Thursday, January 31, 2008

Community unsentenced

A while ago I posted about how community sentences properly enforced could and should be a viable alternative to jail.

Unfortunately, articles like this are the reason these sentences are treated with understandable contempt. Which until this is sorted out, I have got to admit I find community sentences a washout. I wish I didn't, but I do.

And Jacqui Smith blabbering on this morning on GMTV about how Labour are so much tougher on crime. How she can say that with a straight face is beyond me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Horses for courses

I am in a bit of a quandary.

My team has been offered a particular training course. At least 3 of the PC's want to do it.

Although the final decision is the governors, he's asked us skippers to say who we think should be top of the list.

How do we- how do I- do this? The governor's forwarded on all the latest stats for the team- the usual stuff of whatever the statmonkeys can access via their IT systems- so arrests, stop searches etc.

Now this is total anathema to me. I hate statistical comparison. I reckon that the available statistics that can be measured may equate to roughly 20% of our police work. The list of things that aren't statistically compiled is endless- death messages, accidents, sudden deaths, court appearances, spending an extra half an hour having a cup of tea with a victim. All this counts for nothing in the team performance indicators.

But now I'm in a position where I have to give someone a sought after course and be able to justify why. Suddenly, it becomes very easy to jump on the stats bandwagon and justify it like that.

But if I do, I suddenly become part of the system which I hated as a PC and do still now.

Any suggestions for alternatives gratefully recieved. Names out of a hat isn't really an option. One of the PCs who would like to do this course isn't really suited for it, certainly not as much as the other two, and I need to be able to justify somehow him not being the the first name.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coming Soon

I've actually been allowed out from the custody suite by some accident of planning and have ignored the paperwork side of things to actually go out for a few days. (I'll suffer for it later!)

Was a bit rusty on my roadcraft.... as I went to one of the assistance calls, I realised that despite knowing the ground and bends very well, every so often some utility company comes along and digs the road up in a place there weren't no digging before.

One sobering new-pants-please moment later I switched my driving head on, remembered what I was actually taught, and decided I would rather like my unsullied police driving history to remain in that condition.

Someone once told me the key to advanced police driving was when you mess it up, give the impression that you planned it the whole time....

Car incidents aside, coming soon are a couple of highlights from actually going out and doing stuff, if highlight is the word. Makes a change from whinging about MPs embezzling money or assaulting kids.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random things

I've had 5 minutes to spare, so I've had a look at some of the stats I've got for this site. Weird search engine results that have somehow ended up here include:

- "female blogs handcuff him". I bet they were disappointed when my page turned up.
- "deactivated guns price". I bet they were even more disappointed.
- "how to make round stairwell post". I have no idea. Go to B&Q.
- "how to make a warrant card". Go to Toys R Us, thats where our ones feel like they're sourced from
- "I'm a PCSO". How nice for you!

...and the best one by far- and I kid you not, somehow someone stumbled across this page after googling the following:

- "the average size of duck flippers".

Note from the 5th March- What are you lot like! This has now jumped up to the 6th most common search engine referral!!!


Good Stomp

I know I know, I was going on about it for ages and then I double booked myself with something I really couldn't get out of, and so my involvement in the march ended with a sheepish apology to my local fed man, who took good advantage to shower me in various muppet themed compliments. Had no respect for the rank that man I tell you.

Anyhoo sounded like a good turn out. Good to see there was no rowdiness and no-one threw any eggs at any MPs (which I have to confess to being a teensy bit disappointed by!). If I'm honest, my main concern would've not been the march itself but the inevitable almighty piss up that usually follows a jolly down town- thank you, totally un-sober.

Whether or not the government listens is another thing. The whole point of this march has been the government has not been fair. This could easily be dismissed as comparing the police to little more than a child not getting his way and having a strop, and in a certain way it is, just multiplied by 144,000. Except I would tell a child that if someone wasn't being fair, then you should stand up to it.

The government has for the first time not accepted independent arbitration's decision on our pay rise. We have to make it clear from now, from the first time, that this is not acceptable. I don't want to go on about how jobs are unique and all that for the 1000th time but we have no means of communicating our displeasure with the government in a way that really makes them listen.

I don't want to strike. I could only strike on a rest day, if you know what I'd mean. I'd love to have a stick-a-finger-up-at-government-targets day, where we could deal with stuff in the most appropriate way and ignore the bleating emails from office jockeys about our sanctioned detection rates and our failures with PND's. (Although I do kind of do that most of the time anyway).

Good luck to prison officers too. Instead of dealing with their concerns, the government instead tries to make it illegal for them to strike.

And has anyone else noticed a quietly introduced report which suggests Police pay should be determined by skills and performance?

Hmmm. Will have a closer look at that when it's fully published next month.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Downhill all the way

The Sun is following Gadget and others lead in decrying Britain as a descending into anarchy as feral youths roam the streets looking for innocent people to randomly assault and murder, etc etc.

Whilst I would take any appeal by the Sun with more than a pinch of salt I have got to agree with their letter writer who derides politicians as doing little more than giving sad eyes and soundbites. Couldn't have put that better myself. Whilst I would normally avoid the Daily Wail like I'd avoid the back end of a cow with digestive problems, I did enjoy their dig at Jacqui "one doesn't mind popping out for a kebab with my own personal armed policeman" Smith.

So what do I think? I've talked before about prisons. My opinion hasn't changed much- Prisons only work in the sense of whilst someone is inside they can't commit futher offences (except against other inmates and the occasional warden.) However, the populist press can not let go of the Victorian idea of that if someone has done something wrong they must be punished, and that the only way to properly punish someone is go to jail. "Community" sentences are derided as soft.

I'd disagree. Prison costs a fortune and rarely provides any rehabilative capability. For those who were sent to jail with a job and rented accomodation, they will rarely have either when released but services to deal with rehousing offenders are overstretched beyond any capacity to deal with any effective number.

I'd agree community sentences are ineffective but thats mostly because the services to monitor these sentences are again underresourced and overstretched and people frequently get away with avoiding them. I have yet to confirm the story I heard that one person appealed his community sentence of clearing rubbish as degrading, and under the human rights act some judge or other was compelled to agree and changed his sentence.

Properly funded and monitored community sentences, with the threat of a non-playstation equipped jail as a motive for compliance, where persons keep their jobs or studies going but losing their spare time to something beneficial to a local area- something like clearing litter, clearing graffiti, whatever- would be better for the minor offences rather than clamouring to throw everyone in jail.

The nasty unprovoked beatings like what Nicolas Hague showed himself capable of- our prisons are frankly too good for him. We should have a prison sharing agreement with Estonia (apologies to any Estonians, I have no idea what their jails are like, but you get my drift).

One thing which certainly doesn't work is the youth justice system. This whole situation is so spectacularly ineffective I simply have no idea where or how to start even thinking about where it has all gone wrong. But the end result at the moment is young adults have a system where everything is geared towards bending backwards for them- we're not even allowed to wear our belt kit into youth court in case the little darlings find it too "oppressive". Tell that to the victim of their knifepoint robbery. They have absolutely no respect for authority - i.e. us, courts etc- because they don't need to. Some little burgling so-and-so I arrested after he crashed the car (after pursuing him, ha ha) he had stolen from the burglary he did 2 hours managed to persuade the judge big nasty evil bully men were making him steal these things despite not providing one hint of a name or evidence, and so got acquitted on the burglary charge! He only got convicted for driving offences! Nuts.

Despite what the government believes and will probably do, no amount of target setting for getting youths into court within 2 days or new proposed legislation will make any difference. Not while we have parents who instead of giving their offspring a bollocking for shoplifting, give them a bollocking for being stupid enough to get caught by the police. Yes, I witnessed this myself. I was actually speechless, and had to leave swiftly before my mouth caught up with what my brain was thinking. Not while we have a culture that encourages all disputes have to be sorted out by someone else, because no-one wants to take on any responsibility on themselves- it is always someone else's fault.

And in the meantime politicians continue waffling out the soundbites, and people seem to accept them, despite it being proved time and again they are at best half truths and occasional outright lies.

It winds me up when I read about the stories like Gary Newlove. I get fed up with the lack of balls (apologies to Bloggs) from anyone in a position to do anything about it apart from order yet another inquiry.

I just get back up at a stupid time in the morning, and go back to work and do the best I can with the rules I've got.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Career Disambition

Happened to be up at big chief HQ the other day during normal (for the rest of the world) hours, and happened to stumble upon the big chief himself coming out of a meeting.

To be fair, especially after recent events (which I can't post about) I think our chief is actually a decent person. However, what struck me was his staff officer. Immaculately ironed and creased shirt, shiny scuffless shoes (mine are all beaten up after being over too many walls, being out in the rain far too often etc etc- although I still do polish them every so often!), blemish and hole free trousers, and just a little soft round all the edges- but what really got me was the plate of biscuits being held.

"Hold your biscuits sir? Absolutely sir."

He had this curious look about him too- one which at the same time seemed to survey everyone else as less important than them, but also doe-eyed puppy dog whenever Mr Chief was looking that way.

And I just thought someone shoot me if I ever end up like that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Off topic

I know it's not exactly anything to do with anything anyone's been talking about, but it made me laugh at out loud and sometimes thats just what you need, especially with this wind and rain!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rotten Egg

Sad story from the home counties. Police Inspector by all accounts has killed his wife, then having secured bail, he goes on to kill his mother in law, then himself.

I don't know why the COURT decided to release Gary Weddell on bail. It is important to realise that it was a judge who released him. He was remanded in custody from the police station. Need to be fair on Herts Police here, they didn't release him on bail because he was in the job, as I can almost hear someone shout already.

The MP needs to sort his facts out- we don't have any say in whether a judge grants bail or not, that issue by that stage lies squarely with the CPS. How unlike an MP to spout off accusations without knowing the full details.

Murder is one of those exemption-to-the-rule type cases with regard to bail- i.e. it is only granted in exceptional cases, and not the other way round. It is like this precisely for the kind of reason that has happened here.

So why the judge decided to allow him free (and who's going to pay the £200k now I wonder) is a decision he has to justify. I wonder if his defence team feel satisfied now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Who to Choose

For my last post below I've been having a debate with a commenter about how we should prioritise incidents we are called to.

Firstly, my thanks to Michael. I am quite aware that other people have different opinions to things to me and with regard to policing, everyone who pays taxes has, or should have, an opinion on how we go about our work. I do like a bit of good debate- and I don't mean in the Jeremy Clarkson style of "My opinion is worth more than yours, so I'll shout louder until you shut up".

The theme of the debate was deployment of resources to a self harming mental health patient, whom by the nature of his violence required a significant number of police officers, which inevitably meant a number of calls would have gone unanswered. (Note- I don't know if there exactly were any serious or non-serious calls which were unanswered / delayed responding as a result of this job, but the point is if there could have been)

So should we give a lesser priority to those whose needs for the police are self generated as opposed to others who are more genuine victims?

As much as sometimes I might like to think one way or the other yes or no, I don't think we as a police service have the right to prioritise our calls dependent on the social background, mental state or any other factor involved in the personal background of the caller.

This is why I also disagree with the concept of police performance targets. Targets by their very nature mean the paymasters want certain incidents to be dealt with in a certain way in order that this target is achieved.

I myself a firm believer in dealing with incidents on an individual basis on its own merits. You shouldn't have a system where people are criticised for dealing with incidents where the outcome was the most appropriate, but as it was not in accordance with a target the officer is seen to have failed by his superiors.

Back to the original point, if we do start giving higher priority to people who are arguably more deserving of police time then it sets a dangerous precedent. Take this example. Should the boy's family have any less of a service compared to the driver of the car as you could argue it was the boys fault? Of course not.

In summary, police deployment should be prioritised by at its most basic level threat to life, then property, and then all else below that. It shouldn't matter whose life or property is at risk, and if we start changing priorities within that in accordance to who is more likely to satisfy a target, or who is deemed more deserving, then it is a sad day.

On a completely different note- please see the "Police Short Stories" link either here or from the sidebar. The man behind that blog is compiling a book of just that- short police stories- and would love to hear from you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Abiding memories

What with it being a new year and all I wondered what the lasting memories of 2007 would be for me. There was a couple of nasty car crashes, one involving a decapitation, another with a man being cut in half by a tree- whilst still in his car.

However, sad as it is to say it there'll be more car crashes this year, probably some as gory. I think the following story though will stick out in the memory, as it was a bit more unusual and out of the ordinary.

I originally posted about this back in May. I've changed some bits around, changed grammar and whatnot. But it's still the same story.

Its about the time I met a man called Robert.

Robert has a personality disorder that is determined untreatable and so he is not allowed to stay in hospital despite our frequent cause to S136 him. (S136 Mental Health Act- sectioning someone)

Robert decided the other day to cut his wrists. Now we quite often get calls like this, and get there to find small cuts, not very deep- more scratches, really. Robert was a tad different.

With a stanley knife he had gouged right through his wrist. 3 times. He was sat in his kitchen when we got there with his despairing friend.

I don't think I'll forget the sight of his kitchen. It was a reasonable size, with a white tiled floor. It was about 2am, and a single flourescent tube illuminated the room, making a gentle buzz.

Robert's blood covered every single tile. It was on the sideboards where he had sat. It was dripping down the cupboards. A blood saturated towel was in the middle of the floor. Blood spots were on the wall from when he'd flung his arm about. You wouldn't have thought blood smells, but I tell you it does.

Robert was sat on the sideboard, talking to us quite normally, oblivious to the fact he was sat in a scene straight out of SAW. Robert did not want to go to hospital, despite the fact he was constantly oozing blood and he had already lost at least a pint.

This left us in a bit of a situation. We can't force him to go to hospital. He's committed no offence. We only have powers to section people if they're in a public place. The old trick of arresting them to prevent a breach of the peace, followed by de-arresting them once outside and sectioning them instead isn't an option these days. Its now in fact a breach of force policy. We also have the issue that he doesn't even want to leave the kitchen. Robert is no small man. We're in a kitchen with all manner of weapons close to hand with a blood covered ice rink for a floor. We do not want a fight, but thats what we'll get if we try and put hands on him.

But there's no way we can leave him there. He's still conscious, blood steadily dripping through his hands, telling us it was an accident and he'll get it sorted in the morning.We all know he'll be dead by the morning. The bandage he did let the ambulance service put on he has decided he doesn't want and has torn off.

So, we talk. We patiently build rapport and trust. His friend tries too, but nothing. He just sits on the sideboard, oblivious to the blood everywhere, telling us he's fine. Half an hour of patient persuasion leads nowhere.

All of a sudden, Robert is impatient with us still being there and smashes a cup down onto the floor. The group of armoured PC's who are hiding outside brace, wondering if I'm going to order them all in.

A lone Pc comes in with a shield, and tells Robert not to be so stupid in a manner you would tell off a child, which with all the circumstances seemed mighty surreal. But to my amazement Robert responds, becoming apologetic and saying sorry.

Taking this hint, we continue with the more forceful approach. Myself and the Pc tell him that he's going to hospital right now. Hallelujah, Robert agrees. I quickly signal for everyone outside to quickly hide, knowing if he sees all the armour and shields waiting it'd freak him out. We walk out and go down the several flights of stairs, everyone quietly following. Blood is still flowing down his hands. We are leaving a trail of red, and as we wind down the stairwells, there are spots and spots of blood all over the floors below us before we even get there.

Finally, three floors down Robert goes down in a heap, succumbing to the blood loss. I quickly grab his arm and get the ambulance service to put one, then two and finally three dressings on it. Robert regains consciousness.

Straight away he's fighting us, swinging arms and legs, swearing at us to leave him alone. I'm in a fire exit stairwell of a grey low rise tower block, its 3am, I've got a seriously mentally ill chap spraying blood everywhere who's using his remaining strength to fight us. I do briefly wonder why I do this job.

I don't wonder for long. I've had enough. I nod at a Pc whilst taking a tight hold of Robert's arm and shoulder. The Pc grabs the other side and we march him down the stairs, holding him as he collapses again. He really is a hefty git and we can't carry him, we just wait for him to come round again, stop him fighting us, and march him on again.

Finally, we reach the bottom. He collapses once more as the ambulance driver runs off to get his rig. Once again, once he revives he flails out at us. We can't handcuff him because of his mangled wrist. We're going to have to keep hold of him until he gets sedated. I throw my car keys at someone and we somehow get into the ambulance and are off to the hospital on blues. I stand, holding his wrist up high to stop him hitting me with it and to try and stop him losing yet more blood. The Pc is pinning his other arm. The paramedic is trying do attach monitors, but not getting very far as we're all struggling with him and our balance as the ambulance dodges in and out of traffic.

We get to the hospital and see the open mouthed reaction of the staff when we struggle in with him. We take him down to a cubicle from where he somehow summons more strength from somewhere and 4 of us end up pinning him to the ground. A nurse runs in and puts safety specs on all of us. The doctor doesn't ask a hundred questions of us or the ambulance crew for once, but gets a sedative and administers it. Finally, Robert calms down. He crawls to a mattress on the floor and allows the nurses start cleaning him up. The floor and corridor around us looks like some something out of an abbatoir.

I take the chance to grab some water, grab some air. I take a look at myself.

I am covered in his blood. Boot, trousers, stab vest, shirt. Thoughts of HIV and Hepatitus cross my mind and I go and clean myself up, hoping that little nick on my arm has healed properly. The other skipper is going through all the details with the ambulance and hospital staff.

I feel justified in volunteering someone not covered in his blood to write this all up. I head back to our nick, feeling quite nauseated now by the constant smell of blood from my own clothes.

They were so contaminated I had to return to the hospital later and bin most of my uniform into their hazardous waste bins.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Time to dust off the walking boots

Did someone mention the idea of going on a rally?

A certain someone on the 10th December...

The Federation on the 3rd January! (took them long enough!) Please click the link to see the poster, I laughed out loud when I first saw it. Someone at the fed has a sense of humour after all! I tried to figure out a way of copying and pasting it onto here but I was defeated by my un-technologicalness.

I shall be taking the train down to big smoke central on the 23rd, as I enjoy a happy coincidence of rest days. Does the Met's perk of free public transport around London apply to non-met warrant card holders? Hoping so.

Much as part of me would love this march / rally to not have complied with the various regulations of no protesting without prior notification around parliament, I actually do hope it is all legal.

Whilst I would love to see how the government would cope with such an incident (i.e. it would ram home the point that any amount of legislation they pass is useless if the people who are to enforce it completely ignore it), we can't act illegally for just the same reason.

We would utterly undermine ourselves if we in a deliberately in a very high profile way break the law, for then we would leave ourselves open to fair accusation that we pick and choose which laws to uphold, i.e. only the ones we choose to. Much as I think much government legislation is pointless, I can't decide which ones not to enforce.

Although having said that, our ability to use discretion is one of the most important tools we have else we all would have a lot more points on our licences and there wouldn't be a person left who hadn't been fined! Come on, who hasn't dropped some litter. Or sworn in public.

But a big display of a mass of police officers sticking a finger up at the law in order to stick another up at the government is pushing it, I think.

Views welcome as always.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Another year over

... a new one has begun in depressingly similar circumstances. Get well soon.