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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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fictional Grannies and Guardian Readers


My article in The Guardian online today has caused some consternation.  You can read the debate in the comments, so I'm not going to go into it here, apart from to say that the grannies are not intended to be fictional!

As an undercover police writer, you suffer from two contradictory presumptions by non-police readers: 
  • Half of them think you are touting the party line, and condemn you in the same breath as the police establishment you are trying to satirise.
  • The other half think you are a whistle-blower and must therefore hate your colleagues and be on a mission to expose their corruption.
What I really try to write about is good people trying to do a good job, strangled by a detrimental culture of target-chasing and risk aversion.  I am not speaking for front-line officers, but I speak as one of them.

Personally, I try not to get hung up on which judge has made what ruling, unless it is on a point of law that materially changes how I can legally do my job.  I have learned over the years that it is possible to police sensitively, morally and bravely, but the more you do so, the greater chance there is that you will make a mistake. Hopefully, the mistake will simply lead to someone being acquitted for a trivial offence.  If you're unlucky, it might lead to an innocent person's death.  Because the stakes are so high, I harbour no resentment towards colleagues who err on the side of caution, who follow force policy in blinkers, obligingly fulfill targets and avoid risky decisions at all costs.  They are still good coppers with their hearts in the right place, but some of us have a different opinion of risk, or have more to lose.

Most of us are somewhere on middle ground, making a risky decision one day and playing it safe the next, according to how much we know and what we think is right.  When people ask me what is the hardest thing about my job, I think about that balance, and how close I come to getting it wrong, day in, day out.

If you haven't worked in a job like that, it's hard to grasp how that feels.

Corruption is a strong word.



For those of you who have commented on the CIF article expecting a response - I don't have an account.  If you want a more detailed response as to what I meant by the article, feel free to email me. It really wasn't anything sinister and I'm sorry for how it's being interpreted!  My commenter at 15:29 has it about right.

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

32 Comments:

OpenID specialdibbleblog.com said...

But just being a copper means you're corrupt in the eyes of the majority of guardian readers....

22 November, 2011 14:40

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corruption??

I read the Guardian piece as saying:

1) if you want to get a S5 home, you need to have a witness there who is likely to be caused HAorD.

2) Officers haven't been identifying such witnesses and we've been losing perfectly good S5s as a result; therefore, if such witnesses are there, 'little old ladies' maybe being shorthand for such witnesses, make sure they are noted in your evidence.

3) The mags haven't quibbled at the increase in little old ladies appearing in S5 evidence (but if they did, we would explain that it's because we're now recording them where before we weren't)

The line about officers 'abusing' S5 is separate - this whole case was about (court-decided) abuse of S5.

Am I missing something?

22 November, 2011 15:29

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the meaning of:

I remember being briefed by an inspector in no uncertain terms that if someone was found urinating or swearing in public, I should give evidence of the dear little old lady who passed by them in disgust. If our local magistrates noticed that Blandmore had a strangely high population of dear little old ladies, they never mentioned it.

was pretty clear. You were inventing those little old ladies and being encouraged to do so. You were also inviting reader to smile complicity.

I think on your own admission you're a bent cop.

22 November, 2011 15:31

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luckily, the world doesn't revolve around 'meanings' as you 'thought' them, anon...

Not least because you're clearly wrong.

:-)

22 November, 2011 15:33

 
Anonymous Petronius said...

Ellie dear when you say: .

"..if you haven't worked in a job like that, it's hard to grasp how that feels.

Corruption is a strong word. "

This is just and a rationalisation from a corrupt apologist.

Do the ends justify the mans, WPC Bloggs?

If you can convince yourself of that.. then where does it en?

You have said that you knowingly subvert the truth in your statements.

Can't sugar it: that makes you a liar.

Doesn't it?

(Tell you what Love, go and slap the kettle on and let some real coppers take care of things, eh?)

22 November, 2011 18:51

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh get a life...

22 November, 2011 19:36

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always took it to mean that you need to be aware of people nearby who are, or are likely to be, harassed, alarmed or distressed by whatever behaviour is going on.

It doesn’t have to be a little old lady - it could be anyone of any gender or any age.

This is the little old lady test.

22 November, 2011 19:45

 
Anonymous Steve at the Pub said...

A few commenters above could do with getting a life.
I've done worse than fabricate a little old lady.
It doesn't change the facts, ie nobody is "making up" the offence.

As for judgey wudgey who thinks it is fine for police to be sworn at.
Perhaps someone should swear savagely at the judge, on the street, or in the shops, doesn't have to be in court with the judge in charge (but that wouldn't hurt!)

23 November, 2011 09:45

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Petronius
Ellie dear when you say: .

"Do the ends justify the mans, WPC Bloggs?"

"If you can convince yourself of that.. then where does it en?"

Like what you did there, with the spelling and all.

23 November, 2011 09:56

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Steve at the Pub a policeman? I hope not, but I suspect he is.

There's the bullying tone in "judgey wudgey", and the stupidity and dishonesty in "[i]t doesn't change the facts" - it does - the further casual admission that he's done worse than fabricate little evidence about old ladies here and there, and above all the suggestion that anyone who is concerned about this should "get a life".

Corrupt and stupid in equal measure.

Would be nice to hear someone from the police service condemn this.

23 November, 2011 10:03

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a frontline Officer for over 21 years i have lost count of the poeple who have told me they don't go drinking in the town due to all the drunken yobs swearing and spoiling for a fight. They then moan at me that the police do nothing about it.

We try and do something about it and end up being complained about. Personally, i have never invented members of the public, there is always someone in the flats and other drunken pub goers around.

Sweet old granny is never there because she and half the decent people are too scared to go into town.

I suppose the moral purists would say we shouldn't have spies infiltrating terrorist gangs as that is deception and not being honest with terrorists. Sometimes the end does justify the means. Or should we scrap MI6 and MI5 ?

23 November, 2011 12:32

 
Anonymous Interested Party said...

@Anon 'As a frontline Officer for over 21 years etc'

Well said.

There is a small percentage of people who have been arrested and think they shouldn't have been, retired environmental health officers from Huddersfield who live with their elderly mums, juvenile anarchists, keyboard warriors and the terminally stupid who can't see the wood for the trees.

Unfortunately, there are also a few people with a genuine grievance against the police (or individual police officers - how come some groups can be judged en masse and not others?) who let a bad experience colour their entire lives. That is a shame - the rest of them, not so much.

23 November, 2011 12:50

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Ellie but I find it difficult to square the comments at 15:29 with the words you used in the Guardian.

The post at 09:45 by Steve at the Pub does you and your attempt at backtracking no favours. Neither dos your end justifies the means rebuttal above. It is exactly that insular “you can not understand, you are not a police officer” attitude that not only alienated the public bit also leads to the abuses of power you and Steve at the Pub have a admitted to. It is easy to justify almost anything when you are in a closed world and dismiss anyone who is not from your peer group. Before you dismiss my view point as just being from a MOP read glynnstar’s comments on your piece in the Guardian, (s)he is an example of how to engage with the public stand ground and admit that there is the possibility of a police officer making a mistake.

All in all I agree with Petronius and stand by my decision to use the word corrupt that is until you convince me otherwise.

Joseph Kay.

23 November, 2011 13:23

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an addendum, the above comments along the lines of “You can’t handle the truth” only reinforce my judgment. Especially as there seems to be the inability to differentiate between sanctioned intelligence work and making up evidence.

Joseph Kay.

23 November, 2011 13:27

 
Blogger JCH said...

You had a piece published on the Guardian and the worst they said was that you're corrupt? They're clearly warming up to you.

23 November, 2011 13:42

 
Anonymous Ginny said...

JCH the guardian has not said that she is corrupt. she said that she is corrupt

23 November, 2011 16:17

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No long line of officers serving up excoriating criticisms of Steve at the Pub's comments, I note. Indeed not one, despite the invitation to do so.

Think I've just learned something about police culture.

23 November, 2011 16:42

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Couple of points here - you don't need to invent anyone to get a S.5 home. There only needs to be a likelihood that someone would be present who was caused harassment, alarm or distress. Officers do themselves no favours by writing poor statements which don't cover the facts - hence these (rogue?) judgements. Better statements = better evidence = better chance of conviction. I don't have to perjure myself to make a job stick.

Secondly, despite the apparent defensiveness, it IS very difficult for an average MoP to understand what officers do. As illustrated by some of the individuals above, they either have an entrenched view, or their experiences are vicarious via atrocious TV shows like Motorway Cops, Street Crime UK and, for some reason, US Cop fiction shows. Yes, sometimes it does take "all of us lot" to pile on to effect an arrest. Yes, I do sometimes have to stand and take your abuse "and there's nothing I can do about it". And yes, I will get there as quickly as I can when you ring with an emergency. Cops and paramedics get it, servicemen and -women probably get it, but I'm afraid the vast majority of people don't, because they have never experienced anything quite like it.

23 November, 2011 16:59

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NottsSarge does seem to know the law on s5. He appears to think the "likelihood" attaches to a person being present - ie that it is likely that someone is present. It doesn't.

As I read s5 there has to be a person present (not likely to be present) and there has to be a likelihood that that person is caused h/a or d.

The two are not the same. The difference no doubt explains why bent police officers invent little old women.

If police officers act in this way, then, when called to jury service, people like me are going to be rather more sceptical of anything they say. And rightly so.

23 November, 2011 17:31

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent. Another commentator who has decided that if they are on jury service they won't trust the evidence of the police ont he baiss of their interpretation of an article and a few comments written on a blog.
Please remember there are 140,000 of us out there.

Good to see that the "bad character" of the police will be dwelt on by a juror on the basis of very little evidence - whilst the "bad character" of the defendant (that in my experience is likely to be lengthy and horrendous) will be protecte dby the court and allow the sanctimonious jury member to feel happy about acquiiting yet another guilty person.

I really f@@king despair. I've had enough perverse judgements without listening to some prospective juror rev himself up to deliver another one. I am starting to give less and less of a F@@k.
It just sickens me that I walk away from the court room disgusted and disappointed from yet another perverse decision but the VICTIMS have to live with that decision for the rest of their lives.

Tang0

23 November, 2011 19:06

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and for the commentator that wanted some excoraiting criticism of "steve in the pub".
Yes - I would hope (if he's a cop) he's talking a load of sh1t.
I have never made up "a little old lady" or anything else.

Unlike everyone else in a court room (excluding perhaps the victims and the witnesses) I face real penalties for perjury or lying and I don't do it - leaving aside my job requiring , believe it or not, a high level of integrity.

I have on the other hand had to spell out for probationers (and others) exactly what must be included in a statement to prosecute for an offence - and that goes for ensuring they cover any witnesses to a public order offence, to making sure they cover ADVOCATE for a murder.

If statements were easy to write we would just hand out sheets of paper and pens at scenes - but despite what MOP's seem to think they are not.

Tang0

23 November, 2011 19:13

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do serving police officers routinely submit false evidence?

No.

as evidenced by WPC Bloggs admitting, in writing, that she regularly fabricates testimony from a "little old lady" in order to secure bogus prosecutions

That's not how I read her post. If it was what she meant I would have no hesitation in condemning that behaviour.

hence your squawking so loudly.

Unlike you - who are clearly the cool calm voice of rational debate.

Have you worked out a pseudonym for yourself yet? It might enable you to carry out some grown-up debate with the big boys.

Tang0 (The real thing ;-)

24 November, 2011 00:12

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone is dodgy and possibly 'corrupt' it is the judge who thinks that it is all fine and dandy for police officers to be abused, verbally or otherwise!

What kind of PERVERSE 'justice' is that?

There ARE 'corrupt' members of the judiciary, and they have been undermining the police and the rule of law for decades......and they have got away with it up to now because they have all the power, them being the tricky monkeys at the top of the tree.

Oh, and yes, sometimes the end does justify the means, if it gets a known baddie off the streets (or out of the system) and protects a greater number of innocent people, who deserve nothing less than that.

When coppers had discretion, a long time ago, and less red tape, it used to be known as the 'Ways and Means Act', occasionally used by good coppers with integrity against slippery evil gits who were difficult to nail.

And well said Anon @12:32 - 23 November 2011 - Front line officer for over 21 years....WELL SAID!

24 November, 2011 00:36

 
Anonymous Night Shit Arbiter said...

Just stumbled across this. It is funny.

Tango it is seemingly obvious to everyone else, except you, that the author of this blog has admitted to a gross dereliction of duty and a betrayal of the basic trust which is placed in police officers.

You are either drunk and off duty ...or drunk and on duty and posting from your iPhone or BlackBerry.

Either way you contradict yourself and make no sense.

Come back tomorrow, or at least take more water with it , eh?

24 November, 2011 00:48

 
Anonymous Steve at the Pub said...

For the record: I am not a police officer.
A quick read of my site will reveal that. Especially if one delves into postings under the tag "police", or "the law is an ass".

To the anonymous commenters above who believe that justice is somehow being denied, or offenders are being verballed:

Wake up to yourselves!

Lurk around a courtroom sometime.
You'll notice a few things:
(a) Police perjure themselves (mildly) all the time. As much of it is of the nature of "Contrary to the statement of witness X, I did not see the defendant carrying a weapon/threatening anyone, as it is of the nature of "the offender's conduct was vulgar, & I saw a little old lady passing by who was horrified at the defendant's conduct"
For added fun, while in the court, count how many times a police officer "randomly" stopped a motorist. There is rarely anything random about a roadside stop. I've had some real slanging matches with officers who stick to their guns that stopping me was "random".

(b) Judges/magistrates are in a world of their own, and have little to no idea what it is like on the front line of society. They are socially, professionally & emotionally so detached from the society they purportedly serve, that they are unable to empathise with either police or victims of crime.
Some of the stupidest words ever spoken have come from the "learned" lips on the bench.

(c) When I say I've done worse than "create" little old ladies, I mean this:
When a chav (as you call them) kicks off it is something to see. Amazingly when the blue shirts arrive the same chavs turn into choirboys. I've very near been arrested for "making a false report" when police arrive, as the chavs have turned into angels who'd help little old ladies accross the road.
Not happy with this manifestation of "clueless constable syndrome" I took to observing the arrival of police, getting around the other side of the chavs, so that the chavs don't see the police, then without moving my lips, goading them with flashwords like "wanker" & "shortdick" whilst maintaining peaceful body language.
The police would (for a change) see the chavs kicking off in their presence & make an arrest. Chavs go to jail for "disorderly conduct" & get fined a week's wages, which is as it should be.

Good result.


I've been a regular reader & occassional commenter here for several years. In that time she's never posted anything that warrants accusations of "corrupt" or "subverting the truth".

Indeed using such terminology to describe anything done by our blog hostess is an obscenity.

I'm inclined toward the belief that you anonymous bunch have the luxury of having someone else doing the "down & dirty" with the chavocracy on your behalf.

24 November, 2011 06:10

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey bruce, stick to running your aussie drinking pit as you sound like a strine version of al murry, thing is, he is a caricature on the tv.

obscene? yes i agree for the wpc here to admit to premeditated fabrication of evidence is absolutely obscene.

24 November, 2011 09:36

 
Blogger Boy on a bike said...

I can't believe how many blithering idiots here failed to click on the link provided by "Steve at the pub" to his blog - doing so would have enabled them to work out that:

1. Steve owns a pub
2. In Queensland
3. and is not a copper
4. and appears to have never been a copper
5. but he has had a lot of contact with the law (and Police) through owning a country pub

How about you fat heads do an ounce of research before opening your stupid yaps.

24 November, 2011 10:14

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The little old lady test is a bit ageist and sexist.... I've met a few that would fall into this category that have seen a lot of shit go down!
Sec 5 would be better replaced with an offence of "Being out of order". Using foul and abusive language at the police or anyone else is not acceptable to the decent and honest among us and must be punchable ... no i mean punishable. No wait...I was right the first time.

24 November, 2011 10:43

 
Anonymous Mrs Doughnut said...

You're either very brave or a bit crazy for posting in the Guardian.....

I stopped commenting on cif some time ago, it's a waste of time, and I'm pretty sure they log information about users they shoudn't log.

Most of those who read your post are intelligent enough to understand the gist of it, I'm sure.

Those who call you corrupt, well, what can I say?

Walk in shoes and all that.

Of course, now officers will have to actually produce a whole busload of distressed nuns headed for Lourdes as witnesses to be believed that abusive rants are indeed distressing to those on the receiving end......

24 November, 2011 13:45

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Just one comment on the matter, and anyone who isn't satisfied please email me as I don't want one badly-worded line in an article to overtake the point of the article:

The briefing by the inspector is referred to in the context of s.5 prosecutions being lost through poor evidence. He laboured the point that s.5 must have a witness. The little old lady is an example of someone "likely" to be caused H.A.D., there is no suggestion one should be made up but merely included if present. The comment about magistrates was merely a joke, picturing what might happen if officers took the briefing literally and every time picked the little old lady witness - rather than whoever else had been caused H.A.D.

As for the word "abusing": S.5 is "abused" the way the Harassment Act is abused. Not by unlawful arrests or the fabrication of evidence, but by being used in a way it was not intended. This undermines the police and I am not in favour of it, but it's not illegal.

As always, comments by the troll and those who respond to him will be deleted, unless they contribute to the debate or are very amusing.

24 November, 2011 13:53

 
Anonymous hatedbythedailymail/guardian said...

The most shocking thing about this whole episode is the fact that one of our number is collaborating with the enemy, by providing articles for them to publish!!!!!

24 November, 2011 16:42

 
Blogger Joker said...

"As for the word "abusing": S.5 is "abused" the way the Harassment Act is abused. Not by unlawful arrests or the fabrication of evidence, but by being used in a way it was not intended."

Damn straight.

That said, my father once told me, some fifteen years ago, the story of a policeman who followed the car of a friend to his (my father's) house. This friend was just over the limit, and had presumably caught the officer's attention.

Now, from what I can recall of the story, there was some extenuating circumstance which would have stymied a prosecution, because my father vouched for his friend, and it was the testimony of two versus one. In the event, the single officer managed to produce a second officer in the police car, and the friend was prosecuted and fined.

I've had something similar happen to me, and I have documentary evidence of it, in the form of a half completed Harassment Warning Order.

10 January, 2012 14:51

 

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