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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Friday, April 27, 2012

Red Balls

On a daily basis, Blandmore receives a minimum of 5-15 calls from people whose lives have been threatened in some way.

These range in form from text messages from jilted lovers, to family feuds erupting in mayhem in the street, to business debts gone wrong, to drug-dealers at the door with guns.

Inevitably, someone hell-bent on murder does not give their victim a warning.  Inevitably, this means a lot of police time spent trying to protect someone who probably doesn't really need protecting.

When a "threat to life" appears on the box, it's like a scene from Minority Report.  "We got a red ball!" screams the control room, and the swat team springs to action.  The sergeant's phone rings.  In the next room, the inspector's phone follows.  Before the call-taker has even put down the receiver to the anguished kebab house owner fearing for his life from the drunk he once refused to serve chips to, an unstoppable process has commenced.  Statements will be drafted, people will be arrested, marked cars will be left on streets and panic alarms installed in houses.  The force credit card will be broken out of it's tamper-proof bag and used to arrange free accommodation for the mildly-concerned victim.

Of course, this isn't always do-able.  If it's a day when 15 death threats have come in, someone has to make a decision about which house to park the panda outside, which door in which to stick the fire-proof letterbox, which family to put up in a hotel.  My inspector makes the call, using words like Intent and Capability to form his shield at the inquest into the one case he gets wrong.  Some days, 2-3 of the threats might be deemed serious, on others, it will be none.

Decisions like these is why my inspector gets paid more than me.  Decisions like these is why you need experienced front-line officers in that rank, and not fresh-faced graduates.

Yet again I find myself wondering how Tom Winsor can spend all that time researching policing, and yet still not really get what it is we do.

Policing is not surgery, science or literature.  It's red balls, pure and simple.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To keep you going...

I'm having something of an enforced gap in blogging due to being too busy, but here's a story to show the police aren't all bad.  Or more accurately, that one civilian scenes of crime officers isn't bad.

The civilian members of Blandshire Constabulary may not take front-line risks, but their jobs are "at risk" most of the time.  The Police Federation is frightened that if we admit some of our roles can be done by non-sworn officers, the police will be further and further civilianised and our powers taken away.  

In actual fact, civilians free up front-line officers to concentrate on those situations that require our powers.  They aren't versatile and they can't deal with the next life-threatening emergency that crosses their path, which means they don't get distracted from CCTV collection and statement-taking.  Since the loss of our civilian case investigators in the latest budget cuts, officers on my team in Blandmore simply don't get time to pick up CCTV during hours when the premises is open, and most of them have a slew of outstanding statements to take, meaning many of the cases end up being filed instead of solved.  We no longer have anyone to complete case file upgrades, or produce the daily stats for the superintendent, or analyse crime trends, and the guys who plan court warnings and day-to-day resources have so much work on that they are sending out duty changes for two weeks ago. 

Instead of campaigning against civilianisation, which just leads to police officers being more and more heavily loaded with work (and work not getting done), the Fed should campaign for a reduction in the burden placed on the police by the courts and CPS, which is the cause for a lot of the paperwork.  Plus the need to produce reams of pointless statistics for and the HMIC.

Still, having just missed our recent target to reduce the number of targets in Blandmore by 5.6%, the superintendent isn't particularly interested in anything the Fed has to say, on any subject.  We are as far from performance and blame culture change as we ever were, and moving at a rate of knots.

I do hope the member of staff involved in the above story used the right terminology and documentation when recounting the tale to her colleagues.  Otherwise we may shortly see a follow-up whereby a scenes of crime officer in Dorset Police is disciplined for insulting a disabled person and falsifying overtime claims.

Vivre la police.

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


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