Archive for July, 2009

July 11th, 2009

Once was not enough

Posted in Videos by 200

This was the title of a book I once read on serial killers.

It also applies to the following man who stole several cars at gunpoint during a police pursuit in America.

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July 10th, 2009

White Noise

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

The control room is a little conglomeration of micro climates. Sometimes they’re linked & others they are totally divorced from even their nearest neighbours. So one area can be really busy with non-stop radio traffic & phone calls both into & out of the control room, while the operators next door are sitting twiddling their thumbs.

I’ve been on a reasonably quiet area this week. It gives you an opportunity to people-watch. There are conversations going on all round the room. Some people are on the radio or telephone in which case you can only hear one side of the conversation, other radio operators & call-takers are talking amongst themselves.

You tune in & out of the conversations much like you would in a busy pub or restaurant.

Someone is advising on the legality of vehicle lights.

Someone is asking their caller to stop swearing, for the third time.

A couple of people are reading out registered keeper details from their PNC screens, while the operator in front of me is passing details of a fight taking place at the local leisure park.

A voice raises across the way, there’s no immediacy, she just has annoyingly loud voice. I don’t know if that’s something she can’t help or whether she just has a need for everyone to know how hard she is working, as if maybe trying to gain the awestruck wonderment of everyone else who is not as good a controller as her. I do know that after 8 or 9 hours oh hearing every bloody word she says on the radio or the phone I just want to wrap a plastic Sainsburys carrier bag tightly over her head.

I can hear somebody else assigning units to some drunken yobs in a town centre who are paddling in the ornamental pond. I have the added benefit  of being able to switch over to that area’s CCTV where I can see them frolicking gaily among the water lilies. One of them has slipped & is currently lying on his back in the water as his mates piss themselves laughing. Would be a dreadful shame if he got a mouthful of rat urine while he lay there.

I flit between conversations trying to  pick the best ones.

The inspector is discussing an incident with the sergeant, they’re not happy that someone did something before permission was given. They mention a log & I quickly look it up on the system & speed-read it as I try to earwig on who did what. It’s difficult to focus on one conversation among many without looking at the speaker to get all the usual visual clues we get when we talk to each other. I pretend to check out a screen which faces them so I can hear that an officer was told to await the arrival of armed units before approaching a female with a knife threatening to self-harm. He didn’t & by the time the  Gucci squad arrived she was in tears in the back of a police car having been prevented from self-harming.

My radio hasn’t burst into life for just over an hour & my computer is threatening to log me off. I don’t mind, the time goes more slowly but sometimes it’s good to have a break from the madness that is a really busy shift. My mates who are busy will have their shots at peaceful serenity some other time.

Voices are raised on the other side of the control room. The call-taker is trying to get someone to stop shouting, unsuccessfully. The caller is cut off & the age-old familiar descriptive term “wanker” fires its way across the control room, swiftly followed by mock gasps of “oooohhh” & laughter.

July 9th, 2009

Back in Time

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I was disappointed to read this week that the Tory party are planning to reverse the ban on foxhunting when they get back into power.

Failed Tory leader William Hague promised the ban would be quickly scrapped when he spoke at the Masters of Foxhounds Association meeting recently.

When I took the Queen’s shilling, I promised to carry out my duties without fear or favour. This means there are times when you are required to do things which go against your own personal beliefs.

Policing foxhunts was one of those things I hated doing. I’ve been a long time critic of the ‘sport’ and while we were there basically to keep the peace between the pro & anti hunt factions, it always felt more like we were there to protect the rights of a select few toffs to prance around the countryside slaughtering our wildlife.

Our local hunt was run by a family who appeared to own half the farms in the district. At least 3 generations of the family were involved in  running or taking part, or both, in the hunt. All the male side had completed careers in the army & then taken over the farms which had been in the family for generations.

During the season we had to provide police cover sometimes twice a week in order to stop hunters & their supporters and the hunt saboteurs from killing each other. Sometimes we even succeeded, though I did get many arrests, from both sides, over the years.

I was pleased that not all rich people & farmers supported foxhunting. With each season the list of landowners who had banned the hunt from their land got longer. Not that the hunt paid much attention. I was always struck by the hypocrisy of a group of people who during the week dialed 999 whenever someone failed to heed the cries of “get orf moy laaand”, but spent the weekends riding roughshod over land over which they had been banned & allowing their dogs to rip pet cats to pieces on the lawns of their own neighbours’ houses.

It did provide for a bit of specialist policing knowledge which was always good for the annual appraisals. There can’t be too many officers with successful convictions for illegal blocking up of badger sets.

The hunt supporters were a bloody menace. We had 4x4s so could go off road to follow the hunt or the ‘sabs’. Most of the supporters just used to drive round the countryside blocking the roads & abandoning their vehicles in the most awkward or dangerous locations.

There were two types of sabs; the well-meaning & slightly delusional group who were mainly students or middle to late-aged women, who turned up week in, week out. And the ‘rent a mob’ group who had been rounded up from miles away with the promise of a few quid & a good punchup.

We were on first-name terms with the first group & often arrested the second.

I once nicked a whole transit load of sabs for driving across a field like some American cowboy, separating a huntsman from the pack & dragging him from his horse to kick him senseless while I watched through binoculars on the other side of the field. I think I had the record for the largest amount of arrests by a single officer in one shift for years.

In fairness to the hunt, they weren’t actually very successful in catching foxes which kind of put a mockery on the claim that foxhunting is an efficient way to deal with the fox ‘problem’.

It used to bring a warm glow to my heart seeing the hunt go charging across the fields in one direction while the fox nonchalantly strolled across the road in front of me in the other.

I always thought if one got close enough I’d open the police car door, let it in & drive it to freedom. But I guess that wouldn’t be acting without fear or favour.

July 8th, 2009

Sometimes I love my workmates

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I was quite disappointed (to say the least) earlier this year when I was refused leave for an important family event. It seems the department’s ability to grant leave with 8 months’ notice is beyond the whit of the people who sort out the duties in our control room.

It really is a case of if the computer says no then that’s your lot.

I happened to be talking about it one grub time, it was one of our increasingly regular ‘bitching about work sessions ‘ – I think we were on the ‘the job’s shafted me again’ sub-section – when one of the girls on the shift happened to mention that she’d booked the weekend that I wanted off.

Oh great, so you’re the reason Mrs Weeks has withdrawn what meager conjugal rights I might have had & why she’s currently only grunting at me over my pie & beans (self-cooked).

My disposition changed dramatically when she said she didn’t really need leave that weekend & would I like to swap!

It appears that the cancelling of one set of leave & replacing it with another has not caused the department in charge of pissing off the workers an apoplectic fit & I have now duly been granted leave.

Let’s hope that the half of the family who have been thinking we’re so thoughtless as to decline our invite haven’t sold our places to the highest bidder & Mrs Weeks relents in her recent quest to convert me to celibacy.

July 7th, 2009

Beware Angry Pensioners

Posted in The Job - General by 200

I was going to mention this one last week but got caught up in other matters.

One of the most often quoted complaints about thecurrent judicial system which is aired concerns the rights of victims to defend themselves & their property. We hear stories about witnesses or victims taking their own action & getting arrested or coming off worse than the offender.

So it was good to hear the story of 72-year-old Frank Corti, who took action when a drunken neighbour, Gregory McCallum broke his way into Mr Corti’s home in August last year armed  with a knife.

McCallum threatened Mr Corti with the knife but he dodged it & swiftly delivered two punches before restraining the drunken thug.

McCallum was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment at Oxford Crown  Court  last week. The court heard how he came off much worse with a bruised & bloody face. He apparently hadn’t taken account of the fact that Mr Corti, still fit & able had been a boxer fir the army in his younger days.

Recorder Angela Morris said that McCallum “got what he deserved”. She said “The elderly  and vulnerable people are entitled to demand the protection of courts  from people like you who decide to take matters into your own hands and enter a property with a weapon.”

A clear victory for common sense, methinks.

July 6th, 2009

More Technology

Posted in The Job - General by 200

The Met are introducing new technology in a couple of boroughs. This technology consists of inserting a chip into officers’ radios so that control will know where they all are.

Controllers will be able to look on a map & see little icons of all their officers dotted over the map of Kensington & Chelsea. If it’s a success, it will be rolled out around the rest of the force.

It can be really useful, a controller can instantly see who is nearest to any job which comes in. If an officer is in trouble & shouts for emergency assistance or presses their emergency button – especially if they are unable to speak because some thug’s boot is in their mouth – controllers can instantly despatch assistance to a precise location.

The technology has been available for many years. My local taxi firm has been using something like it for ages, as have the ambulance service. It’s interesting when you call ambo control to find out an ETA for an ambo, that their controller says ‘the ambulance is 1.4 miles from the scene’. (that’s just an example of what they say, only when their ambo is 1.4 miles from the scene, obviously, if the ambo is closer or further away, they say something else).

The system has been available for a while within the police service. Mostly, it’s only used to pinpoint police vehicles. So when officers are away from the vehicle, which is quite often, it’s not so useful. For instance, a lot of officers don’t patrol in vehicles, dog handlers can end up a mile or more away from their car on a good track, so personal location systems might be a useful addition to the command & control structure.

It might be really good. On the other hand it might just show one or two little dots around the map of the town with a huge congolmeration of dots spookily close to the where the town’s police station is on the map.

Getting officers to switch the thing on might be a problem, though.

July 5th, 2009

Tow Truck Revenge

Posted in Other Stuff, Videos by 200

This is not big & it’s not clever, but it is somewhat pleasing…

And while we’re taking the piss out of recovery vehicle drivers, here’s another…

July 4th, 2009

In a victim’s shoes

Posted in The Job - General by 200

I became  a victim  of crime recently. It’s not the first time, just like many people, My neighbours  & I have been victims of petty crime over the years, most of which has gone unreported. It’s not even the first crime against my family this year.

This time I decided to report it.

An officer duly attended & took all the details plus a mini statement.

I didn’t expect the offenders to be caught. (I knew there was more than one  because someone up the road saw them running off).

A few days  later I received a letter from my local division. It offered condolences that I was a victim of crime, which is nice, provided me with a crime number which, it advised, should be passed on to my insurance company in the event of a claim, and spouted some general drivel from the victims’ charter. I was a little miffed that it spelled my name wrong, especially as I had gone to the effort of making sure the officer I dealt with had the spelling correct. The name of my street was mis-spelled also, but I guess as the postcode was correct it found me OK.

I didn’t hear any more about the crime from the officer dealing. I did get a letter from the local division though, which was nice. I expected it to provide me with the expected result, despite our investigations, blah blah…sorry to inform you…blah, blah…remains undetected….blah blah. Sadly, it didn’t update me because it was a copy, exact, of the first letter they sent. Perhaps they’d realised that my name & address were mis-spelled in the original letter &, distrusting the capabilities of my local post office, were re-sending to ensure it arrived.

Sadly, this didn’t appear to be the case as my  name & address were still spelled incorrectly.

The next time I was at work I popped over to the guys who look after the crime reporting system & got them to correct my name & address. I also took the opportunity to note that apparently I’d been advised of the outcome of the investigation (I hadn’t), that house to house had proved negative (which was strange given that when I checked with the neighbours nobody had been approached by anyone from Her Majesty’s Finest), and that there was no CCTV (which was also strange given that there is a council CCTV & when my wife spoke to them nobody had requested the tapes be checked).

Now I’m not surprised that my crime wasn’t detected, most crimes aren’t. I’m a little miffed that, having worked for them for over 30 years, they can’t spell my name correctly. But mostly I’m annoyed that given they know I work for them & have access to the enquiries they record, that an officer is still prepared to ‘cuff’ the job with what is basically bullshit.

I’ve not received any final update from the officer or local division.

Funnily enough a few weeks later a neighbour became a victim of crime & the day after a PCSO knocked on the door asking if we’d seen or heard anything. I made sure she knew about the CCTV camera which covers one of the two entrances to our street so my neighbour has more of a chance of detection than I got.

I understand that people who come into contact with the police are dip-sampled to ascertain satisfaction levels, most members of the public would be in blissful ignorance of what the police had or hadn’t done or what they said they had or hadn’t done & whether the two matched up. I’m not sure my experience has done anything to enhance the reputation of my local force. I don’t suppose I’ll get dip-sampled now.

Incidentally, I think house to house enquiries are actually an almost total waste of time. In almost 30 years of doing them I would be struggling to think of a crime which was detected, after the event, from information given by a neighbour in  house to house enquiries. I suspect anyone who has useful info about offenders either call police at the time or don’t want to admit not calling & therefore deny any knowledge.

July 3rd, 2009

Doing the impossible

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

I am no expert on drugs & drug crime. I never worked on the drugs squad though I did my fair share of drug raids & arrests of both users & dealers in my time.

One thing my limited knowledge of drug crime & its devastating effects on both the economy & the millions of victims has taught me is that the last 40 years of the war on drugs has not worked & there is nothing I have seen in any government policy or legislation which leads me to believe any change is imminent.

I have long been a proposer of radical thinking on anti-drugs policy, so it is with interest that I saw Mark Easton, of the BBC’s piece on Portugal’s response to fighting the menace of drugs.

Portugal hasn’t legalised drugs, though this is what the headlines might show; they have de-criminalised the personal use of drugs.

On 1st July 2001 Portugal announced that the purchase, possession & use of any previously illegal substances would no longer be viewed as a criminal offense.

Health & social workers can now assist users to use ‘clean’ drugs paraphernalia & guide users on police-free drug rehabilitation programmes.

HIV infections & drug related deaths have fallen dramatically.

One of the  biggest objections to the legalisation of drugs is that it would open the floodgates to everyone who previously were desperate to take drugs but were only stopped for fear of breaking the law. It’s interesting to note that Portugal’s eight-year experience does not bear this out. Figures suggest there to have been a fall in drugs use of 10% across the country. Use by school-age children shows some dramatic falls; approximately 25% fall un use of cannabis & 50% fall in the use of ecstasy, cocaine & amphetamines. The use of heroin & LSD is also down.

Whatever the figures there is no evidence that any use of illegal substances has risen as a result of the relaxing of the law in Portugal. The truth is that some people will take drugs whether it is illegal or not & most people would not take drugs even if you stood on street corners handing it out free.

Drug trafficking remains a serious offence in Portugal but those caught with drugs for personal use are sent to a local drugs dissuasion commission panel which encourages drugs education & treatment.

Since Portugal changed its policy 10 other EU countries have de-criminalised the possession of some if not all illegal substances.

Here in Britain we seem to have a policy which is not clear in its purpose & is a hybrid of mixed messages; possession of drugs is still a criminal offence. Cannabis possession has just been put back into a more serious category after the government experiment to move it from class B to C was deemed an error, yet 80% of people caught with an illegal substance are given a caution or a warning & less than 1% (about 1,000 people a year) are sent to prison.

With so many of the government’s policies, it seems the bark is worse than the bite which leads to a wishy-washy approach which looks good in the soundbites but actually does absolutely nothing to address the issue.

July 2nd, 2009

They breed ’em young in Michigan

Posted in Videos by 200

I’ve nicked  a few people for TADA/TWOC/Stealing a car before, but I don’t recall arresting anyone like this…

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July 1st, 2009

No noise is good noise

Posted in The Job - General by 200

The control room is often the first point of call for complaints. We get lots of complaints, some more valid than others. Actually, some aren’t valid at all.

A lot of complaints are about the police refusing to deal with somebody’s problem. Often, there are good reasons for this, mostly it’s because the cause for the call is “not a police matter”.

A popular call we receive is about noisy neighbours. This is usually a complaint that someone can’t get to sleep because of loud music or their Sunday afternoon peace is beinb shattered due to an inconsiderate neighbour’s power-tools.

Some years ago the government decided it was a good idea to remove what were previously part of the police’s responsibilities to other agencies. We had PCSOs to take on low-level anti-social behaviour. The Highways Agency took on some of the responsibilities on the mitorways & fast roads network. Local parking issues were transferred to the local authorities and noise nuisance problems were given to environmental health departments to sort out.

The idea with noise was that an Environmental Health Officer from the council could attend a noisy party, issue a noise abatement order & sieze equipment from those who declined to turn down the noise. All well & good in theory. Except the councils were expected to fund this extra work from existing budgets. In most councils there is more chance of seeing Lord Lucan riding Shergar down the High Street than seeing  an EHO after 6pm.

This is the cause for much ire & frustration amongst the local populace. So we take a lot of calls which are complaints against police. Mr Jacobs phoned up today to make an official complaint because police wouldn’t stop his neighbour playing loud music. He was advised to contact the local environmental health department whose responsibility it is to deal with noise issues. The fact that the local council, for whatever reason, only provide an out of hours service during the summer months on a Friday & Saturday nights is immaterial to Mr Jacobs, who says it is the police at fault & wants to speak to an Inspector about the issue.

Doubtless the inspector will apologise but repeat what Mr Jacobs has already been told by several different people. It may or may not be recorded as an official complaint against police. Whilst you can understand his frustration it’s a little bit like ringing Tescos to complain that they are refusing to service your car.