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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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not the Very Model of a Modern Force

It should come as no surprise to the public to hear that Blandshire Constabulary's current IT capability looks like something out of the late 90s.  The most technologically advanced bit of kit I use is my Airwave radio, and even that insists on bleeping for no reason when I try to transmit, and dropping out of contact with the mast when I am just about to arrest someone.

The main reason for our useless technology is of course money.  If three people bid for the contract to supply a bit of software, Blandshire will, without hesitation, opt for the cheapest solution, even if it doesn't work.  Which is why we have a duties system no one can understand, a custody system that crashes regularly, an unwieldy crime recording system and an intelligence system whereby I can ring Area Intelligence and get a different answer than if I phone Force Intelligence with the same question.  The only system that works reliably is the Incident Control System, and that appears to be based on MS-DOS.

But it isn't just the money.  There is a general attitude that we should not rely on technology too much, just in case.  Hence Metpol's response to the new Street Violence website.  They are opposed to people using it to report street robbery because an urgent response might be needed.  Which suggests either an inability or unwillingness to utilise the speed of computers.  In the Twenty-First Century, is it really impossible for a police force to act swiftly on receipt of a crime reported online?  Have they not seen the speed at which people can communicate via BBM?  I attended an assault the other day in which the victim, whilst being attacked, had BBM'd her friend - who was in the shop outside of which the attack took place - to tell her to call the police.  The friend was outside within 10 seconds, pulling the attacker away, and had already BBM'd someone else to call us.

There is also a ludicrously backward attitude to the internet and its use in the workplace.  Blandshire Constabulary has a Facebook page, of course. I can't tell you what's on it because I'm not allowed to log into Facebook at work.  Which means when a victim calls and says they've seen their robber bragging about his crime on Facebook, I have to go round to their house to look at the page.

I do wonder how much time the senior management must have on their hands, if they imagine that my response team spend their shift surfing Facebook and Twitter.  And I also wonder what possible harm it could cause if they were.  If they are going to publish inadvisable content, they'll do it when they get home anyway.

I am pleased to say that Blandshire remains one of the forces that has NOT banned access to mine or Inspector Gadget's blogs.  Mainly because most of my managers read them, and frequently quote from them unwittingly, I might add.

Yet we are sadly still some years away from touch-pad statement-writing or streaming CCTV onto a secure online website for Criminal Justice workers.  Instead, we cling to our paper files and audio cassettes, in the vain belief that our data has greater security and continuity therein.  

Which may be true in a few years, as I doubt there'll be many people left who understand hand-writing or actually have tape players.

PS - just realised my last post had not published for some reason, it's there now.

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


Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Here we have committed fully to the use of BlackBerry. Not a good, up-to-date one like most 16 year olds have, obviously, ours has tiny buttons which are too small for the spatulate fingers and thumbs of most officers. Because officers weren't using the 'full potential' of their BB, the Control Room have been told not to do PNC checks for officers unless they are in a confrontational situation. Unfortunately you can't update Command & Control from the BB so if you check someone whose details need to go on the log, they have to do the same same check again and paste it on. Not only is that a waste of everyone's time, it breaches Data Protection principles.
Basically, we've committed to the wrong option, and rather than admit it, the non-coms will make life difficult for the front line until they make it work.
Fortunately though, they have disabled the video facility, preventing officers from recording evidence in real time, while everyone else can post straight to YouTube. Madness.

22 February, 2012 08:27

Anonymous Steve at the Pub said...

Regards blocking Facebook:

Plenty who require access to it as part of their job are instead locked out by blockheaded superiors.

My favourite: A Solicitor, whose time the firm charges out at hundreds per hour, is blocked from Facebook.

This Solicitor is practicing in employment law (unfair dismissals etc) a field of law where LOTS of complainants make representations under oath that are not consistent with what they have posted on Facebook.

This policy almost cost them a case, as crucial evidence on FB was not able to be accessed in time by the firm.

Very embarrassing for the firm.

22 February, 2012 09:54

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or it could be that plod are totally sodding useless. "First the mock you, then they ignore you, then the fight you, then you win" M.K Gandhi.

22 February, 2012 10:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

useless? the prisons are full. Job done.

and as for Airwaves beeping, you can make that stop via the MENU option, that's if your battery doesn't run out during the operation like mine did!!

22 February, 2012 11:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gadget, thanks for the ban by the way, I collect them, prisons are full of political offenders, 30% are fine defaulters. 4 years in for writing "Up the riots" on FB, only in a nation this shitty could you admit that and keep a straight face. 2012 Year Of Victory.

22 February, 2012 11:25

Anonymous Mrs Doughnut said...

I've never understood why any employer would want to block Facebook or twitter.

They're great working tools!

As for the fear that people spend hours and hours on the sites, those who have time to spend more than 20 minutes doing private stuff at work should obviously have their work day shortened or fired.

22 February, 2012 13:52

Anonymous Concrete Sea said...

Ciaran how do you make the assumption that the prisons are full of political offenders? I assume you are referring to the UK. Obviously I have been wrong all these years when I believed that robbers, muggers, burglars and sex offenders had an agenda that was non political when they committed their crimes.
If 30%(I doubt) are fine defaulters what is your suggestion to lower that figure. Perhaps when they default you or someone else could pull up a chair sit down and say 'Do you mind Sir/Madam if you could see your way clear to paying this fine, Oh you will, thanks awfully.

22 February, 2012 14:44

Anonymous Concrete Sea said...

Ciaran,What about an answer to the question. Simple really, you can't. What a shame you missed out on maths when you left school . Two people don't make the prisons full of political offenders.
I do not work in an office producing stats, so they are not mine.However on the presumption (there's a word for you) that 30% is correct, its a pity people who don't pay their fines aren't a bit more responsible.

22 February, 2012 17:44

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Up in the North here (Cumbria) we as members of public get e mails responding to e mails we have not sent.

Then get vague apology

Hope our ex CC takes his IT skills to Met - should be fun!

22 February, 2012 20:06

Anonymous The only way is up said...

Kizsko and Hodgkins Ah yes I remember the 70's.How many years ago? Ciaran I suspect from comments that you are short in the old maths department but please bring yourself up to date.
Travesties of justice are terrible and unfortunate but happen thankfully a lot less here than many many other countries

22 February, 2012 21:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies for the off topic posting.
Could i just point out that the actual number of fine defaulters in UK prisons is 111 out of approx 86,000 inmates. (Dec 2011)


23 February, 2012 14:32

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst metpol might say that they are against reporting robberies online in case they require an immediate response, it wouldn't surprise me if it was equally motivated by a desire to tackle false reporting.

26 February, 2012 19:29

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can remember having to convert digital CCTV footage back to VHS so that it could be used by the courts.

NottsSarge is right. Just because something is small, doesn't make it good. We (in N. America) have laptops in the cars, fully linked to report writing and intel as well as fully functioning BBs.

IT is only half the story though. If you have a complex system, IT is going to replicate it, making it a complex IT system and not moving you very far ahead.

29 February, 2012 16:00

Anonymous Officer Friendly said...

The Northern Constabulary has just had all phones, faxes & internet conections across a dozen or so stations. The part required to fix the problem is having to be flown in from mainland Europe.

Cheapest bid won though...

29 February, 2012 19:20


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