that add to the weight of suspicion and mistrust of the police: that we don't work hard, we don't do long hours, we are basically milking overtime and skiving at the same time. Hence this Channel 4 report stating that Sir Denis identifies 30 officers involved in a burglary case from start to finish. The "7" officers identified in the custody process - if you read the report properly - actually includes gaolers and the police doctor: for a start they are not "officers" and secondly, they multi-task dealing with dozens of prisoners each day. The call-takers, crime-recorders and file-builders involved (none police officers) all juggle a caseload that no front-line police officer could possibly manage, hence it is a reasonably efficient way of structuring a force.























I am all for improvements t
o the police, and if the clamp down on our budgets means that we are now forced to abandon much of the performance-related and risk-averse bureaucracy that has built up under the last government, I'm all for that too.

But I'm all against the twisting of meaningless statistics to point out non-existent failings. I'm against the blind reporting of these facts with no interrogation. And I'm against the further villainisation of a group of public sector workers who share none of the rights of a normal employee, and take greater physical risks.


Who is going to call Sir Denis on the distorted and misleading data in this report?




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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Do Drink and Drive: You Might Get Away With It









Of all the offences for which I have arrested people in the well-over-half-a-decade I have been in the police, the one that brings out the human propensity to wriggle, crawl and grasp for survival at all costs is drink-driving.


Your average sloshed Blandmore driver will weave from side to side as I follow them with blue lights flashing, pulling over several times to wave me by before coming to the realisation it is them I am trying to stop. They then park considerately on the small kerb surrounding the Keep Left sign in the middle of Blandmore's largest traffic light junction and fall out of the car at my feet with empty cans of cider strewn around them.


The roadside breath test will consist of me firmly explaining how to blow correctly into the tube, followed by five minutes of my first saying, then shouting, phrases such as "BLOW not suck", "You're not blowing", "No, blow until I say stop", "No, harder". Eventually the threat of being arrested for failing to blow into the machine prompts sudden understanding of the process.


At the station, the custody sergeant will find him/herself presented with someone who speaks not a word of English, despite their earnest claim moments before that they are the best friend of Sir William Willough-Ponsonby who can vouch for their sobriety.


Several minutes of "What language do you speak?" will follow, lists of foreign languages waved before the drunkard's eyes to no avail. Finally the offender will point at a language and say "Swahili/Punjabi/Romanian/French" (in English). Ten minutes later, after three attempts at getting interpreters to communicate with the person, they will capitulate and experience a miraculous recovery of the command of English. Sadly, this will shortly be followed by a massive brain haemorraghe causing them to fall on the floor and twitch in silence.


An ambulance, two sets of tapes, three different signatures and a variety of medical/mental ailments later, including a repeat performance of the inability to blow correctly despite having done it once already, the culprit will utterly fail to provide any kind of breath specimen on the big machine and will be escorted to their cell in disgrace, where the grasp of English may once more desert them until they want a cup of tea.


With any other prisoner, the custody sergeant would have enough after a few minutes, but with the drink-driver, any deviation from procedure will result in the loss of the case at court. So we are locked in battle trying to preempt the most unlikely defences, in a ludicrous process where a tick in the wrong box sets an alcoholic maniac free back onto the roads.

The worst injustice I ever heard of was a colleague who arrested a local publican for driving home pissed one night, who then failed to provide a specimen of breath and was charged. In court some months later, the publican had become a builder, had a Portuguese interpreter sitting with him in the dock, and was a devout teetotal. Evidence was presented to show the person speaking good English in custody (albeit with an accent) and providing "quick-test" readings later on that night well over the drink-drive limit. Moreover, the officer actually attended the guy's pub the week before court and had a few beers with a mate, the publican happily chatting away in fluent English with him. Plus, as it happens, the officer was fluent in Portuguese anyway.


The Magistrates threw the case out because "they couldn't be sure he had understood".



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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Own Worst Enemy

"Hello left hand, it's right hand here, er... what are you up to? Been anywhere nice lately?"

As a supervisor, I am sometimes at a loss what to tell the young PCs on my team. For example, one earnest young chap came up to me recently and said:

"Sergeant Bloggs, should we be doing bail checks on criminals every night at 3am like the Area Commander says, or respecting the human rights and diversity of all citizens like the Chief says?"

As I stumbled, "Er..." another followed up with:

"Oh yes, and sarge, should I use my professional judgment to give a verbal warning to these two twelve-year-olds who pushed over another twelve-year-old in the park yesterday, as we were encouraged to do so on our last training day? Or shall I respond to this email from the Chief Inspector Responsible For Taking the Flak for the Superintendent's Ideas, and arrest them both to record a detection for violent crime?"

Before I could complete my, "Um, er, gosh..." another PC piped up:

"Bloggsy, do you want me to make sure I keep all of my three pre-arranged appointments today- in line with the Victim's Charter- or would you prefer me to spend the whole day dealing with the time-consuming first appointment- in line with Operation Thoroughness? Or as a third option, perhaps you'd like me to redeploy to some outstanding emergencies- in order to maintain our high call attendance rates?"

Unable to respond, I merely told the last PC to refer to me as "Sergeant Bloggsy", and locked the office door behind them.





Is it just me, or is that ambulance upside down?







Sometimes it isn't a case of Us and Them, sometimes it's just Us and Us.


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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Us and Them

Everyone's talking about Raoul Moat, and how can they not be? The tale has a bit of everything: murder, sexual intrigue, psychology, a wounded police officer, high emotions and plenty of video footage. Whatever way you present it, it's a tragic case with an unhappy end, and it is human and decent to feel sorry for almost everyone involved.

But that's not the same as actively encouraging a dangerous gunman to evade the police, nor taking sides with someone obviously either unstrung or homicidal, or possibly both. Instead of hearing impassioned pleas to hand himself in, or enthusiasm for the cops to snare him, I read quotations from many saying how he planned to "take people with him" or "go out in a blaze of glory". Worse still, several people actively assisted him. Some of those have been charged, but the implication from the Det Supt running the operation was that police believed Moat had further assistance within the community that enabled him to remain at large within an arm's length. This is not Derrick Bird, a man who had lived a pretty law-abiding existence under the radar before losing his mind in some way and murdering eleven strangers. Moat was someone accused of years of abuse, who had served time for hitting a child, who utilised illegal weapons and made clear his violent intentions. I'm not saying demonise him - clearly he needed help too - but is it too much to expect everyone to support the manhunt for him?

Has antipathy towards the police now degenerated to the point at which a rampaging murderer garners widespread support from sectors of the community? Is it truly "war" between the police and the public?

Certainly reading comments about the arming of police, many members of the public seem to think the firearms given to the police are there to be used against the public and that therefore they want to have guns too. I always thought that the police force in any civilised country is the weapon at the belt of the public. We are there to attend dangerous incidents and apprehend crooks so they don't have to. Yes, we frequently do a bad job and many of us are frustrated or even embarrassed when that happens.

But to give up on the police altogether, to turn on them and say the police are the enemy and mean to do us harm, is to give up on modern society altogether. It is to say every man for himself and damned be the consequences.

I don't know about you, but the thought of living in that Britain scares the hell out of me.


One final thing: the police will never bring a loved one to the scene of negotiations with someone who is suicidal - in case he wants them there to kill himself in front of them.




"I bear him no malice."

All the best to PC Rathband, I hope your eyesight recovers fully.

You're a better man than I.








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

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Moat No More

After hours of a stand-off with police, fugitive Raoul Moat has killed himself.

The following things are therefore the police's fault:
  • Raoul Moat was only sentenced for a few weeks for assaulting his daughter. If the police had sentenced him for longer, he would have had an assessment by Probation before being released.
  • Raoul Moat mades vague threats to friends/guards on release from prison. If the police had immediately incarcerated him again, for the offence of "Being a Person Possibly Maybe About to Commit Atrocities" then none of this would have happened.
  • Moat phoned up threatening to kill a police officer. Police should instantly have passed legislation allowing them all to be armed and been trained in the use of firearms, so that twelve or so minutes later PC Rathband could have taken Moat out.
  • Moat was hiding in countryside close to Rothbury, breaking into houses and robbing shops presumeably to subsist. The police should have been in every household and shop to apprehend him. With guns.
  • The stand-off with Moat should have occurred in a disused abattoir out of town, it is a disgrace that he was allowed to hold a gun to his head in sight of people's houses.
  • Kathleen should have been allowed out of her house, even if it meant pausing the stand-off to let her go by.
  • Gazza should have been allowed to run the negotiations.
No doubt the usual police apologists will emerge, moaning that the police don't give out prison sentences, early releases, carry firearms or crystal balls, nor control the minds of Britain's less stable citizens.

But I for one have had enough of this weak attitude.

Still, at least Sue Sim's on the case.


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

Thursday, July 08, 2010

To Flatter a Mockingbird

The Guardian reckons that the police strategy to catch madman Raoul Moat is one of flattery. That there's a psychological game being played to oust him.

I am sure some very clever things are going on behind the scenes. That profilers are drawing up lists of Moat's favoured takeaways and what factor suncream he wears. But I can also guarantee you that the statements being released by Northumbria Police are motivated by one thing alone: FEAR.

Fear of saying the wrong thing.

Fear of handling it badly.

Fear of the inevitable IPCC investigation.

This is a nation where, in the face of a nutjob with a gun, police are (reportedly) summoned BACK into their police stations to hide, rather than sent out en masse to detain him. Not because most of us wouldn't be keen to have a go at locating the murderer, or at least reassuring the public that we were the first line of flesh between them and the next bullet. Most likely because of the realisation that the police are utterly ill-equipped to deal with a situation like this. And if you send employees (or even sworn officers) into a situation where death is a certainty, you stand to be prosecuted for Health and Safety abuses.

I used to think I wouldn't want to carry a gun on Britain's streets. That was before I realised that I can't actually do my job without one. That if I rock up at the scene of a gun-toting loon, I am as helpless as the person who called me.

Is that the kind of police force this nation wants?

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

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

No Chance: The Movie

Picture the scene: a crazed, steroid-infused bodybuilder pumping irons in a prison compound, confiding in a hoarse whisper: "When I get out of this joint, blood's gonna run, buddy."

The tattooed buddy beckons over a prison guard with the back of one finger the next day, passing over a phone-card with some lettering on the back, in return for a packet of cigarettes. The card reads: "MOAT'S GONNA FLIP".

Elsewhere in the county, the intelligence reaches NPPD (Northumbria Police Police Department). In the morning meeting: "Moat's out on Friday, he's got something big planned."

In dismay, armed cops are deployed across the county on Friday. Surveillance is launched on Raoul Moat. NPPD's finest follow a trail of blood across the county, leading to a cop being gunned down in a thrilling exchange of bullets.

As the sick psychopath turns to Facebook to taunt his victims, the superintendent reluctantly picks up the phone to ageing detective Mel Bruce, who's been signed off sick with alcoholism and a bad back. A battle of wits and bullets begins. And as the detective who sent Moat down, only DS Bruce can stop him...

And back in the real world, many hundreds of convicts declare their intention to "do something" when they get out. Hundreds of prison guards and probation officers relay these chilling threats to the police. The police trawl through intelligence and background checks, and try to decide when and how and if to respond.

When the first body is found, the important thing is to work out whether confidence in the police will be undermined by the event. A Critical Incident is declared. A Gold Group convenes. A press strategy unfolds.

By the time Northumbria Police discover they are embroiled in the plot of the next Die Hard movie, it is about ten years too late to arm their front-line officers, don American accents and hire someone called Mel Bruce prone to a bad back.

Life rarely mimics art. When it does, it's hard and cruel and shocking.

Plus the one-liners aren't as funny, and contain spelling mistakes.




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

Monday, July 05, 2010

Ding Dong, the Policing Pledge is Dead

Thrillingly, the Policing Pledge is gone. Blandshire Constabulary has taken swift action to respond to this. As of immediate effect:
  • We will throw away all the little pink stickers used to measure stuff we don't need to measure any more.
  • When people call in, we will no longer waste time on the phone with the words "Under the Policing Pledge, an officer will respond to your call in.../by.../unless..."
  • We will no longer produce pie charts on how often neighbourhood officers check their voicemail. The statistics will still come out, they just won't be turned into a pie chart.
As you can see, Blandshire has used this great opportunity to shed the shackles of bureaucracy. Long may it continue.

In other news, do we really believe that Northumbria Police dared not publish Raoul Moat's picture for 12 hours because of his human rights? Here's wishing a speedy recovery to PC David Rathband, shot whilst sitting at the wheel of his car. More on this soon: Gadget has it covered.


Note: Click where it says "0 Comments" - they are there!

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