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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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Invisible Scourge

Government pledge, May 2010: "Any cabinet minister … who comes to me and says 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again.

Labour, February 2011: "...over 10,000 police officers are being cut in the next few years alone."

Government response: "There is no simple link between police numbers and their impact; what matters is how the police are deployed."

The government's position is a bit like saying, "We've thrown away all the eggs, flour, butter and sugar, but I want that Victoria Sponge on the table in time for tea!"

If we believe that David Cameron meant his words back in May 2010, it means that he thinks that 20% of what the police have been doing can be cut. Funnily enough, I actually agree with him. The truth is we haven't been making Victoria Sponge simply with eggs, flour, butter and sugar. We've been making it with all of those things plus salt and pepper, marmalade and ham. I for one would be happy to go back to the classic recipe.

As a frontline sergeant at least 30% of my day is spent on one of the following mind-boggling tasks:
  • Checking my officers have filled out a variety of forms correctly, in order that the force will not be sued if someone one of them spoke to that day is found dead.
  • Reading through pages of incidents and crime reports that were read through by someone else the day before, and making the same decisions that they did, because day on day none of us have any resources to actually deal with the jobs.
  • Acquainting myself with every crime that my team are currently dealing with involving one of the force priorities (robbery, burglary, assault, etc), in time for the 9am morning meeting, so that I can justify why we haven't dealt with it differently. It's worth mentioning that while I'm doing this, the superintendent is also reading through them all so he can come into the meeting armed. Because he reads them all, so does his PA, and the three detective inspectors or sergeants of various departments who have to come to the meeting just in case the superintendent decides one of them should deal with a job instead.
The other 70% of my day is spent trying to ensure that my team is policing as effectively as they can. If I could do that 100% of the day, there probably wouldn't be a need for so many people to check and review the work my team has done over the last 24 hours, because we'd be doing it properly to start with.

Problem solved: the 20% budget cuts coming our way can be directed towards cutting all that crap.

Unfortunately, the reason I spend 30% of my day in the above manner is because of the any number of targets that my force may fail on if I stop doing it: crime detection, crime reduction, custody process, victim satisfaction. In fact, all of the things you'll find measured here, at Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

HMIC is not the only body behind the scenes holding the reins of Blandshire Constabulary, but along with the Police Authority and the European Court of Human Rights, it is the biggest barrier to implementing meaningful budget cuts without impacting on frontline staff. As Police Authorities are going, and we're stuck (for now) with the ECHR, why isn't anyone doing anything about HMIC? This is a body that hands out advice to forces on how they should be providing spare knickers for prisoners, and how they should be paying £35,000 to sergeants to phone people up and ask them if they got given a little green book when they reported their crime.

Cameron can blame Chief Constables (and local Councils) all he wants for the inevitable service reduction, but until his government tackles the malevolent force responsible for police bureaucracy, there is only one place for his budget cuts and that's down here on the frontline.

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

16 Comments:

Anonymous Not Long Now said...

First?????

*chuckle*..... if it's good enough for Gadget's blog, it's gotta be good for here! LOL.

11 February, 2011 23:45

 
Blogger Kimpatsu said...

What do you have against human rights? Do you want uniformed thugs to beat up innocent people with impunity?

12 February, 2011 02:18

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, second, third or last....who cares NLN? It's the taking part that matters, and what one says, not when one says it, IMHO.

Anyway, good post again Bloggsy, and very well said, with no mincing of your words. One can only hope that Dave Cameron & co get the message, and actually take it on board.....and take proper steps to sort it out, properly.

I have a feeling that their plan to recruit large numbers of special constables over the next few years, whilst times are tough and money is tight, is a plan to "back up" the front line officers.

This is what the government did post war, and in the 1950's. When the economy recovers, some of those specials who have proved themselves to be dedicated "quality" officers, could be taken on as regulars.

But the "malevolent influence" you mention is like an ever present pesky Jack in the Box. Just when one thinks that it is back in its box with the lid shut, up it pops again! (Just like a former high profile, "dour" MP who claimed to have "saved the world"! Ha!)

His "placemen", still in place, could be one source of the malevolent influence which has blighted the police force in the last decade or so. They enjoy the power and the perks they have gained, and will not give them up that easily. They also appear to be experts at fooling Home Secs!

12 February, 2011 03:11

 
Anonymous Lance Manley- Former Stab Proof Scarecrow said...

4th.

The Special Constable recruitment has occurred to me too. I also believe this is why Merseyside reintroduced the regular insignia for Specials (2 pips for a Special Inspector as opposed to 2 bars). Fool Joe and Josephine Public into thinking there are more cops out there than there are.

I am now in Mexico and the people I talk to here are gobsmacked by stories like Bloggs's latest post. I showed my students the Ian Tomlinson video last night (the joys of a classroom with a projector hooked up to a laptop with internet access) and while non are cops they agreed that he was being an obstructive little shit and if he'd tried that in Tampico he'd have got more than a shove.

12 February, 2011 04:13

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read your book, and seriously, it made me want to weep and/or emigrate. I'd wish I could say that I was shocked, but sadly I'm not, just angry, outraged and appalled. And you hear the same kind of thing from Doctors and teachers writing and talking about the batshit bureaucracy in their professions too.

Do you think there's anything that normal ordinary people could do? Jeez, Egyptians can get rid of a dictator but we're stuck with a bunch of clowns buggering up our police force, our schools and our NHS.

12 February, 2011 10:45

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Just a word on human rights - it isn't so much that they are a bad thing, just that anything that breaches a human right in a serious way is probably a criminal offence anyway. The fear of being sued/prosecuted under that legislation prompts a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy that is unnecessary if it was just accepted the police must treat everyone decently.

12 February, 2011 12:04

 
Blogger Hogdayafternoon said...

I fear that the cuts will be made by those who shouldn't be allowed to handle sharp instruments.

12 February, 2011 15:12

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is as it has been for the past few years is that those who have the power and influence to change things and reduce the amount of sheer bollocks that we have to deal with are the same ones who would be out of those cushy jobs at the HMIC or ACPO ranks. Turkeys don't vote for christmas!!

12 February, 2011 16:30

 
Anonymous Old Codger said...

PC Bloggs wrote:
"If we believe that David Cameron meant his words back in May 2010, it means that he thinks that 20% of what the police have been doing can be cut."

Cameron's words are for effect only, the reality is always different. Not for nothing did he claim to be "The heir to Blair".

12 February, 2011 18:40

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put again.

I'm surprised Gadget never posts about the HMIC. We moan about CPS, Home Office, Senior Officers etc, but the biggest cancer in UK policing is HMIC. An HMIC inspection puts the wind up senior officers more than any strop by the Home Secretary because the HMIC has far greater influence over individual careers.
And because the nature of their 'Inspections' is really 'going through paperwork like a VAT auditor' there has to be an ongoing bureaucracy to give them something to look at.

HMIC is so maleavolent and yet they don't have any sort of public profile.

Those who can, do
Those who can't do, teach
Those who can't teach, inspect.

The Home Sec and Chief visited the other day. They came, they did their thing and left. When HMIC come calling the whole place goes into meltdown for a fortnight, even including rearranging of furniture and specially commisioned posters up around the place to convey the impresion that that's how it always is (we've still got some up giving stats that were current two years ago during the last visit!)

13 February, 2011 13:35

 
Anonymous NightJack said...

Only 30% of your time? I can only guess that you have a black belt in sorting out the fevered e-nags and half margins from the monkey machine that lives upstairs OR you have a very good team OR some combination of the two.

13 February, 2011 17:04

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

I fully understand and concur with your views about HMIC. I personally know some of the officers working there and they are almost all people who couldn't make it in the real world. However, if you want something which REALLY f**ks up policing in this country, look no further than the HOCR (Home Office Counting Rules). It is these 'Alice In Wonderland' rules which HMIC and everyone else are slaves to, and which are so nonsensical. Get rid of HOCR and the HMIC will fall. As for Egypt; the Army just took over - great result that (not).

13 February, 2011 23:36

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely.

If you feel like being a bit of an anorak, have a look at the reverse correlation between a force's 'HOCR compliance' figure (measured by HMIC and forms part of their report but rarely makes it into the papers so the degree to which chiefs care varies widely) and their crime figures.

Slavish devotion to HOCR, crime figures not good. Apply common sense, crime figures go down.

15 February, 2011 19:15

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get the cops out of the cars and onto the beat. There's one way to make the police presence more visible and approachable. The last time I saw a bobby on foot in our area was a good few years ago. Now we have them driving through the area, keeping pace with the regular traffic, what hope have they of integrating with the community, or even detecting any suspicious behaviour?

19 February, 2011 13:36

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say:
"there is only one place for his budget cuts and that's down here on the frontline".


Sadly no-wrong. Very wrong. There are just too many Constabularies with too much duplication of top brass and backroom functions.

Cut Constabularies not Constables ?

19 February, 2011 19:52

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Anon, that was kind of my point...

22 February, 2011 16:09

 

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