“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.
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)
Theft both ongoing and historic
Neighbour disputes of varying degrees
Sudden deaths both suspicious and expected
Nuisance Youths (anything from knocking on doors, being loud, playing football)
Frauds and deceptions
Road Traffic Collisions
Poachers and Wildlife crimes
Prison crimes (Crimes actually inside prison!)
Death warnings (telling people a loved one is dead)
Preventing breaches of the peace
Assessing a scene for CSI
Guarding a crime scene
Domestic violence both ongoing and historic
Child Sexual Offences
Transporting for ambulance
Assisting mental health workers
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
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)
Loose Peacock!! (actual call I attended)
Forcing entry to property for other agencies (ambulance)
Compiling case files
Speak with CPS
Arrange solicitors to attend
Arrange for an interpretor
Completing stop and searches
Attending community meetings
School inputs and talks
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.
I think it is time we took a closer look at a term some of you may not have even heard before despite the fact they occur with an ever increasing frequency.
This report will no doubt attract unwanted attention, criticism, insult and maybe worse. It is however, I believe, an important subject to look at in this day and age when all the general public want from our Governments is honesty and fairness.
Many people throughout history have sought to highlight matters such as this one and unfortunately ended up being killed in “freak attacks” or “accidents”.
The subject I am talking about is FALSE FLAG OPERATIONS (FFO).
A FFO is a military and political operation, usually a terrorist attack or similar, which is perpetrated by the Government on their own soil or establishments abroad and subsequently made to look as though they have been committed by a foreign Government or extremist organisation.
Some well known alleged FFOs include;-
Charlie Hebdo attack
When I say “well known” I do not mean that it is well known that these were FFOs, I simply mean that people all around the world are well aware that these attacks took place.
Many have alleged over the years that the western Governments were heavily involved in the 9/11 attacks, some even suggest that they were completely planned and orchestrated by the US Government or a joint operation by US and other Governments such as UK and/or Israel.
At this point you may already be switching off and thinking this is another “conspiracy theory” but please read on. I will be looking at each of the above incidents in a little more detail and pointing out some of the theories circulating about them but the idea behind this report is to look more at the FACTS and the aspects of each incident which make them less conspiracy THEORY and more of a plausible possibility.
For this who have no idea what a FFO is you may mistakingly think that they themsleves are conspiracy theories. However, they are unfortunately very real.
We are going to look at one below which was presented to President John F Kennedy in the 1960’s by the Department of Defence. Quite frighteningly this FFO was signed off on by all except the President which is the only reason it did not go ahead. When we look at it you will see why so many people believe that the incidents listed above could well have been FFOs.
Op Northwoods was put together by the US Department of Defence (DoD) in the 60’s to address a problem faced by the then Government.
Kennedy and his administration were becoming increasingly concerned about Fidel Castro and also his relationship to Russia. Kennedy was under increasing pressure from his Government to take action against Castro and Cuba, however they lacked the support from the American public to invade and go to war and also the rest of the world. Op Northwoods was the DoD’s answer to that problem.
(you can view the entire now declassified document here but I will be looking at the vital sections below)
It is described in it’s first paragraph as a description of “pretexts which could justify US military intervention in Cuba”. In otherwords, idea that would make the rest of the world and US public support a US invasion.
Throughout the document are recommendations that the document is kept away from certain aspects of US Government, military and the rest of the world, including the UN. This is because the suggestions put forward, if carried out and discovered to be a FFO, would no doubt trigger another world war and destroy the US.
The first page outlines the document contents and reasons for it and shows that it was signed off by the US Joint Chief of Staff.
Section 5 of the Operation states
“The suggested courses of action…are based on the premise that US military intervention will result from a period of hightened US-Cuba tensions which place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances. World opinion and the United Nations forum should be favourably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government being rash and irresponsible and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere”
What we are hearing here is a plan for the US Government, through a series of events and incidents which we shall examine shortly, planning to falsify and concoct an image and opinion which misrepresents the Cuban government and it’s leader. They basically plan on “spreading rumours” and making the rest of the world believe Cuba is a huge threat not only to the US but to the rest of the UN too. Sound familiar yet?
Section 6 goes on to explain how it would need be rushed and a short time scale would be forced upon the rest of the world to agree by telling them that AT THE MOMENT there is no threat from Russia as there is no pact between Cuba and Russia BUT if they hold back that threat could become real.
The conclusion in Section 7 states that the plan is a suitable response to the problem of gaining and increasing public support for war with Cuba and should be carried forward to the planning stage.
It is also recommended that the overseeing of the operation, both overt and covert actions, should stay with the Joint Chief of Staffs.
The report then goes on to discuss how the Operation should be put together. It states;-
“…Such a plan would enable a logical build up of incidents to be combined with a number of other seemingly unrelated events to camoflage the ultimate objective and create the neccersary impression of rashness and irresponsibility on a large scale directed at other countries as well as the United States”
It talks of choosing plans from the attached list of suggestions which we will look at later and again emphasises the importance of making the rest of the world believe Cuba is a threat to national security of the entire western hemisphere.
So let us now look at the list of proposed actions the US Government put together to take to the President which if he had signed off on would have resulted in the US proceeding to lie to the world in order to invade another country and start a war all for their own means.
Suggestion number 1 starts by saying;-
“Since it would seem desirable to use legitimate provocation as the basis for US military intervention in Cuba, a cover a deception plan…could be executed as an initial effort to provoke Cuban response. Harassment plus deceptive actions to convince the Cubans of imminent invasion would be emphasized.”
So in a nutshell, because a “legitimate provocation” would be preferred, the US would try and orchestrate a provocation by harassing and provoking Cuba themselves until Cuba reacted.
However, knowing that suggestion 1 would most likely not work they move in quickly to the following suggestion.
“A series of well coordinated incidents will be planned to take place in and around Guantanamo to give the genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces”
The DoD then lists their proposed “well coordinated incidents” as
1) Start rumours (many). Use clandestine radio
2) Land friendly Cubans [those either on the CIA payroll or trained as guerilla fighters by the CIA] in uniform over the fence to stage attack on base.
3) Capture Cuban (friendly) saboteurs inside the base.
4) Start a riot near the base main gate (friendly Cubans)
5) Blow up ammunition on the base. Start fires.
6) Burn aircraft on airbase (sabotage)
7) Lob mortar shells from outside of base into base. Some damage to installations.
8) Capture assault teams approaching from the sea or direction of Guantanamo Bay.
9) Capture malitia group which storms the base
10) Sabotage ship in harbour. Start large fires – napthalene
11) Sink ship near harbour entrance. conduct funerals for mock victims (may be lieu of 10)
MOCK VICTIMS – this is something that will crop up again and we will look at closer later!
The DoD advise that in response to these incidents which would be conducted by the US and made to look like Cuba were responsible, the US military would then launch offensive operations against Cuba!
The 3rd suggestion was referred to as a “remember the Maine” operation. The Maine was a US battleship which funnily enough in the late 1890’s was sunk off of the coast of Havana following a huge explosion on board which tore a hole in the hull. There was, believe it or not, no evidence to suggest an attack but the incident was blamed on the Spanish and the US public, angry and upset at the death of 260 soldiers, demanded a declaration of war.
The following is an extract from the website ushistory.org;-
“REMEMBER THE MAINE, TO HELL WITH SPAIN!” was the cry. On April 11, 1898, McKinley asked the Congress for permission to use force in Cuba. To send a message to the rest of the world that the United States was interested in Cuban independence instead of American colonization, Congress passed the TELLER AMENDMENT, which promised that America would not annex the precious islands. After that conscience-clearing measure, American leaders threw caution to the wind and declared open warfare on the Spanish throne.”
Could this have been an early FFO?
So what would a “Remember the Maine” operation look like? Well the first suggestion by the DoD was…
“a) We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba”
part B of suggestion 3 is to blow up a drone vessel anywhere in Cuban waters, potentially close to Havana so that it was seen a would be a spectacle. When Cuban planes flew over to see what was happening footage would be used to emphasise that Cuba attacked the vessel. The US would then stage a rescue mission to “evacuate remaining members of a non-existent crew”
Again, MOCK VICTIMS being “rescued” from a faked attack!
“We could develop a communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, other Florida cities and even in Washington.The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cubans refugees in the United States, even to the extent of wounding in instances to be highly publicised….”
Here we see the US Government actually suggesting killing or wounding Cuban refugees in fabricated “terrorist attacks” in US cities! It continues…
“…exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government”
The US Government planned to paint the Cuban Government as “irresponsible” by acting irresponsible themselves.
Suggestion 5 was to cause tension between Cuba and other Caribbean nations by staging attacks on sugar cane fields and ensuring Soviet incendiaries were found along with the discovery of “Cuban” messages and weapons shipments on that nation’s beaches etc.
Suggestion 6 involved disguising a US plane as a Cuban plane and conducting attacks on US drone vessels and other US instillations.
Suggestion 7 was to stage hijackings of US “civil air and surface crafts” and make it appear to be backed by Cuba.
Suggestion number 8 is one that sets alarm bells ringing especially when you hold Lockerbie and 9/11 in mind.
“It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner enroute from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers would be a group of “College students” [CIA officers] off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled flight.
[This is where the plan gets crafty and alarm bells begin to ring]
a) An air craft at Eglin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA propriety organisation in the Miami area. At a designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and would be loaded with the selected passengers, all loaded under carefully selected aliases. The actual registered air craft would be converted to a drone.
b) Take off times of the drone air craft and the actual air craft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida. From the rendezvous point the passenger [CIA] carrying air craft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into and auxilary field at Eglin AFB where arrangement will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to it’s original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the plane will begin transmitting on the international distress frequency a “MAY DAY” message stating he is under attack from a Cuban MIG aircraft. The transmission will be disrupted by destruction of the air craft which will be triggered by radio signal. This will allow ICAO radio stations in the Western Hemisphere to tell the US what has happened to the aircraft instead of the US trying to “sell” the incident.
Can you believe what you have just read? Read it again. An elaborate plan to stage the shooting down of a passenger aircraft which would then be broadcast to the entire world. Names and faces of the “passengers” would be released. Mock funerals as discussed above would take place and the world would condemn Cuba for an act actually conducted by the US government!
It has long been suggested that the planes involved in Lockerby and in the 9/11 attacks were simply drones and that the passengers and families of passengers were in fact US military and government personnel. This allegation is always understandably met with outrage and disgust but can we blame the “conspiracy theorists” for believing this when that is EXACTLY what the US government planned in 1962?
Suggestion 9 was a plan to have a CIA pilot posing as an Air Force pilot engaged on a training exercise with other legitimate fighters. He would be briefed to fly at the back of the formation, some distance behind the rest where he would then let out a distress call to say he had been attacked by Cuban MIG planes. He would then descend to low altitude and fly to Eglin AFB where the plane would be re-numbered and the CIA agent would return to his normal duty. The pilot would never be found and would be reported as shot down by Cubans. At the same time a submarine would be used to release plane parts including parachute which would then be recovered from the sea and the coast of Cuba. Presumably another mock funeral would take place.
So now we have seen just how devious, deceitful and manipulative the US Government can be and it was only due to the honesty (the US government called it “softness”) of President John F Kennedy that Operation Northwoods did not go ahead at that time.
It raises the legitimate question though of whether a Northwoods style plan was taken to Bush as a way of increasing public support for the Iraq invasion. It was no big secret that Bush wanted to go into Iraq and take down Sadam and we now know that the story of WMD was a load of rubbish. We know Iraq played no part in 9/11 but were lead to believe Sadam and Osama were both up to no good and posed a “potential risk to the western hemisphere”.
In actual fact is well known and documented that it was the Bush family who were close friends of the Bin Laden family. The presidents father was entertaining Osama’s brother the morning of the attacks!
Did Blair use a FFO on 7/7 due to the increasing demands from the pubic and others in Parliament to stop being America’s lap-dog and to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan?
Did Cameron authorise a FFO in Paris to create support and understanding from Parliament, the EU and the public for his plans to increase surveillance and snooping laws in the UK? The same morning of the attacks in Paris the head of Mi5 was quoted in the media as saying they can not protect us from all terrorist attacks and that terrorists are using complicated communication methods such as Whatsapp, iMessage and Snapchat… by complicated he meant encrypted.
David Cameron jumped straight on the bandwagon with plans to push his already quashed plans for his “snoopers charter” and a promise to ban all encrypted communications because he states he does not think the public should be able to communicate in a way which the government can not listen in. He made sure he highlighted the fact that the Charlie Hebdo attacks MAY have been avoided if the Government had the ability and freedom to listen in to all communications.
The attacks in Paris were almost instantly examined and numerous discrepancies were discovered paving the way for more “conspiracy theories” and allegations it was a FFO. (see my previous blog the Charlie Hebdo attack for details of the discrepancies and theories)
Northwoods suggests using MOCK VICTIMS in their attacks. Using serving covert agents as pilots and civilians aswel as the “terrorists” themselves. One of the theories surrounding the Paris attack was that the attackers were agents and that the Police Officer shot was actually a serving agent from MOSAD. Hard to believe I know, until you look at Northwoods and see that it is not as outrageous as you may think.
Many aspects of Northwoods can be seen in these incidents and because we KNOW that Northwoods was a legitimate US government plan and that the DoD was more than willing to sacrifice US lives and fabricate evidence and cover up their actions people can not be blamed or criticised for believing that 9/11, 7/7, Lockerbie, Pearl HArbour and the Charlie Hebdo attacks were the works of Western Governments.
President John F Kennedy had the decency and integrity which no other leader prior or since had. He turned down Northwoods and was deemed “weak”. He made a speech about secrecy and lies at a Government level and higher and insisted that his administration would NOT tolerate such activity and behaviour and called upon the US media to help him advise and inform the American public whilst vowing to expose the sinister secrecy at the highest levels of power…. several days later JFK was shot and killed.
But that is another “Conspiracy Theory” altogether.
*In writing this blog I am not endorsing any theory about any incident which has taken place. I happen to hold my own opinions on each incident. I simply believe that more people should be aware of the existence of Operation Northwoods and the extent to which the US Government HISTORICALLY planned to take matters simply to fabricate public support for war. Read the document in full at the link I have supplied. Look deeper into attacks which have happened both historically and recently and make you own minds up. But don’t dismiss those who think outside the box and consider all possibilities rather than simply excepting what the media, controlled by the Government, tell us.
If anything happens to me any time soon after writing this then it’s no conspiracy theory, DIG DEEPER! 😉
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:-
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.
- Much more training is needed for Specials PRIOR to being released on the streets.
- A national policy on the roles of Special Constables rather than allowing individual forces to decide what they can and can not do.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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 news has just landed that infamous EDL leader Tommy Robinson has stepped down from leading his party to focus on more legitimate ways to target the “increased threat of Islam” facilitated by anti-extremist organisation Quilliam. Robinson states he has been considering the move for some time now as he has realised that whilst street demonstrations have helped build the EDL and get him to where he is now, they are not very productive. He wishes to continue to counter islamic ideology but using less violent, democratic ideas… sounds promising right? I personally am not convinced.
It may seem extreme but I recently watched the 2 part documentary “Hitler’s Rise To Power” which focused on his political career from angry street protestor to the extreme, racist Nazi murderer he became. When I read the story about Tommy Robinson this morning I was struck by one thing immediately… This is exactly what Adolf did back in the 1930’s & 40’s.
In a nutshell, Hitler began building himself a vast army of followers and engaged in mass public marches and demonstrations which often resulted in violence. He protested, amongst other things, about the influx of Jews which he saw as a threat to the nation and the inactivity or reluctance to act by Government. As his popularity increased so to did the attention of those in power who saw Hitler as nothing more than an extreme and violent protestor. Blessed with the gift of the gab and able to rally his followers with his passionate but poisonous rhetoric Hitler’s following snowballed out of all control. It seemed much of the country supported his cause if not his practices and many more were beginning to bend towards his way of thinking. He did a spell in prison, was smeared by the press for allegedly having sexual relations with his niece and became a target for the Government.
As things progressed and he realised his extreme and violent ways were not gaining him respect and credibility within Government and no doubt seeing that these street demonstrations were not going to be enough for much longer Hitler did something surprising.
He distanced himself from the extreme side of his party, calmed down and disguising himself as a sheep rather than a wolf he began to tow the line and worked with various Government departments who actually believed that THEY were in control of Hitler when in actual fact he was using subterfuge to subliminally manipulate those who were working alongside him and sneaking his way into Politics. From there he lost several elections to become a Government official but his following was increasing by the thousands every day. Eventually he was appointed a place in Government and very quickly he shed his wool and the evil wolf was back. It did not take long for Hitler to become the force of evil which we all already know about. And the rest is history.
Now obviously we are never going to see Tommy Robinson residing in 10 Downing Street and becoming leader of Great Britain and I am NOT for one second comparing Tommy to Adolf, but what did strike me was that the political move seems very reminiscent of Hitler’s rise to power and I can not help but wonder what plan or agenda Mr Robinson may have.
I hope that Tommy has realised the errors of his ways and I hope many of his followers follow him along this path but I guess only time will tell.
I am sure many people have now read Sunday’s Mail Online article by infamous journalist Peter Hitchens. The article uses an extract from within as its title “GET RID OF THEIR GUNS, CARS AND TASERS AND WE MIGHT JUST END UP WITH REAL POLICEMEN”.
This inflammatory comment sets the tone for the entire article in which he lambasts the Police and pretty much labels them useless. Upon first reading the article I, like many others completely disagreed with him, rejected it as what has sadly become typical Daily Mail anti-Police rhetoric and then allowed it to anger me. I then headed to Peter’s twitter timeline and saw that many others had expressed their disagreement with the article in a wide variety of ways and so I decided to send a few tweets to him myself. They were not offensive, or were at least not intended to be, but I just made a few comments about the article and then informed him that I was offended by his suggestions because I had sadly lost a friend and colleague to armed criminals. Peter would later dismiss my comment as “irrelevant” because he had lost a friend to the IRA. Not sure where the logic is in that but I found his dismissal rather distasteful. I am deeply sorry Peter has lost a friend in this manner and I can sympathise with him in ways he won’t know so I certainly would not dismiss such a thing as irrelevant.
My comments on Peter’s timeline soon attracted some strange people and one particularly vile male who seemed frighteningly obsessed with the man. However I did end up talking to some rather sensible, intelligent, mature and reasonable Hitchens supporters who engaged in polite debate and did not become rude, aggressive or offensive when we disagreed. Mr Hitchens himself responded to some of my tweets with his usual sharp rudeness which having read a few of his blogs now I quite like and find amusing, but this is fine and acceptable because I was not particularly polite either. I have to respect a person who speaks their mind and says what they think and feel without worrying about the consequences or who they may upset. Whilst it may be sometimes rude and offensive it is at least honest.
Having spoken to these people and having now read his article several times I would like to firstly admit that I was perhaps wrong to dismiss it immediately and secondly to apologise for my rudeness. I fully respect other people’s opinions and if this article is Peter’s then I respect that. My reason for writing this blog however is to do what he and others have suggested and to point out, in a reasonable manner, where his article lacks fact.
The article is predominantly based on opinion. Peter’s opinion of Police, Policing and a couple of high profile incidents where officers have fallen short of the levels of professionalism expected. I think the thing that has upset many and gotten so many backs up is the sweeping generalisations contained throughout the blog. Peter has expressed his opinion of presumably his local constabulary and expressed this as fact in relation to “the Police” in general to a national audience. Reading between the lines I think the article is aimed at the Policing of London however the language use and numerous generalisations imply to the average reader that the same negativities apply to Police throughout the UK. Peter told many on his timeline that he was more than qualified to make his comments because he had written a book about crime and policing etc which involved research. That book however was written quite some time ago. If the website is correct they date from 1999 to 2003. Policing was different then. Very different. I only joined in 2004 and even now the Police service and its methods are unrecognisable to when I joined. The other thing which has changed tremendously is society, crime trends and crime types. I dare say that Peter’s research on this topic may be a little dated. Allow me to explain and clarify a few things.
Firstly, the opening question I am going to take as rhetorical. Whilst many do not support the Police and some actually despise them, it is pretty obvious how useful Police Officers are. They do a job nobody else could or would and without the Police the world would be a much more frightening place to live. Until there is an alternative to criticise then the Police remain a very useful tool in preventing and detecting crime and protecting the public. They are only hampered in this role by political interference.
Secondly, despite Peter’s opinion Police Officers do NOT have an ambiguous attitude towards the public. Police Officers have a lot of respect for honest law abiding members of the public. If they did not hold a positive attitude towards them then why would they serve them? They put their lives on the line, their health and safety at risk and face daily criticism because they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t and they do all of this for the public. The Police do NOT avoid heading out into the streets or fear being approached and they do NOT always work with another colleague. With cuts to frontline policing, which are being cleverly hidden from the public eye, many officers are PREVENTED from heading into the streets. Not by choice for most, but because of workload demands and the wishes of those at the top of the chain of command and in Government. So called “back office” roles usually done by civilians are being plugged by officers. Cuts to the frontline mean less officers to deal with suspects and so they are dragged in off the streets to deal with the interview and charging process which depending on the offence can take hours. Officers want to be out patrolling but most of the time the mountain of paperwork and bureaucracy prevents as many of them from venturing outside some days. It is not “the Police” on the ground that makes this decision, it is those at the very top sitting in the Home Office or those a little further down the chain.
When officers do go out on patrol then yes I think it is fair to say these days most do so in a vehicle. Again this is due to the dangerously low numbers of Officers available to cover such vast areas and because many criminals these days do not skulk around on foot in the shadows, they travel in vehicles and it is pretty tricky to keep up with a car on foot and as today’s press shows, it can be very dangerous trying to stop a criminal in a car whilst on foot. The main reason however is that the Police have strict response times. They must attend an emergency call from the public promptly and can take no longer than 14mins 59seconds (may vary depending on location) or the call is “missed” and this reflects badly on the force when the statistic geeks come calling which then results in rapped knuckles which roll downwards with increased severity to the initial attending officers. It would be impossible with the number of officers today and the huge areas they cover to meet this strict response times on foot. Let me give you a factual example.
My beat area is two hundred square miles. It is at any one time covered by only 2 Police Constables and 3-4 PCSO colleagues. My force has a STRICT single crewing policy and we are routinely monitored via GPS to ensure we are single crewed. If we are found to be double crewed then we are contacted immediately by a rank of at least Inspector and asked to account for why. Unless we are off to make an arrest of a violent person, transporting a prisoner, dealing with a person known to make allegations or suffering with Mental Health issues or transporting the officer(s) to their foot beat then we will be in a little bother. Working with a colleague these days is a luxury and if we can not justify it then we will be disciplined. The only exception to this rule is Friday and Saturday evenings in busy towns or cities. We have just lost a lot of vehicles from our fleet and so my beat only has one marked Police car and one marked Police van. Unless we have a prisoner to process or have specifically requested clerical time in advance then we must all be out on the streets within 30mins of starting our shift, just enough time to brief, check the vehicles and kit and away we go. Often we park up and walk around on foot engaging with the community and have to run back to the vehicle when an emergency call is made. One of us transports our PCSO colleagues to their designated beat areas and then has to round them back up again unless public transport is working. And so as you can see, this is completely different to Peter’s opinion and this is fact. This is not just a one off example for my current beat, this is the case for all beats I have worked and for friends in other forces I have spoken to before writing this.
Sadly, because there are so few Police officers these days they have to prioritise their work and do not have the resources to deal with everything that comes in. I remember only 8 years ago when I would turn up to briefing at the start of my shift and there would be at least 20 cops on shift. Eight would take cars, two of which were double crewed, and the rest headed out on foot. I loved it. These days there is often only 6-10 officers on shift and the Neighbourhood teams such as mine have even less as stated above. For this reason we do often have to pick and choose jobs. Sir Peter Fahy caused controversy when he admitted recently that 60% of crimes are not investigated. This is the true nature of Government cuts to Policing. So the Officer who Peter alleges stated he was busy doing something else “in an irritable voice” when he asked him to deal with somebody who ran a red light was most probably simply being honest and was irritable because, whilst I do not wish to make assumptions, I dare say Peter would have been his usual abrupt and rude self when speaking with the Officer in this alleged incident. I wasn’t there and so can not say for certain what that officer was doing at the time, perhaps Peter can explain further, but I have been in similar situations where I am pulled over noting down details of a call I am being despatched to or I am perhaps doing some important clerical at the roadside or even waiting for a suspect vehicle which I know is heading my way, when I have been shouted at by a member of the public for “ignoring” a car which they believe was speeding or the driver was on the phone. Whilst these are offences and should and will be dealt with when possible, I am afraid that we can not deal with everything. We all long for more resources and the ability to do more so please do not blame the boots on the ground for this as we are as equally frustrated as the public.
I can not argue at all with his comments regarding the Prince Andrew incident or the Mitchell incident other than to question the part where he implies the Police leaked the story about the Prince to the press. Is this actually true or was it just a convenient link into his bit about “Plebgate”? If it is true then yes I agree it is wrong, if not then he is wrong to imply to a national audience that this was the case.
I don’t think there is a Police Officer in the UK today that does not wish they could Police without the need for guns, Taser and vests. All these things have become vital tools in the fight against crime. I do not believe Officers should be routinely armed with guns but to remove them completely would completely prevent anybody at all dealing with armed criminals and to have them available only at the station to be allocated to trained officers when an incident come in would only delay response time and put more lives at risk. The same applies for Taser. These tools are much safer and cause less problems and discomfort for the suspect then CS spray yet this has become acceptable now. Yes there have been a few Taser horror stories in the press but when compared to the plethora of unreported positive Taser deployments these few cases would not even be 1%. Having been subjected to the Taser (by choice) and seen it used a handful of times I have no issue saying it is a vital tool and should replace CS and Pepper spray. And as for vests… Well to suggest the Police should be deployed in this day an age without one is madness. I wish we could be but we can’t. So long as the Police and Justice System receive no respect or fear from violent criminals and offers no deterrent these days then Police will continue to need protection from harm when putting themselves in front of armed and violent criminals. My vest has saved my skin, if not my life, on more than one occasion and has stopped bullets killing a few of my colleagues too. Helicopters although expensive really do assist the Police. They were introduced as a progression in policing and are used for a wide variety of roles such as searching for criminals and missing persons, safely following vehicles to prevent dangerous pursuits, monitoring public disorder incidents to direct officers and gather evidence. The list of jobs they do which could not be done by any other means even if we trebled the number of cops on the ground is vast. I really do wish these things were not needed to Police society but before the surrendering of these items can even be considered, society needs to change, crime needs to drop (for real, not just on paper) and the Police need more resources so they can safely patrol. Does Peter really think 2013 Britain can be policed using archaic methods, tactics and equiptment?
I agree with Peter to some extent that the uniform needs to change. We are beginning to look slightly more militant and even more so when armed to the teeth in and around the streets of London. The Police uniform has gone from being smart, presentable and also carrying an air of authority to a national mismatch of styles and colours and although it may be more practical for modern day policing it is quite uncomfortable, looks quite militant, often looks scruffy and does little to help our desired approachable image. I hate the thin, tight fitting moisture wicking polo shirts most now wear and think we should look at moving back to the white shirt and ties and having some pride in our appearance once again. The horrid hi-vis jackets and tac vests are grime magnets and get dirty very quickly and rarely come out clean when washed. Many cops walk around in dirty day-glow looking more like an AA mechanic these days because that is the uniform we are given. I love looking back at pictures of uniformed Police through the ages and when uniform from only 8 years ago is put next to today’s it really is quite sad to see.
The fact is Policing has changed because society has changed. Society has changed because of poor leadership in Government. The days of the local bobby being only a shout or whilst blow away are long gone and I would love nothing more for them to return. I would happily put up a Police sign on my house and be my town’s local bobby. I would and often do quite happily patrol on foot in all kinds of inclement weather. I have done so in city centres, rough estates, rural areas and small towns and villages and I have done so alone. Yes it was nice in the days when you could perhaps walk with a friend and colleague and you knew you had immediate assistance if needed but nobody enters the world of Policing expecting to have somebody holding their hand every day. Whilst we might moan about it, the Police are more than used to change and learn to adapt all the time and despite what Peter’s article may say they are doing just that today. His own experience of Policing in London or in one particular area may be negative, his research from 10+ years ago may be negative (I don’t know as I have not read his books), his recent article may well be overly negative towards the Police but it was wrong of him to imply on a national level that what he sees and hears in relation to Policing in London is a reflection of “the Police” in general. It is not so much what he says that irritated me in particular but rather HOW he said it. In this day and age when the media hold the Police in general accountable for the actions of a select few resulting in a dispirited public, articles as vague and as sweeping as this only seek to fuel the erosion of the reputation of the Police Service of England and Wales, a Police Service respected and admired the world over.
All the things moaned about by Peter are also nothing to do with the men and women the public see on the streets which again is something I think Peter should have made clear. The lowly PC has no say in his/her deployment, posting, what he/she wears or carries for protection, what incident they can or can’t deal with, whether or not they can work with another bobby… The PC is at the very bottom of the Police ladder and does as it is told. These decisions are all made much higher up the ladder and quite often at a Government level and so for anybody to take out their anger, annoyance or even their hatred for Police and Policing out on the men and women on the ground is disgraceful and to hold the entire Police Service of England and Wales or even a whole force accountable for any single negative encounter or the mistake or criminal actions of a small select few corrupt officers is ridiculous. You would not and could not get away with discriminating against other groups in society based on the actions of a small minority. I would never for one second tar all journalists with the same brush because one or two like to write anti-police stories. It is wrong and deep down I think these people know that.
I doubt Peter will read this and if he does I doubt he will either admit it or agree. I hope I am proved wrong but I doubt it. I wanted to write it because I wanted to firstly apologise to Peter for my initial reaction and if he does read I hope he accepts that apology. Secondly I wanted to try and explain in greater detail than Twitter allows just exactly WHY I disagree with parts of his article. Many of his supporters have asked me questions that I can simply not respond to in 140 characters and so this is my response and my opinion based on my up to date knowledge and facts.