Unaccountable? My story.

The Police are good at a lot of things. I have to admit however, they are terrible at others.

Looking after their own. There are some that we’ll always say that we do. That we will cover up everything from minor misdemeanors to major lapses in security, judgement and protocol, that sometimes have very serious and far-reaching consequences. I disagree. And when I do so, I do so for a reason, with bitter experience.

It’s only now that I can write about something that has been hanging over my head for the past fifteen months, because only now is it finally over.

In March 2011, I answered an emergency assistance call from a colleague. He had arrested a woman that was suspected of a relatively minor offence. He started, actually, with the intent to arrange a voluntary interview, (oh, the irony of which I will come back to later) but she became not only obstructive, but also abusive.

He tried his hardest to persuade her to attend the police station at her convenience (which he later admitted to me would probably result in no further action as the evidence was a sole witness with no corroboration) but she was adamant – she was going to no police station voluntarily. My colleague’s decision was effectively made for him; to allow a prompt and effective investigation, due to her resistance to interview, arrest was the only viable alternative.

Upon arresting her, he asked her to place some clothes on (she was in a night gown) and walk with him to his car, parked outside. She went ballistic. The radio sprung into life.

“Can I have one more unit to attend at Acacia Avenue, female detainee becoming increasingly resistant, further male in the house and officer single-crewed.”

I leisurely made my way in the general direction with another colleague, turning out from the station. No rush at the minute. Then another call.

“Yeah, further to my last – female now becoming violent and male also becoming agitated.”

Simultaneously pressing the three buttons for blue lights, headlamp flashes and sirens, I floored the accelerator. Within two minutes, we had arrived, along with another car and another I could see in the far distance in my rear view mirror. The show of strength would hopefully stop anyone having ideas that this arrest might be thwarted.

As I pulled up to the alleyway to the address, members of the public were desperately pointing down the alley. By this point I was out of the car and the screams and noises of a disturbance were amplified by the high walls of the surrounding houses. We were still a good 75m from the back garden, so I put a sprint on, running into almost complete darkness and a little bit of the unknown. Baton out, I thought. Better to be safe than sorry.

I was the fastest out of the car and the fastest runner, so unsurprisingly, I got there first. I could see my colleague on the floor, attempting to handcuff the female. She was screaming and squealing like a banshee, kicking her legs out, shaking her head. He only had hold of her arm. Stood over him, somewhat ominously, was a bloke who I later learned was this woman’s partner. He was also screaming abuse and looking a little too threatening for my liking. My colleague was clearly vulnerable, struggling with a violently resistive female and on one knee. Easy pickings for someone so inclined.

I ran toward the man and simply placed my arm across his chest and pushed him away, shouting “GET BACK!” My baton was down by my side and only visible if one were really looking for it. I quickly noticed a figure at the feet of this man, a girl no more than six years old, shaking in fear. I moved my baton quickly away so it wouldn’t frighten her and attempted to engage the man, adopting a far less forceful approach now that others had arrived.

“Mate, just move back a little. It looks like its scaring your daughter.”

“And who’s fucking fault’s that you prick? Coming round to MY house, shouting the fucking odds!”

By this time, everyone was out in the street, observing the commotion. There was more than enough with what he had just said to arrest him as well. Not the most appropriate thing though, under the circumstances.

“Mate, I’ll ask you again to move back. Please don’t swear at me, you’re daughter doesn’t need to hear this from her father.”

Turning to his daughter, who was now understandably in tears, he said:

“This is what bobbies do love, come round, lock up your mother and then fucking lecture me on how to be a dad. Fucking c*nts, all of them. Remember that, love. C*nts.”

Not exactly giving Peter Andre a run for Father Of The Year.

I knew I’d get nowhere with him, so simply stood in his way to block any rash attempt at an assault on my arresting officer colleague. The Sergeant had heard the radio transmissions which were catching all the drama and soon attended. I waved him over and asked him to speak to the father.

Looking over my shoulder, I could see that this woman had a fair bit of alcohol-induced fight left in her. I went over and noticed that the robe she wearing barely covered her modesty. In normal circumstances, with the fight she was putting up and with her legs flying everywhere, I would have applied some leg restraints. To do that would have meant being up close and personal with this lady, when she was wearing no underwear. Not an option, so to prevent any injury to herself if she managed to trip my mate up, I simply place my hips next to hers as she was stood up. Her legs still flailing, but thankfully not now causing a problem. Minimum force, if you will. I placed my hands loosely on the handcuffs that had by now been applied, more in an attempt to stop her hurting herself than anything. I was partially successful.

Placed in the back of a waiting beat car, with three female officers on scene, I left them to it. I heard later that she kicked off all the way into custody and had to be taken straight to the cell, spitting at everyone in a uniform on the way. Classy woman.

I concluded at the scene of arrest, left the father/significant other with my Sergeant and resumed. Having used hardly any force at all personally, procedure is the arresting officer puts all officers’ names on the Use Of Force form, to avoid duplication. I didn’t put an entry in my pocket notebook, it was such a non-event for me personally. Or so I thought at the time. That was to quickly change.

Two days later, I heard on the grapevine that the woman was making a complaint. Nothing unusual there. It’s happens more than people realise. Usually for incivility or ‘unfair treatment’, most are usually locally resolved. This generally means either advice from an Inspector to the complainant, or if there’s some grounds in the complaint, an apology from the officer and some management action. I heard nothing official, so thought nothing.

Two weeks later, my Sergeant called me into the office. He handed me a piece of paper, without saying a word.

“What’s this?” I asked, quizzically.

“It’s a Reg 14 Notice.”

“What for?” I quickly started scanning the document. On it was a name I didn’t even recognise.

“Allegation of assault. This woman says you’ve grabbed her by the hair and smashed her face into the concrete, knocking her teeth out.”

I genuinely thought it was a wind-up. A wry smile developed across my face and I looked around in the office for others to lay the big surprise on me. My Sergeant remained stony-faced.

“Seriously? I don’t even know what this relates to.” I stated, incredulously.

“That job where you went to back up Jim ******, it’s her.”

I read in more detail. This was no joke. A notice from the force Professional Standards Department, stating that I was now formally under investigation and a suspect in a Section 47 Assault. What the?

I digested the material, signed both copies, returned one to the Sergeant and retained the other for my ‘personal records’. As if I was going to keep my own file on myself.

I heard nothing for what seemed like ages, but was probably a matter of weeks, after which my Federation Rep got in touch. Did I want representation for my suspect interview? It hadn’t even dawned on me that I would be interviewed. Initially, I thought they’d request a full statement, why I thought that, I do not know. Bizarre, considering I interview suspects all the time. Too right I wanted representation. I wasn’t about to put my faith in blindly wandering in to an interview without some defence (less the truth, of course).

In a strange twist of fate, I had just downloaded on iBooks (other e-book providers are available) a copy of ‘A Fair Cop’. It was about a West Yorkshire Police Officer being accused of assault and having to spend six months in prison after conviction. Sobered, I was. Prison was not a place I fancied going, not because I didn’t think I could handle myself, but I knew it would likely spell the end of a career that was still in it’s relative infancy. Worried, I was, to say the least.

I met with the Fed Rep. If I pay subscriptions for the rest of my career and never use their services again, it will still be worth it. Absolutely brilliant. It seemed that there was no case to answer. The investigating officer had a number of conflicting statements already, and decided to get an informal account from the Fed, to decide if an interview was required. The Rep said, from the information he’d been given, this was unlikely. I gave my account and started feeling a little better about my predicament.

I heard nothing for close to four months. I was getting more annoyed than anything else. Only two emails, staying that the matter was still under investigation and I would be contacted in due course. I found it difficult to adjust to being the suspect, knowing full well I had done nothing wrong. After this time, I got a phone call. The Fed Rep had been contacted.

“RB, is there anything not on the rostering system that I need to know about? Holidays booked, weekends off, overtime, working rest days?”

“No, why?” I replied.

“The Detective Inspector in charge of the case has requested a formal interview.”

“I thought you said that wouldn’t be needed?”

He replied that the DI had so many conflicting statements, that it left him no choice but to interview. By this time, I was becoming more and more angry. Why was it taking so long?

So, a full SIX months after the allegation, I turned up at the Professional Standards Department. I was going to go in making them work for it. I pressed my tunic, mounted my medal ribbons from
Service in the Army (including a little Rosette that people always ask about) and shined my boots so you could do your hair and/or shave in them, whichever was your preference. I came not to be bullied (paranoid, yes) but mainly to portray I was professional, and that there were no grounds for the allegation.

The Disclosure Pack was two inches thick. There were seventeen statements. SEVENTEEN. Everyone on the street was interviewed, even if they could provide no ‘key’ evidence (evidence that could prove an offence, is a simplistic definition). There were aerial photos, council floor plans, which included all the street lighting, CCTV stills of us leaving the station, radio transcripts (including a CD recording), photos of injuries, doctor’s reports, the list went on. I’d been involved in stabbings, burglaries and robberies and not seen a file as large. They always say the best detectives investigate their own…….

I went into interview.

I sat down. The DI looked at my medal ribbons. This was a good start. I felt confident in the knowledge I’d done nothing wrong, and the little I had done, I could justify completely.

He started and said that the interview was being conducted under Section 9 of PACE. It didn’t even occur to me. A voluntary interview. Which effectively was the original request by the arresting officer and the whole reason I was now here. The irony was not lost on me.

The Caution. He asked me if I understood it! Ha! I rolled off a concise explanation, with no second thought, no hesitation and no stumbling. My standard explanation to those on interview. I’m not ashamed to say at this point, I felt uncomfortable.

I gave my account. He presented evidence. He challenged me on the discrepancies. A standard PEACE interview, following the model to the letter. Like my suspect interviews, I silently observed. I smiled in the knowledge that maybe I was doing something right at work!

After we’d finished and the tapes were turned off, he gave me time with my Rep. He looked at the disclosure pack, looked at me, asked me how I felt, how I felt it went.

“Good, I think.” I replied.

I quizzed him on the evidence collated. He confirmed to me that if this was one of my ‘jobs’ and the suspect was a normal member of the public, I would have ceased all action on it a long time ago if for no other reason than every one of the seventeen statements conflicted with each other. I didn’t even match the first description! I was only put into the frame because “it was the same one who pushed me back, that assaulted my partner”, from the male’s statement.

“What now?” I asked.

The head of PSD, the Detective Supt would look at it, but it would likely be discontinued at this point.

Which was why three months later, I was rather surprised when my Fed Rep informed me that the file was now being viewed by the CPS. I’ve had a few heart rate-raising moments in my life, and that was up there with jumping out of a plane, riding a motorbike at 180mph and being shot at. I kid you not.

A further two months passed with no news. Despite my brave face, I was a little concerned. I didn’t let it affect my day-to-day functioning too much, but it was always there, in the back of my mind.

Christmas came and went.

“What the f*@k is taking them so long!?” I said to my Rep in frustration more than anything. He had no news. We, or rather I, had to wait.

It came, shortly after, as it transpired.

NO CASE TO ANSWER.

Phew. I had a drink that night.

But this news was still only a stepping stone to the real end. The complainant could now have the decision referred to the IPCC if she so wished. And there was no rush; she had six weeks to make her mind up. While I waited.

Yesterday, in June 2012, I finally got the email (no phone call, that may be too personal for PSD) that I had been waiting for. No referral to the IPCC, as she didn’t request it to be so. That’s the only reason. So potentially, my nervous wait could’ve been much longer.

The fifteen months were somewhat stressful. There was always a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that made me question my actions at a job. Some would say that’s a good thing, but when you need clarity of thought in a high-pressure situation, you shouldn’t have to think, ‘I wonder if this person is going to complain against me in a few weeks time? Am I going to have another fifteen months of uncertainty?’ All part of the job, I guess.

I bare no ill will to the complainant. She was a chancer, who was angry at being arrested. She DID receive those injuries she described, but not as a result of a criminal act by me, or my colleagues. If she had simply said yes to agreeing to be interviewed, as I had, none of this story would’ve been written.

Some people scream that the police are unaccountable, that we live in a police state. Corporate and collective accountability is a slightly different argument, but I can now say, from personal experience, there is no question of police officers not been held individually accountable. To those that disagree, you’ve obviously not paid attention to the above.

As for the defence solicitor or a mate of an offender I arrest, that says I should go easy on a suspect, as I don’t know how they feel? I say I know more than you are ever likely to realise or personally experience. Until you have sat on the opposite side of the table, you really shouldn’t say a word. It is somewhat ironic that, as a police officer, it’s more, rather than less likely I will be subject to a suspect interview.

So the next time you see something that the police do that you don’t agree with, the likelihood is, that perhaps behind a door of an interview room, someone is having to justify their decisions and actions. Facing the grilling I did. Perhaps as a result of a single complaint.

Unaccountable? You need to go somewhere else in the world for that.

RB

Worth every penny

Last night was immensely quiet. It’s ok to say the ‘Q’ word now, I’m off shift. Ten hours of burning diesel and only a few minor jobs came in. I thought to myself, if Nick Herbert, Theresa May or Tom Winsor were with me tonight, having taken the offer that so many on Twitter tender, we’d not get paid a penny.

By 0615am, most of the shift are rolling into the back yard, filling out the mileage on the car logbooks, removing their gear from the boot and hanging the keys back in the parade room. We have 45 minutes left (technically) on shift, but the last hour is rarely busy and if the day shift arrive early, the Sergeant usually stands us down early too.

At 0640, the call comes we all don’t want to hear,

“Anyone free for an immediate response?”

Oh FFS……

“Caller walking his dog reporting a male up a tree with a noose around his neck. Location: ******** Park.”

The fight to get on the radio both frustrated and humbled me at the same time. The ENTIRE shift turned out, re-grabbing keys, sprinting to the cars, and screaming out of the back gate with lights flashing and sirens blaring. I finally got my callsign out.

We saturated the park, found a more accurate location and found a man determined to end his life. Those in the job know the difference. Those who want attention, or want help (there’s a difference) call us first. Those that want to die, don’t.

The noose around his neck, made from extremely strong 1inch lashing straps, the end looped around the sturdiest branch, secured underneath by 4inch nails to prevent the rope slipping, this bloke meant business, and he was seconds away from jumping. ‘In the nick of time’ seemed to be coined for just an occasion.

Tenderly and compassionately talked down by a colleague and taken to the local Mental Health Facility for assessment, the rest of us stood down. Life and death on a Monday night. With seconds to spare.

As we finally filled out the mileage for a second time in as many hours, bags unloaded, the order to stand down came. We walked, as one, to the locker room. No high-fives, no back slaps, no congratulations, just quiet reflection taken in our stride. From the 26-year senior bobby, to the 21-year-old probationer, we doffed our stab vests and belts, saying goodbye and ‘See ya tonight’. When we’ll do it all again.

No crime reported. No detection, no story in the paper, no press release. Just one life, for now at least, saved.

Theresa, that’s worth every penny.

RB

One of THOSE days…..

All coppers have had them. In fact, most emergency service workers too. THOSE days. When how you went home after the shift you’d had, after a day that in no way could you have predicted. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I had a good one about a year ago. I was on the ‘Diary’ Car (now referred to as the ‘Facebook’ Car by @InspectorGadgetBlogs) for my shift. Incidents that don’t really amount to much. Most rarely amount to a crime and none require an immediate police response. These are the days that I didn’t join for. A bit boring, if I’m totally truthful. So on my way to work, I never expected what was going to happen a few hours into my shift.

I had just dealt with a ‘Inconsiderate Driving’ report. A bit of a hoon had driven a tiny bit aggressively and the caller wanted us to know about it. I attended, spoke to said caller. She couldn’t give me the registration. I advised her. I left the house. I yawned a little.

Driving back to the nick, I heard some sirens. Police ones. I’d not heard a job passed over the radio so I checked it. “B@ll@cks!” I’d left it on the wrong channel after updating the previous job. I changed channel and heard every man and his dog call up. There’s enough going. I wonder what the job is?

As I approached the station, it became clear. A burglary had taken place and the offender had stolen the car on the drive. The registration was passed out. CCTV crackled into life.
“Yeah, I’ve picked it up the vehicle in town, it’s heading toward ************ roundabout.”

“F@*k, that’s where I am” I thought.

And lo and behold, the car was coming down my road. I quickly turned around and attempted to follow it, but the driver clocked me straight away. The pursuit was on.

I passed all the details needed to authorise an Initial Phase Pursuit and followed the vehicle. It’s fair to say, I was remaining calm on the outside, but buzzing on the inside.

I pursued the vehicle until the driver decided to crash it into a lamppost on a tight right hand bend. He was out, and so was I. I chased him down for 100m where I managed to tackle him to the ground. He resisted and we had a little roll on the floor. By this time, other officers had arrived. Said burglar cuffed, locked up and in my car. I was very happy.

Fast forward a while (less exciting investigation and statements in the meantime) and my friend is now languishing at Her Majesty’s pleasure for burglary. Good job all round.

When I woke up that morning, I never expected that to happen. That was a good day.

Similar to today in some respects. Although today was bad. And I’m not even at work, I’m on Rest Days.

Tom Winsor has delivered the second part of his report. Read Twitter for the specifics, but if we thought his first report was bad, that was a mere headbutt, compared to the vicious, full-on assault we were victim to today.

Fitness tests? Pah. Not fussed in the slightest. I caught my burglar on foot, carrying way much more kit. I’m nearly 40 years old and still train most days.

The loss of earnings is more serious. That could really do damage to a lot of people’s finances.

But way more than anything else in that report, the recommendation seeking compulsory severance for Police Officers is by far the most worrying. Tom Winsor wants Chief Constables (ie. the Govt) to be given the power to sack us before we reach our 30 year service mark.

I sit and write this in absolute despair. I only tweeted this morning, that I disagree with striking as Police Officers. The risks are enormous. Public safety would be put at risk and criminality would shoot through the roof. We all witnessed on TV what happened in 2011. I believe it potentially could be the start of anarchy.

So, after all that, I can barely believe I am saying this. But with a Government that hate us, ACPO almost congratulating Winsor on his report (Peter Fahy even going as far as to say the report may not be radical enough) and the well-intentioned, passionate, but toothless tiger that is the Federation having no power to stop it, I have finally succumbed to the idea that full Industrial Rights are something that should be explored. After all, if they can sack us, what other defence have we got?

So today has been one of THOSE days. For all the wrong reasons.

RB

Power to the people….

This is going to be a quick one.

I went to a job tonight. Domestic. Kinda. On a Friday. She was drunk, of course. She said she was annoyed at her daughters’ boyfriend, as he had “committed fraud” and we’d done “f@*k all about it.” She had been to the police station earlier in the day, where an officer had spoken to her (hopefully when she wasn’t inadvertently spitting second-hand vodka on him) regarding this. Nothing had been done. Apparently she was told it was a “civil matter” and didn’t amount to a criminal offence.

I informed her that this officer obviously knew the fuller details of the problem she was having and had identified that no offences had been committed, or otherwise he would have taken a statement from her. She still wasn’t happy.

After a good five minutes of her constant, drunken vitriol, I was losing my patience. I informed her that we (police officers) are trained re:legislation/law and if that was identified that an offence had taken place, then investigate it we would. Still, she was not happy.

She ended our rather terse conversation with another round of f@*ks toward me, my colleagues present and the police in general. She was sent on her way to prepare herself for the inevitable hangover that was coming her way.

Four hours before this job, I watched the news reminding me of the god-awful fact that John Prescott, sorry, Lord Prescott, has thrown his name in the hat for the Humberside PCC job. Thank the lord I don’t live in/police Humberside if he gets it, is all I’ll say.

Got me thinking. The idea behind PCCs is that the public have an elected figure to hold their force to account on their behalf. If the public is the drunken, nasty, abusive woman I dealt with earlier, we are all in for a real treat. With budgets being cut, we’ll have less resources to deal with the jobs we have already got. If Vodka-Vicky gets her way, we’ll be investigating civil cases too.

And with the PCC candidates desperate to secure votes, will they just pander to the public? Give them what they want to secure there 100k pa job?

So, more or less likely to deal with stuff that is definitely not crime related? You decide. Kind of flys in the face of Theresa May’s “Cut Crime. No more, no less” speech, doesn’t it?

Makes me wonder. Inquisitive musing/rant over.

RB

Working to Rule, the loss of common sense and goodwill – related?

Last week, the Police Arbitration Tribunal (PAT) delivered its recommendations on Part 1 of the report on Police Pay and Conditions, originally formulated by Tom Winsor, the former rail regulator, after some disagreement with the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) during meetings at the Police Negotiating Board (PNB). Despite some initial worry, I think it is fair to say that there came to be an air of optimism in anticipation of the PAT. It seems this was misplaced. The recommendations are as sweeping as they are brutal. I think opinion on them is pretty much universal. For those it affects, it’s very bad indeed.

Reactions on Twitter went from apathy to outrage, with everything in between. There is a period of wait, until the Home Secretary either ratifies the recommendations or implements the original Part 1 report. Whichever she does, it will not be good for police officers’ pay.

Very quickly after the recommendations were published, a number of Tweeters mentioned how a lot of work the police do is down to goodwill. Now, no-one is suggesting we work for nothing (apart from Special Constables – who by the way and for the record, do an amazing job), but it is widely known in police circles that most officers will go beyond what is legally and contractually required of them. I do not count myself as someone extraordinary, but I have worked over, on rest days, conducted work in my own time, at my own expense, using my own mobile phone, broadband connection and such like, without ever asking for time in lieu or remuneration. This is commonplace, at least where I work. I’m confident it is like this up and down the country.

This goodwill is being eroded by those in control of police budgets and priorities. The Government have made clear that they will press on with cuts, regardless of the PFEW’s opposition to the scale and speed of them. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have been rather silent in their support of the rank-and-file, but that was sadly expected.

As what is a direct result of this disproportionate attention, it is highly likely that police officers’ morale will nosedive. That’s before we even see what is in store for us with Winsor Pt 2 and the Hutton Report into pensions. I fear the discontent will only increase in parade rooms around the country.

Due to this perceived lack of government and senior leadership support, there seems to be an emergence of a distinct attitude change amongst officers, that see their good work going completely unrecognised. Throw into the mix the regular “Bobby-bashing” due to contentious issues such as the riots, stop and search, use of force, Taser etc, and it’s not hard to understand why the police are so aggrieved.

Work on any team (but especially on a response group as I do), relies on the ability to work efficiently. When I was a probationer, but during my independent phase (where no Tutor Constable was directly responsible for me) I found myself bogged down with unresolved cases. I spoke to a very senior constable on my shift at the time. I’ll call him Steve. He told me that when he was in my position, a long time ago, he had a similar conversation with a senior copper also. History, it seemed was repeating itself. This senior constable imparted the following:

“Steve, if you were to deal with every job that came in, no-one would ever get a result. Your job is not only to investigate, but to filter out some of the, quite frankly, crap jobs that come our way to deal with. Think of all these jobs raining upon you from up high. You my friend, are the filter, a colander if you will, to make sure only the real jobs, the one’s that will see the inside of a court room, get dealt with. The key is to be good at this filtering process. Be the colander, Steve.”

When this was relayed to me, I initially tried my hardest not to picture the young student at the beginning of the film, “Enter The Dragon”, who is spoken to by Bruce Lee “focus on the finger and you will miss all that heavenly glory“. I digress.

It struck a chord with me then as it does today. There are literally thousands of incidents reported to the police daily in every borough or district. If all were investigated to the ‘nth degree, with what resources we have available (which are rapidly dwindling as a result of the cuts), the system would soon grind to a halt. There was some debate on my Twitter timeline (as well as on my shift), but the consensus is that if all officers were to “Work To Rule” then it would take between 24-48 hours before the system buckled. Immediate incidents (those which either have an offender still on scene, or there is potential for the loss of life or limb or damage of property) usually get attended on blue lights within a target time of 15 minutes. Violent Domestics, pub-fights, suicidal persons, those armed with a weapon, etc would all go without response, because the limited resources would be busy with investigative processes from previous jobs. The problems are there for all to see.

I stated in a tweet not long ago, that I was going to conduct an experiment at my district when I was next on shift. I was going to “Work to Rule” for (only) the FIRST job I dealt with. It came in as an “assault” but was more a public order issue.

An assault, by its legal definition, does not have to include any physical contact. Technically, that is battery. An assault does not need to include a battery as the definition states:

“An assault is any intentional or reckless act, which is likely to cause another person the apprehension of immediate and unlawful violence”.

In this case, the caller was “assaulted” but no physical contact took place. Digressing slightly, I know that serving police officers would suggest that the offence now should be dealt with under Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (fear or provocation of unlawful violence). I agree. But I was working to rule, this was an experiment in effectively being a robot and not applying common sense or experience to the situation. The “assault” would be investigated as such.

Essentially, the male caller (who was very well-known to police and had a history of violent offences against him), was suggesting that a pair of males, who he did not know, had pulled up in a vehicle, which he did not recognise or remember and attempted to hit him with an iron bar. Oh, and it was completely unprovoked. Mmm……..

Despite my initial (and prevailing) scepticism, I took the report, much to the chagrin of my colleague. I had told her what my experiment entailed, but I don’t think she believed I was going to take details of this “crime” on the basis of the incredible information we had been given so far. I stayed focussed on “the experiment”.

After dropping my colleague off at the station (luckily she had some important paperwork to catch up on) I continued my enquiries. Usually, I would canvass any witnesses immediately and look for CCTV in the area. If for nothing else in this case to disprove the frankly unbelievable story our caller was reporting. A severe telling off, or even a process for wasting police time/public order offence would have resulted. I continued on like an automaton and did CCTV and house-to-house enquiries the entire length of the street, taking detailed statements or pocket notebook entries from the occupants, depending on what they could add. It took hours. And both the control room and my supervisor were getting rather annoyed as to why it was taking so long to finalize a very simple job, with no damage or injury, that, on the balance of probabilities did not amount to a crime.

All in all, it took almost the entire 8 hour shift to finalize what I knew in the beginning. With no independent witness, no CCTV, no forensic opportunities and an incredible account from the caller, the crime (yes, I recorded an assault-much to the dismay of the Crime Recording Bureau) was filed as undetected. 8 hours wasted in what could have been sorted within 10 minutes. A bullshit story disproven (or at the very least uncorroborated) a look for CCTV, talk with local witnesses and a warning to the caller that he risked arrest in future if he was to lie to the police when we attended an immediate response.

My experiment showed me two things. Firstly, despite my insistence that I would only deal with that incident until it’s conclusion, I relented, because I’m not a robot and when other jobs came in I did attend, even if only in the first instance. Why? Because I don’t want the public to suffer as a result of work practices, bureaucracy and politics. The second thing I realised, rather than learnt, is that working to rule will never work, because we in the police adopt a “can-do” attitude, as do HM Forces and the NHS. Despite what is thrown at us, we will carry on regardless, because that’s what we do and the type of people we are, and because of this, the government (in my opinion of course) has chosen us as the focus for the most savage cuts. They know we will carry on regardless.

The breaking point the police will surely come to soon, will not be as a result of their work ethic or work practices, but from a lack of resources that the government seem determined to reduce further. When that happens and there is nothing left in the bank (financially and spiritually), and it all goes horribly wrong, I hope you will know who’s door you need to bang on to register a complaint.

Stay safe.

RB.

Visibility. Is this really what the public want?

The Government have spoken, apparently on behalf of the public. They want to see more bobbies on the beat. We need to be more visible and available to the public. Sounds simple enough, but what does being visible and available REALLY mean? And IS that what the public really want?

As a Probationer (sorry, Student Officer) I was often instructed to walk the beat in my local town centre. Also, when serving on a Local Neighbourhood Policing Team, I often did my enquiries on foot (saved time actually, my beat being so close to the station). One of the things that struck me about these times was when, on a very regular basis, I was asked “What’s happened?” or “What’s going/gone on?” The first few times this happened, I was somewhat perplexed. “Nothing” I’d reply. I remember asking my Tutor Constable the first time it happened. “They see a copper, and they automatically assume you are here to deal with something, that something is up. Look at their faces, they’re nervous.” It stuck with me for a while, but got me thinking.

When I was a regular civilian (never been one actually after over a decade in the Armed Forces, but I digress) I would often rubber neck at beat cars pulled up at the side of the road and try and quickly ascertain what was going on. I even do it now; I don’t work the area I live and whenever I see a police car at my local shops I often wonder- ASB? Shoplifter? Fraud? Assault? It never initially crosses my mind that the officers may just be popping into the shop to pick up some lunch.

Which had me thinking. DO the public actually want us visible, as it seems to make them a little nervous at best?

Sir Robert Peel’s 9th principle stated:

“The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

Not quite “Its not the numbers of bobbies on the beat but what they are doing that counts.” But it’s near enough.

Crime in my force area has dropped year on year for over two decades. Now, the sceptics amongst you may think that has to do with crime recording figures, statistics and Home Office Counting Rules. Well, if that’s what you want to think, then who am I to argue, but in the absence of any real evidence to the contrary, when it comes to reducing crime, we are essentially doing an effective job.

So what of this visibility? Assurance of the crime stats is obviously not enough to allay any concerns of the public, so it seems that visibility is not necessarily about what the public want, but what the government thinks they want (I would suggest they haven’t asked otherwise they would’ve been told the public do not want to see police numbers cut, but that’s another blog).

“Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs.”

Sir Robert again.

Management of resources are a key factor in good policing, any officer from the rank of Sergeant and above will tell you. There is never enough. We always want more and we can never get them (officers, that is). So deployment is key. It’s one of the few things I actually agree with Blair Gibbs on. Gibbs is the head of “The country’s leading think-tank on Crime and Policing” – The Policy Exchange. A bunch of people lead by someone who has no policing experience, who bases his opinions and theories on “studies” and “research” rather than any real-world, coal-face experiences. Nor does it seems he consults with anyone who has, which would at least enable his opinions to be considered and balanced. When it comes to cutting numbers, Gibbs uses the overused tagline “Deployment, not employment.” I agree, almost.

The frontline has been barely defined by government after the fallout of the Winsor Report recommendations. But ultimately anyone with any direct contact with the public would be classed as “frontline” (this is a very simplified version of what the government took a very long paragraph to define). Being frontline, therefore, is not synonymous with being visible-call handlers are a perfect example.

So how is it I agree with Gibbs? After all, it’s fairly evident that I believe his ideas to be ridiculous at best and potentially dangerous if some were implemented (officers travelling to and from work in all their uniform, including PPE anyone?) One of the key factors in good policing IS about deployment. But that does not necessarily mean we (dare I say it?) pander to the public on where and when we are deployed. The police have access to information and intelligence that the public, quite rightly, do not and sometimes should not have access to. This may lead us to deploy our finite resources into areas that the public have not expressed an interest for us to heavily police. So shall we pander, or shall we consider, and make judgement based on all the information available to us? You guessed it….

A sergeant of mine very recently told me that the problem of the police today, was that we ran our “business” like a sales firm, placing the satisfaction of the customer above all else, including the principles that Peel set out all those years ago.

Principle 5-

“Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”

Sometimes that impartial service requires being OFF the streets. Even for a response officer like myself. Viewing and seizing CCTV, interviews of suspects, victims and witnesses, submitting forensic samples, liaising with partner agencies, consulting with CPS, the list goes on. All of which are done out of sight of the public, well away from the “frontline” but without which, no offender would ever be brought before the courts.

In a similar vein to that discussed above, availability is another key area the government fails to understand. Cutting bureaucracy can only achieve so much. The Stop/Search form takes me three minutes to fill out. If by not requiring this, Mrs May and Mr Herbert think that, all of a sudden, I’ll be back on the streets in a record time, they are wildly deluded. (Unlikely to happen now anyway in the wake of the #readingtheriots) The facts are this, the time consuming tasks sometimes CANNOT be speeded up. House searches, seizing clothing from suspects and victims all take the time that they take. And make no mistake, statute requirements for evidence will only tighten in the months and years to come, not slacken, as more case law is introduced, effectively dictating the standards for subsequent cases.

Once dealing, you are out of the game. How long for depends upon the job, but even a simple shoplifter, with a full admission at the scene, can take anything up to three hours to deal with (and that’s optimistic in most cases). Booking in the prisoner (long time if custody is busy), fingerprints, DNA, trigger offence drug test, SMARTWATER check, shoes seized and “printed” (we can detect crimes by the shoes “fingerprint”-actually the sole imprint), house search, evidence disclosure, interview (with a solicitor, interpreter and appropriate adult in some cases), consultation with the custody staff, charge and file build. For a very simple offence. Best of luck with trying to cut the bureaucracy Theresa…

So back to my original question, do the public want to see more bobbies on the beat? Some would say yes, but without really knowing what goes on behind the scenes, is that opinion really that informed? I’ll leave that one to you.