Archive for May, 2010

May 31st, 2010

Airwave ripoff?

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I was talking the other day to someone with a special interest in the Airwave Radio System which is the current communications system used by the police in the UK.

Previously, for many years, we used a system of VHF&   UHF for our radios. This was subject to problems of clarity as the signal can be affected by various things also anyone with a tuner could listen in.

The new system is securely encrypted &  is based on mobile phone technology.

It was lauded as the antidote to the poor quality of VHF with exceptional clarity  & clear coverage almost everywhere. The reality was somewhat different from the hype; it is also subject to interference & bad reception. It doesn’t like buildings with lots of metal in the roof so we often lose coverage in shopping centres &  hospitals  & officers frequently sound like darleks or as if their radio has been dropped in a bucket of water.

The airwave project runs on the O2 infrastructure. O2, being a commercial outfit, need to make money from the deal. And they do, quite a lot.

Radio coverage is key to an awful lot of police work, particularly the front line work. We use our radios all the time.

Anyway, back to my conversation. The guy who knows about these things told something about the way we pay for our radio coverage. Rather than negotiating a deal much like the mobile phone contracts where you work out what kind of usage you’ll need, as a maximum pay a set fee, we’ve opted for ‘pay-as-you-go’. So every time someone presses the transmit button it costs the tax-payer a pence-per-minute charge. It’s also based on the number of aerials used in the radio transmission. So in a small town the signal might bounce off 2 or 3 O2 radio masts costing, say, 10 pence a minute (note: I have no idea of the actual charges). In a bigger town, the signal might use 6 or 7 masts, costing, say, 16 pence per minute.

If a police unit goes out of their area & uses the radio it will bounce the signal all the way back across several towns, lighting up even more masts & costing even more for the same transmission. It’s even worse if a unit goes into a different force area or maybe to a different part of the country; the signal gets bounced across every mast between them &  their home station, costing loads. And it’s even worse because the unit doesn’t even have to transmit to add big the per minute charges, if their radio is just tuned in to their local radio channel, every time they hear someone talking back home that radio signal has been bounced from their home aerials all the way a across the country to their radio aerials make extra pence per minute for O2.

I can’t, for the life of me, fathom out why the people that brokered the project could think this was a good deal.

I don’t know how much truth there is in it but I was also told that each force negotiated their own deal so while one force might be paying 15 pence a minute, another will be paying 12 while another will be paying 17. Its complete madness.

We’re in a state of massive budget cuts with more about to hit. You can bet that there is someone in an office at every police HQ with a spreadsheet  & a calculator working out just how much can be saved if we cut each transmission by just a few seconds, or did away with certain transmissions altogether. Whilst I know there are officers  & controllers who insist on tying up the radio with the ins outs of a cats arse on every transmission & can talk for England, I can’t help but think the only people to suffer, if  & when changes to protocol do come in, will be the poor bloody infantry on the front line, again.

May 30th, 2010

Special treatment

Posted in The Job - General by 200

As I mentioned the other day, I became a victim of crime again this week. I say ‘again’ because we’ve been victims of crime quite a lot round these parts. I’ve had the car broken into twice, had it scratched, had the windscreen put in, had stuff nicked out of the shed and had 2 car aerials nicked. Neighbours have had similar; cars stolen & broken into, paint poured on cars, fuel pipes cut, wing mirrors & hubcaps nicked.

And that’s not to mention the amount of trouble the druggies cause when they congregate in the garage block nearby.

The local old bill only ever come around when drunks at the rented house over the road have a domestic, other than that we sometimes have PCSOs knocking on the door doing house-to-house. I suspect we’re quite lucky in that respect as most victims of crime these days get bugger all, apart from a crime number.

BUT…

We’ve been liaising with the local Neighbourhood Team, and they’ve been liaising with their ‘partner agencies’ i.e. the council, who have agreed to stick up a portable CCTV camera in the street. Apparently it did some good on one of the estates on the other side of town & they think it might help. We’re either very lucky, have the most crime in the town, or shout louder than everyone else who wants petty crime on their doorstep sorted.

We’ll see how it goes (if it ever turns up).

May 29th, 2010

Doh! by mobile

Posted in The Job - General by 200

As a bit of a self-confessed gadget freak, I would be one to say how fantastic some technology is, especially when it bites someone else in the arse.

I don’t suppose for a minute that 50-year-old Michael Fraser anticipated his own doh! moment as he was using his mobile phone to take indecent photos of kids.

In February last year Fraser left his Sony Ericsson on the No. 100 bus in Newcastle.

A passenger handed it to the bus driver who checked to see if he could ID the owner, he stumbled across the paedophile’s collection of photos &  reported the matter to police.

The mobile was an unregistered pay-as-you-go but police discovered Fraser’s second doh! moment because he had used his Tesco Clubcard when topping up his mobile credit.

Police arrested Fraser & discovered he is also a gadget freak who  had 14 other mobile phones at his home. This has led to the discovery of up to another 70 suspected paedophiles, 4 of whom have already been convicted.

Wheelchair-bound Fraser admitted 14 child porn images with another 89 TIC’d. He was spared jail & given a three-year community order.

I have been known to leave my mobile phone unattended in my living room. If police were ever to interrogate it they would be horrified to discover grotesque self-portraits of random teenagers saved at different intervals as my wallpaper or screen-savers.

May 28th, 2010

Short, sharp & effective

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May 27th, 2010

My turn, again

Posted in The Job - General by 200

I became a victim of crime again today.

When I went out to the car to go & get some petrol in preparation for another late turn, I found some bastard had broken into my car. The passenger window had been broken & the contents of my glove box were strewn around the footwell.

Still, it was some comfort to know that they didn’t actually nick anything. Presumably there isn’t much value on the black market for a second-hand pair of £5 plastic sunglasses & a February issue of  Mountain Biking magazine.

I’ve disturbed several people in the last few years in the street outside my house. I have a habit of staying up quite late so often hear noises in the street & always make the effort to look outside. Last year I chased someone who had broken into a neighbour’s car. I ran out while they were still leaning in the car, sadly my physical prowess isn’t as good as it once was & I only kept up with him for about 100 yards. A couple of years ago I disturbed 2 lads nicking hub caps off another neighbour’s car. They went up an alleyway but did drop the hub caps.

About 4 years ago I actually caught someone making a collection of car aerials from my street.

So on the basis of what goes around comes around, I eagerly anticipated the police operator saying that a neighbor had disturbed my thief & he was in custody even as they took the crime report.

Nope. Nothing, nada, bugger all. Another statistic & a few quid in the managing Director of Autoglass’s back pocket.

May 26th, 2010

Down the cells everything is normal

Posted in The Job - General by 200

As police sift through more body parts strewn over the land (& rivers) of the nation, senior officers in West Yorkshire must be thinking back to the the last time prostitutes were discarded out in rural England, when one of the smallest forces had to investigate & solve another serial killing around Ipswich.

I’ve bumped into a few murderers in my time & even a serial killer. I exercised him round the police station prison yard, when we had such things. Spent 8 hours a day down the cell block with him, chatting, playing cards, shopping for his Daily Telegraph & the odd takeaway, or heating up a choice of microwaveable ready meals – it’s best to keep them sweet when you want them to tell you everything.

I was struck by how ‘normal’ he was. He wasn’t a particularly big bloke, not one you would readily have thought capable of easily overpowering someone to the point of taking their lives. He was reasonably intelligent, certainly not the usual type of uneducated pond-life you’d normally expect to see down your average police station cell block. There were some that said he had piercing eyes, eyes which reflected the evil within his soul, or something, but I’m not sure I noticed that. It may have been the aura that builds up around certain types of killer. The desire for the human psyche to delineate someone who kills as overtly different from the rest of us.

I suspect there is not much difference. Deep within most of us lies the power to do terrible things. Look at the case of Peter Harvey, the teacher  in the headlines for battering a pupil with a dumbell, who avoided jail for GBH recently. I think it’s just that most of us have not reached the tipping point, yet.

making small talk with a serial killer can be a challenge. Talking about the weather & the football scores only gets you so far when all you really want to know is what was it like to kill someone & the how & why. That was somebody else’s job, so we had to settle for a few hands of ‘nomination’. At which he was particularly good.

May 25th, 2010

How do they do that?

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May 24th, 2010

May I help you?

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So we have a new Home Secretary, just as when we have a new chief constable, the broom must come out & new policies must be created whilst old ones are ditched. The trouble is that it is never the correct ones which get binned nor the best ones that get introduced.

So what has the gorgeous Theresa got in store for us?

We’re being offered what she describes as a ‘radical new deal’. One in which police officers will be allowed to use more discretion & operational freedom from Whitehall bureaucracy. Mucyh like it was before, not so radical really Theresa, is it?

We’ll ‘bear our fair share of the burden’ of the economic crisis (cuts) n& there will be a full review on police pay & conditions (cuts) though we will be allowed to keep to the last review which gave us a three-year pay review.

Stop & Search forms will be scrapped. There will be a review of 24-hour drinking. ‘Key performance indicators’ will be dismantled & there will be a push for locally elected police commissioners.

May has said: “I know I’m a new home secretary. I know that many of you don’t know me. And I know that you want to know what sort of home secretary I will be. So let me says this: I’m not interested in running the police. If I’d wanted to run the police, I’d have done what you did and joined the police force. That is not the home secretary’s job. That’s not something many of my predecessors have understood. They just didn’t get it.”

So that’s great, the future is rosy.

May 23rd, 2010

On the Take

Posted in The Job - General by 200

Following on from yesterday’s post about the two murdered American police officers, I found this poem on one of their memorial pages:

A Cop on the Take

First he takes the oath.
Now look at all he takes…
He takes it in stride when people call him pig.
He takes time to stop and talk to children.
He takes your verbal abuse,
while giving you a ticket you really deserved.
He takes on creeps you would be afraid to even look at.
He takes time away from his family to keep you safe.
He takes your injured children to the hospital.
He takes the graveyard shift when it’s his turn.
He takes his life into his hands on a daily basis.
He takes you home when your car breaks down.
He takes time to explain why both your headlights have to work.
He takes the job no one else wants – reporting that a loved one has died.
He takes criminals to jail.
He takes in sights that would make you cry.
Sometimes he cries too, but he takes it anyway
because someone has to.
If he is lucky, he takes retirement.
He takes memories to bed each night,
that you couldn’t bear for even one day.
Sometimes, he takes a bullet.
And, yes, occasionally he may take a free cup of coffee.
Then one day he pays for all he has taken,
and God takes him.


May 22nd, 2010

Two more…

Posted in The Job - General by 200

… police officers have been killed in America.

Sgt. Brandon Paudert, 39, and Bill Evans, 38 of West Memphis PD were both shot dead after stopping a van in east Arkansas, when 2 suspects got out of their vehicle & shot them dead with AK47s.

The murderers’ vehicle was spotted in a Walmart car park 90 minutes later & was rammed by a wildlife officer. A shootout ensued during which two more police officers were shot & wounded.

The suspects were killed.

You can leave a message of condolence on the officers’ memorial pages:

Sergeant Brandon Paudert

Officer Bill Evans

Rest in peace, brothers.

May 21st, 2010

Not as long as your arsehole points to the ground

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I’ve noticed a few people coming here from Frank Chalk’s blog. Frank is a highly repsected blogger who is a teacher & author of  ”It’s your time you’re wasting“. So I thought I’d better return the favour & have now linked back to him.

Frank & I have something in common. I have retired & (sadly now deceased) close family members from the teaching profession. At one stage I thought about becoming a history teacher, however, much as I might persuade my children not to join the police service, my father did the same to me about teaching. Only I think he was a little more persuasive than I might be. I seem to recall him saying there’s now way he’s letting me join the teaching profession. And that was that. Probably for the same reasons as I’d not want my kids to become police officers & this was 35 years ago. I suspect little has changed.

Dad used to take me in to school when our school holidays didn’t match his schools holidays, what an adventure. I used to get to go on the school trips too. I was too young to appreciate the shite he had to put up with which sent him into the lure of early retirement.

When I was out & about on the streets, up until just a few short years ago, I used to spend a lot of time in schools. I used to really enjoy going in to schools & talking with the kids, showing them what I did & letting them play all over my patrol car. This was junior & infants schools. I wasn’t that interested in the senior schools, probably because half the pupils were customers. At least the majority of junior pupils hadn’t been corrupted, though you could tell the signs of those on the slippery slope. I attended many assemblies, plays & concerts & always spent a few moment pondering the innocence of childhood & wondering how many of the beautiful young kids in front of me would be pregnant, inside or dead before they achieved their potential.

I was a school governor for quite a few years, so one way or another I have been involved in schools for a long time.

One constant has been true in school throughout my experiences as a parent, school governor or police officer; I spent 30 years listening to people tell me “Oh, I couldn’t do your job.”

Teaching really was about the one job I used to come away thinking exactly the same.

May 20th, 2010

Evil Scum

Posted in The Job - General by 200

A burglar who tortured &  murdered a pensioner before burning her body & house was jailed for life this week at Teeside Crown Court.

33-year-old drug addict, Steven Hodgson broke into the 84-year-old widow’s home & strangled her on he bed after forcing her to reveal her PIN number.

He packed 2 suitcases with her valuables which he got his partner to pawn.

Hodgson’s DNA was found under his victim’s fingernails indicating she had tried to fight him off.

The judge in the case said: “I can detect at no stage the slightest degree of remorse on your part at the death of this lovely woman. You are a very dangerous man.” Hodgson, a man with a long criminal history of burglary & violence,  admitted in court that he preferred breaking into people’s homes when they were in as this meant cash, bags & credit cards would be available.

He was given a minimum term of 34 years.

May 19th, 2010

Speak no evil

Posted in The Job - General by 200

A magistrate from Blackburn has had his chairman of the bench position withdrawn after enunciating what we all think in open court.

Austin Molloy was part of the bench hearing a case of criminal damage against two youths accused of damaging church property at Blackburn Cathedral. The 16-year-old boys desecrated property on a visit by writing sexually & racially abusive words in prayer books & bending a priceless cross out of shape. They were identified after signing the visitors’ book.

Mr Molloy, a magistrate for 18 years, was sentencing the youths when he told them “Normal people would consider you absolute scum“, which is probably just a statement of fact. However, the court clerk objected saying that his language was inappropriate. She encouraged one of the boys’ mothers to make an official complaint.

Mr Molloy says the magistrates discussed the wording of their statement &  he decided to speak on terms the offenders would understand. He said: “We are trained and told to communicate with young offenders, any offenders for that matter, in language they understand. You have got to use language appropriate to those people so they understand exactly what you are doing. We felt we had to discipline the young boys and that’s the language we used to make them understand the gravity of the crime they had committed. It was a disgraceful crime. We considered it at length in the retiring room and it was the appropriate statement that we agreed on.”

Interestingly, the main offender’s father has said: “I totally agree with what Mr Malloy said and I’ve not got a problem with him whatsoever. I back him 100 per cent. As far as I am concerned Mr Malloy should get his job back.

“The whole family is absolutely disgusted with what our boy has done and he knows we are disgusted. Some of the comments people are making about us as parents are out of order.  I’ve worked my whole life and my son was brought up as a Catholic boy going to church, so why he has done what he has done, I don’t know.  He is not going to get away with it – he will be punished.”

The man’s son was given an 18-month supervision order & told to pay £1,500 compensation. The other boy, whose mother is making a complaint about the magistrate was given 12-month’s supervision & £100 compensation.

Mr Molloy awaits the result of an investigation.

May 18th, 2010

Why you no risten?

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Sitting at my workstation in the control room, when you’re not concentrating on talking on or listening to the radio, you can hear what the other controllers are saying to their units -and themselves; talking out loud to yourself seems to be pretty common round these parts, usually in frustration.

“Why dont you listen?”  is one of the most frequently used phrases.

It is usually in response to an officer who has failed to take in what you’ve already told them, sometimes several times.

When you give out a job, you frequently don’t have as much info as the officers want. In this case I will always say something along the lines of “10 High Street, sounds of a disturbance, no other information available, I will update you as more info comes in.”

You can almost guarantee that within 15 seconds someone will ask for either more info or a description of offenders or a direction of travel if they are making off from the scene. I try to resist the temptation to say “like I just said, there is no further info available”, because I really don’t want to sound like I think they’re either stupid or incompetent, honestly. I’m sure there is something in the human psyche which means at times of heightened stress or excitement, the brain cannot retain all the information given to the ears.

It is quite annoying when someone, usually a sergeant, calls up in the middle of an immediate job you are trying to coordinate just to ask if you can do something you’ve already done AND already said you’ve done.

Me: “Can you go to a report of two males fighting outside MacDonalds in the town centre. No weapons seen, CCTV are aware.”

Twenty seconds later:

Sgt: “Can you get in touch with CCTV, get them to have a search round see if they can find this fight.”

Me: “Already done.”

Twenty seconds later:

Sgt: “Were any weapons seen?”

The problem is when it’s the same people all the time. You can forgive people missing vital information that you are telling them direct sometimes, we all have moments when for one reason or another something goes in one ear & straight out the other side. But when it happens on almost every job it can be exceedingly frustrating. One of the reasons being while you are listening to someone asking a question – the answer for which they should already know – replying to said question, you are robbed of valuable radio airtime in order to deal with that question, when you could actually be using that wasted time to give some pertinent info or to do something else to make the job run smoother for the officers, like ringing the informant back to get better information.

And yes, there are serial offenders. I worked with one this week for several days running.

I lost count of the number of times I said out loud, to myself, “why you no risten??!

May 17th, 2010

Oh, yuk

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I had a rather disturbing telephone call at work this week.

It was one of those jobs which seems to take days to deal with. One of the ones that is always getting put at the back of the queue & with limited resources, ends up taking appearing on the list of jobs day after day.

It was one of the ‘bread & butter’ jobs, one of the ones we get loads of every single day. Domestic-related the ex kept texting messages to the other half. We’d been trying to get hold of the woman concerned to find out when she’d be available for us to send an officer. She was never & her mobile was always on ansaphone. After the third day I tried the number & got through. I wanted to make a simple arrangement to send someone round but as so often is the case, I got the entire history. By the end of the conversation I knew more about the pair of them than I did my own wife.

I’m not sure if she was drunk or not, she didn’t sound particularly well educated. She had been a druggie but was, apparently, in recovery, she didn’t work. I was too polite to end the conversation, perhaps I just wasn’t busy or bored or something but I let her prattle on for about 15 or 20 minutes.

It got to the point when she was regailing me with the story of how her ex had climbed in a window while she was at her group therapy meeting the other week, gone though all her drawers & stolen her vibrator, that I decided enough was enough.

There are just some things a controller  doesn’t need to know.

May 16th, 2010

Numpties on two Wheels

Posted in The Job - General by 200

I love it when a plan comes together

May 15th, 2010

Hymn to the Fallen

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obama_ceremony

“Freedom requires a sacrifice that the protected will never know.”

So said Detective Michael Larkins of Baltimore Police, USA. It’s National Police Week in the States when thousands of officers pay their respects to the fallen. Police cruisers from all over the country drive the streetsn of Washington as a mark of respect to officers killed in the line of duty.

The closing ceremony was attended by President Obama. He said Americans “rely on a certain order in our lives, a certain sense of security. What makes it possible, what makes freedom possible, are the law enforcement officials that we honor today.”

116 police officers died in the line of duty in 2009.

The Officer Down Memorial Page exists to record all those officer killed in the USA

May 14th, 2010

Its all a bit O/T

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Another day, another Daily Fail article slagging off the police.

This time its because the overtime bill has doubled in the last 10 years is now at 400 million of our English Pounds. This despite the fact that we also have an additional 15,000 police officers & 16,000 PCSOs. The Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at Kings College, London, noted that this did not bring about the ‘expected decline in overtime’.

The Fail uses its normal sensationalist bullshit by starting off the item: “Police are using dishonest methods to boost their pay.”

In the first 3 sentences it accuses the police of using ‘dishonesty’, ‘tricks’ & ‘Spanish practices’ to blag extra cash. Presumably the editor hasn’t done a diversity course recently having just slagged off the nation of Spain.

The examples it gives include where an officer is entitled to claim 4 hours overtime at time & a third for taking a phone call off duty &  making a decision. It doesn’t mention that the vast majority of calls to off duty staff are to senior officers of inspector level or  above who are not entitled to overtime payments since the government bought out their entitlement several years ago. I’d suggest the cost implications of this type of overtime would be negligable.

They also criticise the way police officers are entitled to double time or a day off in lieue for working a bank holiday, clearly they should be tipping their hat to the bosses for the opprtunity to leave the kids to open their presents on their own on Christmas Day, year after year, without suitable recompense while almost everyone else gets a free day off work.

The Fail is apoplectic with rage that officers can ‘dishonestly’ claim extra money when their rest day is cancelled with less than 5 days notice. Presumably they are not content with the fact that officers days off can be changed willy-nilly without compensation& a bit of notice & feel that police officers should just do whatever they are told, when they are told &  be grateful for the opportunity.

I have checked out the same story at the BBC News website, Guardian, Telegraph & Channel 4 websites who all report the details of the original report in a factual way, strangely none of them accuse the police of dishonesty, tricks or Spanish practices, except the Daily Mail, so no change there, then.

May 13th, 2010

And this week the award goes to…

Posted in The Job - General by 200

fraudster4Next in line for a ‘Scum of the Week’ award is one 69-year-old Zandra Mackay, a ‘carer’ who, in partnership with 79-year-old Beryl Benbow who systematically ripped off the frail elderly woman they cared for.

They appeared this week at Cambridge Crown Court accused of milking the accounts of ex World War II Wren Catherine Devas who died in 2006. She had savings totally over half a million pounds which was reduced by the thieving scum plus other members of their families to virtually nothing. The woman had massive spending sprees on the old lady’s account which included £5,000 haircuts at top stylists. They used cheques & bank cards to steal cash from her bank accounts after the victim suffered a series of stroke in 1995 which left her partially paralysed & dependant on carers.

They also forged Mrs Devas’ will naming Benbow as executor & leaving everything to Mackay’s son. They also made plans to sell her flat to Mackay’s daughter in law for a third of its market value. In three years they took  almost half a million quid. All this while pretending to care for her.

Can there truly be anyone so evil & deserving of the title ‘scum’?

May 12th, 2010

Stupid Drivers

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A little bit more light entertainment from the brainless…