Tagged: Policing

THE POLICE – WHEN MORALS AND DUTY COLLIDE PART 2

In part one of this blog (you can read it here) I looked at some of the jobs Police Officers deal with which they are legally obligated to do but which often clash with their own personal beliefs and morals. I used real examples given to me by serving Police Officers.

In this blog I want to look at the consequences of the Police Officer going against a lawful order and standing by their morals rather than their lawful order as defined by Government.

A lawful order is an instruction from a supervising officer that is not unlawful and pertains to your duties as a Constable

When a senior officers gives a Police Officer a “lawful order” they are as you might expect LEGALLY obliged to fulfil it without question. I believe the only order that can not be given by a senior officer is to take somebodies life, that is at the sole discretion of the officer behind the trigger. If I am wrong there than I am happy to be corrected.

If a senior officer tells a Constable to move kids from a street, then the Constable must move the kids from the street or have a reasonable explanation as to why he/she did not. If a senior officer tells a Constable to arrest an individual then again, unless there is a lawful, reasonable reason to do the opposite the Constable must obey.

So if the Constable in my previous blog who didn’t want to police the fox hunt had told his supervisor “Actually Sergeant, I don’t agree with hunting foxes and quite support the people wanting to stop the hunt so I’d rather not do that”, that Constable would have been left without any doubt that he will conduct the required duty with impartiality as sworn to in his attestation

The Police Attestation sworn by all Police Officers upon recruitment.

The Police Attestation sworn by all Police Officers upon recruitment.

If an officer deliberately goes against a lawful order he can expect anything from a bollocking or being picked for some not so pleasant jobs in future to dismissal for neglect of duty.

Twice in my career I refused to follow a lawful order because it went against my morals and each one ended differently but thankfully did not end with me being sacked.

The first time I was still in my probation period and my eldest daughter was only 8 months old. I was told to go to custody and babysit a prisoner who was a suicide risk. This filthy creature had sexually abused a baby and killed her. I didn’t give a damn what he did to himself and certainly didn’t want to spend 8 hours sitting in his company. I asked my Sergeant if somebody else could do it as I could not guarantee that I would keep my cool, the victim was the same age as my daughter. I know this was a selfish thing to do but it struck close to home with the age of the victim and being a new dad and I personally would have handed the bastard a noose. I was pushed into the Sergeant’s office and told to get a grip of myself and do my job and warned never to question orders again.

The second occasion happened towards the end of my career when I was told to go and move a homeless man from a secluded spot under a bridge in some woods because an affluent member of the community had been walking her dog and was “horrified” to see a “grubby tramp” sitting by a fire and insisted he be moved so she can walk her dog there again. I asked why we were moving him on. I was told “because we have to”. I refused and suggested I conduct a welfare check on him instead but was told that I would “do as I was told” and move him in. I refused and headed out on patrol. I was “advised” and faced a few weeks of hard labour dealing with all the tedious jobs, sent out on foot patrol in crap weather etc but I didn’t care because I had stood by my morals and that was more important than some antiquated oath.

There have however been incidents where officers have gone against their duty and subsequently been sacked, demoted, faced disciplinary action and sometimes even charged with neglect of duty. An Officer got in touch with me recently who has asked to remain anonymous and told me how he had refused to Police a march against our troops because he was ex Army and he was told he had no choice and so he told his boss he did have a choice and went off sick. He was suspended, investigated by professional standards and barely kept his job.

The fact is, Police Officers face loosing their career, their pensions, their life and health insurance, their financial security that of their family and so it is not as simple as just refusing to do something they don’t agree with. I was a lucky one as I had something to fall back on and so when I realised my personal beliefs and morals clashed to much with my expected duty as a constable I was able to jump ship and be safe. However, for most they don’t have that luxury. With very little transferable skills acquired in the Police and very little job availability out their putting up and shutting up is quite often the much easier option.

But a question I have often heard asked and pondered over is where would a Police Officer draw the line at “just following orders”? Obviously a an order can only be followed if it is LAWFUL. But the Police do not make the laws as I have already mentioned in Part 1, they simply enforce them. The laws are written by Parliament, by people right at the very top of the hierarchical tower. So what would happen if those in charge decided to make it LAWFUL for the Police to use lethal force on protesters and for senior officers to ORDER a constable to do it, for example? Would they blindly follow orders or would their morals come into play and make them refuse to follow orders regardless of the risk of being sacked?

It is of course a hypothetical question but one that I feel needs considering. If Police Officers are expected to put their morals and beliefs to one side and follow lawful orders with impartiality, at one point does moral right and wrong supersede the lawful duty of a constable?

right-and-wrong

The Police – When Morals & Duty Collide PART 1

Police tape and officer

“The call was passed out over the radio that the security at Morrisons had detained a shop lifter and were asking for assistance from the Police. A call like this is graded as an emergency so we flicked on the blues and flew straight across to the shop. That annoyed me when I arrived because obviously every time you respond with lights and sirens you are putting people at risk. We got there and some bloke in jeans and a t-shirt came running up to us excitedly saying “nice one lads, she’s in here, come on” and scurried off. We had no idea who he was, no badge, ID or anything to suggest he was a part of the security team. I stopped him and asked who he was and he told us he was an ‘Undercover Store Detective’ and it was him that had caught the ‘shoppy’ and that his colleague was sitting with her now. He opened the door to what looked like a broom cupboard with a table and chair crammed into it. There was a a lanky security guard stood with his arms crossed across his chest with a stupid grin on his face. He told us later ‘this is my first catch’, hence the excitement I think.

Sitting in the chair was a woman who looked to be in her late 30’s. She was wearing a trouser suit and had black leather satchel like bag with her. She wouldn’t have looked out of place as the store manager. She was sobbing uncontrollably as soon as she saw me enter the broom cupboard. Before I could even speak she was begging forgiveness. My partner took the security guards out of the office whilst I sat with the suspect. A few minutes later he came back in with 4 items in his hand. He placed them on the table. Two of Morrisons finest microwave meals currently on a 2 for £6 offer and two £3 DVDs. Pepper Pig and Ben 10. The woman howled and began crying even louder.

My colleague told me that the ‘Undercover Store Detective’ had been patrolling the store and had seen the suspect put the items into her satchel. He thought she was using it to carry her shopping to the till at first because he said she didn’t look like a ‘shoppy’ but she walked straight passed to tills and to the exit. There was some discrepancy as to whether she had actually left the store and completed the offence but he was certain she had and would check CCTV for us. I asked the woman her name, date of birth, address and I ran her through the PNC. Nothing at all came back on her. I asked for a check to be done on her address and surely enough it was recorded but under her husband’s name and they were only recorded as being victims of a burglary the previous year.

So this wasn’t your usual shoplifter. I passed her a tissue from the pack I carry in my stab vest and asked her what had happened. Her story was that 8 months previously she had been made redundant from her admin role at a local hospital where she had worked for 15 years. The had 2 kids, a 5 and a 7 year old. They had struggled on for the first couple of months on just her husbands wage as she tried her hardest to get a new job. Then disaster struck when her husband’s firm went into administration and her husband lost his job too. They had lost all income, had fallen behind on bills and mortgage payments, they had not been able to celebrate Christmas properly and although her husband had found a new job which didn’t pay enough, she had been to one failed interview after another and was still out of work. They were still behind on bills and all money was going on feeding her kids and paying the essential utilities.

That day she had been to an interview, hence her dress and appearance, and was very confident when she left. She was on her way home when they called her so she pulled into Morrisons car park to take the call. Sadly, another failed interview. She told us that she couldn’t face going home to her kids and husband again and giving them bad news and so she decided what she needed was to feel like she had provided for her kids and to see a smile on their faces.

She had taken the meals for their tea and the DVDs were to see them smile and so they could sit and watch them in their bedroom whilst her and her husband talked. I don’t mind admitting, her story and her emotions made me choke up a couple of times. Ultimately what we had here was a mother who was desperate that she was willing to cross a line she had never even considered before and break the law to provide a meal and a smile for her kids. She fully understood what she had done and was more than apologetic. She was petrified that now she was going to be arrested for theft she would never find a job….that’s when I made my decision.

I used my discretion. I knew my partner would agree cause we were so much alike. I told the woman not to worry and to try and compose herself and I left the room. The two guards were right outside the door like two puppies awaiting praise and a treat. The uniformed one asked “Have you locked her up?”. I told them that I hadn’t locked her up and that I wasn’t going to either. They froze on the spot, their tales no longer wagging. They told me that I MUST lock her up cause that is their company policy. I told them that their company can’t have a policy that dictates what Police Officers do and that I have ultimate discretion in this situation and I don’t believe that criminalising this woman is the best way forward nor is it in the public interest. I explained her situation.

The ‘undercover’ guard was on my side. He agreed that it’s not the best solution. The uniformed guard was more upset at losing his first catch. I tried several times to get him on side but he wasn’t having it and so in the end I simply told him it was tough. It was my choice and the lady would not be getting arrested today. We all crammed back into the room and I explained to the woman that she would not be getting arrested and that we were going to take her out of the store and have a chat in our car. Lanky, obviously upset we had stolen his catch butted in with ‘But you are barred for life from this store’. She burst into tears again. She begged him to reconsider as she lived just around the corner, had shopped their all her life and couldn’t afford to travel to the next nearest supermarket every time they needed something. The guard was unrelenting and insisted it was ‘company policy’.

My colleague questioned whether he has the authority to do that given that he isn’t actually a Morrisons employee and when he confirmed he did have authority my colleague assured her that he would speak with the manager and let her know (he did do and the manager was fantastic and allowed her back into the store). When we got the woman back to her car I provided her with details of local groups and charities such as the Salvation Army which would be able to help her and her family and she couldn’t thank us enough and promised never to do something so stupid again.

When I spoke to my supervisor to get the call finalised I was shouted at. I was told that I should have arrested her and that it will take some ‘clever wording’ in order write off the call to comply with the National Crime Recording Standard. I was told it was my duty and that I will probably now have to go and arrest her from home. I told him that wasn’t going to happen and that if he thinks that is the best way to deal with somebody in her situation then he can go and drag her out of the house in front of her kids. As it happens the call was finalised and the woman wasn’t arrested. Job well done in my eyes.”

The above is a true story told to me by a serving officer. I use it because I think it demonstrates well the human side of policing. Here we had two officers whose “duty” dictated they arrest the shoplifter but whose morals dictated they help the woman and their morals won. I don’t think any good person can argue or criticise the officers for the way they dealt with the situation. Had it been another officer who attended the call the woman could well have been arrested, charged and walked away with a criminal record which could potentially prevent her finding employment. But this is just one example of many where Police Officers have to fight between their morals and their duty and quite often duty wins for reasons I will go into.

Over the last week I have spoken to many Police Constables who have answered several questions for me to help with my blogs and a project/campaign I am working on. One of those questions was;-

Has there ever been a time when you have been instructed to carry out a duty as a Police Officer which clashed with your personal morals and beliefs and if so, how did it make you feel and how did you deal with it?

The following are some of the answers I received.

“I am dead against fox hunting so when I was told I was policing the hunt to stop hunt saboteurs I objected. I explained to my boss that I didn’t feel I could because I don’t agree with fox hunting but I was pretty much told he doesn’t care what I agree or disagree with, I am a Police Officer and will do my duty. Having to “protect” these sick bastards while they scared and killed foxes made me feel ashamed for the first time in 17 years of being a Police Officer”.

“It drives me mental when people call the Police to say “there are kids playing in the street and being noisy” and then we get sent along to move them on even though they have done nothing wrong. They are just playing in the street and having fun for god sake. It’s not late at night or early in the morning, they are not committing crime, they are not even being anti-social or breaching the peace! The are PLAYING. Yet we get ordered by supervision to ‘move them on’  because we have a ‘duty to the public’ and must ‘maintain public confidence’… Well it might make the person complaining happy when we move harmless kids away but it doesn’t do much for maintaining the confidence of the youths, of their friends and family when they tell them they were chased off by the Police. Obviously if they are being rude, committing any offences, targeting somebody… we would have no issue dealing with them but all this does is make us look like bullies driving around scaring kids and spoiling their fun.”

“I got deployed with a team to prevent a breach of the peace whilst bailiffs evicted a man who had not been paying his mortgage. When we got there there was a removal van, about half a dozen bailiffs and removal men and they were waiting for us before they went up to the address. There was already a crowd gathered outside defending the man and who were angry and shouting at the bailiffs. My Sergeant spoke to the fella in charge and made sure the paperwork was above board and legal. We had to move the crowd back which obviously resulted in pushing and shoving and arguing with insults being thrown our way. We stood for about 2 hours separating the crowd from the property. The evictee was crying. Officially we were there to prevent any crime taking place but to the public we were HELPING the bailiffs evict a man. I felt guilty. I felt like stepping aside and letting the crowd through and helping this man get his house and possessions back. I couldn’t because I had a legal duty to prevent breaches of the peace and protect and preserve life and property.”

“Fracking is something I am 100% dead against and so when I took part in training to police protests at fracking sites I began asking myself how I would react when expected to stand guard outside one and prevent protesters gaining access. Truth is, I would WANT to let them in and even help them stop the fracking but I would HAVE to do my job and fulfil my duty and follow lawful orders. That really causes a moral dilemma and conflict”.

So here I have highlighted just a few of the jobs and duties expected from a Police Constable which cause internal battles with their own morals and beliefs. Jobs where their sense of lawful duty takes precedence over their morals. Police Officers may sum it up by saying “We’re just doing our job”. In part 2 of this blog I am going to look at the consequences of them doing the opposite and standing by their beliefs AND ask where exactly a Police Officer would draw the line at simply “doing their job” and following orders.

THE POLICE – Common myths, beliefs and misconceptions

lights

I want to take a moment to look at and address some of the commonly held myths, beliefs and misconceptions held by the public, perpetuated by the media and ingrained within society today in relation to the Police. The idea isn’t to defend the Police and it isn’t to patronise or “prove you wrong”. It is to raise awareness of REAL Policing. To help people see and realise that the Policing you see in the media both the negative stories in papers like the Daily Mail and the action packed scenes in TV shows like Cops With Cameras is NOT a true reflection of the work and duties of Police Officers today. Nor are the many rumours, beliefs and misconceptions you see on social media, hear down the pub or talk about amongst friends. I want to look at how the term “The Police” is used by the media as a cover-all term and how that can have impact upon public opinion. I also am going to look at some of the beliefs the public hold regarding the Police. Comments I have heard time and time again and opinions people have kindly expressed upon request to help me write this blog.

Firstly and most importantly I think it may be best to look at just some of the duties your average Police Constable is expected to deal with. I refer here to the “patrol bobby” you see (or you may argue DON’T see) on a daily basis. A Police Constable is the lowest rank in the service but is also the foundation of the service. As a PC you can move into almost any role within “The Police” providing you have completed two years probation and have the competencies needed for the role. For example, a PC upon completing their probation on patrol/Neighbourhood team (the default position for all Police Constables) can move into the dog section, mounted, roads policing, drugs team, Firearms, CID… The list is very long. Many people think if you work in one of those other roles you must be a different rank from the uniformed bobby. That is not the case. The role of the PC is very diverse but Patrol or Neighbourhood Policing is their default position.

So let’s look now at the duties of a PC on a patrol/Neighbourhood team. The list is below is just a fraction of the duties and jobs a PC is expected to deal with at any given time. They are the first responders to pretty much all 999 calls, non emergency calls and simple public enquiries.

Burglaries both ongoing and historic
Robberies both ongoing and historic
Assaults both new and old, minor (push or slap) and serious (ABH, GBH)
Stabbings
Shootings
Theft both ongoing and historic
Neighbour disputes of varying degrees
Sudden deaths both suspicious and expected
Suicides
Murders
Pub Fights
Anti-Social Behaviour
Nuisance Youths (anything from knocking on doors, being loud, playing football)
Frauds and deceptions
Criminal Damage
Vehicle Crime
Drink/Drug Driving
Road Traffic Collisions
Audible Alarms
Poachers and Wildlife crimes
Drug dealing
Prison crimes (Crimes actually inside prison!)
Found property
Lost property
Missing persons
Death warnings (telling people a loved one is dead)
Preventing breaches of the peace
Harassment warnings
Assessing a scene for CSI
Guarding a crime scene
Protests
Domestic violence both ongoing and historic
Rape
Child Sexual Offences
Racism
Public Order
Shoplifting
Football matches
Music events
Carnivals
Noise Nuisance
Immigration
Assisting ambulance
Transporting for ambulance
Assisting mental health workers
Assisting Doctors
Assisting other law enforcement agencies
Assisting other policing teams (CID, Roads Policing etc)
Assisting door supervisors
Taking alcohol off children
Dealing with public nuisances
Guarding suspects at hospital
Protecting victims at hospital
“Suicide Watch” of suspects in Police custody
Working in the Custody Suit
Bullying
School fights and other school related incidents
Facebook name calling and bullying
Civil disputes (even just to inform people it’s not a police issue)
Ebay purchase disputes
Parenting kids (“My son is refusing to do homework” = true call)
Stray dogs
Aggressive dogs
Stray livestock
Loose Horses
Loose Peacock!! (actual call I attended)
Parking disputes
Forcing entry to property for other agencies (ambulance)
Taking statements
Compiling case files
Speak with CPS
Arrange solicitors to attend
Arrange for an interpretor
Interviewing suspects
Attending court
Seizing property
Completing stop and searches
Gathering intelligence
Submitting intelligence
Attending community meetings
Foot patrol
Youth work
Community involvement
School inputs and talks
Training courses
Control Room duty
Front Desk duty
Vehicle checks prior to mobile patrol
Reporting faults with patrol vehicles
Transporting paperwork, exhibits and colleagues to court

Like I said, this is just a fraction of the jobs a PC is expected to deal with. They are a slave their radio, to the orders of the higher ranks, the demands of the public and anything else they come across in the course of their shift. A lot of these jobs take up a lot of time. For example, it is not uncommon for an Officer to arrest a suspect for a simple offence such as shoplifting (simple in complexity, not seriousness) at the beginning of an 8 hour shift and for that officer to then be tied up dealing with that job for the entire 8 hours. Waiting to get into the custody area, recording the crime, writing a statement for the arrest, obtaining a statement from the victim, seizing property, possibly a house search, arranging CCTV, waiting for a solicitor, possibly arranging an interpreter, interviewing, obtaining charging advice, possibly speaking to CPS, charging, bailing or releasing the suspect, completing a file…. Bet you didn’t realise how much goes into one simple arrest for a straight forward offence did you?

Attending a sudden death can often take several hours as the officer has to wait for life to be pronounced extinct, await the undertakers, possible arrange for the door the officer has forced open to be repaired, replaced or boarded.  Even reassurance call to an vulnerable victim of a crime which occurred weeks previously can take an hour or so if the victim is afraid, upset or simply wants some company for a brew.

Throw all of this in with the fact that despite what you may hear from politicians, frontline services are being massively cut. The number of Police Officers covering your home town, city or village each day and night would shock you if your force’s senior command allowed you to know the truth. The Police Officers know the true extent of the situation but they are ordered not to tell the public by the pseudo-politicians at the top of the command chain in order to “maintain public confidence”. If they disobey and reveal information which could undermine public confidence then the Officer would be disciplined at least, dismissed at worst.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean. I spoke to a friend still serving in one of our countries largest forces yesterday. He covers an area over 200 square miles in size. A rural area with a population of around 61,000 people. Normally there are 4 Police Officers covering this area. The “ward” as it is referred to, consists of miles of country side, forests, nature reserves etc and requires vehicles to be able to respond to emergencies in the many residential areas at any given moment. The 4 officers are banned from “double crewing”, that is they MUST work alone and not in pairs. They have 2 marked Police vehicles. The day I spoke to my friend he told me that of the 4 officers there was now only 2 covering the ward because the bosses had seen fit to take one of them to police a different part of force area. That left 3. Then one of the officers was sent to assist a GP gain access to a house. The Doctor was meant to be meeting a patient with mental health issues but was getting no reply to knocking. The Officer attended and was told to force entry on welfare grounds (to protect life and limb) and upon gaining entry found the man was just sleeping on the sofa. The Doctor took the patient to hospital for an assessment and the Officer was left behind to wait for the house to be secured by the council. He had been waiting over 3 hours at the time of my call which left my friend and his colleague with one vehicle and 200 square miles to cover. This meant that these 2 officers would have to prioritise any call that came in for their area. It meant longer response times. It meant 4 people’s work now split between 2. It meant that the public were not receiving the service they probably thought and expected they were. This isn’t a one off example. It is especially a problem for the rural forces or forces with rural areas. My home town is no different with contacts within telling me there are regularly not enough Officers to cover the area properly.

So a huge list of duties and expectations (some of which should not be dealt with by police officers such as ebay disputes, facebook issues, parenting difficulties, transporting people and things….) coupled with ever dwindling resources is the TRUE reason you do not see so many Police Officers on patrol anymore whether that is in a car or on foot. I will admit and agree that many Officers probably do not want to be patrolling on foot these days but that is not through laziness (although I admit there will be the odd one who is lazy) it is more because with such vast areas to cover and the enormous range of duties they are responsible for with such small numbers, walking around in one town is not practicable.

For example, when I used to walk around on foot in the town of Wetherby I was useless if a call came in at Boston Spa or if a colleague in Aberford, a 10minute drive away but part of my ward, needed assistance. If you want more foot patrols you need more police. If you want more police you need to get behind them, stand up for them and fight the Government. It is their austerity measures causing this problem. The 20% cuts to Police budgets with an impending 25-40% FURTHER CUTS to follow this November! It is not “The Police” that make the choice not to patrol or to take their time getting to your call, it is the GOVERNMENT forcing this problem onto society through drastic austerity measures. Forcing senior ranks to make difficult and possibly dangerous choices over policing priorities.

I blame the Government and the media for a lot of the myths and bad opinions of our bobbies. I agree those bad apples in the Police Service do not help in any way and if you read my other blogs you will see my opinion of those who disgrace the office of Constable. However, it seems to have become the norm now to just report negative Police stories and to link anything to do with law, order, legislation and everything crime related with the cover-all term “The Police”.

We see “The Police” and images of Police related items such as the blue and white Police tape, being used by mainstream media when reporting on things which if we were to be fair, are not the fault of the Police. For example, when a particularly horrible suspect is released from custody on bail or without charge it is reported that “THE POLICE HAVE LET DANGEROUS SUSPECT “JO BLOGS” WALK FREE TODAY…”. In actual fact, if a suspect has “walked free” on bail or without charge, that is down to the law and legal system, neither of which “The Police” wrote or has any control over. There are very strict rules regarding the bailing and remanding of suspects which the Police simply abide by, not write. The decision to charge a suspect is made by the CPS in most cases or a trained Crime Evaluator in other matters. Decisions are based on evidence, threat to victims, witnesses or even the suspect and other factors. Although it is a custody Sergeant who authorises the release of suspects, it is done by following very strict rules which leave no room for ifs or buts or any personal opinion or preference, so how can they be blamed? Unless of course the release has been caused by a failure, malpractice or mistake by “The Police”, in which case you could blame the Officer responsible, but not the entire Police Service of England and Wales, your entire force or “The Police”.

When the Government introduce controversial new laws such as their snooping charter, the media often state to the public that it is “The Police” who want to have these powers. It is NOT the Police who request these powers. It is the Security Service and the Government but because it will be the Police who are forced to enforce the laws whether they agree or not, it is “The Police” that get the blame.

When it was discovered that the national crime statistics were wrong, fiddled and manipulated it was blamed on “The Police”. That resulted in many people thinking the bobby they see patrolling, attending their calls etc is a liar and fiddles the crime stats. The Police all over the country were labelled as liars and trying to cover things up when in actual fact the crime stats were fiddled by the senior command, the pseudo-politicians and the Home Office. Why label and tarnish an entire section of society, a vital public service, based on the actions of people who are so far removed from real life and the daily good the Police do? My guess would be to keep the wedge between the public and the public servants firmly in place so that they are less likely to stand together, shoulder to shoulder against the Government. But that is just my opinion.

This desire to blame “The Police” for everything, even it is not the fault of the Police subsequently bleeds into society. We have all heard the criticisms, opinions and myths surrounding policing. Let me elaborate and start with this one…

It’s lunch time, you hear sirens in the distance, you see a Police car with blues and twos on heading into town in the direction of shops and you say/hear “There they go, off to get their lunch” or something similar along those lines. We have all heard it. The comment has been uttered since I was a young child and even before then I am sure. I can not comment on whether that actually ever happened back in the “olden days”. Perhaps in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when Policing and life was completely different from today. However, I can guarantee you that it does not happen today and if it ever did then the Officer(s) would be disciplined and most likely sacked along with charged with any traffic offences they committed.

The reason being is that in all Police vehicles these days there is a “black box” device. This device requires the Officer to either scan their warrant card or security pass or type in a unique code in order to start the car. So long as the engine is running this device records EVERYTHING that vehicle does. It records, speed, breaking, gear, mileage and every time the sirens or lights are turned on. So if an officer has a collision in the vehicle the data is automatically looked at. If he is found to have been speeding, didnt break, using lights and sirens when he shouldn’t have been etc, then the officer is facing one hell of a problem. The control room supervisors and senior management can and do conduct spot checks on the vehicles. They can check what speed Officers are driving, they can make sure light and siren use coincides with an emergency call or other relevant and permitted incident. They are notified if the car goes over a certain speed and Officers are often called in to account for it. They can even check how long a car has been parked up with the engine running to ensure Officers are not wasting time. So the myth that Police use blue lights to get home on time, get their meal or for anything other than a lawful and permitted reason is absolutely untrue.

Another common complaint and frustration as a member of the public is that “The Police” attended a burglary, damage, theft etc and “were useless, they did nothing at all”. When the Police attend any crime scene where the suspect(s) have left they have to look for clues or evidence. They will check if there is CCTV covering the scene. Were there any witnesses to the offence? Has the suspect left any items behind? Has the suspect left any forensic evidence such as fingerprints or blood etc. Unfortunately, criminals these days are switched on and quite often do not leave any evidence behind. So if the Police Officer is unable to investigate your crime further it is NOT because they are useless or can’t be arsed, it is because there is no evidence to lead to a suspect. You can not logically or fairly call “The Police” useless for not being able to magic evidence out of thin air I’m afraid…. And if you want to use the argument that if they were patrolling more they may deter these crimes, please read the beginning of this blog again then complain to our Government.

“I told ‘The Police’ that that bloke down the road was dealing drugs last week and they’ve done nothing about it!”… This is a common complaint I hear from people or see on social media. It is so frustrating for us as members of the public that criminals in our society seemingly get away with their crimes without any Police action being taken. It is very frustrating for Police Officers that they can’t just go and search a property or a person who has been pointed out as committing crime such as drug dealing. It is THE LAW that prohibits the Police taking quicker action against suspected drug dealers. If a member of the public tells a Police Officer that “Joe Bloggs” is dealing drugs from his home address they will take that information and submit it as intelligence. They will check the Police system and if there are other recent reports of the same nature then they can look at swearing out a warrant, organising a raid at a time when they have enough resources and then searching the address….If there are no other reports or only a couple then I am afraid the information will sit there until futher intelligence gathering can be done. The courts will NOT issue the Police a warrant on one or two intel reports. They will not issue a warrant until the Officer can satisfy them that the information is viable, reliable and they know as much as possible about the address and it’s residents. This all takes time. It takes Surveillance, intelligence gathering and an operational order. These all take time. Some operations can take months to put together, especially if the suspect is switched on and smart. A lot of this information will not be passed to the member of the public who reported it and so to the unaware it WILL seem like “The Police” are doing nothing. They are doing something, just have some patience. It is hard to do all of these essential things to get a warrant when they are also doing the duties in the huge list above.

“I TOLD “THE POLICE” THAT MY DAUGHTER WAS BEING LED ASTRAY BY A BOY AND THEY SAID THEY CAN’T DO ANYTHING”… The same applies to parents worrying about the friends their kids have. The Police do not have the legal powers to instruct people, including children, who they can and can’t associate with. The law allows people to socialise with whomever they wish. This boils down to simple parenting. So long as no criminal offences are being committed or there is no immediate risk or threat to life and limb, the Police will not and can not act. It is down to parents to handle their children and there are other services around to assist if they can not. The Police will be there to deal with any crime or risk to life and limb only.

“I SAW “THE POLICE” LOCK SOMEBODY UP JUST FOR WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH A BRITISH FLAG”… Well that simply isn’t true. I’ve seen a recent video which starts just as the Police are arresting somebody carrying a Union Flag. You do not see any of the incident before this. The title of the video is purely designed to cause unrest as it claims the Police arrested the person because the flag offended somebody. There is no law against carrying the Union Flag or any other for that matter and so it is only possible that the person was arrested for their conduct. Words or actions used whilst walking down the street with the flag. The Police can only arrest for what the LAW allows them to and no law will allow them to arrest for this. Simple as that.

“THEY ARE POLICE OFFICERS THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO CONTROL THEIR ANGER BETTER”… Sadly there are many reports of Police using excessive force and I will never try and justify it. I will however just try and explain why a Police officer is no more able to control their temper, adrenaline and reactions in a violent situation. It is believed and expected (and rightly so) that The Police are highly trained in dealing with violent situations. That they are trained in self defence and are skilled in controlling their adrenaline. They are not. A Police Officer will still suffer the same adrenaline rush, the “fight or flight”, reaction as anybody else. They are of course more like to choose the FIGHT reaction. This doesn’t mean they will scrap with somebody, it means they will stand their ground and deal with the situation. In training all role plays of violent situations are far too Health and Safety controlled and so they can never be realistic and officers can never really be trained for real life until they hit the streets and encounter live situations. The level of self defence training they receive is no more than a few strikes to “pressure points” on the forearm if somebody grabs you or your kit or to press the mandibular angle to try and “gain control” of a suspect. All of this impractical Unarmed Defensive Tactics training mixed with pushing back with their hand held infront of them saying “Get Back”. I studied martial arts throughout my childhood and teens and also read a lot of self defence books too. I learned more from those books than the Police taught me. There were always requests from Officers for more realistic training but it was never permitted due to “Health & Safety”. So when an Officer gets involved in a violent situation his/her natural animal instincts kick in and unless they have had sufficient training OUTSIDE of the service they simply do their very best to survive and control the situation. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to excessive force being used or mistakes being made.

These are just a few of the gripes, misconceptions and opinions expressed to me from members of the public and friends. I am sure there will be more. I am not for one second trying to say that the Police are perfect, don’t make mistakes or that all issues are down to cuts and being under resourced. There are problems in the Police Service which are caused by individuals whether that be corruption, racism or other criminality or malpractice but on that issue I would add that again, the actions of these individuals is not reflecting or representative of “The Police”.

I hope this blog has gone some way to increase some awareness of the situation within the Police Service of England and Wales and has come across as intended.

 

**In my next blog I am going to look at some of the duties Police Officers deal with which clash with their morals and beliefs but which they are legally obliged to fulfil and ask where would that obligation to duty over personal morals would end.

 

 

METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICERS FEEL THEY ARE “DROWNING UNDER AN AVALANCHE”

METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICERS FEEL LIKE THEY “ARE DROWNING UNDER AN AVALANCHE” DUE TO STAFF SHORTAGE, INCREASED WORKLOADS AND POLICE “REFORMS”

Avalanches-sfSpan

Front line Officers working within the Metropolitan Police Service feel like they are drowning with the immense pressure they facing on a daily basis due to “Police Reforms”.

Constables working in Neighbourhood Policing or “SAFER NEIGHBOURHOODS” as it used to be called once worked in teams of 6 covering a reasonably sized electoral ward or area.

The six person team would be made up of 1 Police Sergeant, 2 Police Constables and 3 Police Community Support Officers.

Now they have moved to a new system rebranded “LOCAL POLICING TEAMS” which now comprises 1 PC and 1 PCSO dedicated to the ward. Each pair then has as backup a team of 4 Police Constables and 1 Police Sergeant who [are supposed to] police a cluster of EIGHT wards.

From that little back up team however, one will be responsible for what they call “appointments car” whose role it is to attend those calls from the public which are not deemed as urgent and so they are allotted a time when a Police Officer will attend and speak to them regarding whatever it is they felt the need to call the Police about. This may or may not lead to recording crimes but never the less can be a time consuming roll for one Officer.

Another from the group will be responsible for investigating all Crime Reports handed to them at the start of the shift. Making contact with the victim as per the “Victims Code” which requires a Police Officer to make contact on a regular basis agreed to by the victim. Arranging a visit to the victim and/witness to obtain statements, gathering information and evidence perhaps missed out in the intitial report. Again, a very time consuming yet important role.

So that leaves just 2 PCs and a Sgt to patrol the 8 wards, conduct arrest enquiries and any other tasking the Senior Management requires. So in effect the work of the Neighbourhood Police Officer which used to be completed by 2 PCs and 4 PCSO which still caused the public to complain of a low Police presence, has now been chopped down to 1 PC and 1 PCSO!

My source within one such Policing team said

“Combined with the no recruitment for a number of years and the Local Policing team system we’ve just changed to, we feel like we’re drowning under an avalanche!”

External Police recruitment within the Metropolitan Police has been frozen for some time now for both PCs and PCSOs. There is a shortage of PCSOs on many teams due to them becoming PCs and the force not recruiting others to replace them.

Due to the increase in the responsibilities of a PCSO it often means the streets are left un-patrolled. PCSOs walking to calls and enquiries under pressure to get there and complete certain tasks is now the Met’s idea of patrolling.

The Police Community Support Officers are sent to “re-visit” burglary victims and conduct house to house enquiries along the street which itself can take several hours at times. They will also be deployed to make contact with “vulnerable victims” and spend time reassuring them. They have ward and council meetings to attend. Crime prevention leaflets to deliver. Targeted patrols of shopping centres to deter shop lifters and purse dippers. They deal with long term neighbour disputes acting as mediators and go betweens as well as referring people to external partner agencies…. All of this is expected on a daily basis and it does not take a genius to see that there is far too much work for the numbers deployed.

Another source has told me

I’m a dedicated ward PCSO. My work load just gets larger each day. I have to do an analyst’s job with figures for my Inspector as well as dealing with the normal PCSO duties of visiting burglary victims and neighbours and vulnerable victims etc. I stayed nearly two hours late last night doing figures and updating our website… Saying that I often stay an hour or two longer to try and keep up. But it’s never ending!

So where does it end? This isn’t an isolated case. This problem is reflected in almost every single force around the country yet the public are expected to swallow the lies that frontline policing is not being effected by the Governments excessive cuts.

The Police Service of England & Wales is on the verge of collapse. Morale is at the lowest it has EVER been. Numbers are at a 12year low. Crime stats (when reported correctly) are increasing. The public are NOT receiving the same high level of service they once were and still deserve.

Where this ends and what it will take to open the eyes of those in charge, nobody knows.

 

 

JUST A FEW STEPS AWAY FROM BEING HOMELESS…

Hungry & homeless sign at feet of male beggar, UK

This short story is true. It is a story about how each of us is just a few unfortunate steps away from being left with nothing at all and how we are all vulnerable to homelessness. This incident changed my life in more ways than one. It took place whilst I was serving as a Police Officer and the gentleman’s name has been changed and place names omitted.

John was a career Police Officer with a force I shall not name. He had served as a PC for almost 16 years. He had a wife and 2 young children whom he adored. He was healthy, active and had a blessed life. He owned a 4 bedroomed house with large garden in a nice area and he and his wife drove nice cars. With not a worry or issue in the world he was a lucky man and had a life many would envy.

In 2010 following an incident at work John was injured both physically and mentally. The physical wounds healed very quickly but the psychological wounds never did. He returned to work reluctantly after a short period of sickness. He never liked taking time off and had never had a day’s sick leave in his career and this alone bugged him, but he understood the importance of making sure he was up to doing his duty and returned as soon as he felt physically capable.

After only a few weeks back at work he began to realise he just wasn’t himself both at work and with the public and at home with his family. He wasn’t sleeping well because he would have regular bad dreams and flashbacks to the incident which put him out of work. He was becoming short tempered which was completely not his true self. He became a little reclusive, not wanting to attend family events, not wanting to take the kids out for weekends away or even to the park. The more it went on the more he knew he needed help and that something wasn’t right but he just couldn’t bring himself to ask for help.

One afternoon at work following an argument with a colleague John lost his temper, punched his colleague and damaged a force computer before walking out of the station and going home early. To cut a long story short he was subsequently suspended. Whilst suspended he was pressured into going to the Doctors and seeking help. He was of course diagnosed with depression, post traumatic stress and anxiety and despite the fact he did not want to take medication he was prescribed tablets.

Whilst on suspension and taking his meds he did make a substantial improvement and although not fully his old self, things at home were improving. That was short lived however.

He was taken off suspension and allowed back to work but on advice from his GP and family and friends he took time off sick to try and get back to some “normality”. He was still under investigation by Professional Standards for assaulting his colleague and damaging a computer however they were pursuing misconduct and disciple matters rather than criminal matters given the circumstances (and their negligence with offering him the correct support at the time of his incident and injury).

He ended up being off work for several months and he believed it was his sickness and insistence that PSD did things on his terms for medical reasons that ultimately resulted in him being required to resign from the force. He did so reluctantly and he described it as being the day his life ended.

As time went by and as he struggled like crazy to get another job and keep the family afloat things went from bad to worse. They couldn’t pay bills, they were increasingly in debt, they argued a lot, tensions were running high and he felt all his progress with his depression was going to waste more and more each day.

Eventually his wife and kids left him. He missed mortgage payments and debts were out of control. He lost everything. Within less than 2years John was left broke and homeless. His friends had all but deserted him, his wife wanted nothing more to do with him, he never saw his kids and he ended up living rough or moving from hostel to hostel.

Eventually he ended up in my area living in a tent in some woods next to the motorway. He begged for change and food at a nearby motorway services and used their toilets and showers to keep clean. He learned to catch rabbits for extra food and rainwater for drink. He kept himself to himself and nobody would have had any idea there was a man living in a small wood as they drove by every day.I had no idea myself until a colleague told me and I made it my business to go and visit him and that is how I got to speak with him at length. I would occasionally sneak off without work mates knowing when working single crewed and see if he was around and check how he was doing and sometimes took him a sandwich from morrisons and bottle of water.

He told me one day how he had come to the decision to live in these woods. He had spent months on the streets and in homeless shelters but said that every night he closed his eyes he was scared he would never wake up. He talked of thugs and youths robbing homeless people for what little money or possessions the had. He told me one day he was robbed by 2 teens who even heartless tore a photo of his kids to pieces whilst they laughed and one held a knife. That day he was thrown out of WH Smiths for trying to buy some card and glue to stick his picture back together.

He told me how he had come closer and closer to turning to drink and drugs as the temptation living rough in towns and cities was too much. How he had had to go against every moral fibre in his body and break the law by stealing food, drink and a new sleeping bag to survive. He told me how shops and even fast food venues like Mcdonalds would turn him away as soon as he entered. The final straw was when the Police and Council began targeting the homeless and removing their sleeping bags etc…In his own words

“I never felt so lonely and I was surrounded by thousands of people”.

He knew of my area as he would often visit as a child and so made the decision to travel up by hitch-hiking with friendly wagon drivers. He said one or two even allowed him to sleep in their wagon at night and fed him too. When he arrived in the area he moved from place to place trying to find a nice, quiet and secluded spot to make his “home”. He said he tried half a dozen or so before settling with the woods. He was able to work “cash in hand” as a labourer for a local company for a week which paid him £150. With that money he bought a one man tent, warm clothes and sleeping bag and camping supplies and set about making his camp site home.

John was always very humble, very grateful for any time you would spend talking to him and always politely offered you a brew. He would also turn down any acts of charity and offers of help and said he was used to his little life now and quite enjoyed the peace.

Several months went by without any sign of John and winter was upon us. We were contacted by a hospital ward to ask us to check on his welfare as he had been admitted with various health problems caused by his lifestyle and the cold and he had walked off the ward. For 4 days I visited his camp to see if there had been signs of life. It was blisteringly cold and even in a wool hat, gloves, fleece and body armour I was cold. There was no way John was going to survive nights in this weather and there wasn’t so much as a recent fire at his camp. All his possessions were there but he wasn’t.

It was on the 5th day that news came back to us that John had been found. Upon leaving hospital he had taken what little cash he had and paid for one night in a B&B in a different force area. Whilst there John had seen fit to end his own life and was found the following morning by staff. He had overdosed on heroine.

The news was a massive blow and John’s entire life story impacted me in a way of which, up until hearing the news of his death, I had no idea. His life, I believe, shows just how fragile our lives are. How everything we deem to be important and take for granted can just be pulled away in the space of a few short months and there is nothing you can do about it. How those is desperate need of help can often go unseen and their needs unnoticed before it is too late. I found myself asking if there was anything more I could have done to help him or if I could have changed his life for the better. I couldn’t have. I offered him all the help I could reasonably offer and he was always so appreciative but would politely turn it down.

It is for this reason that I get so passionate about homelessness in this country and will always stand up for people in that dreadful situation and will try to do my very best to help when and where I can, even if it is simply by raising awareness.

People need to open their eyes when walking around cities and towns and stop pretending that homeless people don’t exist or that it’s not their problem or that “you shouldn’t give them money they will only get drunk or buy drugs”. I invited a homeless guy to join me and my mates for a beer on my stag doo in York in May but he turned the offer down because he was T total. Instead me and my mates give him enough money to go eat and spend the night in a hotel. He was chuffed to bits and split between us cost about £10 each. That’s about 3 and a half pints sacrificed to help somebody in need.

My better half bought a homeless guy in York a hot drink and sausage roll last winter, his reaction genuinely put a tear in my eye. As I looked around I was filled with rage as people looked at us like we were scum for feeding the poor bloke.

Ignorance and dismissal of this problem does nothing to change it and given that we are all just a few unfortunate steps away from being in the same situation, we should all do a lot more to make sure the problem no longer exists rather than sweeping it under the carpet or walking around with blinkers on.

Other blogs on this subject matter:-

OUT OF SITE OUT OF MIND

WHAT’S THE BIG ISSUE?

A Very Special Constabulary, Lies and Multi-tier Policing

specials

The idea behind the Special Constabulary, the volunteer branch of the Police Family, first formed in the days of Charles II who ruled that every member of the public could be sworn in as Constables during times of public unrest. It was not until 1831 that a Parliamentary Act was introduced which was altered in 1835 and formed the basis of the Special Constabulary we know today. It allowed for the forming of Special Constables outside of times of public unrest. They were also given full powers of arrest and the same equipment as substantive Constables.

Special Constables, or Specials as they are more commonly called, provide a commendable and highly necessary service. They volunteer to Police the community receiving only expenses for travel and food and occasionally qualifying for a £1200 payment. They tend to hold down full time jobs and Police in their spare time. They are a prime example of the populace policing itself. Fully sworn Constables protecting and serving the public voluntarily. This is something you have got to admire and commend. There are now over 21,000 Specials in England and Wales and this number is rapidly increasing.

Today we are seeing the biggest restructure and changes to the Police Service of England and Wales since it was formed. It is no secret that despite the Chiefs and Politicians telling the public that front line policing will not be impacted upon by cuts to Police funding, the Police are now massively reduced. Recent press suggest in the last 3 years we have lost 16,000 Police Officers! The same number they claimed we were short of in order to adequately deal with the 2011 riots. So now it would seem we are 32,000 officers short of being able to suitably respond to similar outbreaks of public disorder! How can anybody with a smidgen of integrity and honesty state the frontline Police services will not be affected by these cuts? I don’t know how they get away with saying it but they do.

However, whilst the number of Constables drops rapidly and forces are struggling to lose even more in order to adhere to Government enforced budget cuts it seems that the Chiefs and Commissioners are beginning to realise that public pressure is increasing. People are becoming restless and starting to speak out against austerity. It was reported recently that the Government fears we could see more outbreaks of public disorder this summer. They are scared that the peasants may once again revolt.

But how the hell can the Police cope with such incidents when they are essentially 32,000 men and women down? How can they maintain the forces strength when many forces still need to lose hundreds of Officers more? We have been promised by Government and Chief Officers that our Police Officers will not be replaced by PCSOs and Specials. The 5 major forces have rejected the use of water cannon should disorder erupt. So what’s the plan?

Brace yourselves here because this will come as a shock. I am afraid we have been told lies by those in power!! I know, I know. It numbed me to the core too. I still struggle to believe it but it is true. They have deceived us.

The number of Police Constables is ever decreasing in order to adhere to budgets and so the recruitment of Specials and PCSOs has increased.

This week alone I have seen and been told about 4 forces that are driving recruitment campaign for Special Constables. Between them they want to recruit almost 2000 more Specials. I am hearing accounts from Officers that Specials are being put almost straight into specialist roles such as Roads Policing, a role which substantive Constables have to wait years to apply for. I am hearing rumours that considerations are being given to putting Specials on firearms teams, Public Order units and even training them as dog handlers*. Specials are now being used to boost numbers on Neighbourhood Police Teams and at times even outnumber Police Constables. It seems that Specials are flavour of the month and they are definitely being used to plug the holes in the thin blue line.

Now I have no problem at all with Specials. I have worked with many and some of my friends are good (or mad) enough to volunteer. I have already stated that their work is commendable. At the end of the day, it is not really having any negative impact on the public or crime fighting. They have the powers of arrest that Constables have, the numbers of Officers out patrolling the streets are increased, and they provide the much needed crime deterrent, increased visibility. On the face of it, using them to Police the streets alongside regular Officers and PCSOs is a good thing. After all, the priority is the public and so long as the service provided is not damaged then all is good.

The problem I and many serving Police Officers have is not with the Specials themselves but with the decisions made by management on the use of Specials and the decision to plug the gaps left by PC recruitment freezes with Specials. In my force, I am not sure if the same applies to other forces, Specials are not able to take statements, interview suspects or complete files so when an arrest is made it falls to a regular PC to put everything he or she may be doing aside and take over from the Special. When a Special is new to the job they are often sent out to work with a regular PC as they can not work alone if their tutor Special is not available at the same time. This puts increased burdens of tutoring and “babysitting” on the regular PC and also causes resentment when the Special can’t assist with certain aspects of the job leaving the Officer to do everything alone or when PCs who are being forced to work single crewed every other time are then told they can work double crewed so long as it is with a Special.

The decisions by Chiefs to use Special Constables in the ways which they are doing is quickly causing resentment and annoyance which will eventually bubble to the surface and cause issues amongst teams. For example, my force recently returned numerous Traffic Officers back to division and removed their permits due to budget cuts. Imagine the anger felt by those Officers when their post is then filled by a Special Constable?

I must reiterate that I have no problem with Special Constables or the idea of a volunteer arm of the Police Service but there needs to be a couple of things put in place if the future Police Service is to rely so heavily upon volunteers just like the army now rely so much on the TA’s for the same financial reasons.

 

  1. Much more training is needed for Specials PRIOR to being released on the streets.     
  2. A national policy on the roles of Special Constables rather than allowing individual forces to decide what they can and can not do.
  3. There needs to be enough senior Specials to train the new recruits and work with them rather than sticking them with a PC to “babysit”.
  4. There needs to be much more honesty from those at the top of the chain when it comes to Policing on the cheap. They need to admit to the Constables and the public that the frontline is actually full of holes and so we need to rely on volunteers to provide the same or similar level of service.
  5. The assumed favouritism which seems to be given to Specials when it comes to the “donkey work”, allocation of training, allocation of vehicles and deployment on specialist units many PCs have longed to work on for years. This kind of behaviour will and already is causing resentment amongst the troops.

Policing really should not be done on the cheap but the harsh reality is that the Chiefs do not have balls to stand up to the Government and say “NO, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. WE CAN NO LONGER MAKE THESE CUTS AND CAN NOT LOSE ANY MORE OFFICERS”. They are going to do anything they must to make these budget cuts and will not risk putting their heads above the parapet to stand up for us. So just like the Armed Forces they will continue to make ill judged cuts, they will await the ability to make people redundant and use it, they will force Officers out through disciplinary procedures and they will increasingly rely on decent members of the public to volunteer as Special Constables in order to fill the empty spaces. If there is one thing which is becoming more and more obvious it is that during these tough times, staff morale does not feature on their list of priorities.

The problem will come when they realise that the Special Constabulary is not a sustainable service. They can not force Special Constables to work. They can not order them to do things the same as they can a PC. What would happen for instance if all Specials decided jointly that they were not going to work on one specific day or days? Effectively they could strike and throw the force into turmoil. They volunteer, they are not financially bound to the service and so would the Force have a hold over them when or if it came to a situation of this nature?

At a time when Police Officers are being kicked around from every direction and face uncertain times they are also seeing their PCSO colleagues being protected and “ring fenced” with some Commissioners vouching to stump up the extra cash for PCSOs which the councils are cutting and now they are seeing their specialist roles being filled by Specials and mass recruitments to boost the numbers and fill the gaps so that those in power can claim that “cuts are having no impact on frontline Policing”.

The Police Service is currently in tatters and things look set to get worse before they get better. One thing is certain, the Police Service of tomorrow will resemble nothing like the Police Service of today.

I see a multi-tier Police force with PCSOs and Specials forming the frontline, visible Neighbourhood Policing and Police Constables being the ones who respond to crime, make the arrests and deal with more serious matters. I think this is where the future of Policing is heading and I am even more convinced by the fact that this idea was denied by the Chiefs in recent times.

If you happen to be a Special then please do not take anything I have stated personally and keep up the great work. It is refreshing for us to see that there are so many decent members of our communities willing to volunteer their own time to help keep us safe. I genuinely do commend the work you all do. There is no way I could do this job voluntarily so to you all, I tip my hat. Stay Safe and remember, if you do experience animosity or even jealousy from regular PCs, it is nothing personal, simply misdirected anger.

*These rumours have not yet been 100% confirmed

The Problem With The Police Service Today

Blue Light

A week or so ago I was asked to consider two questions

 1. What do I think is wrong with the Police Service today

 2. What do I think needs to change for the future

As you can probably imagine this is a question which has wracked my brain ever since. Some might think that the first question is easy to answer. Those within the Police Service will surely have a very clear idea of what is wrong with the job and I know I have my own opinions many of which have lead to my impending resignation. When it comes to those with no connection to or idea of the Police Service except for what the usually biased and political agenda lead press feed the public then they too will have their own opinions about everything that is wrong with Policing and those who serve the public.

The second question is a little tougher to answer. The Police Service is forever changing. In the last decade it has changed so much from what I originally signed up to. Society has changed. The UK population has changed. The UK economy has plummeted. Crime has changed. Governments, legislation, laws and policies have all changed. It is a service which never settles long enough for Police Officers to get comfortable, confident or 100 efficient at their job. The Winsor Report has seen the biggest ever changes being implemented to the Police Service of England and Wales since the day Sir Robert Peel dreamed up the idea. To think of even more changes is a daunting and nauseating task and having spent many hours over the last week or so I have concluded that the answer to both questions is very subjective and very much a matter of opinion.

These are my thoughts and ideas based on personal experience and from speaking to Police Officers of various ranks since I was asked the question. I am sure there will be plenty of fuel for debate, difference of opinion and perhaps even an argument but that just shows how black and white the Police Service is not and can not be. There is always lots of grey when it comes to Policing.

 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE POLICE SERVICE AND WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

I think that the first issue to address given the many recent press stories is the matter of honesty, integrity and accountability. In one word and the one most people are familiar with CORRUPTION. If you are gullible (or lazy) enough to believe what the national press put in front of you without at least looking into the matter a little further and simply taking their word then you would not be criticised for believing that every Police Officer from top to bottom in England and Wales are corrupt. Stories of corruption dating back to the 80’s and 90’s are being used now by the media as if that is a true portrait of policing today. Revelations about the appalling actions of the Police Officers involved in the Hillsborough tragedy and the lies and cover ups allegedly used in the Stephen Lawrence murder have been used recently in a fashion that portrays the Police of TODAY as corrupt and involved in the same activity and cover up. Yes granted there have been a couple more recent stories of Police Officers telling porky pies in order to try and knock a certain bike riding minister who thinks he too is above the law and the rules off of his pedestal, but even in this sensationalised story there was only ONE Police Officer found to be telling lies and acting in a corrupt manner (well two if you include the leaking of the log to the press as corrupt). It is true that within the Police there are a few idiots who do nothing to help matters in the way in which they behave as individuals. There is no space within the Police Service for corrupt Officers and all honest and decent Officers despise them and should do all they can to ensure they do not continue to bring our reputation into question. I am not going to insult your intelligence or have you think that I am naïve enough to believe that just because only one officer is publically exposed as corrupt that no others.

In recent years we have seen past and present Police Officers arrested and sent to prison for crimes from drink driving to child sex offences. We have had allegations of crime stat manipulation. We have had a Police Officer lie to try and get a politician in trouble. We have had Police Officers leak things to the press for personal gain (something which is technically corrupt but which also strangely causes people in the press and anti Police bloggers to accuse an officer of being corrupt for NOT leaking!). Police Officers and the service as a whole are doing much more today to see that acts of corruption, deception and lies are revealed to the public and that this kind of activity is no longer a problem within the Police. They are still a long way off being 100% free of dishonesty and I would have to question whether it is even possible to have a dishonesty free police service when it is made up of every walk of society? Whilst it is always going to be unacceptable to have corruption present in the Police Service it is necessary to remember that even if we have 100 Police Officers exposed as corrupt then that is still a very small minority and this does not reflect the Police Service as a whole. 100 corrupt cops would be around 0.077% if my maths is correct. We need to continue to oust these vermin from within and discourage them from joining in the first place but at the same time we MUST inform and educate the public properly so they can see a true picture of the situation and not be blinded by inflammatory biased media designed to easy the way for Government changes to the way Policing is conducted. And my final word to all serving Officers would be to THINK before you speak or act. Do not bring yourself and your Police family into disrepute.

 

The next thing which I touched on a little above is the recording of crime and statistics. A man who I admire a lot, PC James Patrick, put his backside on the line and stuck his head above the parapet in 2012 by exposing the manipulation of crime stats within his force. What followed amongst the panic and fear from his senior officers was a targeted attack on James and attempts at criminal and internal disciplinary punishments. He became a whistleblower and exposed the fact that the Police Service effectively lie to the public about crimes and also manipulate the way crimes are recorded. James has gained a lot of support from a lot of people, especially other Police Officers like myself and he has laid the way for others to be more honest about the dishonesty within their own forces when it comes to this topic.

Most recently high ranking Officers have come clean and admitted that crime recording and stats are “fiddled” and that they always have been since as far back as the 80’s. Certainly since I joined in early 00’s they have been manipulated and influenced by senior management in order to give the impression that crime rates are falling. Crimes such as Burglary Dwelling have been altered to a criminal damage and theft. Robbery has been altered to an assault and a theft. Alleged sex offences have not been recorded immediately until a CID officer has had chance to speak to the victim “just incase there is not a crime or they change their mind about reporting it”. In my own force we are currently not allowed to record a crime for burglary without first running it past a DS or DI. I have recently seen a blatant attempt burglary where a suspect(s) has smashed a full length patio door but not gained entry due to the alarm sounding, reclassified as a criminal damage. However, when fingerprints were found and matched to a suspect it was re-classified back to a burglary prior to arrest!

It is obvious why the political ranks want to lie about the crime rate in their force area and show residents and the Government that crime is falling but if that involves dishonesty at any point then that is wrong and this process MUST stop NOW! We saw news reports recently that said a full and thorough check of crime stats for England and Wales has not been conducted in over 5 years and despite Cameron and Co crying out to all who would listen that crime has dropped, it is fully expected that crime will rapidly rise when the stats are checked properly. It baffles me why, at a time when the Government are cutting the thin blue line wafer thin and stretching us to breaking point under the belief that crime is still falling so we must be coping, why any chief would continue to manipulate the stats or allow his force to do so. Surely it is at this time when we want to show the Government and the public that we are struggling to keep the ship afloat. That we are overstretched and overworked and at this rate it will only be a matter of time before we can not continue to protect the public to the same high standard. I am also intrigued where this order has come from and who began this dishonest practice.

 

Something else which is wrong with the Police Service but which is currently improving slowly is the management of finances and budgets. Having bobbies with no or little financial training or knowledge be in charge of a departmental or divisional budget is madness and something which has gotten us into financial difficulty in the first place. Police Forces around the UK are still over spending, wasting money, not bartering or bargain hunting by shopping around and are spending in the wrong places. My force for example decided in these financially difficult times to spend thousands of pounds on flat screen TVs for front help desks which they then closed and also corridors within the station. These TVs show images of our divisional Senior Management Teams with a little bio about them. Prior to the TVs they made do with printed pictures, so why the expensive upgrade? They have offices sat vacant and gathering dust whilst paying rent to partner agencies for officers to use their space. They changed uniform to a much lower quality and ill fitting alternative which rips and tears so easily Officers are forever requesting new uniform. We are being kitted out with in car laptops which have atrocious connectivity and we have expensive personal handheld devices on the way. We have had endless new IT systems and subsequent fixes and upgrades when they fail. Our vehicles seem to shrink each year and are simply not practical for the job of a patrol officer. However, in order to save cash they have removed all kettles, all fridges, all canteen and kitchen equipment, all vending machines, all coffee machines, all water fountains and all Televisions in the staff “canteen”. Money for training has been slashed. Special payments for being trained in a specialist skill such as CBRN have been or are being scrapped. Essential specialist teams and units are being disbanded whilst pathetic teams designed to look at how the force can improve or how they can save money (often staffed by a DI, Insp, Sgt and a few civilian staff) are being formed. We waste money printing hundreds of thousands of leaflets and then paying Police Officers and PCSO’s to hand deliver them to each house in the division which takes weeks. The financial management within the Police is a mess and is in desperate need of a shake up. Officers can see this mismanagement of money happening all around them whilst SMT are telling them “We still need to save so many millions of pounds and the only way we think we can do that is by losing more staff and Officers”. What a great way to boost morale eh?

 

Which leads me onto the next problem. Rock bottom morale. Never in the history of the Police Service can I imagine the morale of the lowest ranks being lower. Police Officers are dropping left right and centre with stress and depression. So many desperately want to resign but are scared to do so due to their pensions and having no training or trade which they could use in the “real world”. Since handing in my resignation I have not had one single person suggest I was making a mistake, question why or try and talk me out of it. Every single person from PC to Supt rank has said they envy me and wish they could do the same. On my team alone we have only 3 PCs including myself. I leave on the 13th February. One has a job interview for the AA in a few weeks and the 3rd is desperate to find an escape route. The fun, the camaraderie, the bonding and feeling of a family which once used to ooze from every Officer is now non-existant thanks to endless cuts, attacks from the Government and media, excessive pressure from the top ranks and the enforcement of things such as permanent single crewing and staggered meal breaks (if you can manage to get one). Only 6-7 years ago you would go to briefing at the start of your shift and see at least 15 Officers ready to go out and patrol and respond to calls. Now you’re talking about half that number and all of them have huge workloads and piles of paperwork to get through whilst at the same time supposedly responding to calls and patrolling the streets. You used to be crewed up with a partner, somebody you could trust to watch your back if you found yourself in a tricky situation or outnumbered etc. Somebody to offload and debrief with after horrific jobs such as rapes, murders, RTCs, child sex offences etc. Somebody to share wisdom and advice at jobs which you may not be too familiar with. Somebody, dare I say it, to have a laugh with at work. It built friendships, relationships, a family unit and a great team. Now the only time you see a colleague is in the changing room at the start and end of your shift or when you’re in need of backup. Instead of that strong team bond it is breeding contempt amongst colleagues and people are falling out with each other over who has done more than the rest, who is and isn’t perceived to be pulling their weight. People are at each other’s throats and some are even stooping so low that they are trying to set each other up to fail or make mistakes to get them into trouble. Even the old banter and micky taking which used to exist and built character amongst friends is now labelled as bullying. Simply asking the team probationer to make the brews is considered wrong for god sake. It used to be a right of passage. A way to earn your colleagues and “families” trust and support. Now, you’re considered a bully and the new generation of Police Officer with the lack of the “old lags” to keep everybody in shape, are all to quick to run to Sir and tell tales. Morale, team work, bonding and that once abundant closeness are all now on the endangered list. It disgusted me to read today that the Chief and Commissioner of West Yorkshire Police have rejected requests to form an action plan to help boost morale! I spoke to a couple of WYP officers who stated that there are big changes happening across the force and nowhere on the list of priorities to consider during these changes does welfare and morale of staff feature. The ACPO levels are being told by the Officers on the ground, the Police Federation and experts on stress and depression that something MUST be done but it appears this is so low down on their list of priorities that they will not wake up to reality until the wheel comes off.

 

For Police Officers of any rank it is a very big risk to speak out or whistle blow. I touched on it earlier when I spoke of James Patrick. Last time I spoke of the risks of Whistle blowing for Police Officers I seemed to have stirred some trolls who climbed up from under their bridges to tell me what a fool I was and that compared to the likes of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange there is no risk at all for Police Officers to speak out. Well obviously that is true. I am not a complete idiot thank you very much. Exposing matters of national security or high power corruption around the world is of course far more risky than speaking about the mismanagement and corruption within the Police. BUT, there is still great personal risk to the Officer involved and a huge moral battle to be had internally whilst deciding whether to blow the whistle or not. For a person with a job which would not think twice about trying to send you to prison in the worst case scenario for breaching laws only specific to Police Officers or who would sack you, take away your financial security and your pension leaving you with a potential personal and family dilemma, the decision to speak out is pretty damn tough. Especially when you now consider how far and how aggressively the force would pursue you if you dared. The chiefs have tried their damndest to instil a fear into the hearts of every serving Officer to prevent them from speaking out to the press or writing about it themselves. They try to encourage you to deal with it internally and speak to a member of senior management so as to keep it from the public eyes and ears. Officers are regularly reminded about the risks of bringing the force into disrepute in warning emails and briefing items from PSD using language like “We would hate for anybody to put their career at risk”. Sadly it seems at times that the Police Service want you to be honest and act with integrity… unless it is about internal matters, in which case shut up.

Much more needs to be done, as is being done with other public sectors, to encourage individuals to come forward and speak out against mismanagement, deception and corruption. There is no suitable internal system which Officers feel confident and safe in using in order to raise these issues without fear of reprisal and until more is done to encourage and support whistle blowing within the Police we are going to see Officers either being complicit in the actions or risking their careers, financial security, family life and even their liberty in order to expose the truth.

 

The one thing which has become blindingly obvious over the last 3-4 years with the implementation of the Winsor Report etc and something which the Government have taken full advantage of is the distinct lack of support, representation and legs to stand on the Police possess. It is illegal for Police Officers to strike or even plan on doing so. An agreement made in the 80’s was that the Government would honour an annual payrise for the Police in return for them giving up the right to strike and the right to join/form a union. Things went swimmingly until the current band of thieves running the country decided that actually, they are not going to pay the Police an annual payrise and so broke the deal. Many thought “Ah well if you have broken the deal then we want our industrial rights back” but it seemed the Government had planned ahead and so just re-wrote the legislation making it perfectly fine for them to change their mind and do what they wish with our pay and conditions BUT it is still illegal for the Police to strike or form a union. This infuriated everybody. Most said they would never strike anyway as it goes against every moral fibre but having the RIGHT to do so should they decided is a different matter. The Police called upon the only group in existence designed to represent their needs and welfare. The Police Federation of England and Wales.

Now I am not taking ANYTHING away from the Fed, which is made up of Police Officers of various ranks. They do work as hard as possible to provide rank and file Police Officers with various services. However, when it comes to standing up against the Government and fighting against their propositions they have proven to be a bit hopeless. Not for lack of trying I might add. I know numerous Fed Reps and they work their fingers to the bone and stress themselves out to the max striving to make a difference and struggling to combat all the negative press out there. BUT.

The big problem is that the Federation is made up of serving Police Officers. They are perfect for internal matters but when it comes to fighting decisions and policies made by Government or the highest ranks they are restricted by the same rules and laws as every Officer. They cant be expected to put their career at risk “for the cause”. The Government and the press like to portray and label the Federation as the Police Services union but they are far from it. Unions have power. With all the respect in the world, the Federation really do not. The Home Secretary made her stance on the Federation blatantly clear when rules which stated the Fed had to be consulted prior to changes were scrapped and now it is simply a matter of courtesy if she decides to let them know. So long as the Police are forbidden from forming or joining a union and so long as the Federation are made up of serving Officers then the truth is, Officers are on their own. Nobody to speak out for them and address the many myths and press rumours. Nobody to stand up to the Chiefs. Nobody to truly defend them. What is needed is a group, not a union of course, made up of ex-Officers and Police supporters who can work with and for the Officers and the Fed from the outside, free from policy and Police specific laws whilst the Federation concentrate on providing the superb services they already do on internal matters.

 

These are just a few of the issues I believe exist in the Police Service of England and Wales. Whilst I have been writing this I have become aware that actually all of these things can be put down to one problem. The management.

I am talking about the political ranks. Chiefs, Commissioners and Ministers. The ultimate policy creators and decision makers. These are the people responsible for all of these things except for individual officer corruption. These people are the ones responsible for the culture of fear preventing people feeling they can speak out. These are the people who decide to fiddle figures and manipulate crime recording. These are the people in charge of the budget and finances and these are the people responsible for destroying the morale of the ranks below them. Their poor management and decision making results in lack of public confidence and satisfaction and it is the hard working men and women who are the public face of Policing who take the brunt of the dissatisfaction. There is a common phrase in the Police Service which sums this up; –

“Shit rolls down hill”

In other words, the bad decisions made at the top roll all the way down to the bottom where Police Officer who want nothing more than to serve the public and get on with the job in hand face criticism, abuse and negativity. People need to realise that those “Police” they actually see are often just as frustrated as they are and that they have to follow the orders of those at the top or face up to the fact, as I have done, that it is time to call it a day and move on.

To summerise, the problem with the Police today lies at the highest levels and it is at this level where change needs to be made and where a lot of money can be saved.

The contents of this blog are mostly my own opinion and ideas. However, I have also linked in with other Officers of various ranks both serving and retired/resigned and so their words and opinions are also contained within.