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’tÃ‚Â 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.
The dreadful case of Fiona Pilkington whose life was blighted by anti social youths on her estate to such an extent that she took her own child’s life & committed suicide by setting fire to her car as they sat in it, will have some far-reaching repurcussions. The surprise is that, in the two years since this tragic event happened, there has been just about zero change in the way police deal with anti-social behaviour.
I spend every late shift in every town I control not sending police officers to anti social youths. This is despite the fact that I know what an effect it can have on people’s lives let alone their peace. I’m almost ashamed to say but I have anti social behaviour in my street & I never report it to the police, the reason purely & simply is, I know there is little chance of the police arriving before the youths have moved on. If it’s gotten too bad I have gone out there myself & given some ‘advice’, though I don’t like doing this in my own street. (I tend to climb over my back fence & appear from somewhere not near my house so they don’t know where I live).
The apalling crux of the matter is one of mathematics. We have X-amount of officers & we get Y-amount of jobs which take Z-amount of time. When Y x Z > X we cannot possibly get to all the jobs on time, if at all. We either have to make people wait, in some cases days, or we just don’t go.
The problem with antisocial behaviour is that it doesn’t fit in with any targets & we don’t get to tick any boxes. When Jay sends a text message to his ex-girlfriend Leah saying she’s a slag, that’s threats to violence or damage, malicious communications or a domestic, all of which are recordable & may result in a detected crime. When Mrs Miggins is fed up to the back teeth with a bunch of teenage yobs who spend every night shouting & swearing outside her bedroom & pissing up against her fence, that’s just a bit of ASB. Guess which one gets an officer sent to it whether they want one or not & which one gets closed off 2 hours after the youths have gone elsewhere with a ‘no officer available’ closing.
Mrs Pilkington did not have the protection afforded to certain groups within society. Had she been black or Asian, Jewish or gay, she would have had an officer every single occasion she phoned. There are teams within each police force whose sole job it is to look at ‘hate’ crimes against minority groups. I well remember a case of some kids throwing snowballs at a Jewish shop, on a day when the kids were throwing snowballs at everyone & anyone & we didn’t have the resources to deal with all the accidents & crime let alone kids chucking snowballs. Most of the snowball jobs just got closed off because there was absolutely no chance of us sending anyone; we had more important & immediate things to do. The Jewish shop had to remain open because the racism word had been mentioned. Within an hour the Inspector in charge of the diversity unit was on the phone to the control room inspector demanding to know why this racist incident hadn’t been assigned within the 1 hour requirement of force policy.
Nobody phoned up from any police unit who sit on their arses looking at logs in some office somewhere at HQ on behalf of all the other people being taunted by kids with snow. The fact that Mrs Pilkington had a disabled daughter, much of which taunting was aimed at, doesn’t seem to have cut any ice with the local constabulary.
I’ve blogged before about the unfairness of diversity policy & have argued that everyone should be treated on their own merits only. It completely baffles me that, for instance, a 6’6 Afro-Caribbean nightclub bouncer with years in the nighttime entertainment trade, who gets called a rude name is entitled to a better service than a vulnerable teenage girl who may be, unknowingly to us, considering suicide because of someÃ‚Â bullying. How can a rule written on a policy somewhere at police HQ possibly differentiate between the effect on these two people & class one as somehow more deserving of a higher response than the other. Where is the leeway to attend based on the individual potential effect on the victim?
Just occasionally, someone will come up with a local operation to target antisocial behaviour. Extra resources will be called in & they will be tasked for ASB jobs alone, unavailable for RTCs, assaults or domestics. This is a clear acceptance of the importance of tackling such behaviour, but if it is important, why isn’t important all the time & on every estate.
Antisocial behaviour is the key to so many more problems in society. Someone who grows up not having consequences for their behaviour will learn that they are entitled to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want. They will grow up with a me, me, me attitude & will spend the rest of their lives demanding everything they can get.Ã‚Â A child who grows up to respect other peoples needs & rights will end up as net givers to society.
When I was on the street I actually enjoyed helping to make other people’s lives a little better. One of the reasons I wanted to join the police was to help people who couldn’t help themselves. I held that belief until the day I retired. I still believe it. I am unable to do it because I do not have the resources nor the will from those who run the show to sort the matter out.
After the story of Mrs Pilkington, I will be wondering if the next job I fail to send an officer to will end up with someone murdering their child & topping themselves. That’s simply not fair & I don’t have the power to address it properly.
Time will tell whether the fallout from Mrs Pilkington will make any difference.
One of the by-products of the way they run the control room is the large amount of overtime available.
Personally, I have so much I need to be getting on with in my real life that I don’t even want to be there when I’m at work let alone when I’m at home. It’s just that bills still need to be paid. I do find that work is one big interruption to everything else I want to be doing. This is not the case for others who seem to lap up all the extra money-earning opportunities.
When the requests for OT come out there are usually the same people at the front of the queue. Fair play to them I suppose, I wouldn’t do it. It helps the job out & they end up with a few grand a year extra so I guess everyone’s a winner.
It’s good to catch up with old mates who have left the control room for one reason or another but come back to do overtime & keep their skill levels up. Some controllers end up transferring to other departments or even joining the job as a PC or a PCSO, often they’ll come back for a bit of OT.
Most of them say how glad they are to be out of it & things seem much worse than when they left, and they’re right.
When you have a rest day cancelled or when you’re on rest days on a bank holiday, you get an extra day off in lieu. These can be taken like annual leave days & can be a useful addition to your days off without having to use holiday leave.
Some people take the OT lark really seriously; it’s been known for some to book their extra rest days off & then work them as overtime. In effect they are actually just working their normal shift but doing it at overtime rates. The problem is that because they are showing as day off, it means someone else can’t take the day off, then they come back & work, kind of like covering their own absence but at an enhanced rate.
I suppose it’s up to them how they spend their days off.
I’d have thought, with all the OT being dished out, it would be cheaper to employ more people, but what do I know?
How far should the police go to try & stop someone being a victim of crime & how much responsibility does the individual have, or is it all gthe fault of the thief when something gets nicked.
When I posted about police taking stuff out of unlocked cars to stop it being nicked & make the owner collect it from the nick, I got some posts which summed up were complaints about state interference with private property.
Local PCSOs handed out notices to hundreds of motorists parking in Doncaster town centre recently. Part of the notice read: “If items are on view a form is submitted for action stating your vehicle was left in a vulnerable state. This form can then be forwarded to your insurance company for their actions. This can result in your premiums going up or potentially your company refusing to pay out should a break-in to your vehicle occur.”
The RAC Foundation said: “This is an outrageous letter. Criminals commit car crimes, not honest motorists. The vast majority of drivers make sure their vehicles provide slim pickings for thieves, but we all make mistakes and there are times when something will be left on display.
“For the police to scare motorists with the threat of having their insurance invalidated is at best ill-judged and at worst a dereliction of duty. Since when is it a crime to leave something in your car? A friendly warning would be more than adequate.
“The police should remember exactly what their role is – to catch criminals and protect the public.”
So, what do we think. It’s crime prevention so it’s fair game or a step too far?
I blogged about the case of the wayward firearms instructor last week. Well the sentence has been sorted & Chad Valley Police must pay a Ã‚Â£40,000 fine plus Ã‚Â£25,000 legal costs for breaches of health & safety after one of their instructors accidentally shot a control room civilian during a demonstrationÃ‚Â on firearms. The officer himself must pay an Ã‚Â£8,000 fine plus Ã‚Â£8,000 costs.
There are those who say the officer was lucky not to have gotten a criminal charge. Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants American Footballer, started a two-year jail term for shooting himself in the leg as he tripped whilst climbing stairs in a New York Nightclub, OK, so the gun was unlicenced but as well as the charge for illegal possession, he was also done for wreckless endangerment. Oh, and it was in America.
The fine the force got is technically a fine of the good people ofÃ‚Â the Thames Valley area since they are the people giving TVP the cash to pay the fine in the first place. They’ll probably have to make someone redundent in order to pay the fine. Some might say the instructor might be a good start, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Did you see The One Show tonight? Bloody hell it nearly had me in tears. Some detectives were moaning about theÃ‚Â poor working conditions & why they thought there were so many vacancies in CID.
It was presented by some ex-CID guy who now does a bit of media stuff & was an investigation into the shortage of detectives. I’d like to point out to the lovely Christine that moving from uniform to a detective role IS NOT a promotion, you numpty. As someone who spent 30 years by choice in uniform it really winds me up when people think that sticking on a Marks & Spencer suit is a promotion, it’s not; it’s like moving from the checkout at Asda to the fish department, except you don’t work nights or get spat atÃ‚Â & punched so often. (maybe that’s just my local Asda though!)
Apparently, the reason people don’t want to go to CID is because they handle tough cases, work long hours & don’t have the same chances for overtime as uniform, to which I would say – my arse.
You can catch The One Show – episode 24/9/09 for the next seven days on iPlayer & the relevent article is the first item on the show.
The National Policing Improvement Agency was set up in 2007 by the government to “make a unique contribution to improving public safety”. They take a lead on forming policies & procedures, deal with recommendations for equipment & technology & generally anything to do with making policing in the UK better.
They issue a monthly ‘digest’ or newsletter which contains information of interest to those involved in policing. It’s called the NPIA Digest, and you can if you’re really anal or bored, download a copy.
I had a glance of the September 2009 issue. It contains a wealth of items some of which may be of use to some police officers.
In this month’s packed issue you can see sections on:
Legislation – such things as the Equality Bill & bills before Parliament are discussed.
Government & Parliamentary News – info on the Policing Pledge with a report on the English Local Strategy Partnerships.
Police – The IPCC Annual Report, Management of Police Pursuits & Home Office Circulars.
Crime – Homicides by people with mental illness on the increase, drugs misuse stats
Criminal Justice System – Youth Crime Action Plans
News in Brief
Case Law – items appearing in appeal courts which shape current law
Some of the above will be of more interest than others to police officers but the thing which struck me straight away is that in each issue the first section after the Contents page is not Crime, Police or Law but is a section entiled Diversity in which you can read about Stonewall’s new “What’s it got to do with you leaflet“.
I wonder how the order of sections reflects the importance placed on them or whether it’s just my usual cynicalÃ‚Â viewpoint which thinks that more importance is placed on diversity than things like crime & learning the law.
Here’s a clip from a US News station about the fatal shooting of someone who posed a major threat to officers having driven at one officer & hit him, another officer shot & killed the driver as the ‘felon’ drove at him also.
Note how the police come straight out & explain what happened & why the officer shot the guy, rather than refusing to comment, as would be thew case in the UK. I Guarantee that it doesn’t take them 16 months to investigate the incident & when they announce the result I bet they say something along the lines of “the officer was justified in his use of lethal force” rather than a more mealy-mouthed “Following the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into the shooting of Mark Saunders, I have reviewed the evidence and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to charge any officer in relation to these sad events,” which doesn’t exactly say the same thing, does it?
Dr Aric Sigman claims that young people are so used to a sense of entitlement that they are growing up unprepared for adult life & says that parents, teachers &Ã‚Â police have lost the power to discipline them. He says, “Authority is a basic health requirement in childrens’ lives. But, while children have been increasingly ’empowered’ in terms of legislation & rights, far from being protected, they are actually suffering in ways what could never have been forseen.
“Adults must be legally empowered to deal with both their own & other people’s children without the fear that they may be confronted or prosecuted for doing so.”
I can’t help agreeing with the good doctor. We’ve seen a generation of policy-makers consistently making rules, laws & procedures which have ground down any concept that kids shoulface any kind of consequence for their actions which has led to a generation of parents who have all but abregated their own responsibility to bring up their kids in a way which instills a sense of social responsibility.
Dr Sigman is calling for politicians to draw up laws that would curtail young people’s rights & reassert the authority of adults.
Before I retired from the job, I had to apply to come back as a civvy. I say ‘apply’ I didn’t fill out any application forms, I just told the department head that I wanted to come back.
Before I could be offered a job I had to have security checks. Fair enough, obviously, being a police officer for 30 years without a single discipline record let alone any type of conviction or caution, was not enough. So I waited for the checks to come through. In the meantime I had to show proof of identity to the HR department.
I thought they were having a laugh, I mean, I had worked for them for 30 years, they paid my salary into the same bank account for the majority of those 30 years, they had sent staff round to my house on occasions over the years (injury on the job, etc), they had my photograph & fingerprints on record, but somehow seeing my marriage certificate, birth certificate, passport & a household bill were the missing ingredients to show them I had not been an imposter for 30 years.
So a news item this week should come as no surprise. Titled ‘Police face second vetting for database‘, it goes on to outline that tens of thousands of officers will be vetted for the anti-paedophile database despite already being cleared for their job. Officers ion close contact with children or vulnerable adults will have to be cleared by the Independent Safeguarding Authority even though they’ve had a full criminal record check. Forces will be expected to pay thr Ã‚Â£64 registration fee for each officer.
This whole anti-paedophile is following on from the terrorism threat.Ã‚Â A squillionth of one percent of the population are terrorists but we are now led to believe they are everywhere, especially among photographers. A squillionth of one percent of the population are paedophiles but we are being dragged down the same route that every adult is a suspect & the only way to fight it is to check everyone.
In the control room we have training days where the management make up a load of irrelevant cock & spoon feed us so they can say we’ve had some training. Often the people giving the talks are so bored they don’t actually turn up so someone from the training department bores us rigid by reading out their Powerpoint presentations. These are usually on subjects we have had several times before because nobody is imaginitive enough to find out what it is we actually need or want.
One of the regular talks we get is from the firearms department. It’s usually one of the less boring ones, not that we’ve not seen or heard it all before, but we actually get to leave the training room to go out into the car park for a look at all the gear the firearms cars have. We even get to hold a real gun. Fortunately, so far, the firearms officers who have given the presentations haven’t managed to shoot any of the controllers. Which can’t be said for PC David Micklethwaite, a police firearms instructor with Thames Valley, who thought the aforementioned Quality Street tin contained the force’s collection of blank bullets when it actually contained live bullets.
He then managed to point a 44 Magnum revolver at one of the lecturees & shot him through the body, fortunately the hapless victim survived but he probably won’t be taking any 999 calls anytime soon, if ever. Wasn’t the 44 Magnum ‘the most powerful handgun in the world’ capable of ‘blowing your head clean off‘ according to Harry Callaghan?
So let me get this right, a police firearms instructor, mistakenly loads a deadly weapon with live bullets he thinks are blanks, points the weapon at a member of the audience he is giving a demonstration to, and pulls the trigger? I’m no firearms expert, but in the worlds of my dear old gran, fer fucks sake!
The officer & force have admitted breaching health & safety regulations & will be sentenced in due course.
Meanwhile, next time I go to a training day & someone pulls out the chocolates, you won’t see me for dust.
I sometimes wish the government would just make up its mind & stick to it.
First they announce that anyone who so much as looks at a child must undergo rigorous criminal records checks, then 3 days later say actually, it’s not set in stone & we are getting someone to review whether it goes too far.
OK, so they didn;t actually say they’d enforce CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks if you just happened to be in the same street as a child but they did say it would cover anyone who had regular contact with children & cited assisting in transporting children for sports club events or helping at the local browniw pack by giving lifts to outings.
No sooner than the news had been announced than one halfÃ‚Â were bemoaning the nanny state & forecasting the large scale closure of football clubs as it would put off potential helpers due to the bureaucratic madness of it all, whilst the other half were ending their proclamations with “…if it saves just one child…”
Of course, being a government thing, the scheme wouldn;t be an enhancement of the current CRB check system just including more people, no, it would be a whole new scheme with a brand new database – probably costing squillions & being completely disfunctional – and furthermore, everyone who has already had CRB checks would be required to register with the new scheme & be checked all over again. Official quotes suggested around 11 million people would be eligible for the new requirements.
It seems the new scheme would add a whole new level of bureaucracy to that already present which already fulfills a very similar need & comments have been so negative that the government have been forced into a re-think; they announced this week that someone important was to review the proposals.
Joined-up-government making policy by wetting a finger & sticking it in the air? 10p tax, Gurkha rights, ID cards, marching people off the the cashpoint, anyone?
The ruling was that an employee who is sick whilst on leave from work should be entitled to claim back the leave at a later date.
Is it just me because I thought we already had this entitlement. I’ve not used it myself but I know of colleagues who have fallen sick on a leave day & claimed it back, I have no idea how long we’ve had this entitlement but as far as I can recall it’s quite some years.
So I wondered whether this is official employment law in the UK already, whether it’s just my outfit, public sector workers or what. Surely the UK can’t be ahead of the European game?
In my time in the job I’ve known officers with other financial interests. This has not been a problem for a number of years, so long as any business interest is registered. Some outside jobs are banned, you can’t work in a pub or do security work but there are plenty of other ways of earning a little extra to supplement the old salary and it’s all legal.
I’ve known people who drive coaches on their days off, repair computers, deliver cars, install windows, all sorts.
Victoria Thorne, a PC from Northumbria Police had a novel way of earning a little extra; she was a Ã‚Â£100-an-hour prostitute. That wouldn’t have been so bad had she not started checking the job’s databases & PNC for her pimp. A court heard this week how she also checked out other prostitutes on the police computers.
Thorne joined the job in 2002 & 4 years later became a hooker. She said she did it to earn extra money plus it gave her “interesting social opportunities”.
She was jailed for 15 months at Newcastle Crown Court.
John worked for ‘the organisation’. I’d only known him two or three years but we struck up a working friendship. I say working because we didn’t socialise, except at work. We shared a couple of interests. He was ex-RAF & we had a mutual interest in motorsport.
He was taken by cancer & I was struck at the amount of funerals I’ve been to in the last two or three years. I expect you get to a certain age & people you know or love start dying with grim regularity. I had a close relative die last year from cancer, diagnosis to death was 4 months.
As funerals go it was a good service. I read a poem, it was quite difficult even though John & I weren’t close friends. I kept glancing at his teenage daughter as I read the words, wondering what life now has in store for her.
John wasn’t an officer but there were plenty of officers there, some carried his coffin.
So soon after my 4th anniversary of blogging comes another milestone; today marks precisely two years of blogging every single day. That’s a post come rain, shine or snow, Christmas Day & bank holidays, work, leave or rest days for two whole years.
As I said this time last year, 200weeks: a triumph of quantity over quality.
The most productive single-author UK Police blog in the solar system.
This post is dedicated to the extra visitors this week to my blog from the folks at the Quarter-to-three Forums who, for reasons best known to themselves are currently discussing a case from 2007 where sensational – and incorrect – journalism reported two PCSOs standing by while a young boy drowned. I blogged about it at the time here & here.
Whilst, like most forums, some people do talk sense, a lot of folk over there sure have refined the art of talking out of their arses.
I was reminded of their post watching Traffic Cops tonight when a young man who couldn’t swim fell into a Manchester canal with tens of people nearby, several police officers arrived, nobody dived in to search for the man who had gone under because it was deemed too dangerous. The brigade attended, two fire officers located the man, pulled him out but he couldn’t be revived.
I don’t recall seeing a public furore in the press about all the members of the public & police who ‘watched a boy drown’.
Anyway, to the folks at Quarter to Three, I’d just like to point out the following….