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, April 29, 2011

God Save the Bank Holiday















Only the hardest-hearted of us would begrudge anyone their wedding.  And in spite of the over-£20 million bill for Wills and Kate's do today, it isn't the royal couple's fault that so many nutters might be out to destroy their day.  Any couple getting married who faced the same level of risk as they, would have the right to expect that level of security.

Nor is it theirs, or David Cameron's fault that protesters could choose to make the issue political, that extremists might see it as an opportune moment to strike, or that people will take to the streets in their thousands and no doubt raise crime and disorder levels nationwide.  Well unless you count Cameron's anti-establishment if-you-want-a- street-party-you-can- have-your-street-party speech.

What IS David Cameron's fault is that the 5000 officers required for the wedding security alone will be being paid double, as will every other police officer on duty everywhere else in the country.  The bill for making 29th April a bank holiday is estimated at £5 billion, about the same amount owed by Britain in PFI deals set up in the Blair/Brown days.  In what universe should bosses have to pay people bank holiday rates for turning up to work in Yorkshire, or Cornwall, because someone's getting married in London?

In the weeks after police officers have been threatened with the removal of their compensations for anti-social working, for Cameron to put this burden, not just onto the Met police who have to staff the occasion, but every other police force, and employer, is outrageous.  A Prime Minister's role in such situations is not to announce a transparent gimmick to garner support and good feeling, but to represent the country's interests by perhaps suggesting to William and Kate that their wedding might take place on one of the four bank holidays occurring anyway around this time.

In the light of Winsor and Hutton, this latest faux pas shows the Coalition Government's proposed reforms to the police have nothing to do with saving money.  Instead they intend to continue the drive by the last government and the European Court, to gradually erode the offices of public sector workers to prop up the sovereignty of Parliament.

Once constables have no privileges, no perks, and no special status - whether in their pay and conditions or sworn office - the ability to think for themselves and disobey unlawful orders will be a thing of the past.  The great British bobby is on its way out.

Melodramatic?  Check out ACPO's simpering response to the catastrophic Neyroud report.


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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Unsteady Eady

Is it just me, or are the recent rulings by Mr Justice Eady somewhat at juxtaposition to a certain ruling by the same judge in 2009?

The reasoning behind Eady's refusal to allow an injunction preventing the publication of  police blogger Nightjack's identity was (paraphrased): "He might not have been a real police officer, so we had a right to know and if he was breaching the disciplinary code he should be stopped."  Which he was so we didn't and he wasn't and shouldn't have been.  

In the recent cases of hyper-injunctions protecting celebrities from "naming and shaming", however, Mr Justice Eady appears to take a different view.  Apparently publishing stories about celebrities and their sexual misdemeanours might upset their families, and therefore in this case the media is the bad guy.

The cases aren't the same: on the one hand you have a police officer serving his country, getting on with his job, whilst at the same time doing a wider public service by exposing hypocrisy and waste in the system.  Both of which could have been effectively stopped by Eady's ruling.  On the other hand, you have someone prancing around on television pretending to be something they're not, while the victims of their antics are forbidden from talking about it.  Any commonsense member of the public could make a fair distinction between the two, surely.

Conveniently, both of Eady's rulings would appear to protect certain people in certain situations.  For example, should a High Court judge happen to start a scandalous affair in private whilst publicly contributing to an inefficient, wasteful and hypocritical legal system, he could both seek a hyper-injunction to protect himself in both arenas, whilst refusing one for any person seeking to expose him.

Interesting.  Oh, er, and purely hypothetical, of course. 

Still... anyone at the News of the World got the number for Mr Justice Eady's answerphone?

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sending up the Balloon


As a front-line sergeant, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Yes, technically it's the inspector who picks up the phone to the Duty Superintendent with the words, "Er, sorry to wake you, sir, but..."

But the sergeant has already phoned the inspector, and given him/her no choice but to make the call.  Learning when to call the inspector is what being a sergeant is all about.  In fact, it's what being a police officer is all about.  It's the words:
  • "I'm not entirely happy about this missing woman, gov."
  • "Boss, I know we've had twelve other disgruntled boyfriends text their other halfs tonight telling them that they've got a can of petrol and a lighter and are on their way round, but this one means it."
  • "I don't think we've heard the last from them tonight.  Can we get a few extra bodies from the late turn to work some overtime?" 
Believe it or not, none of the above phrases can be taught during a diversity seminar.  Nor are they found on the six-page domestic risk assessment form that gets filled in several times a shift.  They aren't contained within the threats-to-life policy, and there's no board question to which they are the answer.
    When I started Acting, my inspector had less than a little faith in me.  If I called concerned about a missing teenager, he/she was "just out on the razz with some friends".  If it was a domestic where he was on his way back to get her, they were "just tiffing".  If I turned up for work to find just three souls in the briefing room waiting for me, and made a fuss to the senior management about staffing levels, I was "showing my inexperience". 




    "Oh, bloody hell, Bloggsy, not again!"












    Looking back, perhaps my governor had a point, some of the time.  But if I've known one thing from the moment I started this job, it's that it's better to send up the balloon and be wrong, than the other way around.

    Because with the balloon, you get dogs, helicopters, PCSOs, mobile phone triangulation and Scenes of Crime call-out.  You get DSs and DIs, Underwater Search Team and transits from the west of the force.  Those are things that don't do you much good an hour after the event, when you realise that the suitcase the missing girl packed to run away with actually contains her dead body.

     

     "Man down."





    Of course, you might also get an email saying that perhaps APS Bloggs should check under the child's bed before dialling the number for the CRA.  Or if she could look at the CCTV for where the supposed madman with the gun was seen, she might notice that the gun bounced when it was dropped.  I've been responsible for my share of fervent, unnecessary panics, but I haven't had an email like that for a while.

    Now, I'm no longer "Acting" Sergeant, and when I send up the balloon, people tend to take note, and send me what I need.





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

    Thursday, April 07, 2011

    From Neyroud to Zero

    If the Neyroud Report has passed you by, cast your eye over it here.  Peter Neyroud thinks that police officers should qualify via a foundation degree, paid for by themselves whilst serving as Special Constables, before joining the "profession" of constable, which by the way would include an annual fee for the privilege of being allowed to practice.  

    Word is that David Cameron rather likes this idea, and is pushing for it to be adopted, although right now it's just a rather expensive report concluding that a rather expensive total re-hash of the police is just what we need in these beleaguered times.

    I haven't had time to read the recommendations, and probably never will.  I'm too busy trying to resource Blandmore, gee up my team of morale-busted, world-weary PCs, and work out whether I really will be better off next year, as Tom Winsor would have me believe, or worse off, as my A-Level in Maths insists.

    Like many other forces, Blandshire Constabulary has decided that now is a good time to totally renovate its structure, and is hanging the changes on the banner of budget cuts, when the truth is they were dreamt up some years ago when a new Chief Constable took over.  In actual fact we had quite a cost-effective structure until Monday, with most of the wastage seemingly originating at HQ.  Now HQ has expanded its bureaucracy, and on area money is being hurled in all directions as superintendents play tug-of-war with the best sergeants, inspectors and panda cars, all wanting them for their own brand new empires.

    The only thing reassuring me is that I am not alone.  Officers in West Midlands (above link), Kent, Surrey, Thames Valley, Gadget's force, and quite possibly every other force in the UK that I don't have time to Google, are all talking about the same thing.  Restructures that don't save a penny, performance culture persisting, deckchairs being rearranged, and all the time the squeeze on the front-line continues.

    There's a contradiction here with my last post.  There just isn't the appetite to actually cut the things we could do without, and so it lands on the front-line and on the public.  

    When you look at the Neyroud Report, and you realise it was written by an ex-Chief Constable, who was once a PC, and a sergeant, and an inspector, it makes you wonder: if he doesn't understand the fundamental office of Constable, what hope has the Home Secretary?  

    NB If you're one of the people sitting at home thinking, maybe it would be better if the police force WAS staffed by professional types, consider whether you'd want to hire a doctor, lawyer or architect to deal with any of the following situations.







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

     

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