Sunday, May 28, 2006

Perhaps the police magazine should be renamed?

Considering the current media obsession with 'flavour of the month' knife crime, it's quite ironic that the Home Office's very own pisspoor piece of police propaganda is a magazine called 'The Sharp End'!

As predicted, the knife amnesty is just a futile publicity stunt, and anyone with even a quasi-functional brain will realise that any such amnesties always will be. As I wrote elsewhere, those most likely to use knives are not going to suffer a sudden attack of conscience and hand in the weapons, partly motivated by the fact that they will not be prosecuted if they do. Knives come in all shapes and sizes, are simple to get hold of and can be very easy to conceal, and are the perfect tool for any criminal.

Meanwhile, the media would appear to make out that there has suddenly been an epidemic in stabbings nationwide. I'm inclined to disagree. Knife crime is round about the normal levels, which are frequent anyway. There's two reasons why there's a perceived increase:

1. The knife amnesty, surrounding press and certain high-profile incidents have increased people's awareness of knife crime, as opposed to an increase in knife crime itself. Therefore, people read about nominally reported knife incidents more often than they would have done.

2. The press are giving more attention to knife incidents, quite possibly to show that the amnesty is a waste of time and that serious action needs to be taken. Good on them too, for once.

So what serious action should be taken? Banning sales of knives is a waste of time - people will just import them or get them elsewhere. The punishments for carrying knives should be increased. Possession of a bladed article, without a satisfactory defence (statutory or otherwise) should have a minimum term of five years. This will deter the opportunist criminal, or the criminal normally less inclined to carry a knife but will do so because of the limited punishment currently afforded by the system (I've seen people get small fines and conditional discharges for carrying knives before).

This, however, won't deter the criminal who carries and uses knives on a regular basis. In this instance I suggest that police firearms officers be granted firearms authority against offenders carrying knives. Ultimately, they are life-threatening weapons, are VERY difficult and dangerous to forcibly disarm at close range (so much so that we are not taught knife disarming techniques during training) and present serious threats to all involved. Therefore, if an ARV is able to be called out to a man with a knife, and have authority to use lethal force if need be, then that will also serve to send out a message that carrying a knife has very serious consequences. I'm not saying that it'll end the problem, but it'll at least provide short-term remedies on a job-by-job basis. I can't think of any long-term solutions, and I don't think there are any - we've been using knives and similar instruments for several thousand years. We're not going to end the culture in five.

Thoughts or comments welcome.

(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, May 25, 2006

Imagine the newspapers if drunken cliches prevailed...

"Police in 'doing their job' scandal"

The City of Scallies Police Department was rocked by scandal today, when it was revealed that police officers had arrested someone who had committed a criminal offence.

Said one horrified, utterly sober and sound-minded onlooker: "It was incredible. This guy was minding his own business, just smashing a few windows, when police officers just ... just ... turned up and arrested him!"

Another aggrieved bystander concurred: "I've only had 30 pints tonight and I know exactly what I saw. These cops just harangued this male, and when he started to shout threats of violence at them and wave his arms about, more of them turned up. Then they cuffed him and placed him in a van. It was shocking. The police should not be allowed to get away with this behaviour. They were heavy-handed and over the top."

Police Officers, who are emotionless automatons, singularly funded by direct personal taxation of whoever happens to disagree with them at that particular moment in time, exist to lock up innocent people who haven't done anything wrong.

This case is similar to the shocking incident just a couple of weeks back when a male was arrested for doing nothing more than jokingly poking people in the ribs with a 12 inch machete, which led to similar accusations of heavy handedness when police turned up and put the male on the floor. The outcry at this abuse of power caused ripples amongst the residents of Scally City's Stupid Idiots Estate.

"It's disgraceful - they should be out catching murderers, burglars and muggers, that are committing crimes right now, just around the corner, not wasting their time harrassing innocent people like us" said one scally to us, who wanted to remain nameless as he sped through a red light in a stolen car.

We tracked down a murderer; a burglar and a mugger, and sought their views:

Murderer: "Well, it's been difficult to kill people lately, what with all this CCTV and stuff around everywhere, so I've had to lay low for a bit. I tell you what though, when I do go out and about killing people, I don't get bothered by the police at all - 'cos they're always off dealing with them innocent lads instead. Gives us a right breather that does. Thumbs up to you, Joe Public! Taking one for the team!"

Burglar: "'Cor blimey - it ain't half easy blagging these days, what with them coppers ignoring us to focus on them people who work for a living doing stuff like driving whilst talking on their mobiles. Copped for it the other week though, when I was on the phone to my fence after a blag. I had several grands worth of gear in the back, when I got pulled over 'cos I forgot to use the handsfree."

Mugger: "It's awfully convenient you know - I get to go round and rob people whilst the police busy themselves with those who just want to go out and have a good time. I say, good on you officers! Jolly well done! Only last week, I was looking for a potential target when I saw a group of people around an officer who had just arrested some drunken larrikin for sparring with another in the street. I went up to one fellow, just as he yelled "WHY DON'T YOU CATCH SOME REAL CRIMINALS", and bally well took his jolly wallet and mobile phone then and there. Classic!"

Chief Constable Red Tape sought to assure members of Scally City's Community:

"I assure you all, that we will not be tolerating this kind of behaviour from our officers. Clearly, incidents in which people do not feel they are doing anything wrong are not of a police nature, and officers found arresting people for committing an offence will be severely disciplined.

In fact, in the spirit of diversity, I pledge to you all now that we will not arrest ANYONE, irrespective of sex; race; colour; creed or lifestyle. Now THAT is embracing multiculturalism. After all, if we can't arrest everyone equally, we shouldn't be arresting anyone at all. The days of discriminating based on someone committing a criminal offence are now over.

That is NOT what we are about. It is a supreme waste of time, especially when there's progress reports on status updates of implementation strategies of vision statements of multi-agency initiatives to be done instead!"

Several people arrested for committing criminal offences are considering suing the force for a breach of their Human Rights. Said one anonymous detainee: "It's disgraecful. I have a human right not to be arrested for anything, ever, and this is a flagrant breach of that right. I shall have my day in court, compensation, book deal and line of merchandise!"

(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, May 22, 2006

Elaboration on previous post

I received a comment from a reader, part of which needs elaborating upon:

"However, once a log has been created (after the helpful call staff has asked) stating injuries have occured, we must produce a crime report. There would be hell to pay if we did a skeleton crime report with no MG11. Even if you have all the evidence and m,ade the right decision it takes a brave (or cocky) officer to stand up to the DVU officer or sgt."

PC Midlands has a point - under NCRS recording standards, we should report a crime if one has occurred, even if nobody wants to proceed. There's several ways of going about this:

1. Crime it and file as 'undetected' - this occurs when there's no witnessess, CCTV, decent evidence (forensic or otherwise) or nobody wants to prosecute but we have victim details - this an absolute no-no in the majority of cases, as it will mean that the crime goes undetected and adversely affects performance figures. If you do this but name an offender, you'll have shot yourself in the foot - you will be expected, if not ordered, to go and arrest the offender anyway, so that at least it can be DNPed. It's still not desirable, but it's better than the crime being undetected.

A skillful update on the crime progress page can often square away crimes that might have ordinarily led to protracted and pointless investigations, without even needing to do Option 2. Stuff like "Victim description minimal, would not recognise offender again. Witness information incorrect and unable to contact them. CCTV camera was pointing wrong way at time of offence." I've become quite adept at this.

With this in mind, officers become far less likely to write down possible named offenders on a crime report as it will hopefully mean the crime can be filed and never mither them again. The evidence burden for the likelihood of the named offender and the actual offender for inclusion into the report becomes 'higher', if you catch my drift.

2. DNP it. DNP stands for 'Detected No Proceedings', and means that we would state that have detected the crime, but would not be proceeding with an investigation or proseuction, which then necessitated a checklist of reasons justifying the decision.

Management hated it, as a lot of crimes were DNPed and it didn't make their overall stats look good, and officers would offer the option of DNP to a victim, explaining the benefits of taking that particular course of action. It was my favourite option as it meant we still got the detection but didn't need to bother with a pointless investigation that even the victim didn't want. Plus there wasn't THAT much to write up once you became savvy about how to write it up. So, now, we're not allowed to do DNPs and we HAVE to proceed with crimes wherever possible. It may not go anywhere, but at least it's been detected and proceeded with.

3. "No offences, please close the log accordingly". In the majority of instances, police officers are still trusted to use this resolution information appropriately. Turning up to a report and there's noone on scene, there's no injuries in spite of the log or call saying there were, and clearly no crime has taken place all warrant this resolution code. This is also used when the victim flatly refuses to give any details or co-operate whatsoever - we can't submit a crime report with no victim! This is how the vast majority of weekend night tiffs are resolved, even if there are injuries, as people would much rather weather the aftermath of such altercations than get the police involved. Personally I'm not going to push someone to push charges in these situations.

4. Hand it over - only applicable if you're on an operation, with a specialist unit or have a 'specific remit' and have come across an assault. It means you just take the initial crime report; statement; arrest and process the prisoner and build the basic file, then hand the investigation elements and full file preparation to someone else. I've tried arguing before that my 'specific remit' is real crime, where victims are innocent, have suffered detriment as a result of the crime and are fully willing to co-operate with police.

Sadly, my one-man 'Real Crime Unit' lasted about half an hour when I was advised that there's not enough real crime to go around and far too many undetected trivialities I could be cracking on with.

Any other ways of dealing with these things, please post in comments or e-mail me at - I like hearing new and creative ideas!

Oh, and no, I wouldn't consider going into police training - the thought of spending ages teaching purely theoretical guidelines, some of which originate from an an unelected and unaccountable body that dictates from on high (ACPO) which have little practical application, forgotten within weeks of finishing training, does not particularly appeal to me.

(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.

How to apply force policy - long

Lately I've been increasingly reflective about my time in the Job. I've been comparing how I saw and did things when I was very new, to those same matters and my approach now. Initially, Force Policy, and only Force Policy, was my guide. Now, however, Force Policy is followed, but only in situations where it applies.

Indeed, an officer's interpretation of a situation is often the deciding factor in a particular course of action, not a prescriptive set of guidelines and procedures written from above by those who are under pressure to meet the latest Home Office counting rules. I think if senior managers (I don't call them officers because they are so far removed from what police officers do that they are constables only in name) found this out, they'd be most upset.

An example of this is the latest 'proactive assault' policy. In a similar vein to domestic violence jobs, on high has divinely decreed that we should be looking to make an arrest wherever possible in incidents in which allegations of assault are made, and that all allegations of assault MUST be fully investigated and prosecuted, even if the victim changes their mind.

If this policy were to be unquestionably applied to every situation, you would never see another police officer on patrol in your lifetime again.
"Where are all the police?"
"Investigating about 10 or 11 slaps and shoves in the street that occurred last Saturday. It'll take 'em weeks, y'know".
"But someone got deceived!"
"Sorry, that's not a key crime right now."

When I first started, I would have been enthusiastically following this rule, turning up to, or coming across jobs where allegations of assault were made (the vast majority being neighbour disputes and public drunks) and happily locking up anyone who was alleged to have assaulted someone, even if this mean locking up both parties due to the inevitable counter-allegations. Indeed I see the younger-in-service brigade do this on a regular basis, wasting endless amounts of their time and taxpayer's money putting together prosecution files for which the parties involved will later be vehemently opposed to, but unable to stop. Can't really blame them, they're just following orders, but there are better ways of going about it.

Common sense and disrection would dictate a different approach than just blindly interpreting the letter of the policy and arresting because it says we have to. Common sense and discretion are no longer conducive to modern policing. They are are phased out in training school, to be slowly regained with experience.

First, we see if the policy even applies. Is anyone even making any allegations or has an assault taken place? If there's no allegations and no evidence of assault, all is well.

Next, if there are allegations, is there anything in it? Force policy would say "Doesn't matter, arrest anyway". But if you arrest for assault just on the say-so of one party and nothing else, you're flying in the face of basic police work!
Take the Jeremy Paxman approach, think "Why is this lying bastard lying to me?".
It's well-known that in cases of assault, those involved are rarely innocent or predisposed towards telling the whole truth. Instead, you'll get an account which puts them in the best possible light, whilst putting anyone else in the worst, regardless of what actually happened. It's human nature and there's nothing anyone can do about it. So, with this mindset, look for holes in the story of the victim and physical evidence to support what they are saying. If the story seems to hold up and is consistent, you've probably got as much truth out of them as you can before taking a formal statement. Then speak to the alleged offender.

It's difficult to shake the prejudice one has when speaking to someone who is alleged to have committed a crime, because we are conditioned to oppose those who commit crime. Thus the person making an allegation has an automatic psychological advantage insofar as they are the one with whom we should initially sympathise, having being wronged by exactly the type of person we are obligated to protect against and prosecute. Some people know this and exploit it by making allegations after they've been slapped by someone they've badly provoked. It's vital, therefore, to be impartial and let you own emotions get in the way of a judgement. It doesn't affect you personally, so don't you personally get involved. Often, on speaking to both parties and (eventually) obtaining consistent stories, it's often the case that the roles of victim and offender are reversed from those of the initial reports.

If we have allegations, have we evidence? If someone's alleged to have been punched in the face by a 6"4' male built like a professional wrestler, are they really likely to be stood up, talking to you normally, without even a wince of pain or reddening of the face? Force policy would say "Arrest anyway". Unless one happens to be on their way back home from an abbatoir in full work gear. blood or bleeding from or on anyone is usually a good indicator. Someone on the floor out cold or having difficulty moving can also be a telltale sign. This one should be obvious really. If there's no good evidence whatsoever to match up with any allegations, then it's a safe bet that your prosecution won't get very far, nor will the victim be bothered enough, due to lack of significant injuries, to inconvenience themselves significantly over the coming months by giving statements, doing IDs, testifying etc.

Next, if we have allegations and evidence, is there present a desire to prosecute and a willingness to proceed? Force policy would say "Doesn't matter, arrest anyway". Never EVER ask "Do you want to press charges?". This will inevitably lead to an initial "yes", fuelled by the collective blood pressure of the situation, the alcohol or the loss of face (pun not intended) and bruised ego that an assault inflict on people. These are often more injurious to the victim than the physical injuries, and to regain their perceived sense of status, they will take advantage of this well-intentioned question, only to regret it later. NEVER assume that people want to press charges either. What can often be a serious assault will sometimes be accompanied with an abject refusal to co-operate or comply with the police. If you arrest the offender and try to take the victim through the investigation procedure, they will be un-cooperative and CPS will give you a dirty look as they decide not to prosecute the offence, wondering why you bothered to bring it to their attention in the first place when the victim won't even give a statement. By all means arrest the offender for a serious offence and place them in a secure vehicle at the scene, but ascertain from the victim first whether or not they want to proceed. This leads on to the next paragraph.

If we have evidence, allegations and willingness to proceed with prosecuting the assault, you MUST explain the assault policy to them. This is where many probationers fail, as they just apply the policy without explaining it to the victim. Hell, with the Victim's Charter now law, this is merely an extension and interpretation of the obligation to inform about what you are doing and what you will do. So explain to the victim, on the scene, then and there (if you're able to of course, if they need to goto hospital don't keep them there) that, if they decide to prosecute, they cannot change their mind later on. They can't, a few weeks down the line, decide it's not worth it and request to retract their allegations. They will have to give a detailed statement; have photographs of their injuries taken; be called in to identify the suspects and eventually testify at court. If they don't want to attend, they'll be sumonsed, and the consequences for not attending then really aren't good. Emphasise that it's an initiation of a serious set of events, and not something to be taken lightly whilst nursing injured pride. Don't say "I think you should press charges" or "Mate, just leave it". That's not your call to make. But if you fully explain the procedure, including what will be required on their part, and that it is a road down which they cannot return. If they want time to think about it, you'll have their details, and the offenders (which you have, of course, verified through PNC, local and voter's roll checks), so if they call back the next day and want to proceed then at least it'll be an informed decision. More often than not, in light of this information and their responsibilities therein, they'll decide it's not worth it. You've saved their time, your time and taxpayer's money just by taking the time out to explain something.

The best part of this approach is that you can't be accused of "cuffing" jobs either. In a slightly longer amount of time it takes to cuff a job, you've systematically assessed whether or not there are any substantial allegations, whether or not a crime has even been committed, and if so, whether or not the victim wants to proceed. A couple of sentences in the pocket note book (signed by the victim if need be) and you're got your arse covered so well that not even a crime evaluator could come back at you alleging you've breached force policy by not arresting someone at that job.

Discretion and common sense are being continually eroded, but the pervasive police mentality of "let's find the best way of interpreting and applying this" for any new piece of procedure, bureaucracy or law means that this potentially onerous policy only applies in genuine situations. Thank God for creative thinking. They'll probably issue a force policy against it soon.

(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, May 19, 2006

How to make efficiency savings by cutting back on the numbers of police officers.

A conversation, somewhere in any police station in the UK. Today:

"Do you remember about a year and a half ago you were given a deception to investigate?"

"Yes, sir, I do. I remember being landed with a handover package that wasn't even worth wiping my arse with, meaning I had to start from scratch, retake statements and deal with the entire investigation on my own as there was noone else available to help me, having never dealt with a deception before.

Furthermore, I had to waste half an hour consulting the Evidence Review Officer, and a further hour and a half on CPS consultation, 45 minutes of which was spent waiting outside as there's only one lawyer for the entire division. This wouldn't have been so bad, sir, if all the departments were at the same nick. But instead, I had to book the prisoner in at one station; wait for a lift to the station the ERO is at, which is three miles away and took 30 minutes in rush hour traffic; get a lift back to the station the prisoner was in at to complete the pre-charge file; take the file to CPS, based at a station on the other side of the division, again waiting for a lift as there's no vehicles and nobody thought to provide me with one knowing full well I'd be at this for a while; get charge authorisation; go BACK to the station with the prisoner; charge him; then wait for a lift back to my home station so I could finish! What would have taken an hour if all the facilities were at the same station, took three hours because of travel times, waiting for lifts and general arseing about.

Ultimately, in spite of all this and slaving over a full file, the charge was downgraded from obtaining services by deception to a straightforward theft, at a stroke rendering painstaking hours of work and pages of prosecution file useless. The crime evaluator must have had a personal vendetta against me, because every progress update was returned with an additional piece of bureaucratic process I had to complete, drip-fed to me rather than presented as a straightforwrd "to-do" list, wasting my time and theirs. Finally, I was called in to court on a Rest Day only for my evidence to be agreed at the last minute. All this was whilst being given several other crimes to investigate, updating my outstanding crime queue AND attending urgent jobs when noone else was free. That's several days of my life that I'll never get back, and I'll defenestrate myself before I have to go through such a shambles again".

"Well, congratulations! You're clearly the station expert on deceptions, and have been given the role of 'Deceptions Champion'. Your job is to collate and monitor information on all deceptions that happen on our area, present this information at briefings and to supervision, and find ways of increasing victim awareness and preventing it from happening. Where possible, we'd also like you to be the initial investigator for the deceptions. Yes it is hot in here isn't it - you go ahead and get some air in here. Plus, you'll be asked to work on a multi-agency strategy co-ordination implementation initiative project that...

...where's he gone? Oops - I knew I should have locked that window!"

(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, May 18, 2006

Teaching and tutoring new police officers

When I first started, I was a raw recruit - ridiculously keen and enthusiastic, with a thirst for knowledge. Fresh out of training school, I had memorised law and procedure and was ready to hit the streets.

Unfortunately, that manifested itself as over-confidence in just a short space of time. Having picked up basic process procedures such as issuing producers for drivers; £30 Fixed Penalties for traffic infringements and filling out stop-search forms (as they were then, before they became stop-account/search forms), combined with one or two successful arrests for minor offences with varying degrees of resistance, I was convinced that I knew it all and there was nothing more to it.

A couple of people arguing in the street? John Wayne here would wade in and separate both parties before it got out of control and someone got killed.

Someone's committed an offence? What on earth are we waiting for, let's get in there, arrest them, and try to prosecute for the most serious offence possible!

Being tutored and advised how to do things? Get out of here! I can handle everything on my own. Experience be damned, 'out of the box' thinking by us newbies is how things get done around here!

A few injuries, 'words to the side' and the forecasting of the potential collapse of cases phased this gung-ho attitude out over time.

So it was, then, that when I eventually finished my probation, and unofficially took even newer officers out than I, I could understand where they were coming from when they were answering back and doing things 'their way'. I now also appreciate how bloody irritating it is, and commend my former tutor for not slapping me one on occasion - looking back I couldn't have blamed him if he did!

It's true that with each passing day, you see more and know less. Unfortunately, conferring your experience by way of offering advice or suggestion, but never order or demand, on handling (or, indeed, not handling, if circumstances require) situations to a new probationer often runs in direct competition with unbridled enthusiasm and immersion in this new role they have found themselves in. Enthusiasm usually wins out, often to the detriment of the probationer, who goes away to lick their wounds (both physical and mental) and learn from the experience, be it the incorrect administration of a form or process, which causes a case or ticket to become void, or a making an uninformed decision on the street that inflames what would have been an otherwise manageable situation.

Thus, whilst I will prevent new officers from doing things so obviously likely to harm them, such as wading into a confrontation without first risk assessing the environment; the people involved; the nature of the dispute and weighing up the advantages of intervention against the advantages of discretion, there are other times when I am convinced that words can not triumph over actions when attempting to exhort the follies of a particular course of action. Like bringing up a small child, there are some times when the youngling must simply learn through trial and error, for only then can they appreciate the validity of that which you were initially trying to suggest to them:

"You were right, but I had to find out for myself".

Students who pick up one proficiency early on and are relentless with it, to the exclusion of learning or doing anything else soon find themselves being advised that this is the right way to rub people the wrong way. As do those who insist on answering back or doing things 'their way' without even due consideration to alternative courses of action.

Officers with measured enthusiasm, a desire to learn and who ask plenty of searching questions find themselves given more to do earlier on, and are also recommended to supervision when an operation comes up that would be ideal experience for them. Those who have a unique and creative way of approaching matters pique my interest, and I have picked up and learnt a lot from people who look at things in an educatedly different way.

Furthermore, there's nothing worse than working with just one officer for the entire time during one's probation - exposure to just one style of policing - the nuances of conversation with the public; handling offenders and investigations - is quite detrimental to assisting the development and understanding of a system which cannot possibly be comprehensively documented. Instead, through working with different officers in different areas, probationers can get a 'feel' of the different ways of approaching situations, and mix and match until they have a style that is unique to them, and which they can carry off convincingly and effectively.

Ultimately, when you see people whose hands you have held in the first few steps of their career go on to be promoted or achieve excellent results, you can't help but feel very, very proud for them, even if helping them to get there sometimes involved moments of utter frustration and the onset of headaches!

(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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MFHs - a double-edged sword for the police

MFH stands for Missing From Home, and is anyone who is reported to the police as being missing. If you feel so inclined, you can read an example of a force MFH policy here

Whilst there is the odd occasion when someone who is reported missing actually IS missing, and they are most definately "high risk", the majority of cases a patrol officer will encounter are those of people who aren't actually missing.

One example might be kids in a children's home, who fancy a day out and don't return home before their curfew, or let the home staff know where they are. The home staff are obligated to report the children as missing, according to guidelines that vary between organisations, lest accusations of neglect of duty be levelled at them.

Unfortunately, the more wisened youngsters are fully au fait with this procdure, and will hang around town until after curfew, when they know they have been reported missing by the home. Lo and behold, they need only walk into a police station, or better yet, phone up or flag down a passing patrol, and it's a free ride home for them, with a fair bit of paperwork for the poor unsuspecting officer. They repeat the process the next time they're after free transport home. Since the pipsqueaks "are" technically missing, we can't stick them for wasting police time when they repeatedly exploit the system, much as I've been tempted to in the past.

Another example might be if a child doesn't return home after school, at a time when they normally return home. The more decent parents become genuinely concerned, and phone the police out of fear for their young one's safety, albeit often reporting it too soon for the child to be seriously considered 'missing' - they may not have come home for tea or weren't there when the parent went to pick the child up, which on it's own, and reported 10 minutes after the 'deadline', doesn't mean anything. In the vast majority of these cases, the child is usually located at a friend's house, where they decided to go on a whim afterschool, or in the local park hanging around.

Other, less scrupulous parents, will report their child missing because they cannot be bothered to pick them up from wherever they should be picked up. Suddenly, we become their taxi service and are responsible for visiting the usual haunts and seeing if their offspring is there, then picking them up and taking them back to indifferent parents.

Officers have been known to conduct 'thorough' MFH inquiries, which last the length of a tour of duty. They're either very keen to ensure that everything is completed and all angles covered, or the alternative jobs going aren't too appealing.

Once, at about 10 at night when on foot, I found two kids that were missing from home, home being a city some distance a way. After recovering from my initial shock at actually having a genuine MFH case to deal with, I took them to the station, filled out the necessary paperwork and phoned the parents of one of the children (Kid 1). They said they would leave the city later and come to our station to pick their child up. On phoning the other parents (Kid 2's), they point-blank refused to come down and pick their child up, rudely told us the child was in our duty of care, and that we should take the child up to them. My incredulity at this terse response was conveyed to an Inspector, who tried reasoning with the parents, but to no avail.

I phoned back Kid 1's parents asked if they could pick up Kid 2. They declined, as apprently there were four of them coming down to pick up Kid 1 - father, son, son's girlfriend and son's mate. Why it would take four people, two of whom were unrelated to the family, to travel an hour or so to pick up one of their children was beyond me. I tried phoning Social Services to see if they'd do the shuttle run, and they refused as there was noone free. Social Services suggested that a taxi convey Kid 2 back to their reluctant parents, who scoffed at the idea when I suggested it to them. There was no way we could take her back, because we were far too busy with jobs coming in, the relief I was on were due off in half an hour, we had no vehicles free, and the next relief were already tied up with jobs and prisoners.

Things were not looking good for Kid 2, who sobbed quietly as she was repeatedly pushed from pillar to post and failed by everyone who was supposed to look after her, including her parents. Social Services eventually said they'd try and arrange something. I left her under the supervision of an officer next door dong paperwork, and finished my shift. The next day, I came on to learn that she had finally left the station, at 7am that morning. Who eventually decided to take her home I will never know.

(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, May 15, 2006

Couple of bits and pieces

Couple of bits and pieces

Have added a Google Search and AdSense ads, as I'm looking at the possibility of transferring this blog to a static site, which will cost money, as I'm going to keep writing after I quit the job, but not necessarily about policing. This way I'll be able to keep the Bow Street Runner content and write about other stuff without having to start a new blog site from scratch!

Have also added a couple of links - The life of a Police Communications Operator, Wiping bums for fun and profit and You want to be a hero?

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Policing perspectives - Re-offending... far more commonplace than most would like to accept. The Sun today has highlighted two examples, although the contexts are worlds apart. The first concerns a female who was raped by an offender on bail awaiting trial. I should be surprised this guy got bail in the first place if he was awaiting trial for two sex crimes - I normally make a pretty strong case for remanding them, based on the grounds of public safety and the likelihood of the offender disappearing or reoffending. That said, I've seen a Custody Sergeant bail an offender for breach of bail before (I'm not kidding, though I wish I was), so anything is possible these days. We haven't got the cell space to remand everyone who's potentially dangerous anyway, so we have to prioritise the most pressing cases for remand. Still doesn't stop me from requesting remand for people I think that need it, or stipulating very strict bail conditions if remand isn't granted.

The second , also covered by the Telegraph refers to Home Office figures that a large number of offenders on probation re-offend. Bystander posts a good explanation as to why we should not be demanding the heads of members of the National Offender Management Service.

Re-offending on probation should hardly be surprising if you think about it. Offenders, who have wound up in prison through the commission of crime (usually to fund drug habits) will, upon release or probation, find themselves jobless and unemployable; usually penniless and staying in a probation hostel. So they do what comes naturally to them - they commit crimes to acquire money, then score hits with that money, usually with better skills and know-how than before they were incarcerated.
They know no other way of getting by, and often most other avenues are closed to them. The cycle continues until they either wind up dead or go back inside. It happens in many countries across the world, and no amount of resourcing or funding is going to stop this pattern of behaviour.

Some decide that they don't like staying in a hostel and 'disappear', usually living on the streets or in drop-in centres and hostels under false names. A lot of homeless people I encounter are recently-released cons. One guy turned up to our station and requested he be sent back inside. We told him we couldn't just send him back in on a whim, but maybe if he committed a crime, then we'd be talking. He threatened to kill a fellow hostel resident if we didn't send him back in. We said that wouldn't cut it, so in our presence, he kicked the door of the station hard enough to be arrested for criminal damage, thus breaching his probation and going back inside, which is exactly what he wanted. If only all criminals were so considerate. The door needed replacing anyway.

Conversations with some people I stop on the street can go like this:

"What are you doing around here?"
"Just enjoying the sunshine"
"I'll rephrase the question. What are you doing, really?"
"Just got out [of prison] so finding somewhere to stay/sleep"
"Bullshit. You're grafting. What were you inside for? No wait, let me guess, we're in a car park, so you were inside for stealing cars or nicking gear from them. What do you think of the new TomTom? Will I be surprised if I find one in that grubby bag you're carrying, along with a crowbar and screwdriver?"

Sadly, being naive and optimistic in thinking that released criminals are reformed characters is a waste of mental energy. I usually assume that, as soon as they're out, they're grafting again. After all, they're busy people - places to case; things to steal; people to rob; habits to feed. I'm usually right.

Eventually, after obtaining their details and performing the usual identity checks on them, during which they point blank refuse to accept a Stop & Account form, they're advised that they'll be the first people I'll come looking for if a crime is committed that matches their MO (Modus Operandi) or previous convictions. It's usually a matter of days before their MO starts ending up on crime reports. In other cases, they'll commit crimes which aren't even reported or which we aren't able to solve due to lack of leads (witnesses, CCTVs, decent victim descriptions of the offender etc). Sadly we can't arrest people on the grounds of a matching MO.

Sometimes, offenders do us all a favour. We were called out to a body found in a water feature. A man, with a long string of previous, robbed an elderly couple by a water feature, during which the bag of money, which was the source of the robber's efforts, ended up in the water. Everyone ran away from the scene, and an independent witness later saw the self-same robber swimming around, probably trying to recover the bag and its money. Nobody was surprised, then, when the body that was dredged up matched the description of the offender. An Olympic swimmer he was clearly not. No tears were shed, and the death saved countless hours of investigation time. These are "public service deaths", because it's one less blight on society, and we can usually put a number of unsolved crimes with the same MO, or which were committed in that area, to them.

So, if you are shocked at the figures quoted in these stories, just remember that people on probation or release commit far more crimes than those published, we just either aren't aware of them or haven't solved 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.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Police officer stabbed to death...

details are still sketchy, at the time of writing, but she was either investigating a disturbance on the street, or disturbed burglars in her home. A very sad incident, especially with it being the loss of someone who was prepared to do an often dangerous and harmful job for free, in their spare time. It also leads to consideration of the wider matter of intervention when off duty.

NB This is not a critique of the officer or her actions, more a contemplation of the topic of off duty intervention in general.

Involving yourself in something that does not directly affect you, in this day and age, is a situation in which the disadvantages far outweigh any possible advantages. One risks death; serious injury; complaints; no support from others; ungratefulness from those you've 'helped' (whether you're a police officer or not) and, inevitably, paperwork and general mithering when they're next in the station.

Unfortunately it is difficult to shake the sense of duty and, to an extent, obligation one feels as a police officer towards those which we agreed to protect, leading us sometimes to put ourselves 'on duty' and assist in a situation that we are witnessing, be it a minor shoplifter or a group assault on one person. Gradually, experience (and sustaining injuries of varying degrees) iterates that this is, more often than not, a foolish thing to do.

When one is not being paid for it (or if you're a Special, booked on and working), you should NOT intervene directly in anything that does not have an immediate bearing on you or people close to you. The safety and well-being of the general public takes a significantly lower priority than your own personal safety, even more so when you are not even expected to be directly intervening in matters. A few people sustaining injuries in a street disturbance without direct intervention is better than the loss of life arising out of a sense of potentially fatal altruism.

Look after yourself first! The Job probably won't give you much support and may even turn on you if you don't do things 'right' (which changes depending on what day of the week it is) anyway, and you can't expect other members of the public to intervene if things go wrong. Make a 999 call and leave it to the people who are on and paid to deal with the matter (although see below).

If one disturbs burglars in your own home, then the mantra is simple - when burglar disturbed, you kill burglar or they kill you.

You are likely to be supported in law (indeed there's some good reported cases on this) if you kill burglars in the act of committing the offence in your home, as opposed to, say, shooting them in the back as they're running away. You'll have public opinion, and probably the police, on your side anyway (though we won't officially be able to say so) and it's better than dialling 999 if you suspect something, and being told there's no free patrols. I challenge any judge or magistrate in this land to say that someone who does kill burglars disturbed in thier own home was not acting out of genuine fear for their life and the lives of those in the house.

Going back to this tragic incident, apparently a knife amnesty is to be launched. I think people need to look at this rationally - does anyone with even an ounce of intelligence really expect that this will trigger an attack of conscience in the collective psyche of the offending population, causing them to hand the knives in and no longer be armed in future? Amnesties are an utter waste of time, effort and money and make not the slighest difference. This sad incident will not change anything, such is the irreperable state of regression and (paradoxically) progression towards anarchy this country now finds itself in.

People in these cirumstances sometimes quote Burke: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’

In fact, that quote is incorrect, he actually said: 'When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.' That is illustrated by this case - don't go in alone no matter what. Evil will triumph many more times after just the one incident, so there's no point in potentially making the ultimate sacrifice for something that, in the grand scheme of things, will make no difference.

Fortunately, my travel tickets arrived today and I am leaving this cesspit of a society/country within weeks!

(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.
Children are our future...

...God help us all. Even just ten years ago, a story like this would have shocked. Now it meets with "Oh, that's slightly younger than they usually are".

It wouldn't be so bad if this was an isolated case. Sadly, I've dealt with loads of kids who are of similar ages and equally pregnant, heavy drinkers and smokers. It's actually quite widespread, which is depressing when you consider the future these kid-families will have.

(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, May 11, 2006

Leaving the police deparment soon!

It's official. On June 18th, I leave the force and regain the right and ability to use my own judgement and initiative. The final shift should be a good one too - going out with a bang and all that! I might even reveal which Force I work for and where I work in this blog! Will shut this thing down shortly after.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend that anyone monitoring the slow demise of society in this country as we know it could do far worse than read anything by Theodore Dalrymple on the subject. This is a good example.

I have been reading "Blue Blood", a book by the erudite officer Edward Conlon, of his life and times as a police officer in New York City. Many of the observations about those he encounters, and the nature of the Job, have a haunting ability to mirror those sentiments that myself and many other bloggers express. Here are some choice quotes:

When talking about going through the complaints system and dealing with people, Conlon urges caution because "the Job can turn on a dime from ally to enemy"

"The fact of the matter is that all cops exist in a state of mild infraction ... their shoes aren't shined ... or they stopped to eat or cash a check without putting it over the air ... or they left their hat in the car when they went to a job. It was only recently that I learnt that you can get a Command Discipline for reading the newspaper in a patrol car, an offense for which I'd be serving life without parole if I'd been caught each time I'd committed it".

"No one is completely by-the-book, because our book is the Patrol Guide...self-described as 'flexible', which could be read cynically to mean that even if you followed every step, you could still get jammed up if things didn't work out, because you could have done it differently".

"A lot of our old street antics, the spirited improvisations and crazy chases, seemed needlessly risky for a game that was hardly worth winning."

Is there even any end to the game?

(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, May 08, 2006

To the police, some people are stupid...

...terminally stupid, in fact, because the stupidity doesn't just occur in small doses - it's a lifelong affliction. To fully reason out this generalisation would involve several volumes of writing, but here's an anecdote involving individuals who have the ability make two short planks look like a computer.

Last week we drove past a takeaway where there was an altercation of some sort. We pulled out and surveyed the scene - several of the usual suspects (drunken idiots from the nearby estate) crowded around one of their own, with another imbecile in the takeaway arguing with staff.

Once we'd parted the group to try and find out what was wrong, the guy in the middle took his shirt off and revealed a spectacular wound in the back of his shoulder. Several tried to explain what had happened to us, but the voices merged into a cacophany of drunken primordial noise. Fingers were stabbed (pun intended) in the direction of the takeaway, which I loosely interpreted to be the scally version of " 'E 'dun it ", so my colleague went over and asked for the takeaway staff's version of events whilst I arranged for an ambulance to attend.

Takeaway staff are regularly subjected to drunken idiocy from the dregs of the human gene pool, and I'm surprised they don't lose their cool on a more regular basis. According to the takeaway staff, this group of neanderthals were particularly bad, and whilst I've yet to find out what it actually was made the server snap, the upshot of it all was that someone standing outside had ended up as a human shish kebab.

Putting aside the obvious joke that some takeaways really will put anything on a skewer these days, we had a straightforward Section 18 assault fuelled by stupidity and alcohol, but mostly stupidity. The guy bleeding was a muppet for his intoxicated antics, and his group were nincompoops for acting in a similar fashion, whilst the server was a fool for trying to add "drunk muppet" to their menu. Of course he had to be arrested, and he was placed in a van.

Sadly, the stupidity didn't end there. The rest of the human kebab's friends had phoned around conveying the news of this abject horror, with enlightened phrases such as "they come to our country and they do stuff like this" peppering the conversations. Resisting the temptation to ask the chavs why it's ok for their ilk to inflict such misery on people, but worse when "immigrants" do it, I got the feeling that this incident would not end once the victim was off to hospital at the same time as the offender was off to the cells. Other patrols arived soon after.

Sure enough, the Scally Army arrived to save the day, in the form of a bloke with a pitbull terrier by his side, controlled by a metal chain. As the bloke went up to his bleeding mate, being treated by the ambulance which had now arrived, to console him, the pitbull sensed fear and anger in the air and latched itself on to the victim's trousers, nearly tearing them off and adding insult to injury. I retreated back whilst the group tried to point out (ironically) the stupidity of wandering into a group of people whilst having a dangerous animal straining at the lead. He got the message and left.

As if the god of inanity had laid a curse upon us, a hulk of a man then arrived with a nice full bottle of Strongbow in his hand. He passed several of us, placed his tipple on the floor, went into the takeaway and tried to swing out at the takeaway staff whilst yelling obscenities. We bundled him out, but he foolishly told us that if we left the scene, he'd go inside and do it again. With such cleverness outwardly manifesting latent moronic tendancies, he was locked up and placed in another van, to save him from himself if nothing else.

Further illustration of the stupefying obtuseness of the Gathered Unwashed was seen in their demands for summary justice. Due process and habeas corpus be damned, this lot wanted the perpetrator sorted, and sorted NOW! Would that society could be controlled so arbitrarily, I would at a stroke be arresting the majority of those we encounter on duty for offending against base human intelligence, or at least possession of Class A senselessness.

Unfortunately, when you encounter and interact with such people on a regular basis, you fear either for the future of the human race, or for your own sanity. Usually both.

(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 curious little product...

...I received an e-mail from a gentlemen asking me to have a look at a product called the Collision Stencil.

It's a device that features common symbols, vehicles and road markings, that can be used in the diagram section of an RTA report to improve the quality and representation of the illustration.

It's only £6 and looks like it'd be pretty useful - much better than my chicken scratch diagrams anyway!

More information here:

(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, May 07, 2006

TV Cop shows...

...somehow lose their appeal when one partakes in the "live, reality" version. At least, they did for me.

Several years of displaying avid interest in the trials and tribulations that our on-screen counterparts, real or fictional, went through in the space of a weekly primetime TV slot soon diluted into bemusement coupled with disinterest, as the true nature of the role of policing was quickly impressed upon me by both word and experience - it's NOT "as seen on TV".

Be it the police procedural; the 'whodunnit'; the maverick cop show or the "fly on the wall", my reception to the majority of such shows is always the same: "That's not what it's really like!"

The omission of procedure and process and of unengaging patrol time makes for the so-called documentaries to be nothing more than an encapsulation of a modicum of policing that is neither the norm nor to be expected. A one-hour slot is usually a composite of several weeks or months of incidents, resulting in the skewed perception of police duties comprising non-stop running; fighting and chasing. If it was a reflection of what every tour of duty was like then half the nation's officers would be off on stress.

It's quite understandable, of course - nobody wants to watch a documentary about the police in which the most dramatic event of a shift is the stapler running out of staples, or adrenlaine-filled action comprising the attempt to stop that spilt mug of tea ruining the full file an officer has spent two days preparing.

Fictional notions of policing are usually met with derision from some officers, who bemoan the lack of accuracy or the plausability of characers. It can make for an unpleasant viewing experience for the layman who watches such shows with an officer. The possible exception to this could be the BBC's "Life on Mars", widely regarded by officers of senior service as being closer to reality than most people would like to accept.

Personally, I found that, after working a shift, the last thing I wanted to do after the tour of duty was to sit down and watch other people performing a loose notion of a vaguely similar Job unless it was particularly engaging. If I wanted to do that on a regular basis I'd sit in our CCTV suite during the primetime slot.

Some like seeing the work of specialist units which they would not normally encounter during the average tour of duty. Each to their own, of course - I request attachments with those units that interest me and which I am suitable for.

Our station occasionally plays host to a TV crew of some network or another, usually out to try and obtain footage to either assist with a show for the ratings wars or fill dead airtime. I treat the cameras like a firearm - if I end up in their line of sight I might be finished (metaphorically speaking). Indeed, most of my colleagues share my sentiments.

Recently, a camera crew decided to film a briefing of an urgent nature. The plan was for all officers in the division to be called in to the parade room, in which the briefing would be displayed on a large projector screen, in surrounds able to comfortably accommodate a large number of officers. As it happened, the projector wasn't working, so the event had to be held in the cramped Sergeant's Office on the woefully inadequate 15" computer monitor. The camera crew asked for those who did not want to be filmed to move out of frame, to the left of the room, but where they could still see the screen (or, at least, see the plastic casing that surrounded it). This led to the scene of thirty officers huddled in one corner, avoiding the camera's glare, with ten or so brave souls crowded around a tiny monitor attempting to read text of an important briefing. Truly, we have moved with the times. It was decidedly not the "well oiled crime-fighting machine" image that senior management wanted to project. That said, the machinery is so badly broken that no amount of spin, gloss and TV magic will create that effect!

(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, May 04, 2006

Watching a specialist unit at work... something that not all officers get to see on a regular basis. To actually be involved in part of the operation the unit is involved in can often trigger an adrenaline rush that very few aspects of police work are able to provide.

During the course of this shift I was able to work not with one specialist unit, but two! An attachment for a couple of shifts with the dog unit is something most officers look forward to, partly because the dog unit is reserved for the "good" jobs, and isn't sent to drunken assaults; burglaries that have occurred hours after the event or shoplifters. Better yet, the dog unit is one of the few groups left that is allowed to actively pursue vehicles (if they're driving the right vehicle). Nights can often be a bit hit and miss - fortunately this shift was quite steady, with jobs coming in fits and starts, though none actually required deployment of the dog. It helps that I love German Shepherds too, though this one was quite young but very large, and nearly floored me when he jumped up to me!

Personally I think the dog unit should always be double crewed - they cover a large area and often have to listen to several radio channels at once if that area crosses over subdivisions. That's on top of navigating; using the radio themselves; driving and looking after the dog. They always appreciate an extra pair of hands.

During the night, we were asked to call in to a nick urgently. When we arrived there was brass (senior ranking officers) everywhere, and more firearms officers than I'd seen in a long time! We'd been asked to back up on a raid on a place. Without going into specifics, there was most definately going to be a male with a firearm at the place. Our job was to back up one of the firearms teams at the rear of the premises in case the guy tried to escape.

We left the nick in convoy and turned up at the place, waited for a bit whilst the brass conversed, then got out and formed up. The firearms officers had full kit on - bulletproof shields; PSU pads; helmets and goggles - the works, with MP5s out and ready. Have to admit I'd never seen them 'at work' so to speak (only ever backing up to jobs whenever there wasn't anything firearms-related going on elsewhere) and it was very impressive.

I stuck behind the dog man like glue as we went around the back whilst the main firearms team went around the front. In movies, these things are often accompanied by soundtrack. Not so here! There was deathly silence for a couple of minutes, then the codeword was given and the front team made silent entry through the main door (insofar as they didn't blow up the door or wam-ram it down).

A few seconds of silence, then the muffled sound of a door being kicked off its hinges and "ARMED POLICE! HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD! DO IT NOW!", followed by the radio firing up with "Male detained. Stand down. Stand down." Guns were unloaded, dog went back in the van and I was buzzing for hours!

Well-planned, well-executed and all officers involved displayed utmost professionalism at all time, as well they should considering the potential stakes of the job they are on and the tools or animals they are carrying. It also helped re-invigorate my enthusiasm for the job to know that sometimes, just sometimes, the police excel at dealing with matters like this - nabbing dangerous offenders with the potential to cause serious harm to the public. A refreshing break from dealing with neighbour disputes and drunks.

(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, May 01, 2006

May Day...

...kind of. Those scenes from 2000 of people running riot and causing untold mayhem are long gone, it would seem. In our little area of the world, the May Day activies planned for the Sunday, at least, were small in number and small in attendance.

Less than 40 people turned up, and, partly because of the lack of resources, there were only a few officers hanging around in case anything happened.

In the event, the small number of people who did turn up simply wandered around for a bit, with us ushering them out of any private land they went on to, played some music on their powered speakers someone had brought in, and generally milled about. They had some banners but they couldn't be read from any great distance. Therefore, whilst they made plenty of noise on the various percussion-based instruments certain activists had provided, the vast majority of members of the public either had no idea what was going on, or were not particularly phased. In fact I think most of the public only found out what it was all about by asking me and my colleagues who were stood nearby!

Whereas protestors have been known to do things like chain themselves to inanimate objects, or engage in sit-down-in-the-road-and-risk-getting-run-over
stunts, this lot didn't do much other than try our patience. 'Mischevious' would probably be the most appropriate word. There were no cenotaphs defaced or fast food restaurants vandlised, indeed the worst that happened was some of the protest briefly walking in a road that was both empty and closed to mainstream traffic. So pretty mild as far as protest shenanigans go.

Some protestors had various filming equipment out. I suspect they were expecting us to outnumber, arrest, assault or generally obstruct and disrupt them. If so, then they would have been quite disappointed that none of that happened, especially as the whole thing occurred towards the end of the shift, and the last thing we wanted to do was start wading in and risk keeping ourselves on past finishing time!

(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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