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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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fair Weather

It is official: police in Blandmore are doing A Superb Job.  At least, so I was informed last week by the woman who gives out the parking permits.  Not especially surprised to discover that Belinda is now the person I most need to impress with my team's crime reduction and detection skills, I further read the happy news that all crime has dropped since this time last year. It appears this is being entirely credited to the hard work and diligence of Blandmore's erstwhile bobbies - in and out of uniform. 

It turns out, the message is not actually from Belinda, but has come via her from the Area Commander.  As well as possessing the sole key to the drawer containing the combination safe containing the pass-key to open the encrypted laptop that gives out electronic fob access to the car park, Belinda is also the only person allowed to send out all-user emails.  Which means that our superintendent - a man with over twenty years' dedicated public service behind him - has to get her permission to send his workforce an email.

It's not that Belinda would ever refuse the request.  But even she has days off.  Still, I'm not complaining: it's thanks to HQ's latest crackdown on misuse of the email system that we feds down here on response can go a whole weekend without hearing a peep out of anyone above the rank of inspector.

The only other task awaiting me when this latest chirpy message fell into my inbox was to begin the mammoth task of trawling through Blandmore's fourteen missing person reports.  I therefore took the time to read the Boss's email in its entirety.

It turns out, the detectives on Operation Softly Softly Catchee Thiefee, in an astonishing display of accuracy, have actually caught several thiefs this week.  It also appears that two or three response bobbies have attended domestics and not only managed to identify the offenders via their names, dates of births and family photographs, but have startlingly also arrested them immediately when they were found hiding in their own homes.  All this has led the Super to conclude that it is entirely the brave work of front-line heroes, working of course under his guidance and strict adherence to force policy, that has resulted in a gargantuan drop in crime over the same period last year.

Personally, I'm attributing it to the fact that last week, last year, was half-term.  This year, it was a week later.

I'm not diminishing the fine work of the Op SSCT lot, nor the brilliant murder-aversion skills of us response bods.  But to suggest that any of us have more than a fleeting influence over which week, which year, the baddies will choose to strike, is akin to claiming that the weather is decided in Monday morning's management meeting.

From my time in Blandshire Constabulary, I've seen good men and women fall and rise, all based entirely on the weather.  If and when I ever decide to start scrabbling for the next rung on the ladder, all I can really do is buy an umbrella, and hope.



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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unappealing Justice

The papers almost proudly announce today how 7 out of 10 defendants failed to get a reduction to their sentences for offences relating to the August riots.  Although The Guardian manages to sling in a few quotes from Human Rights lobbyists, the tone in the general media suggests support for the tough sentences.  Tough, that is, by British standards.  

Nowhere in the article does it express astonishment that as high as 30% of the cases before the appeal court resulted in the halving of sentences given out.  I have no doubt that the statistic for cases unconnected with rioting is far higher.

Meanwhile, the case of Dale Farm toils on.  Back in September, dozens of police officers were paid overtime all over the country to travel to Essex and await the go-ahead for the forced eviction of the Dale Farm travellers.  Only for a last minute appeal to be awarded and splashed all over the headlines.  A week or so later, dozens more officers travelled back, and forth, and back, and forth again, as the seemingly unending legal battle unfolded.  Now we are told that the Council will actually begin the eviction, how many more police hours will be wasted when yet another final hour document is submitted for the court's consideration?


 "Ooh, isn't this legal system SUCH fun?"
"To be sure."





Most police officers are well aware that injustices occur in court, usually Magistrates'.  And usually the injustice is the acquittal of a guilty party.  When the opposite occurs, it is obviously vital for there to be some form of appeal system, to combat the days when the trial judge or jury got up on the wrong side of the bed.

But nowadays we are seeing more and more a neverending showdown as defendants and prosecutors parade before higher and higher levels of court until they get a decision they are happy with.

The most depressing part of the whole system is that the actual victims of crime have no right to appeal any decision whatsoever.  If you have sat and watched your rapist, or your relative's murderer, walk free from court, knowing without a doubt of their guilt due to evidence that was disallowed, or not believed, you cannot even tell the press you still think they're guilty without the risk of being sued for libel.  

I experienced the impotence of victim-hood some years ago, when my witness care officer phoned me up in a panic one day asking why I wasn't in court to give evidence against the man who assaulted me during an arrest the year before.

My reply: "Er, because I fly back from the Canary Islands tonight, and the case is tomorrow."

"I thought so - we warned you for the wrong date.  The case is now, and it's about to be thrown out."

When I got back, I wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service asking for an explanation as to how this mistake had happened when every other witness had been warned correctly, and why the case had been thrown out when I had not avoided court deliberately - especially gutting given that on two previous occasions the defendant had failed to show up because he simply "forgot" and had been given not one but two further chances.  I suggested perhaps the CPS could have appealed the decision to abandon the charge of assault police.

I did receive a reply letter, four months later.  I put it in the bin without reading it, but I can guarantee that the words "public interest" and "unlikely to succeed" were present.

After the best part of a decade in contact with the Criminal Justice System, I am now hardened to such experiences.  But your average victim is not.  They are merely distant spectators of a most unappealing sport, in which they have no idea of the winner even after the whistle has been blown.



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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

Murmurings have been afoot that Tom Winsor made up some parts of his famous report.

Will this affect the ongoing negotiations over police pay?  I'm not holding my breath.

Nor am I holding my breath to see whether the current government, or the next one, actually does anything to materially affect police bureaucracy, or the target culture that we are told no longer exists.

But at least the recent stories about Winsor are signs that the Fed is finally tackling politicians by their own rules, where facts are irrelevant and tabloid headlines are everything.  Now if only they'd actually play the same cards to expose senior officers' hypocrisy in the way they are massaging crime figures, ring-fencing bureaucratic roles while pushing through front-line redundancies, and imposing structural change for purely political reasons.

Once again, breath I am not holding.



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

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Top Down Management

Following on from yesterday's Ali Dizaei news, I have been pondering the poor officers who became embroiled in the original incident where their Commander arrested a man with whom he had an ongoing dispute.  In the face of a further internal tribunal and re-trial, they must be wishing they had not been on duty that day.  

It's bad enough when the Area Commander decides to venture out of his office in Blandmore to attend the report writing room, let alone if he were to wander out of the station and start making arrests. In fact, our Area Commander did threaten some time ago to materialise on the streets of Blandmore, but luckily last month's Performance Group Analysis Meeting has kept him indoors ever since.

That said, I would be entertained to see my superintendent attending a bog standard Blandmore domestic.  I wonder how he would cope with the following daily experiences of response officers on my team:
  • A ten page risk assessment to fill in.
  • An hour on hold to the civilian call centre to generate the crime report.
  • Having no transit available to transport the violent prisoner.
  • No space in the nearest custody due to the "cell alert" system going down.
  • The next closest custody suite hurling abuse on his arrival (they don't like Blandmore prisoners).
  • Having to mount a seven hour cell watch on the prisoner following attempts to strangle himself with his trousers, T-shirt and boxers.
  • Returning to take victim statements to find the victim has moved up north permanently.
  • Domestic Abuse Unit having no resources to have any involvement whatsoever in the job.
  • Three hours on the phone to the Crown Prosecution Service to be told the case is to be dropped and the prisoner released.
  • Having to take the prisoner home because it might abuse his human rights to release him without a jacket.
  • Coming back to work the next day to find an email from his boss, asking why the case has not resulted in an immediate conviction at Crown Court.
  • Finding a further email from the Domestic Abuse Unit, detailing how they would have done things differently, if only they'd had resources to help.
 ... Back in the real world, I'm lucky if I can even locate the superintendent to sign off on an urgent authorisation.  The chances of him experiencing any actual policing some time soon are remote.

Which is all anyone really needs to know about the reasons for the state of policing today.


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

 

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