Archive for January, 2008

January 11th, 2008

Trust me, I’m a Data Protection Officer

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

It seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to reveal as much about everyone to everyone else as they can.

Hot on the heels of the recent government ‘slip-ups’ with our personal data the police are keen to join in. It must be something to do with chief constables wanting to say "how high" whenever the government want to bring in a  new scheme and say "jump".

Recent news reports revealed how one Home Counties force mistakenly emailed its database of police support staff’s personal details to the wrong location putting all its staff in danger of identity fraud. And one western police force leaving its personal data on a floppy disk at a local tip.

Not to be outdone Cleveland Police have left a load of documents containing names, dates of birth, addresses and telephone numbers of dozens of members of the public in a Teeside street.

It’s amazing how the government, among others, consistently spout forth on subjects like identity cards & DNA databases & how the public can have complete confidence in the measures put in place to protect them, and all this incompetence is still rife.

I’m no longer supplying any details to anyone; posting them in 6 foot high letters on the side of the Post Office Tower will soon become compulsory.

January 10th, 2008

Notice of intended sickness

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

I saw a headline this week in one of the papers (we had a quiet week at work and there was lots of time to read, although try reading at 4am when you’re half asleep). The headline said "Sick pay bill for police soars to £3m".

I thought ‘here we go again, another police-bashing piece’. But it wasn’t as negative as I first suspected. The thrust of the article was that assaults on police were increasing leading to an increase in sickness due to assaults & other non-accidental injuries. (although what ‘non-accidental’ injuries are I’ve not worked out yet).

The police sick bill has gone up 15% on last year leading to 37,500 lost days, an increase of more than 5,000 on the previous year.

I don’t think this has had any effect on Jacqui Spliff though, who is still rejecting the call to honour an agreement.

January 9th, 2008

Case Dismissed

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Last week the Daily Mail tried to do a hatchet-job on North Wales Chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom. Entitled, "The most idiotic Police Chief in Britain", it sets out to prove, using examples, why the chief is such an embarassment to the police service.

I’m not one to defend senior officers, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know that there are very few senior officers in my career I have had any respect for, so you might be surprised to see me defending a Chief Constable. Having said that, I think this blog entry is more an attack on the Daily Mail than a defence of Brunstrom.

The article was sparked by Brunstrom saying that the drug ecstasy was safer than aspirin. Understandably, this has angered the families of those who died taking the drug. The article is heavy on  emotions and light on facts.

Deaths from Ecstasy appear to be in the region of about 48 a year. It’s difficult to find information on the death rate from aspirin &, not being a statistician, I have no idea whether more deaths by aspirin mean it’s more dangerous even though the use of aspirin will be far greater than that of ecstasy; how do you measure danger? A BBC News report in 2001 put the dangerousness of aspirin & paracetomol at 45,000 hospitalisations and between 150 & 210 deaths due to overdose. In the USA in 2002 the amount of deaths due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin was put at 7,600.

It’s easy to jump up and down in horror at a comment which puts an illegal drug at less danger than an legal one but I’m not so sure the Daily Mail has a case. Just because a person dies on their first use of a drug this doesn’t necessarily mean it is more dangerous than a legal drug available over the counter. Many of the deaths due to Ecstasy have been because the user combined it with other drugs or get themselves dehydrated or indeed over-hydrated and the death is a combination of factors. Are peanuts more dangerous than stairs?

To illustrate just how dangerous Ecstasy is, the Mail goes on to print the photos & stories of 7 teenagers. Interestingly, none of the stories are from the previous year, indeed only 3 of them were since 2000. If you’re going to illustrate the dangerousness of the drug I’d have thought they could have come up with more recent evidence; 3 of the cases were over 10 years old. There are no photographs of any of the hundreds of people who died due to aspirin overdose.

If the Ecstasy issue isn’t enough to prove what a clown Brunstrom is, the Mail goes on to ten more incidents which leave you in no doubt of this chap’s  idiocy. They provide a list of what they call "One blunder after another":

1. He suggested the number of speed cameras in the UK should be tripled.

It may be unpopular among the motoring public but a blunder? There are many people in the road safety lobby who would agree with him.

2. He broke into his own HQ to highlight lax security.

Again, a blunder? Highlighting a weakness by exploiting it is hardly what I’d call a blunder.

3. Proposed a vending machine for needles for heroin addicts outside a police station.

Again, unorthadox perhaps, but don’t all drugs educators support the promotion of healthy drugs use over that which spreads disease and increases the risk of harm (given that the ultimate aim is to reduce drugs misuse). I wouldn’t describe this as a blunder, either.

4. Published pictures of a headless motorbiker without the family’s permission.

Well, maybe not the best decision he’s made, but the photos were only shown at a conference, not published to the mass media.

5. Launched a failed investigation into Tony Blair for allegedly insulting the Welsh, and

6. Spent £4,000 investigating ‘anti-Welsh’ comments by Weakest Link host Anne Robinson.

Okay, I’ll give them those two.

7. Took pleasure in being named an honorary Druid.

Eh? If he’d been made an honorary Muslim or Jew he’d probably have been getting a knighthood.

8. Let colleagues zap him with a 50,000 volt Taser gun.

Blunder? why?

9. Used the word ‘queer’ to refer to activities by homosexuals in public lavatories.

I’ll give them that one too.

10. Directed the traffic in a gorilla mask for a dare.

Er, this was when he was a PC many years ago.

So Daily Mail, there may be lots of reasons why Brunstrom is an idiot, but you’ve got a long way to go before your evidence for the prosecution is accepted.

 

January 8th, 2008

Whoops

Posted in The Job - General by 200

There are a couple of (ex) police officers this week asking themselves ‘why, oh why’.

Inspector Masood Khan of the British Transport Police, admitted having sex with a woman whilst on duty in an office at Gatwick railway station in July 2006. He has been dismissed following a misconduct hearing.

The officer is said to have met a 43-year-old woman on a website for people looking to date people in uniform. He was seen on CCTV going into an office at the end of a platform whilst he was the senior officer on duty in the south east rail network. He was found not guilty of wilful misconduct in public office at Southwark Crown Court last August, telling the court he was in contact with his office by mobile phone & radio during the sex session. Well, that’s alright then.

He was dismissed at his misconduct hearing this week.

Elsewhere, an unnamed officer has resigned from Bedfordshire Police for something which probably seemed like such a wheeze at the time. At the shift Christmas bash the officer gave a ‘secret Santa’ gift to another officer on the shift. The recipient of the gift was a Muslim officer. No problem there as presumably the Muslim officer had agreed to take part in the fun to buy a present for someone else. The problem came when he opened the present from the unnamed officer to find his gift consisted of a packet of bacon and a bottle of alcohol. How they must have laughed.

The ‘wag’ appears to have either owned up or been found out a couple of days later and has resigned with immediate effect. The Diversity Officer in Bedfordshire must be wringing their hands in anguish of the wasted cash used to send someone like this on all the courses.

I’m often amazed at the rank stupidity of some people in the job. You often joke about how, if you were going to risk your career & pension, it would have to be for something pretty damned tempting, like finding the Crown Jewels on the back seat of your patrol car, or finding a Brinks-Mat security truck broken down & unattended at the side of the road whilst fully laden with the keys in the door. The truth is rather less spectacular with people such as the above shooting themselves in the groin for something so bloody stupid.

 

January 7th, 2008

Fetch My Slippers

Posted in The Job - General by 200

What a refreshing change to hear about a judge who is not afraid to speak out against the tide of lovey-doviness British justice is sinking in.

Hurrah for Judge Richard Hayward who has spoken out against a recent case of Human Rights card-playing.

Convicted drugs dealer, Amir Ali, was jailed for almost 4 years in September at the end of a police operation costing a million quid. He was due to be brought from prison on the Isle of Wight to Lewes Crown Court in Sussex so the Crown could sieze his assets.

Imagine the learned judge’s consternation when he was told that Ali had declined to leave his cell to attend court. The Judge said, "I didn’t know that prisoners could choose whether or not to come to court. I just assumed they would be scooped up by a burly prison warden and dumped in the back of a van. Now I hear this prisoner is refusing to leave his cell and no one’s doing anything about it. Once again, it’s down to barking mad human rights rules."

Julian Woodbridge, the barrister defending the criminal said, "Mr Ali refused to leave his cell this morning because he is comfortable there and doesn’t want to lose it. There is a shortage of comfortable prison cells in this country, so he was obviously keen to hold on to his."

In the words of another police blog, you couldn’t make it up.

Still, we should be encouraged to learn that the case is being dealt with by a judge who can clearly cut through the crap and get to the nuts and bolts. You might expect His Honour to demand the accused to be brought forthwith & without ceremony before the court, whereupon to be returned to the deepest, darkest shite-hole of a cell the legal system can find, there to remain for the rest of his sentence with a year or two added on for contempt of court.

Showing exactly how much the judge has his finger on the pulse of the nation’s feelings, he adjourned the hearing saying, "If he doesn’t turn up (next time) then we will simply go on without him."

I expect Mr Ali is quaking in his fur-lined duvet.

January 6th, 2008

“…and then she goes….”

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

I spend half my time in the control room sending officers to deal with meaningless drivel.

Previously, in the days before common sense was illegal, when Kayleigh phoned in to report that Leah had called her a bitch & a slag in the street & threatened to "sort ‘er aaart" we were allowed, nay encouraged, to tell her to get a life and speak with someone what cared.

Now we have to spend 4 days going round to Kayleigh’s flat to find her out, ringing her 6 times a day to speak with her voicemail only to be told to "forget it", whereupon we have to say "too late, you’ve reported a crime, we have to waste our time and speak with you face to face". The final result is very often along the lines of both parties have been told to grow up, no offences.

Sadly, common sense & discretion has been replaced by the biggest arse-covering exercise policing has yet known. Everything is recorded, just in case.

January 5th, 2008

A Dog’s Life

Posted in The Job - General by 200

It hasn’t been the best week if you happen to be a police dog handler.

PC Katie Johnson, a dog handler with Lancashire Police, was shot in the leg by armed criminals when she confronted them escaping from a raid in a pub in Bamber Bridge on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully she was not killed and later released from hospital after treatment to remove shotgun pellets from her leg.

Then on the 3rd of January several police officers were attacked in Swindon. Five officers were injured one being a dog handler who was stabbed in the head. Again, thankfully, his injuries were not life-threatening.

Also this week Police Dog Stryker, a Belgian Malinois with the Oceanside Police in California, detained a male who had made off from a road traffic accident. Having stopped on a bridge over San Diego Bay the dog’s handler let Stryker go. The dog promptly apprehended the offender who then picked up the dog and jumped 200 feet over the bridge into the water below. Police Dog Stryker died, sadly the offender survived the incident.

These incidents remind us how close some police officers come to not going home at the end of a shift.

 

January 4th, 2008

Public Service Broadcasting

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Sorry to go on about the police pay dispute, but hey, it’s important to me. 

I got sight of the Home Secretary’s Christmas Message this week. It’s doing the rounds like some kind of illicit email. Now that the chief has declined to publish it, the message has gone underground.

Two thirds of chief constables thought that the Xmas message gave a mixed message when seen in the light of Jacqui Spliff’s refusal to agree to a binding agreement. As a public service, I can reveal the content of her message herewith:

TO THE POLICE SERVICE IN ENGLAND AND WALES

It gives me great pleasure to wish everyone in the police service in England and Wales a Happy Christmas and to thank you all for your hard work and professionalism in facing the challenges and changes of the last year.

Every day, officers show hard work and dedication in carrying out their role and I have been immensely impressed with the way the service has dealt with the significant demands that 2007 presented us, such as the terror attacks in London and Glasgow.

The deaths and injuries that have befallen officers this last year, underline the risks you take to protect the public and uphold the security of our communities. Whilst we have come to expect bravery and commitment from our officers, we never take this for granted or underestimate the impact this may have on your families.

As we look forward to 2008, I know I can rely on you, as a service, to continue to meet the challenges you face and embrace the changes we are making to support you in this.

The next few months will be an exciting period for the Police Service. Next month Sir Ronnie Flanagan will publish the final report from his independent review of policing. In spring next year I will publish a Green Paper on policing. This will bring together all the work already underway, provide our formal response to Sir Ronnie’s recommendation and set out a number of proposals across those areas where we are keen to see further progress.

All of this work is vital if we are to provide a police service that continues to respond to the challenges facing our communities. From low level crime and anti social behaviour at the local level, to serious organised crime and terroroism at the national and international level, you face difficult and complex challenges. As we look forward over the coming years, we need to recognise the importance of continuing the good progress we have made on efficiency and productivity in the light of a tougher financial climate.

Working together, we have made real improvements across a full range of policing business and I know that this represents a significant amount of hard work and commitment on your part. Unlike many people, police officers will continue to be on duty, protecting the public, over the Christmas period. The public does snot forget that sacrifices that you make and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you on behalf of the public. I look forward to continuing to work with you next year.

With very best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year.

Jacqui Smith

Home Secretary

 A heartfelt & well-meaning message or a patronising collection of bullshit…. you decide.

 

January 3rd, 2008

The Holy Grail

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

To many of the people involved in the decision making process ANPR is the way forward. 

ANPR stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition & is basically a surveillance camera which recognises car number plates, sends details through to a database & flags up any vehicles which may be worth the police stopping. This can be for many reasons, the common ones being stolen cars, cars without insurance, cars owned by disqualified drivers or cars without a current keeper or tax.

ANPR is the Holy Grail at the moment. It can get tons of detections for very little effort. Because points make prizes, anything which can make the government look good by being able to say that the detection rate has gone up (again) is going to get much support from the decision makers.

The trouble is, whilst there is always an abundance of cash to set up a new system (much like PCSOs & CCTV systems) there is no additional cash to actually run it. Therefore there is no additional staff.

If you stick up a bunch of static ANPR cameras around the town, you need staff to make sure the info stored in the database is still current & correct, you need staff to create logs for each ANPR hit & you need police officers to go off and stop the cars and deal with turning a stop into a tick in the detections column.

The upshot on a local level is staff in the control room, who are already hard-pressed dealing with the current level of incidents having to do all the extra work for ANPR. Then you take the intelligence officers who are servicing the requests for information on the day-to-day incidents being told that this work will now take a back seat for ANPR intelligence. There are no extra staff.

Then you have to find police cars to sit near the ANPR cameras & officers to sit in them and wait for ANPR hits so they can stop the target vehicles. There are no extra officers so they have to come from somewhere else. That somewhere else is often the traffic department who have already been depleted over the last few years to the extent that the average motorist risks getting stopped by a traffic officer once every 4,579 years.

Traffic officers don’t educate the public about their driving any more; we leave that to speed cameras. The officers are too busy sitting under ANPR cameras.

January 2nd, 2008

Wasted Opportunities

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I came in today to find that someone else has resigned. That’s another person who will no longer put up with the piss-poor working conditions in the control room.

I don’t understand it personally. After all, we work in a give & take situation; we give and they take. Take, take & take again.

They’ve run down the amount of staff working on the radio control side of things in favour of lots of staff to answer the phones, (phone answering times is a measured government target). This has several effects.

Firstly, the radio operators, who are often under a great deal of pressure have to do even more without any help. Radio channels are often single-crewed. Stress levels are increased. Minimal staffing level targets are never decreased in line with the continuing trend to minimise the staff required for each shift hence getting annual leave approved is almost impossible. Single-crewing radio channels often means that the radio channel is not monitored as it should be because the controller is making one of the tons of phone calls which  they need to attend to.

Da Management don’t appear to have grasped the very simple concept that to get the best out of your staff it pays to keep them reasonably happy. If people can’t even be allowed to take the leave & time off due to them & repeatedly get knocked back for time off, they are going to take it out on the job, be very unhappy about being at work and not do their best while they are there. Everyone suffers, the room staff who have to work in that atmosphere, the police officers on the street who don’t get the level of service they should, and the public. There will be more stress & more people will go sick. I speak to people on all the shifts at some point during our roster and more & more are saying that for two pins they’d leave. More & more are saying they won’t apply for leave for an important engagement they may have, they’ll just go sick because that’s the only way they are able to get the day off.

The Chief Inspector who runs the place has no idea how to get the best out of their staff.

January 1st, 2008

Case for the Defence

Posted in The Job - General by 200

Well, my first post on 2008, my last full year as a copper.

It’s not going to be a momentous post at all as we have a quick turn around shift after New Year’s Eve, which was the usual fare of drunken & violent behaviour, maybe more of that later.

In the meantime, here’s a video which shows what is probably not the best way to plead guilty in court.