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, June 16, 2009

Tea and Pizza

I am often asked how long it took me to become cynical after joining the police, and whether I was disappointed/overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork that existed. These are fair questions, but I actually think I went into the police with fairly open eyes. Anyone who joins the police without being aware there might be a bit of paperwork involved will probably fail on the part of the interview where they ask what "research" you have done into the job.

What I wasn't expecting, what I had no idea about, was that there are homes in Britain where it is advisable not to accept a cup of tea. And where you have to wipe your feet on the way out. As police officers will confirm, these homes are identifiable by the washing machine in the front garden and the huge plasma TV in the lounge. To a true young English lady like myself (well sort of), the idea that some people live without even the social grace of a sanitary cup of tea to offer a guest, was fairly shocking.

The point is, it's all very well the government/press/senior management (delete as applicable) going on and on about domestic/racist violence, measuring us on crime performance, hauling us over the coals every time we fail to prevent murder, accusing us of brutality and setting us a target of customer satisfaction. As long as they understand who our regular "customer" really is.

On Radio 4 today you can hear me visiting some regulars.* There's Mr Grahams, who thinks his ex-partner's new partner's ex-partner is sending him junk mail about pizzas. There's a guy defecating in the middle of the road. There's Unconscious Bloke and Blinking Female, whose families have started open warfare on a quiet Blandmore street. And there's the pink-headed stranger, who's tried to manhandle a six-year-old child into his car. Mixed in amongst them are the public: variously seen crossing the road to avoid defecation; demanding why the police took so long and came so unequipped to deal with warfare; frantic with concern for their son and baking brownies by the trayload. Which of these two groups do you imagine takes up more of our time?

The Mr Grahamses of this world will never be satisfied by commonsense approaches, full discretion, nor a robust if unsightly use of force. They will never write letters of thanks for our time or wonder whether they should deal with the issue of parking spaces and junk mail themselves. They will continue to feed off the state, seeing the police officer in their home as "their right", regardless of who else is waiting.

Everything the government does to improve policing, everything our senior managers pass down to us, caters for Mr Grahams and his self-serving, unremitting wastage of society's resources. And this comes down to the fundamental problem with treating the police like a customer service organisation: because if we are policing effectively, some of our customers will be, and should be, dissatisfied.

* In case you're wondering, no I don't have an accent like the woman in the Radio 4 drama. If you want to hear what I sound like, I appear on the radio from time to time. I can't tell you when/where, as that would make it too easy...

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


Blogger Hogdayafternoon said...

Heard you yesterday as I drove around Poshnortherntown. Very good interview, but beware the voice i/d and the friendly arm around the shoulder that says, "This is strictly between us, Ms Bloogs, but that was you wasn't it?". PSD has a very big arsehole, and is well up it.

16 June, 2009 13:54

Blogger Willing and Eager said...

I'm in the process of joining the police (at least that's the goal!) and can only say that you and Gadget have given me a really valuable insight into what it's going to be like should I pass the assessment centre at the end of the month.

I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that some police "customers" should be dissatisfied, and can't believe that successive Home Offices have failed to spot the part of Peelian principles that suggests Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by impartial adherence to the law.

I wish that the assessment centre I'm about to attend had some form of interview with real coppers who can ask me why I'm applying and what research I've done. Instead, I have the delight of posing in 4 role-plays as a Customer Service Officer. That's how I'll be assessed as suitable to be a Police Officer. Genius.

16 June, 2009 15:26

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

"if we are policing effectively, some of our customers will be, and should be, dissatisfied"

Couldn't have put it better myself.

16 June, 2009 16:24

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellie madame author old fruit,
Impressed with your interview and the dramatisation, but I'd like to make the point that in my force discretion has never been removed, and (as I'm sure you know) there are some very good reasons why we are expected to arrest someone at a domestic, many of them to do with not allowing vicious thugs to repeatedly maim their "partners".
I don't think you got this across.
No I'm not a boss, and I've got 21 years service. And yours is the best police blog in the world (in English). Sorry IG, your's is the third best.

16 June, 2009 18:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better watch yourself .....

16 June, 2009 19:31

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if the linky doesn't work - BBC story on Nightjack being unmasked after High Court ruling and being disciplined by Lancashire.

16 June, 2009 19:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a retired cop I still, sadly, take an interest. i listened to your Woman's Hour interview and I have to say you were very good. When asked that question I said aloud, 'Discretion' you did not disappoint. I am listening to the serialisation at 1045 each morning and I recognise every situation so far. We have all been there nothing will change. Keep up the good work and avoid so called 'media' journalists especially from The Times.

16 June, 2009 19:35

Blogger Unknown said...

Given that much of this post is taken up with "members of the public" I wondered what your views of the rest of the population were.

By which I mean those of us whose only contact with the police is watching a Police Stop video on some Sky channel or asking asking the way.

I wonder if we blur into the background when you are faced with the daily grind of er, serving , the British underclass

16 June, 2009 20:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your book not long after it came out and now I'm listening to the BBC version. The book is 100 times better than the mess they've made of the radio edit. The ridiculous voices just destroy all the credibility. The book is very funny but also has a very serious point overall. The hopeless BBC implausible characterisation with very bad choices for voices just gives a bad impression of the police although the stories are still funny. When you read the blog and then read the book you get the impression of a very intelligent author but the BBC has given you the voice of a dork. Your blog is very accurate as I have knowledge from my friend who has just completed 30 years in. Your number one in my blog charts.

16 June, 2009 20:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Hopi Sen.

Nightjack is having aproblem with eady.

16 June, 2009 20:45

Anonymous Bill said...

Of all the PC - et al - blogsters you are the tops. But a plethora me thinks, and tis time to sort the chaff from the chaff.

Bon chance.

16 June, 2009 21:44

Blogger Bill Sticker said...

Well, whatever you do, don't talk to the Times.



16 June, 2009 22:12

Anonymous Dr Melvin T Gray said...

I am pleased to hear the news of your merited success, Ellie. In the daytime job, a naturally warm personality is ever persuasive, especially in such homes as you describe. The impression you could make over tea should not be lost for want of making it yourself, thereby ensuring a risk free drink for you and the 'customer'.

Better to feel a brief sadness than relish a lasting contempt.

16 June, 2009 23:22

Blogger Dandelion said...

seeing the police officer in their home as "their right", regardless of who else is waiting

Being in the police, you see a different picture relative to the average (or sub-average) member of the public. It simply isn't realistic (or fair) to expect lay-people (especially disadvantaged ones) to see the same picture you do, or to judge them for not seeing it. Frustrating though it may be.

17 June, 2009 00:59


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