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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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why we are howling

The Times yesterday summed up what many police officers see as the real reason for the Winsor report.

"The police are outraged by these reform plans. Good."

The comment article then goes on to bewail thick, fat policemen and the shocking culture of being paid for hours that are worked.

Winsor 2 essentially purports to do two things:
Unfortunately, Winsor can't quite decide which of these two things is the priority, and is thus full of contradictions.  The entry requirements to the police will be raised to include the need for three A-level passes, and direct entry will be permitted to certain ranks.  Yet the starting salary for police officers will be cut.  Just what kind of smart, ambitious A-level students are going to be encouraged to apply for the police under the new salary regime?

Winsor also advocates yearly fitness tests up to Chief Constable rank, with money to be saved by cutting the salaries of those who fail tests.  Does Winsor think that the best talented business and management minds - supposedly attracted to direct entry at inspector and superintendent level - are the same kind of people to thrive on annual fitness tests?  

You can't blame Winsor for wanting senior ranking officers to be fighting fit though.  After all, leaders throughout history have required the highest standards of health and fitness to do their jobs.  I mean, imagine the thought of a high-up Naval officer who can't do press-ups, or somebody in a wheelchair presuming to the role of President!

Other reforms are flawed too: on paper, the plans to stop paying full pay to those on restricted duties is sensible. But in practice a high proportion of people (in my experience) on restricted duties are on them temporarily, due to short-term injury, and cutting their pay for that period may force them out of the job.  And I wonder just what proportion of restricted officers is made up of pregnant women.  Does Winsor think that in the Twenty-First Century, you can get away with cutting a woman's pay because she falls pregnant?  I look forwards to the legal challenges ahead.

So when you really dig down through Winsor's proud claims of savings and professionalism, you find a mishmash of contradictions and flawed arguments.  Is it any wonder that police officers are seeing this as a direct attack?


Why are you wasting your time with that?  Send that dog to university immediately.

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

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Truth About Privatisation

Blandshire Constabulary currently pays a private company to pay a person to travel between custody suites totting up how many on a spreadsheet of about 100 performance indicators have been met on a random selection of 15 custody records.  The indicators include, among other things, whether or not the sergeant has correctly entered the postcode for the place of arrest, whether they were offered the "diversity box", and whether their rights were given and carried out.  

Our performance against these indicators is collated and submitted to Headquarters, where it finds its way into the books of the HMIC.  Since introducing the role of custody auditor (among others), Blandshire has shot up the ranks of police forces and stands to do pretty well in the next ranking lists.

This is a world where the entering of a postcode is given the same weight and importance as allowing a detained person access to a solicitor.  On the shifts I have done in custody, I have borne the wrath of the custody auditor more than once, as I repeatedly refuse to comply with five or six of the most pointless indicators.  I don't do this to be difficult (although the fact that it is seen as difficult is a source of constant pleasure).  No, I do it because there is a queue of officers with prisoners waiting to book them in and get back on the streets, and by skipping some of the more unnecessary steps I can book them into custody in half the time it takes a more procedurally-compliant sergeant.

Both myself and the custody auditor are, indirectly, paid and supplied for the benefit of Blandshire Constabulary.  So why is it that I can at a whim discard something that is the auditor's sole purpose to enforce, without any fear of more than a severe frown from my inspector?

The fact is, the auditor exists to enforce these indicators, to ensure Blandshire Constabulary is rated for the highly professional conduct of our custody suites.  (And believe me, compared to years gone by, they are highly, highly professional.) If one indicator is missed off one record, the private company employing the auditor is in breach of contract.  The breach carries a fine, and either the company will have to pay the fine, or the custody auditor will.

As a police sergeant, when it comes to any showdown between me and the establishment, my priority is to show I have adhered to the law, to the Codes of Practice, but above all to what was morally right and made sense at the time. 

There are some motivated and sensible civilians working for companies that have contracts with the police.  But when the proverbial shove encounters push, the private company employee may not fall back on his or her morality or commonsense.  He has no scope to wiggle around the Home Office Counting Rules, or to duck that week's assault detection target.  He can only comply, and comply.

Which answers the question, really, why some Chief Constables are so keen to promote the idea of privatised police services, including some elements of patrol.  After all, if it wasn't for those pesky police officers, Blandmore's local top dog might have a chance of meeting some of his targets this month.

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

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Kill that Keeps on Killing

PC David Rathband has been found dead at his home in Northumberland.

In 2010, the hunt for murderer Raoul Moat turned farcical when a faction of the public began coming out in his support.  The only reason for his faux-hero status was the attempt murder and blinding of PC Rathband, who struggled on with his injuries and founded the Blue Lamp Foundation, in support of criminally injured emergency services personnel.

In Blandshire Constabulary now, if you are injured on duty and can no longer work as effectively, the force's HR department will work hard and fast to get you off the pay-roll as quickly as they can.  This is part of the new sickness policy designed to save money, and it is boasted about on training courses to line managers.

My next royalty cheque will go to David's Blue Lamp Foundation.  You can buy a few copies here, or just make a donation.

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


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