Monday, March 31, 2008

Family Connections

I happened to browse over someone's shoulder today (well, I wouldn't buy it myself) an article in the epitome of unbiased reporting, The Sun. I noticed this article.

Some bloke is given eight points on his licence for driving like a tool at 130mph plus.

Not normally a cause for a story, there must be dozens of people going through the courts on a daily basis on speeding cases that never get a sniff at the Sun's editorial desk.

Yet this is news. Why? Because he's an ex-cop's son. Not even a serving officer. In fact, he's a PCSO. But that isn't the blaring headline.

The whole article has a somewhat unsubtle bias, and it is clear to me the person writing the article either believes, or wants you to believe, he only got this lenient sentence on the basis of him being an ex-cops son.

Sure enough, the first commenter "makes" the connection, saying how we all look after our own.

This whole article annoyed me because of the snidey anti-police connection made when there frankly is none.

For what it's worth, he should have been banned. £200 fine driving a V6 Alfa Romeo? He's got more cash than that. A non-police friend of mine, no previous motoring offences, got that fine (and the rest!), plus a 6 month ban for 105mph on a motorway.

It should be the judge that gets the criticism here. Not making unsubtle hints thats its only because his old man used to be a policeman that he got off lightly.

Investigative journalism at its finest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Double Standards

Want proof that setting targets is a helpful method of improving performance? Ask the senior NHS man who's just been sent down for a year for trying to make his results meet government targets.

Okay so he falsified some documents to fiddle the figures, but two questions I have:

1) Is that really a million miles different to the crime classification games the police play to make certain crime types appear not as prevalent as they really are? The over emphasis on sanctioned detections, where a 5 pound shoplift carries the same statistical weight as a murder or rape?

2) How come this bloke, on a first conviction, without any personal gain or injury to any other person, gets sent down for a year, whilst violent drunks, car thieves and burglars get (barely) supervised community orders?

All of this, of course, whilst the government themselves are desperately trying to not make themselves accountable, and have all their generous expenses claims kept secret from the people who fund them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Show me the.....

Well, a couple of days a long way from the grey walls of Suburbiaville, where by some terrible mistake of planning I forgot to take the phone, and I'm feeling a bit better about actually going to work.

It's surprising (read: not at all) to find that after a bank holiday weekend the email inbox barely registering anything new at all. As crime doesn't happen on bank holidays, not least in offices within police stations, there has been nobody in to send force wide emails on minute (but god help you if you don't implement it) changes in policy, or the unneccessarily detailed breakdown of the last so many hours crime patterns. I shall wait for the deluge upon my next non-bank holiday login.

Before I get criticised for criticising people not working the bank holiday- I know, I wasn't there for all of it either, but it was only my second weekend off this year that just so happened to be a bank holiday weekend. I did get calls to ask me to work various days within it but I balanced it up and thought the ire of the duties office was a better bet than the wrath of the wife.

Anyhoo one thing has caught my eye. Ever eager to clamp down on expenditure on every public sector (excepting, of course, within their own unaudited, mileage-claiming, second home owning, self-pay-rising, family employing walls) the government has put forward the suggestion that PC's and Sergeants should have overtime payments abolished in favour of a higher basic salary.
The details are in the most recent Police Review, for those who are able to log in.

I can hear Inspector Gadget's hollow laughter already. Inspectors and above forfeited their right to overtime back in 1996 for a higher basic salary.

Now, this higher basic wage would be a fantastic idea for anyone office based. An extra 3 grand a year for doing precisely nothing more. For muppets like me still flogging out rotating shift patterns and the unpredictability that response policing inevitably generates, we'll probably lose out. There's been at least two or three occasions this year already where circumstances have dictated I have had to stay at work long enough to work into a rest day. Things like this aren't planned, and are generally actually an inconvenience, but at least the following month when you've forgotten all about the extra tiredness and rapidly rearranged childcare stuff there's an extra couple hundred quid to play with.

I don't want to see overtime scrapped in favour of a higher basic rate. I'm no overtime bandit unlike some other safeguard-aholics I work with, but I still wouldn't want it on principle. However, it worries me that if it went to a vote, there's a lot of Pc's and skippers working in office based units, with no intention of being in a situation where they could end up being late home, who would vote yes if it came to it.

I think policing would suffer, too. Don't pay the overtime and there's a real risk that an hour before the shift end, every car is going to be parked up in the back yard with the log books shelved. At least now, if you're late off, there's extra money to be had off it. Be late off with no recompense at all, and especially if your finishing on time colleagues will get exactly the same cash, then there will be a real motivational issue. Coppers generally are decent people who want to help the people who call 999, but we're not complete fools and we all have bills to pay- and if we get the same money for whenever you finish what's the point in taking the last minute shoplifter that'll make you 4hrs late home.

But of course, McNumpty et al don't care about this, they only see the pound signs, and if they think they'll go down, then it'll be worth it whatever the price, if you catch the irony.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coming up for air

I know I've been rubbish about doing anything on here on a regular basis at the moment, but it's somewhat lower down the list of priorities at the moment. At work the whole time it seems at the moment, a relentless movie on repeat of custody desks, perpetual sanction detection plea emails. The force has found a huge reserve of money from somewhere and is throwing everything they have at scraping a few more figures before the end of the month, so custody is more busy than usual with top brass sniffing around. Combine that with days off cancelled here there and everywhere, a frankly quite horrible job the other day and when I get home I'm much more inclined to sleep or go and do something completely job unrelated with the missus.

Hopefully, normal service to be resumed in April.....

Monday, March 10, 2008

My remit is everything

I've had it up to here with the job at the moment.

You'd think policing is in essence a simple concept but somehow it has become a convoluted twisted political game. Maybe it's especially worse at this time of year (i.e. three weeks before the end of the financial year) but it's just pathetic at the moment.

Couple of things have highlighted this to me. Having spent an entire day doing a pointless paperwork duplication exercise for someone in HR having a strop (It doesn't matter that you've got all this record of supervision in this format, it has to be done on this one) I went out with a bunch of my lot the other day. I even got to drive for a bit before I had to give up to deal with my phone going incessantly about some other pointless political wrangling:

One of your team is driving our squad's car!
Do you need it? You're going off duty now.
You're not on our squad, you can't use our car.
Tough, I've got permission from your governor.

(repeat several times.)

I was saddened to see one of my Pc's, an Irishman the size of a medium oak tree, become near jubilant over finding some cannabis, which meant his sanction detection targets (also now known as "Saccy D's", I found out) were now met for the month.

I wasn't saddened because he met his target (not that I take any notice of the targets anyway, as I am quite aware the capability of a police officer is not measured by a tickbox list) but because we have reached the situation where a reliable, capable PC, damn useful in a pub fight, is reduced to this.

I ought to add the reason for his jubilation was that now, having achieved his target for the month, he was free to dealing with jobs in the most appropriate way, not the way the statisticians want.

As it is now the end of the financial reporting year, all the various squads are desperately trying (as in even harder than usual) to avoid being given any new jobs that could impact their figures. Whilst I was in custody the other day the domestic violence unit were desperately trying to cling on to the ACPO definition of a domestic incident because the female victim, who lived with her less than charming other half who had given her a thumping, was a few days under the age of 18 (ACPO definition being a domestic incident can only take place between adults over 18, you see). Unfortunately for them, the arresting officer wasn't a PC, slightly more susceptible to being out-talked by squads- but the duty officer for the day.

Half an hour later two grumpy detectives mooch into the custody suite. I did chuckle to myself.

Of course, response teams have the remit of everything. I love the gadget quote- remits are excuses used by lazy officers to avoid doing work. Or to avoid doing unglamorous work.

Another day, a different squad from a neighboring division in the custody suite, as their own custody suite is full. There's four of them dealing with this one prisoner. Force doctor says that the chap needs a constant watch and so they approach the desk with this news, expecting to use one of our PCs. Their faces when my colleague tells them where a chair is so they can do it. With the duty officer behind him, agreeing with it. Sorry chaps, you're already using our facilities, you're not diminishing our team strength with your problem. I did chuckle. Again. I could see their thought process on their faces- "but I'm on a squaaaad!"

I think I'm just especially frustrated with response team work at the moment. We are the easiest to blame for any failure to meet squads targets, we get criticised for failing to reach our corporate team targets, never get any thank you for dealing with crappy jobs well. It is so easily forgotten how I have a quarter of my available response team sat cold, bored and immobile on crime scenes, and much easier to point out how so many percentage of calls weren't answered in the chartered response time.

Response team is the dumping ground for anything that comes into the too difficult box for other departments. I spend at least 2/3 of my time when I'm not in custody doing reams of paperwork relating to an officer that came into the too difficult box for the training unit, and who got farmed off to response team to "develop".

I'm coming increasingly to the conclusion I need a break from response team. It's all I've ever really been interested in the job, but I'm getting to the stage where I've had enough. I'd like to be able to play more than one rugby match in a month without having to take leave to do so. It'd be nice to have a shift pattern that doesn't include night shifts. I'd like to have a team with PC's where I don't have monitor every single thing they do.

I think I need to be on a squad.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

As Tough as Usual on Crime

The latest hare-brained scheme from Central Office? Lets give our foreign prisoners £3000 in the hope that they'll agree to go home??!

Am I alone in thinking that this is an incentive to commit crime?

Yes I know the argument about how it saves the taxpayer money by them not being in prison any more... but how did we find ourselves in the situation where the only way we can deport foreign nationals is to bribe them?

I'm all for migrants who come here, work and pay their taxes. A hell of a lot of them do immeasurably better than some of our own home grown workshy types. But if you commit a crime serious enough to warrant incarceration, then it shouldn't be an option, you will be deported on the completion of your sentence if deemed appropriate.

Not on the condition you accept £3000 to do so!!

Here's an idea (thought of the following day): how about we take the £3000, minus one one-way ticket, and give the rest to the victim of their crime? That sounds a little more like justice to me, rather than pay your offender a barrowload of cash

Monday, March 03, 2008

I feel the need......

Feel urged to write this post having had a couple of conversations with people over the weekend.

I do not, have not, and most likely will never have anything to do with speed cameras. I don't have anything to do with where they're sited and I certainly never see any sniff of any "revenue" generated from them. If I did, I might have a fleet car capable of setting one of the things off without a 200 metre run up.

In fact, from photo to court summons it is more likely than not that no police officer will ever have the slightest thing to do with it any point. Its all dealt with by civilian officers from "Safety Camera Partnerships".

I'm sorry, it's a speed camera. Calling it a safety camera is merely trying to rebrand it into something its not. It can only ever deal with speed and the myriad other factors (drink, drugs, bald tyres, leaking fuel pipes etc etc) that have a significant impact on road safety are excluded. The following Top Gear video sums it up nicely.

Should I ever make Chief Superintendent, I wouldn't get rid of speed cameras, for they can have a role. However, I would have the following rules.

1) The relevant speed should be posted on the back of the camera.
2) The camera can only be sited where-
i) There is an accident blackspot
ii) Local residents have requested one, backed up by a speed survey
iii) worker safety (I know someone who works for one of the firms who do engineering work etc on the motorway, who has a few fruity things to say about people who speed past him whilst he's standing protected by nothing more than cones)
iv) a high density pedestrian area, by which I mean town centres and schools. I've never seen a camera in a town centre or by a school.

The reason for said speed camera should be posted on a plate below the camera.

I get just as hacked off with cameras as the rest of you. I have heard a rumour that SPECS cameras are going up on a A road near where I live, on a national speed limit 2/3 lane dual carriageway that I often use to go into work. In the last 4 years or so, I've never known an accident on that road. When I head in to work at 5 am on Sunday when I quite often don't see another car at any point, I don't have an issue bimbling down at 85, or possibly faster if I had a car capable of not sounding like the engine is about to come through the bonnet at said speed. If I was in a job car on a shout, I'd have no problem topping the ton.

But now I'm going to have to constantly monitor the speedo, consider getting flowery non-ANPR reading numberplates (there's never a traffic officer around these days to tell you off, after all) and quietly see nothing at all when I see things like this:

Small print: blah blah I'm a police officer and speeding, and most particularly the wanton destruction of taxpayers money manifested in the form of a speed camera, is highly naughty and illegal and expect to get prosecuted.

(Note- for some reason the comments tab isn't appearing, I have no idea why, hopefully it'll show up again)