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.


Blogger Star Gazer said...

Quality post and all too true, as usual.

28 April, 2012 12:51

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can understand why the thought of someone attaining rank of Inspector within 3 years of graduating seems irksome... But that's an extreme example. Surely there's an argument to suggest suitably qualified/experienced people from other sectors should be able to enter the police force, starting at or progressing quickly to reasonably senior posts?

As you've written before, it's not uncommon for people to change professions and become police officers, perhaps after careers in other lines of work... surely it's right that their skills should be fully exploited?

After all... Like it or not, Forces need to attract and retain the "best" people by whatever means they can... either by promoting internal talent or by securing it from external sources. The two routes need not be mutually exclusive, either.

I'm primarily thing of certain specialisms;

e.g. white collar crime; Surely it makes sense to have a high ranking officer with accountancy/financial background leading a complex investigation?

Or special operations perhaps relating to national security; Someone from a military background might have a worthy input to operational planning?

...What I mean is this need not necessarily lead to spotty herberts throwing their weight around.

28 April, 2012 16:41

Blogger Battersea Boy said...

Today's Mail on Sunday reports on a person who allegedly broke a police sgt's fingers walking free from court after the sgt wrote to the court saying he had better things to do than offer evidence in a case he'd originally described as the worst violence he'd seen in 14 years.

29 April, 2012 05:54

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

That is quite embarrassing, I'll grant you, but it's not something we do every day, and it ought to result in him being stuck on, if for nothing more than making us look like a bunch of idiots.

The main problem I have with that is that it's those individual stories which, whilst actually rare one-offs, are extrapolated by the Daily Mail readership et al into the view that all Police are lazy/racist/violent.

It's funny how they don't do the same with, say, butchers, or car mechanics.

29 April, 2012 09:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asitis says: Re anon blog at 16:41 above. I am a police officer of 20+ years. You present a brief, but interesting case re recruitment.

I think you should become a Special Constable and spend a minimum of 20 hrs per week on shift, for a minimum of 2 years and preferably working late shifts in a 'swamp' like community.

If you still hold the same views as above, fine. However, I very much doubt you will, because learning to manage and deal with people in their communities at the base level day and day out is what we do.

Policing communities is not some feature of policing that can be taught in a classroom. And there is no tangible pounds, shillings and pence profit in it, either.

Keeping the Queen's peace is the ultimate aim and it is PRICELESS.

29 April, 2012 11:57

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon at 16:41.
There is a strong argument for bringing in specialised civilians as investigators for complex fraud and high tech crime investigations. I don't see a strong argument for putting them in charge of those investigations.
Those who move into management of serious crime without a detective background - even though they are within the police service - usually have their flaws exposed pretty quickly.

The scheme we have which is most similar to direct entry is HPDS. Though some of them are good cops - many of them aren't.
The suggestion that the skills of a senior manager are different to a good frontline officer - so it doesn't matter if a manager was crap as a cop - or even hasn't carried out the role at all just doesn't hold water.
The implication that amongst the thousands of cops who are good at their job there are none that will also be good managers simply doesn't make sense.


29 April, 2012 13:09

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am afraid that civilian 'experts' are a very expensive commodity. Most who are truly skilled at their chosen profession will not work for a salary at ACPO rates, let alone the money paid to SIOs. This is reflected in the poor showing of the largest group of 'experts' employed by the police, the CPS. Most are no match for your average solicitor who time after time get their clients off using spurious arguments. Although the standard of police evidence has fallen over the last few years. This also my be a reflection of the lack of court experience of most (not all) police management together with poor preparation by the CPS who often do not recognise poor evidence until it is pointed out by their counsel.

29 April, 2012 13:51

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I would be the last to praise the CPS (who are not employed by the police) their conviction rates are at about 85% - so it's hardly "most are no match for your average solicitor".

A more realistic comparison of experts would be the now defunct Forensic Science Service (largely replaced by LGS now). With the exception of a couple of recent high profile DNA cock-ups - the defence experts are seldom able to challenge them.

It's a very valid point about the money required to pay for the experts - I would say that the satisfaction of sending down criminals would hopefully in part make up for it, policing is after all a vocation rather than just a career - a point that Winsor utterly disregards and even seems to deny.


29 April, 2012 18:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, I doubt legal aid solicitors in private practise earn as much as your average crown prosecutor, by and large.

29 April, 2012 21:49

Blogger Kimpatsu said...

The force credit card will be broken out of it's tamper-proof bag...
At least a graduate is less likely to misuse the apostrophe, Ellie...

30 April, 2012 02:55

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"their conviction rates are at about 85% - so it's hardly "most are no match for your average solicitor"."

Not hard when they can choose to drop anything short of a stonewaller before it gets to court.

30 April, 2012 06:02

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! It's a misused apostrophe (in an otherwise perfectly literate blog post)! Call the IPCC!

30 April, 2012 08:15

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember being taught about correct use of apostrophes in any of my university degrees. I seem to remember that happening at school.

Now that most police officers are graduates I guess you should shift your blame to modern education.
No doubt you will align with Winsor in blaming the police for that too.
Still if what you want from a modern police force is correct use of apostrophes I am sure we can provide at least one officer to count them, one to check them and an inspector to put an action plan in place when their acceptable uses falls below your desired level.

Anon at 06:02 :-
Hey, I said that I had no intention of sticking up for the CPS, I just wanted to provide some balance to the previous comment.
I have dealt with some awful CPS lawyers, but I have dealt with some appalling defence ones as well. Usually the CPS are hamstrung by a lack of ownership of a case until it is dumped on their desk 10 mins before court, whilst the defence have been working on it from point of arrest.
You would have to be a numpty not to be able to take advantage of that.


30 April, 2012 09:05

Anonymous Mrs Doughnut said...

It is my strong belief that right now, relatively few cases go pear shaped because the person(s) ultimately making decisions like above have years of experience under their belt before making said choices.

If direct entry graduates are really introduced, wait for a HUGE PEAK during the first year of people getting attacked after a fb threat due to the panda car being dispatched to the wrong house.

After said first year, I predict direct entry will be chucked out the window, and graduates will go back to the old, proven work your way up routine.

30 April, 2012 14:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes keep the streets safe, arrest those using Twitter. Four years for writing Up The Riots on Facebook. We are looking forward to 10th May too. Many laws yet little justice wee girl.

01 May, 2012 17:14

Anonymous sewa mobil jakarta said...

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02 May, 2012 17:41

Anonymous Mac said...

I'm one of said Inspectors, who does about half a dozen Threat To Life assessments a shift. Despite having had all the training about how to write up my thoughts in terms of Intent, Capability, the National Decision Model et all, this is all just for the benefit of the 'hindsight experts' in the event I have to grip the rail for one I get wrong.
The vast majority are assessed based on 'gut feeling'. That 'gut feeling' exists as a result of my years of operational experience. That is why direct entry is a bad idea and it's why I won't ever be assisting a DE Inspector with that kind of decision making, because to do so would be putting my head in their noose.

02 May, 2012 21:09

Blogger David Couper said...

PC Bloggs, As a veteran cop, I enjoyed your postings. Back here, across the pond, the issues remain the same. Take a look at my blog on -- Improving Police.
Hang in there!

05 May, 2012 16:47

Anonymous bamboo investment said...

Great post. I guess life and death decisions aren't just made on the street, but even at a command level. I suppose on a day with 15 calls, if he guesses wrong, someone literally could die. Talk about pressure, I wouldn't want it for darn sure. I wonder if there appears to be some kind of discernible pattern with type of threat that starts to emerge over time that lets the commander be more accurate in his decisions?

07 May, 2012 00:09

Anonymous Mortons said...

I'm sorry to say the CPS from my dealings administratively border on incompetence. Files looking like a dogs dinner, endless extensions to serve paperwork, paperwork served in dribs and drabs.

Unfortunately this is a result of cost cutting and over-worked. They should be seen as a mirror for what may happen/ is happening to the police.

In some circumstances clients have already been feeling it with 12 months on bail.

07 May, 2012 19:23

Blogger Cath said...

I am not a police officer but a mop. I have the utmost respect for the police & their work. I understand the frustrations of increasing beaurocracy as I used to be a mental health nurse. Sadly, I wanted to nurse people and speak with patients and "make a difference" so I had to quit because this is not what a mental health nurse does any more.
I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your book...I'm half way through it....and I admire your ability to tell us what really for a on whilst keeping a sense of humour & perspective. Most of all I admire tour ability to keep your head when all around are losing theirs...and managing to stay at work without committing murder. I hope by the time I get to the end of the book you and Will are an "item". But then again , that might spoil a good friendship and we need them at work. Especially thankless work.
So I'm saying Thankyou. From one who appreciates what you try to do each day.

No, I was not paid to write this. I am not a "victim". In fact, I am related to one who had his collar seriously felt and saw the insensitivity of some as I hurtled headlong and terrified into a process I never thought I'd learn about in this way, never wanted to and never want to repeat the experience. But in MY job I saw good nurses and bad nurses and truly awful never-should-have-been nurses. I know a good copper when I see one. Or read one. And you are, because you're human. Thnx.

24 May, 2012 22:34

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31 August, 2012 03:37


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