Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stop and Search- again

Barely had my fingers left the keyboard on my last missive about Stop and Search when its back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

So as a proportion of the population you are more likely to be searched if you're black. On the face of it, that seems worrisome.

But these statistics can only be the tip of the iceberg in what has to be a huge complex interlinked web of many different socio-economic-cultural factors. Why are more blacks per head of population in jail for instance. And to be in jail, that means convicted of an offence, so no issues about (un)reasonable grounds for search by officers.

Delving into this is far beyond me here. I could spend hours debating the availability of role models, challenges of peer pressure, gang culture, the impact of living in an urban or rural area (without spending time researching it, I believe the majority of ethnic minorities continue to reside in cities), how this and all the above link in relative economic depravation or wealth, etc etc.

For me, I still stand by what I said in my previous post. In my specific local area, there is a particular issue with reported street crime- robbery and mugging, and the suspects are predominantly black and to a lesser extent Asian youths- and consequently most stop searches are resultant from this, . However, my previous force area was a much more residential sector, where the principal problem was burglary and motor vehicle offences, for whom the suspects were predominantly white male youths (especially for the motor vehicle offences) and white adults.

So do I change the way I work or the way I expect my team to work as a result as a result of this research? No. I will just carry on the way I think best. Namely treat each case, each incident, each call on its own merits, and deal with it with the information I have and the powers available.

Just please don't call me racist. One of the few times I've nearly lost my rag with people over the years is when I've stopped a black male for doing a fairly blatant driving offence (red light, taking the mickey with speed limits etc) and I get that classic line "You're only stopping me because I'm black". The best one being someone at night doing 45 in a 30 in a car with blacked out windows. I couldn't tell whether it was a male or female driving, let alone any ethnicity. The only result I tend to find that particular comment brings is that the words of advice option quickly becomes less favoured and the pen is out on the FPN.

And before anyone says anything, I don't only stop black drivers. Unless you give me the finger or try and hide your face from me, I look at the state of the car first, manner of driving second and the looks of the driver a very distant and usually irrelevant third when it comes to deciding when to pull someone over. As it happens, as far as I can remember, every pursuit I've been has been a white driver.

And here's an afterthought- most of the people stop and searched are male. Does that make us institutionally sexist? Should an advisory group be formed to examine and direct us on this particular issue? Should groups like Fathers4Justice or Presidents of Working Men's Clubs be asked to comment on this male bias? I feel the media have missed an opportunity to criticise, sorry I mean highlight an issue to debate, here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another one gone

Feel a bit guilty as I hadn't really checked my sidebar for a couple of weeks, relying on that planet police place to see whats happening in blogland.

Unfortunately, it only tells of who has been posting. Not the ones who haven't.

I am most gutted to find one of the best ones has gone. Has been reported or found out, and the management have obviously ordered it to be shut down.

Take a look at his last post before he is told to erase that too.

Farewell, Belfast Peeler. I shall miss your eye-opening tales of what happens across the Irish Sea. It is one of the few things that made me glad to be over here, putting the management problems into a new perspective.

Lunatics in charge of the Asylum

I met Duncan the other day. Well, I say met, if a meeting is what you would call several 999 calls to a naked man running around in the street.

Duncan wasn't running around in the street when we got there, but he was happily doing the backstroke amongst the petunias in someones back garden.

Still naked, I might add.

Duncan was actually quite pleased to see us, and actually had to be handcuffed to ensure there was no physical actualisation of him being pleased to see us, if you catch my drift. Although he did stop when the female ambulance staff arrived, saying he would never do that in front of a lady, but was quite annoyed at our reluctance to let him pleasure himself in front of us.

Duncan unsurprisingly was sectioned under our S136 Mental Health Act powers- which to summarise is that if we find someone who appears to be suffering from mental illness, in a public place, in need of immediate care or control for their or the public's safety, we can take them (against their will if need be) to a place of safety, usually a hospital.

I say appears to be suffering from Mental Illness. Being mere police officers we are of course unqualified to say anything definitive about mental health symptoms and so there are a number of things that must happen once we get to said hospital to ensure it really is mental illness- which involves waiting (usually for for several hours) for a suitably qualified collection of people to say that they are indeed mentally ill.

We were fortunate enough to section Duncan in office hours, so everyone was actually present and he was sectioned and sent straight back to the ward from where he was released less than 24 hours earlier.

You see, if Duncan doesn't take his medication, within 12 hours he effectively becomes a hyperactive 5 year old who cannot stop talking (or shouting, singing etc) at 120 miles an hour and has absolutely no idea of social norms. Hence the naked swimming in flowerbeds, masturbating and attempting to punch ambulance crews. He will have no recollection of these events.

But within 24hrs of ensuring he has his medication, his symptoms will have all but gone as the haywire bit of brain is brought back in line. He will be released back into the "care of the community".

He will then stay at a "sheltered" accomodation. I spoke to the warden at the place where Duncan was staying before his naked endeavours. I got seriously wound up with the attitude of this warden, which could be summed up as "Do I look like I care".

To me, this means one of two things. The warden from day one just couldn't give a hoot about their role in making sure the residents have their medication- they are happy with their state provided flat and call whichever emergency service whenever a resident gets out of line etc.

Or. They started with the best intentions, but got overwhelmed by the enormity of their task with little or no support. Their are about 50 rooms in this sheltered housing block. With the one warden who occasionally has daytime support staff.

People with mental health problems should not be locked up and hidden away. I know people who have done and do suffer with mental health problems. But if people don't have caring and patient families and friends to support them, and have to rely on the state to help, then the outlook is bleak.

Care in the community sounds great on paper, and I'm sure makes all the right political noises and has all the right buzzwords of "inclusion", "equity" and all that. But the reality is a perpetual cycle that is underresourced and overwhelmed, and has few success stories.

The title of the post, by the way, refers to the government. Not anyone actually involved in dealing with mental health.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speedy excuses

wwwSo West Midlands Police only paid 14 out of 2600 tickets eh? Naughty.

Hang on. So thats 7 per day, roughly speaking.

More than 7 emergency calls across the West Midlands every day? I'd have thought so. Its actually nearer 2000 per day, according to their website. So a rate of one camera is set off roughly for one call in every 285. You'd have thought that might've warranted a mention..... but no. Much easier to sneer and criticise.

(Note- edited Friday 26th to the correct figures after someone pointed I completely messed up my sums. It is roughly 50 tickets per week, not per day as I originally said. Look, I posted after a long day! But it makes my point even more so, that it is only one call in every 285 that a camera is set off. Why is that not mentioned??)

An aside. We don't want to set them off though, trust me. The paperwork side is a royal pain in the butt.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stop and Search

What a rare hullabaloo going on in the press at the moment.

It is such a touchy subject. Take a look at this old report from Devon & Cornwall. An increase of 40 stops over a year- to 146 out of a total 13500 (i.e. 0.01%). I agree with the chief, who sounds a bit bewildered when he asks what is all the fuss about when there were 40 extra searches across the entire two counties over the whole year. But look at the Race Equality Council- demanding to have an explanation for the increase from 0.007% to 0.01%, and demanding to know what the police are going to about it.

So Keith Jarrett has opened a rare old can of worms, asking that more youths should be stop searched. Predictably Ch Supt Dizeai has his oar in already, disagreeing, despite the fact Mr Jarrett is asking more youths be searched, not black or white youths, but the race element is instantly brought into it because he is president of the NBPA.

Now here's my take on it. Personally, I agree with Mr Jarrett. In my specific localised area the majority of robbery and street crime takes place with youth offenders and youth victims. I am not mentioning anything about their ethnicity because it isn't relevant. Often, these robberies are "knife-enabled" (to use the management speak) and occasionally gun-enabled (whether real, imitation, or whatever). And sometimes, people get hurt.

However, the only time my officers feel safe in conducting searches is after an event, i.e. when someone has called us to say there's been a robbery, or they've seen someone with a knife, as they then feel they have the grounds to search people matching that description. So most of the searches undertaken are effectively already too late- the robbery has already happened, someone has already been threatened with a knife. Occasionally we are lucky and get the right person.

Because with the level of scrutiny stop searches get, my officers generally don't feel 'safe' unless they have rock solid grounds to suspect someone of carrying something. A group of youths hanging around eyeing up passers by? Not enough, according to the guidelines we have to follow. Even if you recognise someone from having previously arrested them for carrying a knife, still not enough. I've seen the complaints upheld for things just like that. I have to supervise every one of their stop slips to ensure they do have reasonable grounds, because I'll get in the smelly stuff if I let slide.

Its one of those things where we could be certain a particular bunch of people are carrying something, but we know and they know unless we can point to something objective giving us that suspicion, we haven't got a legal leg to stand on.

Stop search could be one of the most effective preventative tools we have. But because of the requirements for us to have these reasonable grounds to suspect something, we are not able to be as effective as we otherwise could be.

I know the reason for this- accountability and justification. I'm not debating whether the legal side is right or wrong here, just pointing out we can't have it both ways.

Monday, October 22, 2007

False Confidence

Is the expression and demeanour displayed when it is yourself, 12 PC's in yellow jackets, and two blokes on horses holding back about 2000 football fans, who aren't necessarily pleased at your presence.

Gotta love the football season.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I don't know whether this story is true- one thing I have learned having read newspaper reports about jobs I've dealt with, is that newspapers can be hopelessly inaccurate and too often present opinion as fact (and the Daily Mail group are especially prone)- but apparently:

A police crackdown on vietnamese drug barons is stopped because it is racist.

According to their report some forces fell foul by specifically mentioning the Vietnamese nationality in their warning letters to landlords.

Is this a good thing? Open question- if it is an accurate report, did those forces do wrong by specifically mentioning a particular nationality?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stating the Obvious

We live in a day and age where we are encouraged if not rewarded to state the obvious.

We had a couple of incidents recently which made me laugh. Well, not the incidents, but the subsequent actions after I was required to take.

The following post is written in recommended politicalo-correct font.

Firstly, in an area of town frequented in particular by one section of our diverse community. Naturally on this blog I cannot specify which particular community segment I refer to, as actions experienced by myself are not necessarily indicative of the whole community, but a minority and I do not wish to encourage any negative stereotyping.
Early in the morning, outside a venue frequented by members of said community, we had an incident where the was a disturbance. CCTV cameras pick out one person in a small group of others has what appears to be a gun handle in his waistband.
Armed response boys come in, and a plan of action agreed which results in identified individual and his group being stopped, after a little bit of a chase. Lots of other members of the community witness police actions and aren't necessarily happy despite the fact a live loaded Eastern European handgun is recovered. "Unfortunately" the way armed response do stops with people suspected of having guns isn't particularly touchy feely with a nice chat and officially approved "Hello, I'm Constable Sidearm from Central Police Station, can I have a word please".

So as a result of the above I have identified that a particular community has had 1) what they may have percieved to be a negative experience with police 2) a community within this community appears to be having some kind of argument which is resulting in members turning up to disturbances with loaded guns. I therefore need to inform the relevant people (SMT, NPT/SNT etc) with my revelation I have identified possible "community impact factors" (such a wonderfully vague nonsensical term) which they should know about.

Of course they would know anyway about the incident, but I and the boss may be liable for criticism for not identifying these community impact factors at the earliest possible opportunity and informing the "relevant people".

Thats the way it is!


Morning. Or is is afternoon? I hate it when its one of those days when you have to look at your watch to remember a) what day it is and b) what time it is. Night shifts. Love 'em.

Apologies for not that many posts of substance. Seem to spend my life at work at the moment. I've taken my leave this year in two big chunks and it's something I've regretted. I won't have any proper time away from work until Christmas now. Excluding sleeping, I will see the wife for a total of approx 8 hours this whole coming week. Its the football season now so weekends off are something of a rarity. One good thing about television-isation of football is that matches are no longer always on Saturday, or not a kickoff in the middle of the afternoon, so at least I sometimes have a weekend or a bit of one every so often.

And the government still want to reduce our pay. Any pay rise we have is worked out in relation to the average across the private sector, i.e. what people in "normal" jobs get. Government want to bin that, so they can pay us less.

So yeah time I'm off I tend not to spend on here.

Do you know what I'm talking about when I mention that part in Hot Fuzz, where (important, must be said in a West Country Accent) Sergeant Angel has been told so many times that things are done in a certain way round here that he kind of glazes over and mulls along until he has that flash of inspiration?

Its kind of like that with me at the moment. It seems every suggestion I have made to try and improve things on my response team has come back with the reply "we don't do it like that here". When asked why I never seem to have a clear answer, maybe an occasional rumbling containing word snippets like "budget" or "its your officers fault it got like this, therefore its their problem". Thats when I get an answer. The desk drivers at the people responsible for pursuit policy won't even offer an acknowledgement of me trying to get hold of them, as though I am completely unimportant and inconsequential, despite the fact I implement their decisions on a near daily basis with inadequate equipment. I can't be bothered with the flog across the division to Ivory Tower at a time when they're actually in the office and I'm not dealing with a hundred other things. I'd only end up getting angry at them and saying something anyway.

Trying to effect change from the bottom up in the police is like trying to change the direction of an oil tanker from in the water with nowt but a pair of flippers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


So apparently 95% of children are victims of crime in some sort.

I don't know what to make of this. Back when I was a kid, you got into scrapes, had arguments with friends which sometimes ended up in a scrap, had stuff pinched from your pencil case, and everyone tried to think of ways of getting extra stuff from the canteen without paying for it.

But would I have regarded myself as a victim of crime? With one exception (when me and my innocent bag of chips were set upon in the park by a group of what the media love to call yobs), no.

I think the problem I have with this report, or at least the way some of the radio reports I've heard have talked about it "Every child is a victim of crime!!" is that straight away it encourages people to become immersed in victim culture. In particular I mean the way people think of themselves as completely innocent, and it's everyone elses fault they're a victim. The second question people usually ask when told someone is a victim of crime is "what are the police doing about it?". Or more usually, it's the police's fault for not doing enough to prevent in the first place. Or someone else. Definitely nothing to do with the "victim" themselves.

I would like this survey to have a few extra questions. Like- have you ever pinched anyone elses stuff? Have you ever hit someone or pulled their hair?

Because I reckon about 94% would say yes. If they answered honestly.

Don't get me wrong, there will be examples of genuine victims, unprovoked assaults like what happened to me, and other malicious stuff that kids seem capable of (especially you girls!).

But lets get some perspective, please. Ask any copper if he's had stuff pinched from his bag or locker. About 95% of us would say yes. Someone took a boot (just one) from me once. My point is- it happens. No amount of legislation and government directives to investigate every allegation will stop it. Just let us use our common sense to decide when someone is a genuine victim, and let us concentrate on them.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Joys of Autumn

No sooner had I written the last post then my body agreed with me I was doing too much and currently have a joyous head cold. Combine that with too many early turns and being posted with the skipper has been even more of a punishment posting! Well, it would be if we had enough people to double crew the cars.

Anyway, something caught my eye on the news. Normally, I have mixed feelings about the fire service- you know, usual stuff about being paid to sleep on nights, being encouraged to play sport in downtime, never having to write stuff up about demolishing peoples front doors / walls /ceilings except for "I thought there might have been a fire".

It really annoys me when they completely destroy a door, frame and surrounding brickwork following reports of a fire, leaving the place completely insecure, and then call us to babysit it for a few hours until someone comes to repair the place.

On the flipside though they are consumate professionals at major incidents, RTC's and when there really is a fire its bleeding dangerous work.

Anyhoo, they definitely have my sympathy when I read this report. Would the same sanctions (demotion, discipline, fines, diversity awareness course) be applied if they had disturbed heterosexual couples commiting the same offence? (For offence it is, to be having sex in public).

And if not, why not?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Too much

I know I haven't posted much recently on "real" police jobs, i.e. stuff I've been going to.

A couple of reasons- a course, one which I feel Inspector Gadget would have particularly loved, a course which can be summed up that if someone is underperforming, its actually my fault. It took a week of seminars, role plays and discussions, to tell me that, and that's about all I can remember. Well, that and the fact I was now called a delegate, the trainers were now to be called facilitators, and we didn't have to wear ties.

That aside, I came to the conclusion last night I'm trying to do too much. I'm involved in projects with various senior management teams trying to improve practical stuff at my (i.e. response) level, I'm in consultation with a specialist branch developing a training package because I found out my troops are completely unsure about how to deal with these particular incidents and are running on a combination of rumour and common sense. Which most of the time is fine, but its when it goes wrong it will come back to bite them. If a standard operating procedure regarding a particular call is published deep in the job intranet files somewhere, it doesn't matter how little publicity it has or how hard it is to find, if its published it is assumed everyone knows of its existence and will be called to account for why it hasn't been followed.

But now I've found this out, the responsibility has shifted on to me to bring everyone up to speed. No pressure there then.

Combine this with a new PC needing a lot development (see above about it all being my fault) who is taking up completely disproportionate amounts of my time, plus the new governor being a big fan of figures, plus a load of other stuff which is too identifiable to blog about, but all requiring computer time. The other day I spent about 5 hours in the poxy windowless box with dodgy heating that serves as the sergeants office staring at a screen trying to make headway with all the above, in addition to the usual supervision stuff I have to do with regard to crime reports and everything else, before I said "Bollocks to this", threw on my civvy jacket and took a walk round the park round the back of the nick in what was a glorious autumn day (I didn't know, see bit about poxy windowless box), where I got hassled by an over friendly squirrel for one of my Revels.

I didn't give him one.

But even then I still took my radio with me, knowing I would feel the vibrate if someone pressed the panic button and having that bit of ear specially tuned to the high pitched beep which accompanies it, so I could sprint back to the nick and be in the car within two minutes.

So I've come to the conclusion I've got to scale back. Accept the fact that changing policies at high level is a process which happens at a pace akin to evolution, and just concentrate at the moment on the stuff that needs to be done here and now. Its frustrating because I know just a few changes, and someone taking responsibility for something rather than saying "thats not my problem" would make a world of difference. But at the moment I don't have the hours in the day to be the person to take that responsbility, which is I know what'll happen. Maybe in a few months when things have settled, just not now.

As for right now, the sun is out and this is enough time in front of a computer for today. Except for one last thing. In true gadget style, here's a song that came on whilst I was writing this which fitted my mood... one of those "sing as if nobody's listening" kind of moments for me.....

Monday, October 01, 2007

This and that

Tying up a couple of loose ends....

Pursuits. Thanks to commenteers as always. As far as I'm concerned this would be a useless blog if people weren't prepared to comment. I do have an opinion on most things but I know that mine isn't necessarily the same as yours and I'm not always necessarily right! (Just ask the wife....)

My own opinion on pursuits? I certainly wish we could have TPAC reintroduced- "nudge features", boxing in etc to attempt to bring a pursuit under our control, and not entirely in the hands of the loon in the bandit car. The reasons why it was withdrawn I'm not sure about but it would have probably had something to do with when it wrong once (i.e. over keen police driver- I'm sad to admit it does happen, look at the video on the sidebar), plus of course the big pound signs- more driver training, damaged police cars, and the fact lawsuits from injured people who were pursued are actually paid out. I don't get that. Their argument is they wouldn't be injured if they weren't being chased. I'm sorry, but as above just who is in control of whether they stop or not?

I'm not saying everyone who gets chased should be TPAC'd. But it should be an option available when the crime is serious enough, and not a blanket ban. I'm trying to find out who writes our pursuit policy so I can discuss this at high level but no-one has replied to my enquiries yet....

I'm aware that police advanced driving is just the foundation for even more advanced stuff- anti-hijack, close protection, use of vehicles as weapons etc but the majority of the techniques on there shouldn't apply to a "regular" pursuit. Indeed, I reckon it'd get you into a pile of smelly stuff if you did, knowing the job. Wouldn't stop me trying to blag a place on one of those courses though!

Secondly, PCSO's. I asked around about their training. Turns out the two in Manchester did exactly what their training (should it be the same as ours) stipulates- they are civilian members of staff, so do not get involved, and call for regular police. If they went in, got into trouble, chances are their union would not cover them for insurance etc because they ignored their training and got into a risky situation. Much as the emotion of the situation says otherwise, I can't blame them for not going in. They did what they were told they had to do, knowing that if they did go in and get into trouble, their own loved ones would suffer as they might not get a life insurance payout. The police officer, being a warranted officer and has a duty to protect the public, is covered should the worst happen.

I found out there are two general types of PCSO's.

1) Very good ones. Keen to get involved, put themselves on the line, including in risky situations, and generally do their best with what they've got.
2) Others who do the bare minimum, and seem to take advantage of the lack of inefficiency procedures, and are happy to walk around not doing a lot.

Very broad generalisations, I know, bear with me. The thing is, the ones in group one very quickly become frustrated with their lack of powers, the lack of any career prospects and scarce opportunity for skills training. So they apply to join the job as soon as their 12 months are up.

Please note I know there are exceptions, that there are very good ones who are happy to remain as PCSO's and are well motivated. But I consistently heard from across the board that the above is the case- that the good ones join the job, and it is a struggle to motivate the others.

Trainers at HQ are quite convinced that the government will continue increasing the powers of PCSOs, and quite soon there will be a two-tier police system in this country.

Thats enough about that for now. Next time, a story from the real world of policing! Unless the Daily Mail comes up with something else that winds me up a treat.