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, July 20, 2012

PC Simon Harwood - Not Guilty

PC Harwood has been found not guilty of manslaughter.  The solicitor for the family of Ian Tomlinson has promised they will pursue a civil remedy following the verdict.

There does seem to be a strange dichotomy between the inquest verdict and the court verdict.  If Tomlinson was unlawfully killed, and PC Harwood was the one to use force on him, then how can this verdict be right?

However, this isn't the full story.  Jean-Charles de Menezes is a good example.  He was unlawfully killed, because he was not a suicide bomber, and was shot dead due to mistaken identity. However, the individual officers who shot him were acting in good faith, and believed they were saving lives by their actions.  The Met was found guilty of breaching Health and Safety, which is the only justice his family will ever see.

Likewise an inquest can conclude that Ian Tomlinson was not participating in the riot, and did not deserve police force to be used on him.  But through the eyes of an officer policing that riot, who believes he used proportionate force in accordance with his powers, this may still not amount to an assault.  If there's no assault, there can be no manslaughter in these circumstances.

Much has been made of PC Harwood being the subject of - shock horror - TEN disciplinary proceedings in twelve years.  However only one of these is actually disclosed as relating to violence, and that is the only one where there is a suggestion he would have been found guilty of misconduct at the time.  Delving deeper into that case, he was not accused of assault but of unlawful arrest and "discreditable conduct".  Maybe he flashed his warrant card when off-duty, or something.  Hardly comparable to batoning someone to death. The way the disciplinary proceedings in 2001 were side-stepped needs looking at, but it doesn't make him a murderer.

As for the other nine "disciplinary complaints" - whatever that means - I'm sorry to disclose to readers than I can beat PC Harwood's record.  As a front-line response officer I receive a couple of complaints a year, about a range of matters such as arresting people illegally, being uncivil, handcuffing people incorrectly, losing/stealing people's property, knocking on doors at inappropriate hours, the list goes on.  Not one of these matters has seen me placed before a misconduct panel.  Either I'm sleeping with the head of Professional Standards, or I haven't done a lot wrong.

The fact is, if you are policing robustly, you will get complaints.  The occasional one will be substantiated - hopefully more along the lines of swearing at someone in annoyance than using lethal force unlawfully. The police blogging community has rallied around PC Simon Harwood because regardless of the facts of this particular case, any one of us could find ourselves in a similar position.

In any event, I don't think the Ian Tomlinson case has quite run its course.  Watch this space for the result of the appeal of the appeal of the appeal.


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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Damned Surveys

Four out of ten women police officers have considered leaving the force.

Even for today's media, this story is fairly pitiful. How relevant can it be to say that "x" percent of women are disillusioned with their job and "y" percent are planning to quit, without asking an equivalent cross-section of men the same questions?

I can't remember a year when I haven't considered jacking it all in.  But I can't remember a week when I haven't dealt with a job that's changed my mind.  Reassuring a child who witnessed a domestic.  Driving a van with blue lights on, in a convoy of fire trucks, through the snow to a hazmat* incident.  Locking up a burglar for Christmas.  Finding a kilo of cocaine in a s.18*.  Telling a knife-point robber his license had been revoked*.  Tearing a town apart in a search for a beloved mother, whose headscarf was found by the river. Being there for the family when we found her.

Disillusionment and weariness are not exclusive to the female gender.  Nor are resoluteness and commitment the property of the male.  Don't write off this century just yet.

Instead, let's have a survey on how many police officers, male and female, had a quiet smirk to themselves when the story broke about G4S.

* If you want to know what the jargon means, join the police.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Somebody give that man a degree.

I understand that PC Ian Dibell intervened after seeing a gunman chasing a couple up his road.  Most of us would probably have run the other way. 

Under Tom Winsor's reforms, PC Dibell would be paid several thousand less if he joined the police nowadays. We don't yet know what previous career he had, what "qualifications" he held, what personal circumstances let him to the police.

We do know that Tom Winsor does not want "jobs for life".  He wants a more highly educated recruit, on a lower salary, carrying out only front-line duties requiring warranted powers.  An older man or women, with a previous career and perhaps a family to support, will not be attracted by Tom Winsor's pension offer, nor the lack of career progression. 

It is unlikely that these things would have stopped Ian Dibell from joining the police.  Nor prevented him running into the street to try to save lives.  But as a neighbourhood officer with ten years' service, he would have been paid less overall, and in the next few years would have had a decision to make about whether to keep working on the front-line into his sixties, or start planning a career change to secure a pension for his future.  If there's anything likely to instigate the "clock on, clock off" culture that Cameron bemoans, it's being underpaid and a lack of prospects.

If Cameron wants to keep seeing brave, mature men/women with life experience, putting themselves in the line of fire whether on or off-duty, he needs to look again at his plans.

For now, the story is about a brave individual, who lost his life trying to help others, who happened to be a police officer.

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


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