Thursday, April 27, 2006

Missed it, but never mind...

...the whole 'Dispatches' programme went over my head today, for I was doing actual police work whilst it was on. Having read around, though, the show would be more aptly titled 'Despatches', because of the likely knock-on effects, if not for Hobson herself but for her ex-colleagues.

I spent most of today around an area notorious for a huge spate of Burglary Dwellings, which has been a severe thorn in our collective sides of late. Everything logical and rational that we've tried has failed to curb the epidemic. We locked up people who were wanted for burglary and found in that area, but still the crimes were happening. We arrested people we'd occasionally find caught in the act, but with limited success on the actual crime figures. We've had plain clothes operations in place, high visibility preventative patrols and have paid as much attention to the area as our very limited resources allow, at the times in which the offences are usually committed, yet still the offenders are eluding us. Personally I'm down there whenever I'm free and speak to anyone even remotely suspicious or out of place (who are suprisingly compliant after explaining the reasons why). It's infuriating, as we've put as much effort as we possibly can into this, yet are not stopping the problem entirely.

Personally I think the people committing it are not from (or at least don't live on) the area, but know the area well. The MO in terms of what is stolen reads like a standard burglary job - small yet valuable items that are easily concealable and transportable (digital cameras; laptops; jewellery etc.), so it's unlikely that places are being targetted for property that is being stolen to order, which probably rules out organised groups. With limited resources, we simply cannot put officers out there, either in plain clothes or uniform, 24/7, and since the times the jobs come in seem to vary, with different MOs, it's either different offenders, or an unusually clever burglar who is deliberately scattering the times and MOs so as to keep us on our toes.

My suggested solution is to vastly improve the limited CCTV coverage of the area. When a burglary does occur, footage for the previous hour or so before the burglary, and the 5 or 10 minutes immediately after should be pulled off the system and trawled through, hopefully yielding at least a few shots of the likely culprit(s). The images can then be circulated on our division and elsewhere, with the hope that an eagle-eyed officer will recognise and identify the person/people involed, whom we can then retrieve a list of their known addresses, associates and other intelligence and then pick up. It's labour-intensive but if it brings about the cessation of these burglaries it will be time and money well spent.

I sometimes take it quite personally if I've been working in an area in which a crime has been committed whilst I was nearby. Even if the reality is that there was nothing more I could have done to either prevent the crime or apprehend the offender, I am beset with a feeling of frustration and a sense of futility in my ability to do the job, which usually spurs me on with a renewed determination to get the reprobates who are making people's lives a misery. Unfortunately, as I'm usually on foot in the area it limits my potential effectiveness and deployability - I can just do the best I'm able to. It will pay off sooner or later.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

With such utter incompetence at the top... it any real wonder that this country is in such a state of rapid decay? 1,023 foreign prisoners released without deportation, and the Home Secretary outright admits that the Home Office cocked up (but uses casual language to try to minimise the potential damage of the confession - the Home Office "took its eye off the ball".

Some comments on parts of the article:

1. "Charles Clarke said he did not know where most of the people, who include three murderers and nine rapists, were." - well that's bloody reassuring. Not only were they released improperly but their whereabouts are unknown. Do people not verify small details like, oh I don't know, addresses given on release?

2. "Mr Clarke said the 1,023 prisoners, who were released between February 1999 and last month, should have been considered for deportation or removal." - With the costs of keeping someone in prison ranging between £23,000-£30,000 a year, paid for by the taxpayer, that's £23.52 million to keep all of them in for one year alone at the cheapest
end of the scale! Thus your tax money is going towards the upkeep of people who are not only criminals but often don't even have the right to be in the country in the first place!

3. "The Home Office later revealed that of those, 288 were released from prison between August 2005 and March - suggesting the problem continued after it had been raised with the government.

The National Audit Office told ministers last July that preparations to remove foreign criminals from the UK should begin "much earlier" and not be left until the end of their prison sentences." - So even though the Home Office were aware of the
issue, it still continued for over 7 months. It doesn't begin to justify thecomments below by the Home Office lackey.

4. "On Tuesday evening a Home Office spokesman said: "Additional resources were directed to this, but the system continued to identify more cases than we could consider.

"Now there are sufficient resources, and we are confident no further convicted foreign nationals will be released in this way." - hear that, folks? You can all breathe a sigh of relief. The coast is clear. After the release into the wild of 1,023 criminals over 7 years for a variety of offences including murder, rape and burglary, the Home Office has FINALLY acknowledged there is a problem and has put sufficient resources in place. All hail our wise and efficient government, able to contain a problem and stop it from getting worse over a protracted period of time. No doubt the extra resources were attending 9-week diversity courses at the time, unable to be allocated to anything else until that was completed.

5. "Mr Clarke had said the failure leading to the 1,023 releases was "deeply regrettable" and conceded that people would be angered by the oversight." - once again, a total lack of an outright apology and the deployment of both understatement and meta-language to cushion the blow. There's a one-off oversight, then there's 1,023 "oversights" over seven years, which is more colloquialy known as "sheer bloody incompetence".

Some will inevitably be angry over this, others may end up dead as the murders, rapists and burglars exploit their newfound freedom and reoffend at the cost of the same taxpayers who paid for their upkeep whilst inside, of a country they didn't even have the right to be in, safe in the knowledge that if they do, they'll probably get assigned more rights and protection than the victims and their families. Isn't Britain a wonderful place to be!

6. "So far the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) has located 107 of the total, leading to 20 deportations." - so of a roughly 10% recapture rate, there's a 18% deportation rate within that already pathetic number. Fills you with hope and confidence doesn't it!

7. "Among the offenders, five had been convicted of committing sex offences on children, seven had served time for other sex offences, 57 for violent offences and two for manslaughter.

There were also 41 burglars, 20 drug importers, 54 convicted of assault and 27 of indecent assault." - clearly some fine upstanding potential citizens then that our shores have been accommdating at the taxpayers expense, and that are now roaming free without anyone knowing where they are.

8. "The Home Office said it did not have full details of offences committed by more than 100 of the criminals, but 237 were failed asylum seekersand 54 were still having their asylum applications considered.

More than 870 were serving at least 12 months and 13 were serving more than 10 years. " - I simply refuse to believe that an administration that is noted for its obssession with audit, bureaucracy and ensuring EVERYTHING is written down cannot hold full details on over hundred people held in the prison system. The figures once again show that more should have been done to keep track of them. These are not petty criminals, with the majority serving over a year's worth of custodial sentences at least.

9. "Pressed by the BBC to explain why he should not resign, Mr Clarke said: "I certainly don't think I have a duty to the public to go - I have a duty to sort this out.

"It is a massive issue and it's true to say, with the vast growth of foreign national prisoners, we took our eye off the ball.

"The first priority at this moment is to get the situation under control - that is what I'm focusing on.

"We don't know exactly where everybody is ... I know where about 100 of those 1,000 now are and we are going through the most urgent cases." - does this mean he'll resign AFTER it's been sorted out? After all, in any other industry, and indeed in the public sector itself, most people would be getting the boot for such a monumental screw-up over such a long-period of time, ESPECIALLY as it continued happening even on his watch when he was aware of it, in spite of the Opposition's argument that he doesn't need to go.

10. "Mr Clarke, who is likely to make a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, following calls by Speaker Michael Martin, said the Prison Service and IND had "failed to carry out their responsibilities in the way they ought to
have done".

But he said both had taken steps "to lead me to be confident that it is now being done properly"." - well thank God for that then. I mean, it's only taken seven years.

Finally, Downing Street add their voice of concern to the issue:

11. "Downing Street says Tony Blair has "full confidence" in both Mr Clarke and Mr McNulty.

"It is unreasonable to expect ministers to know what is going on in every nook and cranny in their department," said Mr Blair's official spokesman." - yes, because the prolonged failure of the system to keep accurate records of the crimes of foreign criminals; failing to process their release and subsequent deportation properly, and for it to continue even after the Home Office were alerted to the matter is just a 'nook and cranny', a trivial matter that the Secretary need not concern himself with.

Blair's line is bollocks and he knows it - under the doctrine of Individual Ministerial Responsibility, a minister MUST take full responsibility for what goes on in his department, and cannot claim ignorance or lack of knowledge of what goes on as an excuse. In Clarke's defence, he isn't trying to, so why is Blair's spokesman trying that one?

Methinks the government is quite embarrassed that this became public.

I shall be leaving this country in the near future - and I won't be shedding a single tear! When you read about people at the top making mistakes like this, you really do wonder if what you do at the bottom is making even the slightest bit of difference in the long term and in the grand scheme of things. I've reluctantly accepted that it hasn't and doesn't, and am slowly biding my time until I emigrate. Sadly I think there's not much hope left for this country - when you've got a government that can't even manage decline properly, you know things are screwed!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
Starting out? - Part One

I have recently received a few e-mails from people just starting out in the job asking various questions. So, I thought I'd write a post with some tips and advice for new officers.

The first essential recommendation would be that the new or potential recruit undergoes a full psychiatric assessment and head examination. Why? You'd have to be mad to join the job from scratch right now!

One of the big reasons for this is the new pension scheme, which, compared to the old one, royally shafts new recruits.


Old scheme:

30 years maximum pensionable service
Increased accrual after 20 years
Additional Voluntary Contributions
2/3 final salary
11% contributions
Minimum pension age of 50

New scheme:

35 years maximum pensionable service
Same accrual rate throughout
1/2 final salary
9-9.5% contributions
Minimum pension age of 55

So as you can see, the new scheme is quite harsh compared to the old one, and is better suited for younger joiners, in their early 20s. If you're older than that, you won't be retiring in your early 50s! It's still better than most private sector pensions, but compared to what it used to be it's quite a bad plan if you've only just joined.

There's also rumour of plans to look at doing what American forces, particularly the LAPD do, and hire police officers on five year contracts. It's not for life anymore, is this job!

Other tips would have to include basic ones like "don't leave your kit lying around". It'll go missing, and that's even if your collar number is all of it. You can leave money lying around, that's not a problem, for it won't vanish into thin air. Maybe officers feel that, as all issued kit officially remains the property of the Force/Service, it's merely redistribution, rather than theft.

Issued kit does the job just fine, and there's no need to buy anything to complement it. You can tell who the over-enthusiastic regs and Specials are, because they have belts and body armour full of excessive, never-to-be-used kit, looking like a poster boy or girl for Niton. Personally, I've managed to get my belt kit down to the essentials - baton, cuffs and CS spray. As you go through your career, you'll continue "optimising" what and how much you carry:

You: "You're under arrest"

Offender: "It's a fair cop, guv. You gonna handcuff me then?"

You: "Nah, I didn't see the need for carrying stuff like that anymore - I've felt light as a feather since then! Now come with me whilst I find a phone box and dial 999 to get a van for you. Whilst were at it, can I borrow a pen and a piece of paper to write your details down?"

From personal and shared experiences, getting anything from anyone in the job is like getting blood out of a stone, especially clothing and equipment stores. They hold on to equipment like they paid for it out of their own pocket, and short of having the Chief Constable accompany you for each visit, you'll be fighting an uphill battle for even so much as a new pair of trousers:

Clothing Stores: "Have you got the requisition form?"
You: "Yes, here it is - double-signed; dated; printed in triplicate; perfect autography; double-checked item numbers and sealed in blood. I hope it's to your specifications"

CS: "This isn't f0r a pair of standard black police trousers is it?"

You: "No, it's for non-standard pink trousers with flamboyant orange polka-dots. Of course it's for a bloody pair of black trousers!"

CS: "Well we changed our catalogue last week and your skipper has put the order code in for the undercover clown costume. It's all been signed and sealed so we won't be accepting any amendments whatsoever. You'll need to get another requisition form with the right code on it I'm afraid"

At this point, a 999 call is usually made for a police officer assaulting a member of aforesaid department. Description of the offender is a male dressed as a clown...

I'll think of some others when I'm in a more serious mood. I'm off to fantasise about what it would be like doing public order patrol on a Saturday night in an oversized yet brightly-coloured outfit...

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

St. George's Day...

...was today, for those who didn't know, for those who knew and didn't care, or those who were getting drunk but not quite sure why.

Quite aside from the absurdity of a national day being marked by celebrating in the name of a patron saint who not only never set foot in England, but is also the Patron Saint of Aragon; Lithuania; Palestine; Portugal; Germany; Greece; Moscow; Istanbul; Genoa and Venice (bless the English - so little left to identify with that an identity has been formed out of lacking an identity, and they share their patron saint with many others), the day is traditionally marked by the far-right barging in and making a nuisance of themselves. Today was no exception.

Whilst the majority of people either didn't celebrate at all, or celebrated in a non-aggressive and peaceful manner, a fair few known BNP, NF and associated hangers-on decided to go into our area and cause some trouble, which partly involved whipping drunk patriots into a xenophobia-based frenzy. They then acted in shock and disbelief when half the division turned up to ensure they left the area without any trouble.

We were accused of "letting the immigrants come in and take over the country" (because apparently there's a direct correlation between closing a pub to prevent serious public disorder and the central government's immigration policies); "having nothing better to do" (we're on top of our rape and murder cases you see); "picking on us 'cos we're English and celebrating our national day" (see, even ethnic majorities complain of discrimination - the police have finally achieved diversity - we discriminate against everyone) and "in need of a life" (no argument there). Apparently, also, "you lot don't do this for them Asians during their Eid thing" (ignoring the fact that we normally have an increased presence whenever there's Eid). The people telling me this were the same ones doing Nazi salutes and offensive chants as young families were walking past.

An hour later, the pub had a far more friendly crowd inside. Meanwhile, the troublemakers had done the rounds of other venues and found themselves singularly refused entry, or soon kicked out if they did get in.

Makes me proud to be English, do those people.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
A wild fantasy crowd control solution...

for Friday and Saturday nights. A lot of town and centres usually have clubs in clusters, or along a street (think Saucciehall Street in Glasgow, for example).

Come kicking out time, a mobile machine of some sort should be positioned at the bottom of the street, and emit a curtain of very powerful air that takes up the width of the street and ushers people further up the street, but is too strong to breach if people try and get past it.

Slowly, this curtain of air pushes the drunken revellers further up the street, so they don't congregate and fight over taxis or whatever. Eventually, it gets to the top, where there's hundreds of taxis waiting, more than enough for most town and city centres, and people get home quickly and easily and without risk of being killed.

Everybody wins here - the air is free and renewable, so it doesn't drain on resources; it'd be relatively cheap; it doesn't hurt people and people don't get hurt from it, plus it wouldn't require as many yellow jackets on the street.

If people are getting lairy, then the machine should also be able to serve as a water cannon, and as a flamethrower tank for the REALLY violent. That'll make them think twice about causing problems if a big wall of flame is behind them!

The idea would never work in practice, of course. It'd be audited to death and there'd eventually be a human rights challenge, resulting in the machine being withdrawn because the force would be too scared to contest the challenge for fear of bad publicity.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hands off!

Added a copyright message to each post after I found out that a journalist nicked one of my posts and cut most of the content of it so it makes me look bad. Journalists - never trust them!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
That's just a risk you'll have to take...

Recent change in orders means that we're to be single crewed wherever possible. The rationale for this is research stats that show in 85% of cases where officers were assaulted, the officer was paired up, and that the chances of being assaulted at a job are one in one hundred thousand (or something like that). The management logic, therefore, is that if we're single crewed, we've got only a 25% chance of being assaulted, which is more 'acceptable'. If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry, 'cos I don't think it makes sense to anyone else either!

Now there's a couple of problems with this management logic. First, the theory is that if you're single-crewed, you don't attend jobs like violent domestics or fights, unless there's backup, which immediately means that, unlike a double-crewed unit, the risk of being assaulted has decreased. They've probably counted officers assaulted when single-crewed who had backup into the stats, in which case, of course it's less likely that you'll be assaulted when single-crewed in these circumstances, because you'll have at least two other officers with you, as they're sent as a matter of course to certain jobs. If you goto a job and you're double-crewed, you'll be left to it unless you specifically request extra patrols.

The other problem is that since they'll now be sending two or more single-crewed units to a job, instead of one double-crewed unit, we're still going to have a lack of resources to deal with incidents because a lot of them will still tie up at least two officers, be it one or two vehicles.

But, hey! Look on the good side - we've only got a 25% chance of being assaulted if we're faced with someone being hostile towards us an we're on our tod. And it gives the public the impression that there's more police on the streets (when there's not - it's the same amount but in more vehicles). And if you have two or three cars turn up to a job you phoned in, you'll feel reassured that your're being taken seriously.

I wonder how this will work for prisoner transport, when a single-crewed officer turns up to a job in a van with a cage and needs another officer to jump in so they can transport to custody (we're not allowed to transport single-crewed)? Will the second officer have to leave their car at the scene?

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Dial 999 yourself officer"

No disrespect to Diary of a Police Dispatcher, but there are some times when dispatchers/radio operators can beggar belief. This incident, and the other one I'm going to tell you about, both happened on the same division, which is not the one I regularly work on, but over different periods.

The first one did, in fact, happen on the shit I was referring to in my "Why the f*** do I still do this job" post. I neglected to mention it because I was more frustrated and irritated by other elements of that shift. I've resignedly accepted what I'm writing about, although it's only happened twice so far, thus didn't think anything of it when authoring my previous post.

NB: Airwave radios that are personal issue have telephony, insofar as they can dial normal telephone numbers. The alternative to personal issue is pool issue, when radios are in for repair etc. The pool radios do not have telephony capabilities (probably because they can't be audited to each individual user).

On this shift, we ended up, during a rare spot of patrol, on the divisional border. In an industrial area my colleague and I could see that a skip was on fire. I changed my radio channel to the talkgroup that covers that division, and shouted up (on this shift I had a pool radio). I was initially told to wait as comms were busy, then they let me proceed. The conversation went like this:

"There's a skip on fire at xxxx Industries, on xxxxx Road. Could you please call the fire brigade out to this location?"
"Negative. We're far too busy. Can you please dial 999 yourself using your radio telephony?"
*A slight pause as I think "What the hell did you just say?"*
"Negative, I don't have telephony on my pool radio."

The answer to that, in as many rather curt words, was that would I mind dialling 999 on my mobile then or getting my colleague to do it on his personal issue radio, as they were just far too busy up there at the moment. Perhaps they'd like me to run up and down the street waving my arms wildly and shout "FIRE! FIRE!" instead?

My colleague was shocked as he'd never experienced this before, and ended up changing back to our normal channel to shout up a job on a different division, because the operators on the division that should have done it refused to.

It wouldn't be as bad if it was only a one-off. But it's happened before too!

Some months back I worked an operation that involved foot patrol on the same division this incident occurred on, as the operation was run over two divisions. It's good to have a change of scenery. We came across a male with breathing difficulties, so I shouted up comms and asked for an ambulance. Again, I was told that they were far too busy and would I mind contacting 999 some other way.

The end result of that one was, on a busy road during a busy time, motorists would have witnessed the sight of two officers in (relatively) expensive kit, in possession of the most advanced radio and communications technology for many years, doing exactly what the personal radio was meant to bring an end to - taking time out to contact another emergency service, time which could have been spent assisting with the said emergency. Having a personal mobile phone at all times is not optional, it's essential!

It probably isn't entirely the fault of the dispatchers, and it's entirely likely that they're that snowed under and subject to such infintessimal bureaucracy they don't even have a second to breathe. But patrol officers are reliant on radio operators for the performance of certain tasks when on the street. Operators are, in effect, the lifeline of the officer. So when you are told to dial 999 yourself not once, but twice, it does shake your faith in the support network that is supposed to help you.

Thus, the next time you see an officer on their mobile phone in the street, don't automatically think that they're unprofessional and making a social call. The sad truth is that there's a very real possibility they are calling out the ambulance or fire brigade to a job.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 14, 2006

You've got mail!

A contact in another force recently inquired as to whether or not their force had a policy on blogging. They replied, eventually, saying they did not, but replied with a 2 page letter citing, chapter and verse, several statues; case law; Code of Conduct and force policy on disclosure, confidentiality etc.

And this is the kicker, one of the final paragraphs:

"Thus, any officers found to be inapproriately discussing their work activities will be breaching the above legislation and policies and action will be taken accordingly."

I've interpreted that for what it is - a "don't even think about blogging" warning.

Just because the Force may not like the idea of officers discussing their work activities does not automatically make it 'inappropriate', for such a term is very subjective. Furthermore, 'inappropriate' does not, as they seem to impute here, mean it will necessarily be in breach of legislation either.

Perhaps I'll start blogging with stuff forces want to hear, along these lines:

"Today, thanks to my Force's revolutionary new Innovative Policing Strategy, I was strategically tasked to combat anti-social behaviour, an issue that is blighting the good citizens of the force area and is a top priority for the force to combat. Through effective deployment of a new experimental method of behaviour control and processing of offenders, I was able to overcome the obstacles faced by this challenge and take the low-hanging fruit which enabled enhanced service delivery, measured in performance management terms. Through engaging with multi-agency partnerships and Key Strategic Long Term Overviews, my role as a police officer was able to be discharged with professionalism, valour, courtesy and with a big healthy dollop of diversity for good measure. And it had nothing at all to do with chasing detections, honest."


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Why the f*** do I still do this job?

Have just drafted my resignation notice, partly to let off steam. I haven't handed it in yet but after several years this is the closest I've been to throwing in the towel.

This blog serves as a great way of venting and also informing the public at the same time, but this shift I've just come off was an absolute farce by any reasonable standard, which if it wasn't true would be funny. This story's got it all - senior management overreacting; pointless bureaucracy and more or less the final straw to this laughable joke of a 'job'.

Nearing the end of a 10 hour shift, we are informed an hour beforehand that, owing to the larger-than-expected number of people in the entertainment areas, we may be kept on in case something happens.

For a start, how can this be larger "than expected"? It's the Thursday before Good Friday, a public holiday. A lot of people will have been paid, and don't have to goto work for (in some cases) several days. Logically, therefore, there's always a lot of people out on this particular Thursday night. Surprisingly, this pattern on the calendar and on the streets has emerged over many, many years, so how the bloody hell can numbers be larger "than expected"?

I've already had a rubbish shift, dealing with half-arsed handovers by officers who really aren't too bothered about little details like statements that contain the bare minimum of information. And why should they be? They'll never have to deal with the job again, and their supervision won't reprimand them for neglecting to do their job properly, no matter how much we complain. They can get away with it, so they do. So the poor sod lumbered with the handover more or less has to start from scratch.

We were told that a decision as to whether or not to stay on would be made half an hour before we were due to finish, by the covering Sergeant. Sergeants don't normally have this authority. However, in this case, our erstwhile off-duty Chief Inspector (probably on a night out or something), on seeing a lot of people in areas that have bars and nightclubs, decided that a visible presence should be shown (because, of course, we don't already do that and would never dream of providing yellow jackets in a crowded area, for we are but drones, unable to think for ourselves and unable to remember that we do exactly as the Chief Inspector is suggesting week in, week out, for years at a time), so rang the Sergeant several times over the course of the evening conferring authority to keep the afternoon shift on. Nevermind that there was an overlapping evening shift that could quite adequately provide such a presence; it's a case of the more the merrier, and better to have too many staff on for nothing to happen, than too few for a major incident to occur. Plus he can take the credit if nothing goes wrong, for 'planning ahead'.

Having heard nothing at the agreed time, we head in 10 minutes before we're due to finish, one of our colleagues having gone around the entertainment area; spoken to door staff to ascertain numbers and having reported it back to the covering Sergeant that, actually, numbers in the clubs are quite low, and there really isn't any need for an 'overkill' police presence.

Since we are lowly public servants, and not permitted to use our judgement in any way whatsoever, someone gets in a car and drives around the entertainment district to see for themselves, leaving us in limbo with 5 minutes before the end of our shift not knowing whether or not to stay on. On returning, everyone is brought upstairs and told that, in fact, we ARE to stay on until at least 1.30 am, with us on static points in the entertainment area, and to report back every half hour as to volumes of people/cars etc. It's no surprise that he's keeping us on half an hour extra, it's not like that will cost the budget anything.

Utterly pissed off that we are told 5 minutes before finishing time that we are to stay on for another half hour, unpaid (since the first half hour over a planned finishing time is done for the Queen, grateful public saps that we are), we trudge out and ignore most anything likely to invoke a "ball of shit", or job that will tie us up with paperwork and (un)due process. 1.30am approaches and things seem to quieten down at our point. We report this via radio, yet the Sgt says it's still busy elsewhere and we should stay on until at least 2am. The sinking feeling sets in that supervision have every intention of keeping us until 3am, and thus a full 12 hour tour, just because senior management have, as usual, overreacted to a perfectly expected and manageable situation and have initiated the use of a 50 ton sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut. I expect a full firearms raid on a toy store for selling water pistols next.

At the end of my tether, I am really not in the mood when a fight breaks out across from us. Luckily a lot of us turn up (more than needed as usual, people will down tools to get to an 'adrenaline job') and people are sent packing without any lockups or messy assault allegations we are obliged to follow up on. Unfortunately two males decide to start taunting us and being aggressive, increasing in hostility when challenged. With a large crowd of people still around we can't really leave it, so, begrudgingly, I arrest one of them for s5 Public Order. As I do so, his mate kicks off and starts pushing at me. I pushed him back, and he nearly through, a shop window - luckily he bounced off it onto the pavement, as if he went through I'd have to mess around with boarding up and the associated paperwork - then rolled further onto the road. He gets locked up too. So now I've got two arrests on my hands, an hour and a half after my planned shift finishing time.

At custody they are bedded down and I'm told to write out £80 Fixed Penalty Notices for s.5 Public Order. Fixed Penalty Notices are, theoretically, on-the-spot fines for misdemeanours. Except they're not on-the-spot, as occasionally force policy will change (because if things stay the same for too long in the police then clearly something is wrong and management aren't being "innovative") and decide that we can't be trusted to do things like clear up small matters immediately without creating a large mountain of paperwork. The latest senior management bullsh... idea is to demand that each and every fixed penalty be accompanied by a crime report. Thus, s5 Public Order dealt with by fixed penalty becomes a sanctioned detction, pushing the stats up and resulting in someone who may never have been in trouble with the police before having a record created for them on the computer, and that record associated with being given a Fixed Penalty for s5. Since most s5's are usually violent, they'll end up with a violent marker on the computer as well, which will haunt them for the rest of their lives, even if that s5 moment was a one-off.

There are no crime report sheets left in the drawer, and I tell the custody Sgt that I am not going to fanny about finding any more crime report sheets when I'm heading towards a 14 hour shift and am 4 hours over my finishing time. He agrees and says that as long as I submit the crime reports when I'm next in. I leave, get home and type my resignation notice. It's printed, signed, ink drying and ready to be handed in. I'll probably wait a few days and cool down first.

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SOCPA - One hundred (and one) days on

Well, completely forgetting that yesterday was the 100th day anniversary since the introduction of SOCPA (it's not like I had it marked on a calendar or anything sad like that), I thought I'd give it a passing mention today.

Those who predicted the legislation would lead to a police state in which people were being led away in handcuffs for the most minor and trivial of offences have been proven to be quite wrong. Indeed, I can't recall any shouts on the radio for prisoner transport for people arrested for any offence other than those within the usual run that existed before the legislation.

There's a few possible reasons for this:

1. Most police aren't aware of the full extent of their new powers
2. The existing (pre s.110) arrest powers were and are sufficient for most jobs officers routinely encounter on the street
3. We self-police ourselves as regards the exercise of this power, insofar as the cost (financial, paperwork and resource) of arresting and processing someone for a misdemeanour offsets the legal entitlement to arrest if the arrest meets any of the 'necessary criteria'.

Arguably, though, some misdemeanours (s.5 Public Order) are more arrest-worthy than others (littering), leading to the argument - where do you draw the line on the gravity of offence to arrest for? What factors should be taken into account?

I'm tempted to try something to prove that third point and the above argument. I'll have a think about the viability of it over the next few days. Watch this space...

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Airwave - why a police scanner won't work anymore.

Most police forces in the country now use Airwave, which is provided by o2 and is a digital radio communication system. You can find out more here

Previously, most police forces used standard radio systems, which differed according to each force and which were not based on a national standard. These used to be scannable using a radio scanner, so you often had to talk in code. Furthermore, in a lot of forces, communication normally only occurred between the officer and the radio operator, unless a specific talk-through with other units was requested. So you couldn't hear what your colleagues were up to, if it sounded like they needed any backup etc.

Other problems with the old system were that you couldn't contact another officer's radio directly, and because the channels could be scanned, sensitive information about a job or people involved in a job had to be passed by mobile phone instead, a rather cumbersome method of doing things.

The new systems are digitally encrypted, which means they cannot be scanned or listened to unless you're on the network as well, so we can speak freely, without needing to use code, and sensitive information can be passed across the network. Additionally, the radio channels operate on a 'Group Talk' system, so everyone on a radio channel can hear all transmissions from patrols and the radio operators. This means you can hear what everyone else is up to, whether or not they're likely to need more patrols to their location and what sorts of jobs are ongoing. It's also useful if you ask for directions, as knowledgeable officers can just jump in to the transmission with the right way to get somewhere!

One of the problems with this system, though, is the increase in traffic. Forces structure their radio channels differently. Some, for example, will have one radio channel per subdivision or two, whilst others may have one channel per division for a particular type of department, such as CID or Response or Section/Area. Some also have separate channels for PNC checks. Problems arise with both of these systems. For the latter, on a Friday or Saturday night, a division which has a busy town or city centre will often require a lot of patrols to be in that area to attend jobs or provide backup, and that town or city centre often is its own subdivision. If there's a lot going on, it can sometimes be difficult to get on the air to update comms or do PNC checks. If all patrols allocated to that talk group are busy then either noone is allocated, or free patrols get pulled off other subdivisions, and thus talkgroups covering those subdivisions, creating resourcing issues.

Meanwhile, the problem with having one channel for the division for Response, another for Area/Sector, one for CID etc. is that if a major incident or pre-planned operation occurs on one channel it can often hog the airwaves for a considerable amount of time. Sometimes a new talkgroup will be opened specifically for that incident, other times it will be allowed to run on the original talkgroup. And, again, if a division contains a busy town/city centre, then the other subdivisions may not get a word in edgeways on a busy Friday/Saturday night, especially on the Response Channel. Meanwhile, the PNC channel gets jammed up with queues of officers waiting to check people across the division, and it can be irritating having to change channels to get different things done.

E.g: You as an Area Officer turn up to a job and speak to a potential offender. They're wanted on warrant but you don't know that yet. You have to:

1. Update Comms on the Area channel that you are there
2. Switch to the PNC channel and do a check
3. After finding out they're wanted, switch to the Response channel and request prisoner transport

Each time you switch channels you have to cancel reception of any ongoing traffic, type in the channel number and switch. Try doing this with a radio in one hand and a notebook or handcuffed person in the other!

One fantastic feature of the new Airwave system is the Point To Point feature. This allows you to contact anyone on the Airwave network, which effectively means anyone in the country, if you know their radio number. Just type it in and it acts as a private phone call between you and them. Brilliant for double-checking whether your colleague in the nick wanted Southern or BBQ sauce on their Subway, or your mate on duty in another force. More sensibly, you can use it to ask your supervisor for advice without tying up the main network doing so, or allow a lengthy update or report to be passed to the radio operator without taking up valuable air time.

The radios also allow telephony as well, so rather than asking to use a landline in someone's house or business premises you can use your radio to phone crime reports in, cancel credit cards and the like. It's monitored so that we don't get away with calls to family in Timbuktu at the taxpayer's expense. There's no perks left in this job I tell you!

All they need now is to be able to provide FM radio for those quieter moments in the shifts or when working on files and all will be well!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The state we're in (a long one, but bear with us)

It's no surprise when you read stories like this that members of the public have, are and are continuing to lose faith in the police to look after them.

This is not helped by some forces taking the attitude that 'crime prevention is not our job', and that this area should be the sole responsibility of citizens; businesses; intiatives like Neighbourhood Watch and the trillion-and-one initiatives/partnerships that are set up.

Such an approach not only baffles the public, but would have Sir Robert Peel turning in his grave. After all, his first principle of the 9 Principles is that "The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder."

Unfortuantely, that the prevention of crime is now a low priority is not entirely the fault of the police. It's thanks to the government, and the press in their endless demand for crime figures to make headlines from. I'll elaborate shortly.

Instead of an organisation focused on preventing crime, the police as an institution is now focused on detecting crime, and specifically, crime that is flavour of the month for that particular force, in some cases to the exclusion or de-escalation of the prevention, investigation and detection of such crimes which are not all the rage at the moment.

Let's go through the above news story to highlight the flaws of today's policing system. This is not aimed at GMP in particular. Stories of this nature occur everday in forces across the country. Some are reported in the press, some are not. This one just happens to be on GMP's patch, and the force can't be blamed for what it did or didn't do. It was just collectively following orders.

Each force has what is known as "key crime areas". This translates to crimes that the force is being hammered for, and which they are keen to get on top of, and prioritise any investigation for. Look at any Force's strategy documents, and if you manage to stay awake, you'll eventually identify what their key crimes are. So, if you are a victim of crime and you report it as one of these key crimes, you can guarantee a good response and that your investigation will jump to the top of the queue. Often these key crimes are national anyway.

Leading on from this, forces, and divisions within forces, have 'detection targets'. This means they need to 'detect' a certain number of each type of crime over a set period. If the target is met, it's raised for the next period, which means that even more crimes of this type must be detected, usually within the same period (i.e a higher workload and more pressure). Because shit rolls downhill, everyone from Chief Constable down is under pressure to ensure that these targets are met. If the targets are met, the force, and by extension, the Home Office, and thus Tony Blair, gets good press as they're seen to be 'doing something' about crime.

The logical conclusion therefore is that crimes which are not measured in this way do not receive priority investigation, whilst those which will accrue towards the detections target will. If you are a victim of a crime which isn't a key crime, therefore, you'll just have to wait your turn. It isn't that your crime is any less serious or deserves any less attention, it just doesn't count towards the various divisional or force targets.

So to relate it to this story, Anti-Social Behaviour, in the form of Youths Causing Annoyance, is not a defined crime in and of itself. It could be defined as harrassment, if the offenders are known to the victim, or public order if the youths are REALLY causing problems ongoing as the police turn up, but generally speaking you can't do a Report of Crime for "Youths Causing Annoyance". Therefore, it's not a priority that police turn out, as they're busy working on existing crimes that count towards the detection target, or going to jobs that are likely to result in such crimes being investigated. Why go to a job which doesn't count towards your personal targets or the divisional targets when you can go to one that will get you a few extra ticks in the box? Those youths will always be around anyway so you can come back another time when you're less busy! Most officers, if they do turn up, will just shoo the youths away, result the job as "groups of youths advised and moved on, no offences" and drive off. And why not, it's not as if there's much more they can do!

Sure there's powers to disperse etc. if the area has such powers granted by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, but such powers take ages to put into effect. More often than not, the officers will arrive on scene of a YCA and, unless specific crimes have been committed, will be powerless to do much else other than ask the youths to go elsewhere. ASBOs are regularly breached and I personally think are not often worth the paper they're written on.

Now, combine this situation with NCRS, and you'll see why the two men in this story resorted to taking the law into their own hands, and why they were the ones who ended up being chewed up and spat out by the Criminal 'Justice' System.

NCRS is the National Crime Recording System, and requires that any reported incident likely to be a crime be 'crimed'. This means a crime report is taken and an investigation opened. The days when an officer could dismiss an allegation as a 'ball of shit' (ie absolutely facetious or without any foundation whatsoever) are long gone, and officers who fail to 'crime' something face disciplinary action and may even be sacked.
I've already had my fingers burnt on this one, when I refused to investigate an allegation of assault by a guy who claimed, after I had arrested him for burglary, that a very slight young lady had hit him in the face, causing bruising. Seeing no injuries or any marks whatsoever, I told him I would not be taking him up on that one and explained why. Some weeks later, I was called in to see C&D.

So, as stated before, with the YCA not being a crime in itself, NCRS doesn't come into play, and no officer is obliged to do much about YCA calls other than attend them if they're able to. Understandably, this makes the police look utterly incapable of doing anything about the problem, and to a certain degree that's true. For some youths there's nothing better some of us would like to do than get a few digs in, especially the cockier, gobbier ones, but losing our jobs just ain't worth it.

The two men in this story, quite rightly exasperated by the ongoing situation, ended up arming themselves to defend themselves and assaulted one of the youths. Now here is where the men fall foul of NCRS. Here they have committed two fully crimeable and investigatable offences - carrying an offensive weapon, and s.47 assault (according to the injuries in the article). I can't see much happening with the 'offensive weapons' crimes, but as soon as that youth reported the assault to police, the police were duty bound by NCRS to crime the assault and investigate it, regardless of the fact that the youth was probably one step removed from pond scum and had it coming to him. With s.47 assault usually being a key crime for most forces, there was probably pressure from above to get the offenders locked up ASAP.

Again, another example from personal experience. A grandmother came to our area from the other side of the country to visit family. Whilst her little grandson is asleep upstairs, youths congregate and throw stones at the windows of the house. Grandma comes outside to ask them to leave. The youths surround her and square up to her. Fearing for her safety, she pushes a couple to try and get back in to the house, causing them to fall over. Some of the youths beat her over the head with pool cues. When I take the statement from her in hospital, it's quite clearly self-defence, and this is backed up by family and several witnesses. She's too scared of reprisals to report assault so wants nothing done about it. Meanwhile, over the radio comes a message that one of the youths has turned up at the police station wanting to report an assault. Strictly speaking, someone should have taken the assault report by the youth and arrested the grandmother. Another officer and I made sure the log was written up so as to unequivocally state the grandmother was fully in fear of her safety, if not her life, and the act was wholly for self-defence. As it happened, no officer was free to listen to the youth's sob story, so diddums went home after the unsuccessful little self-indignant attempt to shaft someone who had the balls to stand up to them.

Getting back to the MEN story, our crap-for-brains youth is now officially a 'victim of crime' and deserving of all resources able to be allocated to its detection. Unlike the youths making hell for the citizens of Ramsbottom, the men who had the balls to try and do something about it (and god forbid DEFEND themselves against the little bastards) have committed crimes which are easily solvable and detectable, with the assault probably counting towards a detection target. So it makes life much easier for police to arrest and process the two men rather than focus on the youths. Result = Good Samaritans and good citizenry acts are dissuaded, the public are disgusted and fed up with the police, youths get the message that they truly are invincible and have the full power of the law to protect them whilst they cause havoc, and those who stand up to them will be punished.

There's nothing worse for job satisfaction and morale than taking a victim statement off a teenage worm, that you know full well makes residents of an area quake in their homes, resulting in you having to arrest and process an innocent member of the public who was just fed up of noone seeming to listen or care about their woes. You know this same 'victim' will abuse you the next time you turn up to yet another call of him and his mates causing trouble, yet you have no choice but to go through the motions and investigate the crime.

Some of the public get shocked by these stories - personally I just sigh and carry on - it's yet another example of the law weighted in favour of the offenders and the obssession with meeting stats and targets affecting the very same people that we as an institution are supposed to protect. As previously mentioned, stories like this are a regular occurrence across 'Great' Britain.

It's not all bad, though, for the detected crimes of 'offensive weapons' and 's.47 assault' will go on the stats sheets as 'detected' crimes, making police look like they're effective at detecting crime, which will improve crime stat trends overall, giving the Home Office good press and will generate positive publicity for New Labour and Tony Blair - 'tough on crime, tough on the victims of crime' - so they'll score a few more votes come election time. Thus, they'll end up with yet another mandate to fix the system so that this story can be repeated up and down the country on a regular basis until we end up with civil war. See, everybody wins!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.

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