This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. 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 (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Now You HMIC Me, Now You Don't

I've previously ranted about the dastardly function of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on this blog.  I mean, I've previously posted in eloquent and nuanced tones about HMIC.

The tentacles of this behind-the-scenes, performance-monitoring body are far-reaching.  Indeed, I can link HMIC reports to direct changes made, or about to be made, on the front line of Blandshire that have materially impacted my ability to do my job (for the worse, in case that's not clear).  Some such changes are:
  • Extra entries on custody records.
  • New shift patterns.
  • Extra bureaucratic procedures when attending incidents of anti-social behaviour.
  • Having to buy prisoners brand new trainers out of the force's budget.
  • Having to make hour-long round trips to collect prisoners' medication, and pay for it.
  • Whole teams or squads being formed to target particular crimes.

Most of these HMIC reports have been generated without a member of HMIC ever actually visiting a police station in Blandshire, nor speaking to any officers.  Most of the changes implemented have not been explicitly required by HMIC, nor has the senior officer implementing them visited police stations or spoken to any officers, before introducing them.  It's like an episode of Undercover Boss, but without the bit where the boss goes undercover.
But now, and perhaps for the first time in my memory, HMIC has released a report favourable to those of us at the sharp end.  It estimates that 3000 police jobs will go in London alone, and hundreds more in other forces.

Are Police Chiefs clamouring to jump on the back of this report, the way they have clamoured and jumped when HMIC has suggested time-consuming and bureaucratic changes to the functions of the front-line?  On the contrary, the silence has been deafening.  And is it any wonder, when the lone voice in the wilderness, CC Peter Fahy, was denounced as irresponsible.  Mr Fahy won't be getting the Met call-up any time soon.

The far-from-clear message seems to be: sometimes HMIC is right, and implementing its suggestions can be useful evidence for Chief Constables to accrue in pursuance of their futures.  But sometimes, HMIC is wrong, and speaking out for its conclusions is downright hazardous to one's career.

So the next time my Chief uses an HMIC report to inflict maximum pain on the front line, the thought might occur to me to ask where the plaudits were when that self-same body told the public that Blandshire Constabulary was in dire straits.

Then again, I suppose pointing out anything that could cause the front line to lose confidence in their leader would just be plain irresponsible. 

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No time for finger-pointing

It's taken all of a day for news commentators to launch criticism of the Norwegian police for taking over an hour to reach Utoeya to apprehend a gunman who has shot dead over 80 people - mostly children aged 14-18.

Apparently the gunman, dressed as a policeman, gathered many of the 600 youths together to talk to them about the Oslo bombing, before opening fire.  A 32-year-old man has now been charged with both attacks.

Reporters are blaming "a lack of preparedness" in Norway, for such an attack.

The truth is, if such an episode occurred on the Isle of Wight, just hours after a major bomb explosion in London, our response may be no quicker.  As seen in the reports after the Cumbrian massacre by Derrick Bird, armed response officers are not available at a click of a finger, in the kind of numbers needed to successfully shut down an "active shooter" armed with automatic weapons.  

We too would require commando teams to approach in boats or helicopters, more than anything because it would not be clear that such carnage was being caused by only one shooter.   As the 520 surviving children texted their families with stories of being hidden behind a rock hearing the gunman breathing above them as he fired on their friends in the water, Norway's 999 system must have gone into meltdown.  It probably took up to half an hour to understand what was happening, and another 20 minutes travelling time to reach the obscure location.  Another half hour could easily be spent debating tactics - there's no point sending in officers one at a time to add to the death toll.

"Active Shooter" training is being delivered to police supervisors across the UK in the wake of events in Cumbria.  Nothing being taught would have made the slightest difference to the Utoeya massacre.  Or to any one-man massacre.

All in all, there can be no "preparedness" for an event like this.  There can only be realisation and tragedy.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


If you're a sucker for conspiracy theories and media intrigue, the phone-hacking scandal has it all:
Dipping my toe into the daily news between intensely busy summer shifts in Blandmore, I find myself wondering really where this storm blew up from.  At its heart is the bald fact that as far as I am aware not one newsworthy story emerged as a result of any one of the hundreds of phones that the News of the World allegedly hacked into.  Unless you count the one about Prince William's sore knee.

Moreover, the word 'hacking' seems to be used in its loosest form here.  We are not talking about a twenty stone nerd, holed up in a soundproof basement with a state-of-the-art CCTV and booby-trap security system, with seventeen monitors and USB ports for every gizmo in existence.  We are not talking about a malodorous genius, plumbing the depths of technical wizardry and breaking age-old ciphers to unlock virtual fortresses.  We are talking about phoning up someone's voicemail and typing '1234' in the hope they haven't changed their pin number.

Whilst doing this to the phone of a 14-year-old murdered schoolgirl is sickening, doing it to a celebrity, a royal, or a senior government or police figure is no more intrusive than any number of modern journalistic tactics used to try and get tabloid scoops.  You also have to wonder, if you are a celebrity, a royal, or a senior government or police figure, why on earth you have not changed the pin number on your voicemail anyway?  If an unscrupulous private investigator or reporter can gain access to potentially sensitive personal information about these figures, so could a terrorist. 

Either way, those embroiled in the scandal are falling over each other to extricate themselves before media intrigue turns into criminal proceedings.  Or, perhaps, before whatever message it is that the News of the World listened to on their voicemail, is made public.

It won't work.  I have a feeling that Hacker-gate will not go away until some suitably famous scalps are nailed to prison walls.  I wait, breath bated, for the book that will inevitably come out afterwards.

In the midst of it all, the tragic death of one of the men who started it allBeing a whistle-blower is not always a happy lot.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Run, Wimmin, Run

Warning: This post contains feminist views.

Inspector Diane Bamber has received wide-spread mockery for her potential pay-out after failing the riot shield run - a 500m very slow "dash" in full riot gear.  As usual, it's been labelled a crazy example of political correctness gone too far.  As someone who passed the old "bleep test" easily at 8.1 and was appalled when it was reduced to 5.4 to allow unfit women into the job, I have a different view of the shield run.

Riot shields are 5ft6 tall.  The average British woman is 5ft4, the average man is 5ft9 (possibly 1-2 inches taller for police officers).  Therefore for most women, the shield is about the same height as them, which means to run without tripping over it, you have to loft it away from your body and off the ground, and cannot tuck the handles into your waist.  This magnifies its weight considerably the shorter officer.

Also, in a real riot situation, it is unlikely you will ever have to run in a slow jog for 500m.  More likely, you will be dashing quickly in lines, or running backwards, or standing for hours in rows.  Being just over 5ft6, I struggle on the shield run (though have never failed it), but found the actual training exercises easy - still in full kit and with the shields.  Conversely, enormous blokes who pounded out the shield run with great ease were exhausted after ten minutes of drills up and down the training site.  

In truth I think that a far greater standard of fitness is needed for riot work than just a 2min45 jog, but that the height of the shields does make it proportionately harder for women.  The answer is not to make the test easier, nor to worry about upsetting the poor delicate characters who have not prepared for it properly. The answer is to make the test relate to the job at hand, and to prove its worth in the standard of trainee turned out by the system.  That way no man or woman can have cause to complain if they are not fit enough.

All of the above said, personally, if I were a female inspector with many years experience, I'd be more humiliated by taking out a lawsuit about my own lack of fitness, than by being sent home from a training day.

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


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