Disclaimer: I have no figures to back up any of the following, just personal experience of working in a police control room every day.
If anyone tells you the target culture in the police service is changing, don’t believe them.
Every early turn we take over from the night shift with a whole list of jobs which they & the shifts previous haven’t been able to deal with. Often these are jobs that our shift the day before couldn’t deal with either. Sometimes they are several days old.
Occasionally, the reason we haven’t been able to deal with it is because the caller hasn’t been available; they might be working & only have a narrow margin of time they are at home which we can’t meet, or perhaps they are one of the group of callers who dial 999 in the heat of the moment & then realise that they don’t actually want to see us &spend days ducking & diving & failing to return our calls in an effort to pin them down because our policies determine that once certain words are recorded in history on our log we have to see them whether they want is or not. But overwhelmingly the reason we don’t see people it’s because we don’t have enough officers to cope with the demand (despite having more officers now than in the entire history of policing).
So you’d think that having a full shift of officers available at the start of the shift would be a bonus. We can start to dish out all the jobs & get some of the people, who do actually want/need to be seen, sorted so we can at least provide some level of service to them. Wrong.
What happens at the start of every shift is that all the arrest enquiries are dished out. Arrest enquiries are our attempt to make us look more efficient than we are. Someone goes through a list of wanted people & the officers who should be coming to you have to go & knock on Mr. Wanted Person’s door. These are usually people who have failed to appear at court or not answered their bail at a police station.
Arrest enquiries are done at the start of every shift, earlies, lates & nights since the start of the shift is the only time the officers are available.
There are two problems with arrest enquiries; firstly, if they are successful it means the police unit is off the road from anything between about 40 minutes & the rest of the shift depending on how much post arrest work they have to do. The second thing is that most arrest enquiries are negative. Usually there is no reply, when there is a reply Mr. W.P. has either gone to work or never came home the night before or hasn’t lived there for six months. Some sergeants will task one of their units with several arrest enquiries knowing full well most, if not all will be unsuccessful but other sergeants let their units share them out such that 4 out of the 5 available units are doing arrest enquiries for an hour or 2 & nobody is available to take yesterday’s jobs or the inevitable burglaries & other crimes that the populace is waking up to.
You know you have an uphill battle when you ring the sergeant to ask why he’s letting 80% of his troops do arrest enquiries when we have 24 outstanding jobs & 2 high response burglaries & the reply is, “I don’t worry about that when this shift has the highest arrest rate on the division.”
Over three days last week we did around 16 arrest enquiries for a success rate of 1. This took up 60% of our resources for around about 20 police-officer hours & we banged up someone for failing to appear at court who was taken to court & re-bailed.
But at least the arrest figures increased.
The ridiculousĂ‚Â thing is that if we hadn’t spent those man-hours chasing stats we could have attended 3 assaults, 2 domestic-related threats & a breach of bail allegation all of which could have resulted in an arrest for a ‘plus 6′ on the figures, and several families would have been pleased with a response, but we had to pass them on to the next shift as ‘no unit available’.