September 30th, 2009

And so it goes

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Just a little follow on from yesterday’s entry…

Twenty years ago Mrs Pilkington would have had a much better service than she got in the years leading up to 2007. There were many thousands less police officers. In March this year there were 144,000 police officers. In March 1987 there were 120,000.

We have 24,000 more police officers yet those available for front line policing have been slashed dramatically. I don’t have access to any figures for the amount of officers available for day-to-day policing calls so I can only go by my own experience. In 1987 one division I worked in paraded 18 officers split between 4 police stations. This did not include 3 rural cars which covered the villages, 1 officer in every neighbourhood beat & a rural officers who shared all the villages between them. We put out 9 patrol cars in the division plus a walker in each of the town centres & the police stations were open 24 hours a day.

Now those same 4 towns have a maximum of 8 officers between them, we are lucky if they can put out 5 cars in the whole division, all of the police stations are closed longer than they are open.

Back in the day the village bobby lived on the patch & knew everyone & everything there was to be known. He probably looked after 2 or 3 villages. Every estate had a neighbourhood officer who lived on their patch, they often had a little police office attached to their house, they too knew everyone, they were a vast source of information. What they knew & what they did couldn’t be recorded in an exel spreadsheet yet their value to policing was enormous.

Then someone in a wendy house somewhere decided that the only way to measure the success of an organisation was to match its performance against a written down set of criteria & the way to do this was to count beans. Suddenly, the value of everything was measured in beans & rural/neighbourhood officers didn’t  grow any beans on their patches. Add to that the fact that they lived in expensive police houses.

The theory went that if you did away with neighbourhood & rural officers not only could you pull them all back to the nick where they could produce a few beans, you could also save the expense of maintaining their houses, sell them off & plough lots of lovely lolly into all the new & dynamic projects which were about to hit the world of UK policing. We lost a generation of intelligence which we are only now getting back, amazingly enough, through local PCSOs, who will, within a few years, be just as valuable a tool to police intelligence as the old village bobby.

It made good political – read voting – sense to increase the number of bobbies, so every government promised more. More bobbies means more votes ‘cos we all want more bobbies on the streets, only they never made the streets. They all went into disparate little ‘remit’ teams. You know the teams, they are the ones you ask for help when you’re struggling to meet all the frontline priorities who turn round & say “sorry, mate, not my remit”.

So we had the burglary squad, set up to specifically target burglary beans, the robbery squad busy collecting robbery beans, sexual offences squad, paedophile squad, computer crime squad, diversity squad, more officers means more potential for naughty goings-on so the rubber heel squad was boosted. We had the serious crime units, the bloody serious crime units, organised crime, it goes on. Then there are the units who monitor the other units, who count the beans, who supervise those who count the beans, who make sure the right beans are being counted.

So every time an Inspector of Constabulary comes a-calling & says, “now look here Mr Chief Constable, your force is doing particularly low in detections of spanner-wielding credit-card thieves” we have to have a department whose soul aim is to reduce spanner-wielding credit card thefts.

The problem for those on the front line is that most of the calls we get don’t lead to all the remit-beans. Nobody measures the prevention of crime, nobody measures kids who piss up your garage & chuck eggs through your windows, nobody measures depressed people who threaten suicide but never go through with it. You don’t get a bean for sitting outside a row of shops stopping the kids from spitting at people with special needs.

And if they’re not measured, they’re not important.

If the next Inspector of Constabulary comes round & says “Now look here Mr Chief Constable, the behaviour of teenage yobs in this area is apalling, this chart shows a 150% increase in bad language in front of old ladies, get it sorted” you’ll have so many shiny-arses out of their offices that the problem could be sorted in a year.

It ain’t gonna happen, though.

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15 comments

  1. Paul says:

    Why are you the only person to yet realise the value of PCSOs for intelligence gathering?

    I don’t walk the streets pretending to be a Police Officer. I haven’t handed out a single FPN or PND.

    What I do make an effort to do is GET TO KNOW EVERYONE. Whether it’s the headteachers of all the local schools… business owners… old people’s homes… security guards… housing offices…

    I make it my business to get my name round to as many people in the community as possible. We don’t practice the “KIN” (key individual network) strategy at my station, but I make a point of following its principles personally.

    You wouldn’t believe the quality and quantity of information that gets passed to me on a weekly basis. Some of it purely from the fact that I’ve taken an interest… some of it because I’ve built up relationships with the people I deal with… some it because I’m seen as potentially more approachable than a PC…

    A lot of PCSOs don’t believe in the 80% visible patrol time… but I make damned sure that’s what I achieve 9 times out of 10.

    October 1st, 2009 at 11:32

  2. 200 says:

    Paul,

    er, try taking a look at some of my previous posts on PCSOs & the support I have for them before making scurrilous & false accusations like that. Tsk, tsk you really should know better!

    I will explain in simple terms as my point went obviously way over your head in the trample to be offended by my comments.

    Yes, PCSOs are a valuable tool in gathering intelligence & local knowledge – I did not suggest otherwise – which has, to a large extent, been wiped out by the loss of local officers.

    PCSOs have only been with us a few years – how many years intelligence do you have & can this possibly compare to 10 or 20 or even more years that the old village bobby had who lived in the village for the entirety of their time had? Er, NO! That’s why I say that PCSOs will ‘in a few years’ have the same knowledge as those who have now been lost to the service.

    Now go & have a look through some of my posts about the value of PCSOs; you’re not even close & definitely no cigar.

    October 1st, 2009 at 12:51

  3. TunaSunrise says:

    Maybe I was missing the point there, but I thought Paul was agreeing with you…

    October 1st, 2009 at 12:59

  4. 200 says:

    hmm…not sure what this means then…. “Why are you the only person to yet realise the value of PCSOs for intelligence gathering?”

    October 1st, 2009 at 13:17

  5. Fee says:

    Now, boys, play nice! I’d hate to have to send you to the naughty step …. or deliver a firm slap to the backside when no-one’s looking.

    October 1st, 2009 at 13:28

  6. 200 says:

    Fee, now you’re talking!

    October 1st, 2009 at 15:31

  7. 200 says:

    Actually Paul, I just re-read my post:
    We lost a generation of intelligence which we are only now getting back, amazingly enough, through local PCSOs, who will, within a few years, be just as valuable a tool to police intelligence as the old village bobby.

    I’m kind of at a loss as to understand why you think I’m the only one who doesn’t realise the value of PCSOs for intelligence gathering, unless it’s because of the use of ‘amazingly enough’ which is more a dig at those who slag off the concept of Police Community Support Officers.

    October 1st, 2009 at 15:48

  8. Civ_In_The_City says:

    I think Paul may have mis-read something there.

    I`m anti-PCSO`s personally.

    I mean, now they`re here I`ll do whatever I can to support them, and I know their work is very valuable and so on.

    But they would never have been needed if successive governments hadn`t messed up traditional policing in the first place.

    And now that we have PCSO`s there`s less chance of ever getting back to those days. We could have had all the benefits of the new methods and techniques and theories without throwing away generations worth of policing expertise.

    Just because something has been done the same way for many years doesn`t mean it needs to be changed.

    October 1st, 2009 at 18:18

  9. Tony F says:

    “So we had the burglary squad, set up to specifically target burglary beans, the robbery squad busy collecting robbery beans, sexual offences squad, paedophile squad, computer crime squad, diversity squad, more officers means more potential for naughty goings-on so the rubber heel squad was boosted. We had the serious crime units, the bloody serious crime units, organised crime, it goes on. Then there are the units who monitor the other units, who count the beans, who supervise those who count the beans, who make sure the right beans are being counted.”

    You could also count and attempt to control all the molecules in a kilo of jelly. This will not help to stop it’s wobbling.

    October 1st, 2009 at 21:38

  10. copper bottom says:

    once upon a time- I was on a ‘vehicle team’… we were given the brief of ‘reducing car crime in the carparks of metrocity’…

    mmm… said our DS… I have an idea…

    we all walked around the car parks all day in uniform. Boring- but the crime figures ell through the floor… one day it was running at 10-30 thefts from – then it dropped to 1!

    The DCI was VERY happy- ‘bottle of gold -watch for all’ and ‘commendation’ …

    then….

    Supt-’err… that new vehicle team- good work on the crime figures- but were are the prisoners?’

    DCI- ‘eh?’

    Supt-’well [old chap] how do we show what we are achieving without prisoner figures?’

    so- we were all back in plain clothes within the week…

    guess what happened next? yes- crime figures up to their old level…

    and we were disbanded…

    lol

    October 2nd, 2009 at 10:01

  11. Paul says:

    200… I was agreeing with you…

    You’re one of the only people out there in the blogging world who has said some genuinely supportive and fair comments about PCSOs.

    I certainly wasn’t having a go at you at all… you’re the blogger that I have more respect for than any other… because I know you’ve done the job and have the 30 years service behind you.

    Sorry to have crossed wires anyway, I’m an avid reader of the blog.

    Civ_In_The_City: I do agree with you to an extent.

    October 3rd, 2009 at 11:35

  12. Civ_In_The_City says:

    It was the stray ‘yet’ in your original comment that did it I think.

    One my issues with the idea of PCSO`s (apart from that mentioned above) is that it`s another example where there is such a desperate desire not to waste money by having more of something that is needed (i.e. police) that another, similar thing is invented (i.e. PCSO`s) that appears to be a cheaper option on paper. But really costs the same, or more.

    Taxpayers then end up paying twice for a single service, all in the name of efficiency and keeping costs down.

    Using strict targets, with penalties attached for not reaching them, and demanding that we cut costs at every part of the customer service process actually increases inefficiency and costs more money.

    I`ve just read a book about it and it`s very convincing, perfectly logical. But the targets systems is very firmly entrenched in all aspects of our society. Soon the alternatives will slip from living memory.

    The culture of inspection that goes with the targets, discourages initiative and challenge. Just what is needed to truly improve service and cut costs.

    If the targets in policing were scrapped, and everything was designed to provide the service required (nothing wasted on the bean-counting), costs would tumble, service quality would increase and we would still have more officers visibly on the beat.

    The introduction of PCSO`s indicated that those in power don`t realise (or don`t accept) that their target driven approach is fatally flawed. Put this with an obsession with public perceptions and P.R. where you never want to be seen as making an wrong decision.

    Instead of doing the hard thing: fixing policing by addressing what needed to be done and changed, they instead introduced a massive road-block to change that makes fixing the police much harder, entrenching the cycle of failure for many more years to come.

    So as more time goes by the pain and cost required to fix the thing grows, and so the willingness to do so diminishes.

    It`s not you as people that I object to, it`s what the existence of your job represents.

    October 3rd, 2009 at 12:08

  13. 200 says:

    Ah, OK Paul, yep, the ‘yet’ in your post was misleading, we’re now on the same wavelength.

    Thanks for the comments!

    October 3rd, 2009 at 16:09

  14. Paul says:

    Me and my hokey grammar!

    October 5th, 2009 at 10:31

  15. Beta says:

    200 – found your website last week – slowly trawling through your posts from the beginning of time it seems. Great witing and opinions which I (mostly) agree with. Brings back memories. Just wanted to say keep it up ol chap. A fan.

    June 30th, 2011 at 14:17

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