Monday, 22 December 2014

New Streamlined Dispersals

Merry Xmas my friends.

A short post for you today, to convey the most recent amusing 'slashing of red tape' in the Met.

My supervisor today showed us a little red book with 'Police Dispersal Power' marked on the cover. It is the latest new piece of Met Police paperwork.

The background is that under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, police officers can disperse people from a public place for up to 48 hours to prevent ASB. Until recently the exercise of dispersal powers involved handing out a plan of the dispersal area and writing the person's details in my pocketbook. This new booklet was intended to 'streamline' the paperwork for issuing dispersals, but as usual, the tail is firmly wagging the dog.

"The process now involves simply giving them a ticket from this booklet," said my supervisor. "The instructions are on the Intranet." Inwardly I raised a sceptical eyebrow.

He read the notes out loud to the team, explaining the new process. To issue a dispersal notice, we must now do the following:

  1. Complete the form using the subject's details and give the top sheet to the person. 
  2. Create a CAD specific to the dispersal. (A 'CAD' is a log or record of actions). 
  3. Create a specific intelligence report ('CRIMINT'). 
  4. The IBO (an administrative team) maintains a spreadsheet of dispersals, which I must update. 
  5. Scan the dispersal form on a printer and save this file into a particular folder on the Metropolitan Police computer system. 
  6. Complete and give the subject a stop-and-account form. (Form 5090).

If I'm thorough (and want to protect myself against allegations) I'll probably also want to duplicate the subject's name, address and date-of-birth in my pocketbook.

This is another only one of hundreds of procedures we are supposed to know like the back of our hands.

After this rousing briefing I wanted to check a certain suspicion, so I logged into a computer and found the folder for dispersals. I thought to test it by attempting to save a document into that folder.

I wasn't surprised to find that I didn't have 'write' permission to do this...and neither did anybody else.

In the Met Police, systems are created by persons who seem to give no thought to the actual implementation – to the difficulties that the guys and girls on the street are likely to encounter.

There's a familiar pattern here. The reality is that this 'improvement' will cause the power to be used LESS often. Officers will be unwilling – without a good reason – to jump through these hoops simply to disperse people.

I predict that in a few months time dispersals will become a performance indicator, in order to force officers to use the power.
I've seen this cycle happen so many times in the police force. It's depressing.

And it's good to see that the bosses are really working hard to reduce the duplication of paperwork...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Shoot Me! I'm The Target!

The UK's official threat level for international terrorism was raised from 'substantial' to 'severe' on the 29th August. The threat level system is run by the Security Service for managing terrorist risks. 'Severe' implies that an attack is highly likely.

Since the threat level was raised, police officers have been exercising more care and diligence during their duties to protect themselves. We know that there are certain terrorist groups who would merrily murder soldiers or police officers in public.

Also you know – if you have read my older blog posts – that all police managers have a constant concern with covering their arses. They make decisions based on the need to protect themselves from criticism and protect their hopes of promotion.

So what happened in our police station when the threat level was increased to 'severe'?

Our inspector, probably desperate to be seen to be doing something, put out an order:

All constables are to wear their yellow high visibility jackets at all times when outside the police station.

If the terrorists are out on the streets carrying loaded guns or stabbing implements, they'll surely not hesitate if they see a whale-shaped yellow blob lumbering along inside a shirt and tie, fleece, body armour, yellow jacket and silly hat?

With a high risk of a terrorist attack by fundamental Islamists, I feel like I'm on show, my bright yellow attire screaming out:

“I'm here! Shoot me! Me!”

Are we supposed to now be protecting the public by literally mopping up all the bullets? Instead, while the threat level is this high, shouldn't we perhaps adopt a lower profile?

Worst still, my inspector insists upon 'single patrolling'. This is the bizarre practice that former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson made one of his key policies, together with (1) learning 'The Five Ps' catchphrase, and (2) wearing name badges.

The idea of single patrolling is that it gives the public a false impression that there are more cops than really exist. In other words – an unrealistic expectation. And, according to unquestioned orthodox police thinking, this is a good thing.

Single patrolling is also unproductive (I don't stop and search people when I'm alone), demoralising for us, potentially dangerous (it was cast aside when the London riots started) and it worries the public when they see a police officer walking alone – they tend to assume that the reason we are alone is because budget cuts have reduced our numbers.

And I especially don't want to be waddling along by myself, under my blimp-like yellow jacket, when a terrorist attack is 'highly likely'.

I'm sure you've got my point by now.

Police sergeants and inspectors do seem to like their people walking around in high-visibility jackets, but why?

Seriously, how will that help us or any member of the public?

I know the thinking - I can hear their cogs slowly turning - my inspector, like all police managers, assumes that a visible presence reassures people. He wants people to enjoy that special euphoric glow of reassurance.

Nope. That doesn't work.

My experience is that people worry – when they see coppers near their homes they assume something bad has happened in the vicinity. They ask us:

"Officers, what's happened? Is it anything I need to know about?"

Obviously I dislike the fact that my inspector has chosen to put his team in danger simply in order that he is seen to be taking action of some kind, but what disappoints me most is something else.

Like so many police managers, he can't think for himself. He also can't reason through the obvious consequences of decisions. He might work from a desk, but I'm out there walking around and hoping not to get beheaded or shot.

Not only can police managers not think for themselves, but instead of doing nothing – something they should try more often! – they do the only thing they can think of, which is to copy the tried and abandoned ideas of previous commissioners, including ones who performed poorly and resigned in disgrace.

I don't write this because I enjoy disparaging police managers, but because it just isn't good enough.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Targets In Through The Back Door

“The public aren't interested in robberies or burglaries. They want officers knocking on doors handing out leaflets.”

So said one of the superintendents on my borough recently.

I've written extensively in previous posts about how we still have targets despite the Home Secretary, Theresa May, ordering police chiefs to get rid of them in 2010, saying:

“Targets hinder the fight against crime.”

And again in 2012:

“Targets are an excuse for lazy management.”

To recap, early in 2014 the Police Federation asked Metropolitan Police Service officers for evidence that they are being set individual targets, and over three hundred responded, explaining common themes, such as:

“My sergeants run a naming and shaming list, saying 'If you're at the top you're the nuts. If you're at the bottom you're poo!'”

Officers explained how they are censured if they don't “bring in the figures,” despite that most police police-work, such as standing on crime scene cordons and dealing with traffic collisions, fires, transporting prisoners an so forth, doesn't generate performance figures.

If they fail to produce the figures they are often given 'punishment postings'. This could mean for example a month of attending only the tedious and unproductive calls, or a month working in custody or standing on crime scenes.

Metropolitan Police Federation Target Culture Report

Career-advancing courses, such as driving training, are withheld unless they produce sufficient number of arrests, stop-searches and intelligence reports.

Anecdotally it's my experience that following extensive media criticism early this year, many of these Metropolitan Police sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors seem finally to be resisting the temptation to constantly lampoon their officers for figures, at least as far as the usual arrests and stop-searches are concerned.

Police managers being police managers, the instinct for targets is starting to displace in other directions. The Metropolitan Police Service has a spreadsheet program called AirSpace, which was created as a helpful task management tool. In the manner of such things within the Met Police, it was quickly perverted into another means for performance-recording – one of numerous such systems.

Airspace has a facility for maintaining a list of contacts, and senior officers at New Scotland Yard are now requiring that local teams grow these lists. One of the borough's Local Policing Team inspectors told us recently:

“I want five hundred names added to the contact list by Christmas this year and a thousand by Christmas 2015.”

She wants officer knocking on doors every day taking people's names, telephone numbers and email addresses, but sometimes people don't want to hand over these details.

Another example:

Some of the Local Policing Teams are coming under management pressure to spend hours each week standing at the end of one-way streets mercilessly handing out £50 tickets to cyclists riding on pavements or cycling the wrong direction. No discretion is allowed and the tickets awarded are totalled up at the end of the week and sent to the inspectors and chief inspectors.

It is so disappointing that the police managers simply can't seem to help themselves. They have never been taught how to properly manage – making intelligent and creative decisions, and utilising their staff with respect and responsibility. Chasing figures seems to be the only technique they seem to have in their toolboxes.

I know what I'll do: create a new target!
I'll slip it under the radar – nobody will notice.

Well I've noticed and here it is in a blog post. I wonder what other targets are being brought in through the back door?

People might tell surveys that they want to see more cops around, but that's because they want the cops to reduce crime. Knocking on doors and handing out leaflets won't achieve anything useful:

“Hello love. You've been burgled? Sorry to hear that, but look – have a leaflet.”

We need officers free to do their jobs without their hands tied or spending hours doing unproductive nonsense like handing out leaflets. Even if people indicated that they prefer officers door-knocking to locking up burglars and robbers, it's our job to interpret that and discern what they mean.

To protect themselves from criticism or advance their promotions, Metropolitan Police bosses fall over backwards to give people literally what they say they want. They evidence this in writing as if it were a productive crime-fighting achievement.

But, if we take our policing responsibility seriously, we need to give people what they NEED, not what they think they want. We who investigate the crimes know more about it than residents in communities. And when we speak with them it's clear that they know that.

People don't want our managers to slavishly make us act out word-for-word what the public satisfaction polls seem to say.

Returning to our senior officers' managers' orders to grow our lists of community contacts the only benefit of generating these vast lists is the ability to send out occasional emails giving crime prevention advice. But this is only an incidental benefit, not the root motivation for the information-gathering exercise.

We can certainly grow a contact list to a size arbitrarily plucked out of the air in order that our inspectors and chiefs are able to 'prove' their productivity to their managers' satisfaction, but this isn't going to catch the burglars...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Leaving In Droves

Two years ago I would check the Metropolitan Police website for resignations and find two or three each month. These days the norm is fifteen to twenty.

  1. A detective colleague was offered a high-paying investigation job and is now working in a sunny tax haven.
  2. Another has resigned to resume the poorly-paid but rewarding youth engagement work he did prior to joining the police a decade ago.
BBC News: Police officer numbers - thousands plan to leave service

This recent article is misleading. It misses the point.

The implication is that Winsor`s reforms are solely responsible for the low morale and exodus of constables. If we believe this then we are failing to hold Sir Bernard to account. The reality is that Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model is of equal or greater importance.

It's true that police officers' morale was hit hard by the Tom Winsor reforms, in particular the retrospective change of pension conditions. Officers made informed choices to join the job based in part upon the pension scheme. Where the longest serving officers hoped to tolerate only a few more years of organisational stupidity, night shifts and power-crazy supervisors, they will now find themselves being spat at and wrestling with scumbags until they're sixty years of age.

However, the real culprit here is Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model. I won't labour the details of the LPM because I've already addressed them in other posts:

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!
A Convenient Bottleneck
Your Local Station Has Closed? Hey Presto! – A Reduction in Crime
The Figures Prove It's Working!
My Thumb's In The Hole!
Ten Minutes
Contact Points
Disappointment Car
'Return' of Police Targets

Sir Bernard tried the Local Police Model in Merseyside: it failed. He moved to the Metropolitan Police Service – clearly a very different police force – and displaying record-breaking self-denial he saw fit in June 2013 to try his LPM brainchild a second time. We are today struggling under this burden.

The LPM's reorganisation of police teams has proved disastrous. It has had the effect of spiriting away resources overnight – the teams now sprint from the start to finish of each shift, struggling to attend the calls and providing a very poor service for the public, who are bewildered by their difficulties in finding cops and by how long they must wait for us to arrive. The LPM also provides a joyless working regime for the officers – constables spend their shifts working alone, frantically rushing from one appointment to the next, unable to spend more than ten minutes with each victim.

Sir Bernard holds invitation-only monthly audiences and in the last one he told those gathered: “I now accept that it isn't working” and “Changes will be made.”

The Local Policing Model (which in no sense is 'local') has crushed the Service. When a system is under pressure all the stress naturally flows downwards to those at the bottom – and that's why the constables are now having a thoroughly miserable time compared with two years ago.

And that's largely why so many are resigning.

It seems like everyone wants to leave, and many are officers are taking lower-paid jobs elsewhere. Many of my colleagues are developing exit strategies – studying part-time degrees, setting up businesses, becoming physiotherapists and truck drivers. Those with less than two years service can already see the writing on the wall, and those with twenty-five plus years are grimly hanging on for their pension.

The talk has it that senior officers want to save money by employing officers for only two or three years. They want people who will stay only long enough to get the job on their CV then leave. As ever there is no incentive for senior officers to take any interest in their constables' careers or welfare. On the contrary, anything that encourages officers to leave plays nicely into the diretion the senior managers are pushing the Metropolitan Police Service.

One thing that bothers me is that despite the £4000 pay cut and closure of the pension scheme, applicants remain plentiful. There seems to be no shortage of young people buying into the mythology of being a police officer – "I've wanted to be a cop since I was a small child" – and willing to put on the uniform.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a police officer, but those recruits are going into it with their eyes closed, unaware that their careers and welfare mean absolutely nothing to the senior managers.

In time they, like all of us, will realise the vast disparity between their expectation and the reality. But the job benefits for those few years – feeding on them, using them then spitting them out again.

My detective colleague who left for a private sector investigation role: he is now earning a greater salary and being treated like a human being again. After more than years of service, and running the department at the time he resigned, he received no even one thank you or best wishes message from his managers, no was he offered an exit interview. He was on the last lap of his police pension but couldn't stomach it any longer.

At twenty years service an officer is given the Long Service Medal. Long overdue, his medal failed to appear. No mention of this was made, no email, nothing. He requested the medal and chased it up for a while, then gave up.

Another – a highly productive detective with ten years of experience – regularly worked fifteen hour days until one day his sergeant presented him with five prisoners:

"Sorry, we're short-staffed today, but crack on and let me know how it goes."

Two prisoners is doable but three is a struggle. Five means a hellish twenty-hour day, disregarding the officer's welfare, and serious mistakes are likely to be made. His sergeant could have dealt with two of those prisoners, but refused:

"I became a sergeant so I wouldn't have to deal with prisoners!"

The detective decided he could tolerate this no longer and resigned.

The organisation will never start to show any respect or consideration to its officers until the supply of new officers is less plentiful. Until then we are effectively an infinite labour source to be treated with indifference.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!

Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model.

Let me recap: in 2013 at the Superintendents' Conference the Home Secretary Theresa May ordered police forces to ditch targets. The police chiefs didn't exactly do as she instructed: they centred instead on the idea of having only one target: public satisfaction.

The effect this has had is that we are now slaves to the attendance targets. These targets are:

15 minutes for 999 calls (I-grade).

60 minutes for downgraded 999 calls (S-grade).

48 hours for other calls (E-grade). 

The only thing that now matters to the sergeants, inspectors and the Control Rooms, is getting to the calls within those limits. The result is that an unattended 999 call is now usually downgraded to an S-grade to avoid missing the target. Similarly the S-grades are often downgraded to E-grades. See my earlier post for an explanation:

Disappointment Car

This is why – under the present Local Policing Model – burglaries, rapes and million pound frauds are sometimes attended only days later as E-grade appointments.

Needless to say, low level managers everywhere in the Met – inspectors and chief inspectors – continue giving their teams individual targets anyway 'just in case'. They do this to prove their teams' productivity and cover their backs: this incidentally is neither a secret nor my speculation. It's well-known police practice.

You'll remember that early this year the former Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Simon Byrne (now Chief Constable for Cheshire Constabulary) told the media that there are no individual targets for officers, even though every copper knows that simply isn't true.

Expectations Not Targets

Police managers will always latch on to targets like a lifeline in a stormy sea – that's their instinct because for two decades it's the only management style they've known. So we now have a new obsession with the attendance times, and this has created some interesting situations.

Here is an example recounted to me by a dog handler:

“My role is to track down burglars. Officers will contain a house then I go in with my dog Growler. Or the suspect has hidden in bushes, so officers send for us and Growler will sniff him out.”

“That's what used to happen, and still does in theory. Nowadays the moment I arrive at a burglary the Control Room tells me they want me to go to a domestic around the corner. That isn't my role, but they say they've got no-one else available. I'm told:

'We've got a domestic around the corner from you there's only five minutes left on the clock.' 

I'm expected to leave the burglary – and there could be suspects still in the building – and go to the domestic. Neither do they care what I do at the domestic – it's all about simply getting an officer there before the sixty minutes runs out.”

Similarly, an armed response officer told me:

“We used to patrol during downtime, but the Control Room now asks us to go to domestics. We'll go to one, but then there's always another, and another. They say they've no local officers free, but it isn't our job to go to all these calls. What if we're needed at an armed incident? We'll help out with one or two from time to time, but they're taking the piss.”

“Because of this we've stopped patrolling. Until they get rid of the Local Policing Model and things change we have to stay at our base waiting for firearms calls.”

While all this is going on, Met senior and middle managers hold public presentations to prove the Local Policing Model is working: “Look at the figures! We have more officers out there now. We do, we do!”

Prior to the meetings they brief their constables and instruct them, “Don't tell them it isn't working. We've got to make this look good.” 

The Figures Prove Its Working

If it isn't one target with which the senior officers are obsessed, it's another: if it isn't arrests and detections, it's attendance times.

The big picture is that the LPM is designed to be purely reactive – it's about attending appointments and responding to calls. Patrolling or proactive work isn't built in to it. The appointments and the sheer number of calls don't allow time.

The only times now when we are able to carry out proactive work such as drugs operations is when the Chief Inspectors panic over the teams' performance figures. They make us drop everything we're doing and pull together for a warrant. Because it's a rushed affair we use out-of-date intelligence and the consequence is an operation that fails to find any drugs or stolen property.

It's absurd for the Chiefs' to feel they have to panic over figures then rush through a botched drugs operation. I say this because the system in which we now all work – the Local Policing Model – is reactive: it isn't designed to send us out looking for crime. So the fact that the Local Policing Teams conduct very few arrests, for example, is entirely defensible. The powers-that-be shouldn't expect as many arrests, searches, detections and so on, as we used to generate.

Remembering that police bosses cannot see past targets, the LPM makes sense. They bosses don't want a proactive system. They're not interested in preventing crime, because you can't count those crimes that you've prevented. If I close a crack-house, take a dangerous dog off the street or arrest a drug dealer, I'm preventing future crimes from happening.

But they can't be counted and added into a spreadsheet of performance figures.

You can only count crimes that have happened – the number of appointments attended and so forth. Managers at all levels in the Met want to have sheets of figures they can point at and say:

“Look! Look! This shows how hard my team are working. You can't criticise me. And I'd like another promotion please.”

The public wants crime prevention, which won't can't be measured and so won't contribute to performance tables, but it's the proactive work – drugs warrants, patrols, tasking teams rounding up drug dealers – that prevents robberies, burglaries and drug dealing long term.

So, we have the worst of all worlds. All the old targets plus new pressures that result in specialist units diverted from their real purpose simply to hit the attendance targets.

It isn't weakness for a manager or a policy maker to admit that a policy needs refining and to take on board the experiences of the constables striving to implement it.

On the contrary that would show strength and leadership.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Robocop Myth

Many of the calls I attend under Sir Bernard's Local Policing Team are so distant geographically that I use buses to travel between them. Have you ever noticed that police officers don't sit down on buses?

Ask coppers about this and they will say, “I'm in uniform. Sitting looks unprofessional.”

Why is this? Everybody, officers and the public, like to buy into the mythology that we are relentless untiring machines, like Terminators, with no need for rest, food, or a little space of our own. In 2009 ex-Commissioner Paul Stephenson brought in his single patrol policy – an idea that neglects officer's human need for one another's company.

When standing in buses we don't sit down like everyone else – we tend to loiter in the middle, near the doors – no matter how tired we feel.

Since joining the police I have acquired a bad back, poor posture, arthritis and semi-permanent tendinitis in my feet. It isn't my idea of fun to stand in heavy kit for half an hour while the bus driver practices for a track day at Silverstone.

I have decided to use the seats and, because everybody stares at coppers, I choose seats at the back, but when other passengers spot me they always stop and stare, apparently dumbfounded.

Similarly, most folk seem surprised that coppers need to eat. I can't count the number of times, when I have been buying my lunch in a sandwich shop, that I have heard the astonished comments:

“Look at that copper. We don't pay him to eat lunch. Shouldn't he be out catching burglars?”

Well, inside my uniform is a flesh-and-blood person who needs to eat. I'm not a machine.

I'm not even going to mention the fact that the job can make us work any number of consecutive hours, change our hours willy-nilly with no notice, and call us in on days off: one time I failed to answer my mobile phone during a rest day, a local officer was sent to my door to pass me the order to return to work.

They can literally do with us as they please, but's always been this that's okay, right?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Convenient Bottleneck

I've spotted something – a rather devious and clever trick that the Met senior management have pulled. Recorded offences have reduced over the last year and Sir Bernard is joyfully claiming responsibility. Yes, less crime has been recorded since the LPM started – Why might that be?

The first reason is that since the Local Policing Model started we have very little time to go looking for crime – instead we are tied up with appointments and drowning in trivia. Instead of seizing dangerous dogs, searching drug dealers on the street, or closing crack houses, I now visit café after café checking if their CCTV shows lost handbags left under chairs.

Officers were moved from prisoner-processing teams to bolster the Local Police Teams. Ironically, those officers now spend much of their time replacing response team or desk-bound officers across the borough who are sick or on leave – reducing the Local Policing Teams to skeleton crews.

The teams are running on minimum numbers because of the above, so the second reason is that the few of us left each day spend all their time running from one appointment to the next. Compared with two years ago we are on our knees, and it's because of Sir Bernard's LPM – the reorganisation that was forced on us during 2013.

There is a very clever third reason. The appointments system seems bizarre until you see the Commissioner's trick. It's admirably sly and this is it: There are only ten appointment slots each day. Within each LPM 'cluster' a maximum of only ten crimes can be reported.

It's a bottleneck. No matter how busy the criminals are, no more than ten crimes can be reported each day – plus a few at station front counters and a few taken by the response teams.

Goodbye to embarrassing crime trends. No more bad press or awkward questions in relation to the crime figures.

Perhaps there is something intelligent behind the Local Policing Model, but it isn't what Sir Bernard is telling us.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Increasing Ethnic Diversity By Narrowing The Pool Of Applicants!?

The Guardian: Met police bans recruits from outside London

Sir Bernard has decided to allow only applicants to the Met who have lived in London for three of the previous six years. In essence he is trying to restrict applicants to London only. He wants a greater proportion of London residents in the force.

This follows his action a year ago, taking away the travel concession from new recruits to encourage applications from London residents. His claimed justification for these actions is that they will increase the number of Metropolitan Police constables from ethnic backgrounds.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Surely, if you want diversity you must attract applicants from as far and wide as possible? How can reducing the pool of applicants possibly help?

I have several colleagues who arrived in the UK from other nations, some very distant non-white countries, notably in the Caribbean and Indian Oceans, Africa and Poland. English wasn't their first language, but they nevertheless joined the Met straight off the plane. However, under this new recruitment policy they wouldn't now be able to apply. And yet Sir Bernard states that his new policy will increase ethnic diversity.

Met officers who live outside London probably know the city better than many residents, but wouldn't be eligible to apply, if they weren't already in the job.

I know officers who appear to be white Anglo-Saxon, but actually have international parentage – one has French and Egyptian ancestry. He has never lived in London and so wouldn't now be able to apply.

Sir Bernard implies that those of us whose appearance is white Anglo-Saxon aren't capable of policing ethnic communities. That is ridiculous and insulting. What have we been doing all these years?

There are simply endless ways to argue that Sir Bernard's latest brainchild is absurd nonsense, but the real point is that this diversity-based justification is a lie. An insulting lie because of its underlying presumption that constables and the public alike are stupid.

In the 21st century any reasoning that can in some way be attached to the notion of diversity, no matter how implausible, is used to gain a degree of credibility. It's to this bandwagon that we see Metropolitan Police senior officers hitch their fortunes time and again.

Disappointingly, large organisations always behave in the same way: there are the stated objectives, and the REAL objectives.

What is the real motivation? : the Met wants an excuse to withdraw the railway concession and so save money. Diminishing numbers of officers resident outside London will eventually allow them to take it away. But this cost is a burden the Met need never have incurred: the concession was brought in a decade ago because the MPS wasn't able to hold on to its officers: they couldn't afford to live in London and left for county police forces. The railway companies offered it to police officers for free, but the Met management insisted to paying something. The fee has since increased and now the Met doesn't want to pay it.

However, the officers of several county forces bordering London, such as Thames Valley, are granted free travel into London simply because their federations simply asked for it. This benefits both the officers and the railways companies. See my post discussing how the police provide free security on trains:

Commuting Officers Provide Free Security On Railways

Given that salaries have been frozen for three years and pension contributions are the highest in the public sector at 14%, guess what will happen when our travel concession disappears? Officers will leave the Met and transfer out to county forces again – as was normal in the 1990s. Deja vu!

Why is it senior officers can never think through the likely consequences of their actions?

If the MPS doesn't have enough ethnic minority officers, it must logically be because either they aren't applying or they aren't passing the recruitment process. Either way, narrowing the pool of applicants isn't going to solve the problem.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

New Trick For Massaging The Stop-and-Search Figures

I know of a highly productive hard-working officer, renowned for his success in taking drug dealers and burglars off the streets. Met commanders recently summoned him to Scotland Yard – not to thank him, or perhaps to request he spread his skills through a training package – but for a telling off.

They impressed upon him that he must reduce his search figures, explaining: “it's upsetting the community.”

That's fine, but how about a consistent story? Our sergeants and inspectors still push us for performance indicators: they demand arrests, penalty tickets and searches. They create naming-and-shaming lists.

Sir Bernard has introduced regular Met-wide operations purely for the purpose of generating statistics for the media – Op Cubo and Op Big Wing, for example – where the purpose is simply to arrest as many as possible, then send out a press release the next day, saying what a great job the Met's doing.

On the one hand, the Met tells the public and the media that it is striving to reduce the numbers of searches, whereas away from the public eye the team managers constantly harass the officers for ever more arrests and searches.

County forces and the Met have recently developed a number of clever strategies to reduce their stop-search figures. The background is that the senior officers – Sir Bernard primarily – are running scared after the most recent round of police-bashing, when media attention focused on claims of excessive stop-and-search.

As usual, senior officers have put no effort into finding a genuine solution – perhaps reducing the number of searches, or better targeting? – but into changing the way searches are counted.

If this doesn't feel like deja vu please read my posts about the figure-fiddling techniques commonly used by police management:

Meaningless UK Crime Statistics

Arbitrary Crime Recording

Part of a recent training session was used to indoctrinate us with senior management's latest idea for improving public satisfaction. Let me explain.

The most common search power is s.1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), used in searching for weapons, stolen items or equipment used for breaking into a property, or under s23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act for drugs.

Our new instructions from management are quite specific: we mustn't ever use our s.1 or s.23 search powers to search. Instead we should arrest the person then carry out a search. If we find nothing, we de-arrest the person. The key here is that the search while under arrest draws on the power of s.32 of PACE, (not s.1 or s.23) and therefore doesn't count as a 'stop-search'.

Clever eh? There might soon be a great deal of unlawful arresting, but at least the stop-search figures will come down. I'm sure the police bosses hope for a reprieve, before the fact of this latest trick leaks out. How stupid do they think the public and the media are?

It seems that Sir Bernard wants this trick used nationally, as county forces have recently introduced exactly the same fiddle.

Let's recap: officers are still given individual performance targets, and driven by these to search as many members of the public as possible. However, management is trying to not count them as 'searches' by having us arrest instead. Isn't this abusing our power of arrest, and treating people's liberty with contempt – using it to help management protect themselves from criticism?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Another Constable Sacked For Tweeting

The Professional Standards department of Avon and Somerset Police have outdone themselves, falling far below the standards of decent society:
  1. Is it right and proper that PC Tony Ryan can be sacked even though Avon and Somerset Police can't prove he wrote these tweets?
  2. Can it be right that police senior can punish one of their employees simply because somebody criticises them online, hurting their feelings?
  3. Is it right to sack an officer for personal opinions expressed off-duty?
Is it only me who feels these police executives are too secure in their ivory towers? Many of them should probably be sacked, and their pensions removed, for their roles in turning the police service into a target-driven absurdity in the course of feathering their own nests.

I agree that tweeted invective like 'garbage' and 'slime' isn't helpful and doesn't contribute to valid debate. However, a few hundred tweets is only a drop in the ocean of Tweetspace. Every day billions of tweets are sent, many criticising all manner of things in society. If police senior officers believe anybody takes notice of a few that criticise them, they have a delusional high opinion of themselves.

These bosses will have to get used to criticism. They've certainly invited it. Their incompetence and venality give officers and the public good reason to be upset and there's little point sticking their thumbs in the leaking dam.

Avon and Somerset Police says the tweets 'undermine confidence in the police'. This is a misleading lie. There are numerous real reasons for the undermining of public confidence:
  1. Bosses terrified adherence to performance targets, in defiance of the Home Secretary's direct order.
  2. Bosses obsession with their own promotions,
  3. Closure of police stations.
But, the main point remains: PC Ryan offered his mobile phone, laptop and email account to his bosses in order to prove his innocence, but Avon and Somerset Professional Standards refused. They denied PC Ryan the opportunity to prove his innocence.

These managers believe themselves so far above the law – have they never heard of 'Unfair dismissal'? Any person in this position would be well within his right to take Avon and Somerset to the cleaners in an employment tribunal. However, there is an ace that police bosses always hold: cops are not 'employees', but officers of the crown, therefore we do not have the same protection of normal employees. Nevertheless, no court could surely hold that Tony's dismissal is acceptable?

Let's hope the Police Appeal Tribunal rectify this disgraceful situation, and cause Avon and Somerset bosses the embarrassment they deserve.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Problem Replying To Comments

Dear readers, thanks very much for reading and for those who have written comments, I'm really grateful for your thoughts.

I haven't so far been able to get the widget working that allows me to reply to your comments. Guys I certainly do want to reply to your comments, so please bear with me.

Whom Do We Serve?

I recently saw a front page advertisement in a local newspaper for Adult Education courses. An email address was given so, interested in IT, I sent an enquiry. The response was:

'Error - mailbox unavailable'. 

I tried a second time, but, yes – the email address was wrong. So, how much business will they lose because of their lack of interest in getting that simple detail correct?

That problem was caused by the fact that civil servants' customers are not the public – the council officer working in adult education is responsible not to the people taking the courses, but to other civil servants. Surely the police has a very similar problem?

Who is our boss? :

1. The mayor's office pays our wages.

2. The Commissioner is our ultimate line manager.

3. The Home Secretary creates policy and the police is within her portfolio.

4. Like soldiers, officers swear oaths to the Queen.

5. The police senior management regularly prostrate themselves before the newspapers, like spineless supplicants, and vow to make whatever changes the media imply is necessary.

6. The performance indicators determine our actions and the level of criticism from our managers.

7. Lastly, it's only the public who actually need and want us.

Of course, it's the public to whom we feel responsible, and yet we are accountable to all these other bodies and persons listed above, all of whom feel entitled to direct us. We are pulled and pushed in many directions and continually given mixed messages. The public and the media have been told there are no individual targets, but that is a lie, as everybody knows.

Sir Bernard, Mrs May, etcetera, could you please discuss amongst yourselves and resolve this problem, then leave us alone and allow us to serve the public?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Commuting Officers Provide Free Security On Railways

Officers of the Metropolitan Police Service pay £500/year for rail travel from Central London out to a distance of seventy miles, although new probationers aren't offered this. The cost is likely to increase further and disappear within three or four years.

I know that police-bashers dislike the idea of us receiving a rail fare concession, but I have points to make. Very few Met officers can afford to live in Greater London, including myself, and wouldn't work for the MPS without the travel concession. For London to be policed, we are expected to pay £500/year and tolerate a two hour daily commute.

But here's something that people perhaps don't realise:

We are technically never off-duty and so have to frequently confront aggressive drunks and fare dodgers during our journeys to or from work. At least once a week I'm on a train on my way home, exhausted after a long shift, and the guard runs to me and asks for help. I have no CS spray, handcuffs or baton. No body armour or back-up. But I have no choice but to deal with a situation which, incidentally, I won't be paid for. Every other passenger is able to enjoy their ride home after work, but not cops. We are on duty 24/7.

Try to imagine that, and how you would feel.

The Met management intend to take away the free travel over the next two or three years, so that the MPS can save the money they pay the railway companies. However, the railway companies have never insisted the Met pay them for the concession, and back when the free travel was granted, they offered it for free. The MPS management however, insisted on paying a small fee and the companies have gradually escalated the fee since then.

When I travel on trains railway staff tell me they're glad to see me - they know they have a police officer to deal with fare dodgers and drunks. We provide a free security service, which the staff on the trains welcome, but doesn't seem to be recognised by their senior managers or the MPS senior officers. Officers of Thames Valley and other forces have free passes, so if the train companies want to keep the free security service that we provide, shouldn't they consider giving Metropolitan Police officers the benefit of passes?

It isn't as if we enjoy a long commute to work, or having to deal with situations off-duty.

The reason Sir Bernard gives for not offering the concession to new constables is that he wants to encourage applications from people living in Greater London, which he says this will increase the diversity of the officers.

This is propaganda and spin designed to justify a money-saving exercise. I can't afford to spend a third of my salary on the daily commute and, in two or three years when the concession is taken away, I predict a mass exodus from the MPS.

Gideon is a new probationer on my team. His salary is too low for him to live in London, so he commutes, like most of us. But because he has no travel concession, he can't afford to pay into the pension scheme.

Gideon expected the travel concession, and so has had to change his plans. He is still in his two year probation and already wants to leave and find a career with a pension, perhaps where he can afford to work within a reasonable distance of his home. Like many officer he might take a part-time job alongside his police work, in order to pay into a private pension scheme.

Sir Bernard might claim he wants more Londoners to join, but Gideon tells me that all of his class at Hendon were young, white, middle-class and living in the Home Counties with their parents.

Without the travel concession, only candidates from affluent families can now afford to work for the Metropolitan Police. By removing the travel concession Sir Bernard has created the opposite effect from his stated intention.

Gideon adds that most of his classmates intend to work for the Metropolitan Police Service only a couple of years, then either join a county force or leave the police altogether, having acquired it for their CVs.

The travel concession was brought in roughly twelve years ago to stop the haemorrhage of Met officers to county forces. I predict the Met will again become a training ground for county officers, as it was before the county cops flooded into the Met. These things run in cycles, as management reinvent the wheel again and again, pretending they've had original ideas, and doing so only to gain evidence for their promotions.

Sir Bernard's stated desire to increase recruitment from London is also ironic because he himself isn't from London and neither are most of his entourage.

Denying officers the travel concession to save money – it's a short-term goal that creates long-term problems.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Stop And Search

BBC News: police stop and search powers to be overhauled

I wonder about the unhelpfully negative government attitude to stop and search until I remember that politicians always want to win votes amongst marginalised groups – particularly those who ordinarily wouldn't vote, such as young black males. How convenient for the politicians that this group also attracts more stop and search than any other demographic.

Stop and search is notable because it has placed politicians on the same side as the media – a rare event indeed. The media find the police an easy target, and the politicos are always happy to stick the boot in if it helps their popularity. It's my opinion – I understand you might not share it.

The whole tenor of this discussion around stop and search, and Mrs May's statements, seems to rest on an underlying assumption that cops don't know their stop and search powers - that they carry out searches without grounds, negligently and targeted on black youths.

I don't want to get into a discussion about the likelihood of black male youths carrying drugs or weapons, except to say that in my personal experience many drug dealers and violent criminals are black. And some are white.

This BBC article fails to mention the benefits of stop and search, or its purpose – which is to lock up thieves, drug dealers and violent people carrying weapons. Also there is of a course a deterring effect when people see police carrying out stop and searches.

None of this is being mentioned, as if the benefits of stop and search are a dirty little secret. Unfortunately our society remains very non-utopian - guns, knives and drugs are plentiful on our streets - and so for the time being police need search powers.

As for a ban on stop and search – there might be imperfections in its use, but if officers can't stop and search how can they prevent criminals carrying guns, knives and drugs on our streets? And how can they catch thieves carrying stolen items, such as shoplifters, or burglars carrying cro-bars and bolt-croppers?

Please, let's get real. Search powers exist to prevent our criminals carrying their guns and knives around with impunity.

The article states that “...only about 10% of ...searches lead to an arrest.” This is incorrect - the publicly available figure is 17% (I will find the reference for this). More importantly, why should a low fraction be a bad thing? The greater the proportion of unsuccessful searches the better, because this shows that stop and search is succeeding as a deterrent.

The discussion seems to imply that there is no good reason why a lawful stop and search would not result in an arrest, but that view makes no sense to police officers. Cops are not omniscient, and stop and search is not a science. It is more of an art, based upon using experience to put together a mosaic of clues to justify a search - something an armchair critic will not understand.

Mrs May might say that misused stop and search is "enormous waste of police time”, but officers know that too. We have heavy workloads and constant pressure from supervisors to generate arrests and detections, therefore no constable is motivated to waste time searching a person unless he has good reason to suggest he will find a weapon, stolen credit card, crack cocaine etc.

In practical terms, if the Home Office were to bring in some kind of stop and search registration system for coppers, how could it possibly work? Will officers show a card before searching somebody? Let's imagine two officers arrive on the High Street and tackle a man seen with a knife in his back pocket. They grab his wrists and handcuff him because of the obvious threat to life. What if neither have passed the stop and search test – they would have to radio up: “Can we have a search-authorised officer please?” And this would happen constantly. Finding the item might be time criticial.

One last point – the government might seek to reduce stop and search, but that won't prevent the ongoing fact that every constable is under pressure to hit a personal monthly target for searches. Sir Bernard and Simon Byrne might deny the existence of personal targets, but they are lying.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Your Local Station Has Closed? Hey Presto! – A Reduction in Crime.

Dominic Casciani has written a review article for BBC News:

BBC News: Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime?

However I'm not sure why, because this matter was thoroughly examined by George Monbiot back in January 2013:

George Monbiot: The grime behind the crime

I speculate that Dominic Casciani is revisiting the same material purely to support his Radio 4 programme on the subject. I do wish the BBC would generate it's own ideas.

Anyway, the suggestion is that lead in petrol leads to criminality and therefore the removal of lead twenty years ago is responsible for the alleged current reduction in crime. Lead is a neuro-toxin and could certainly be a contributory factor, but I have another theory as to why the UK recorded crime figures have reduced over the last few months. Here's a link for reference, but let's remember that police crime figures aren't worth the paper they're written on.

The Guardian: England and Wales crime falls to lowest level in 32 years

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, desperate to shore up his decaying stewardship of the Metropolitan Police Service, hasn't held back from claiming that he is responsible for the declining UK crime figures. This is highly unlikely, but to explain I have to again talk about Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model (LPM). This is his brainchild – the Brave New World of policing we have been working within since June 2013.

Recorded crime has not dropped because of the efficacy of the Local Policing Model, but for the following two reasons.

Crime has reduced because (1) the LPM now forces the public to jump through hoops when they wish to report crime, and (2) the LPM has eliminated the time available for officers to go out and pro-actively find crime.

Let's consider the first issue - obstacles preventing the reporting of crime:

Sir Bernard has closed stations and front counters with alacrity – on my borough the availability to the public has reduced by two-thirds. It's hard to find an open station, especially after 5pm.

The public must now request an appointment and hope that the attending officer's previous appointments have not overrun. The appointments are hourly and the officers often cover half a borough on foot, with perhaps 40 minutes travel time between the appointments. Inevitably many overrun and those later in the day are therefore cancelled.

I often see members of the public with their perplexed faces pressed against the glass of the closed front counters, wondering Where are the police officers? Many of them give up when they learn they must travel miles to the nearest open station or jump through the hoops of the appointments system.

The second issue - officers no longer able to pro-actively seek crime:

Tom Winsor's edict to get officers out of the back offices has had an unintended consequence. Instead of removing officers in 'back offices', Sir Bernard has closed the highly productive Beat Crimes, Case Progression Units, and other so-called 'back office' teams. These took possession of volume crime investigations and dealt with the prisoners – freeing other officers to patrol and do pro-active work, such as drugs warrants and removing dangerous dogs from their owners.

A valuable secondary function of the now non-existent Beat Crimes and Case Progression Units was that they provided investigative training for new officers.

These burdens now all lie squarely on the shoulders of the Local Policing Team officers, who are expected to do everything, and remember that the simplest prisoner can rarely be dealt with in less than six hours.

Summing up:

Under Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model, officers find less crime because they have no time to go out looking for it – they are instead tied up with appointments and drowning in volume crime. Instead of searching drug dealers on the street, or interrupting the drug supply chain by closing crack houses and executing warrants, they now visit café after café to check CCTV for wallets left on tables. Ironically, those officers who were moved to bolster the Local Police Teams now spend much of their time replacing desk-bound officers across the borough who are sick or on leave. This is because the LPT is treated as the 'go-to' team – a pool of resources that inspectors can dip into at will.

The appointments system has roughly ten slots each day, therefore a maximum of ten crimes can be reported per Disappointment Car. It's a bottleneck designed into the system – it regulates the rate at which people can report crime. No matter how much crime is happening, the individual crimes cannot be reported faster than ten per day. Also, the public don't expect to leap through hoops, so they sometimes just give up.

We spend less time out looking for crime, and the public can't report it!

Hey presto – The figures show a reduction!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Lose Those Pointless Senior Ranks

How might the dysfunctionality be fixed? The domestic violence policies and Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model, for example, are far from fit for purpose.

The Metropolitan Police hierarchy is such an absurdly high tottering structure – eleven ranks from Commissioner to constable – the likes of Simon Byrne and Bernard Hogan-Howe can never know what happens at the ground level.

Sir Bernard and his entourage are held responsible for failures so they understandably want to control everything. However, because they are so remote, they put great store in targets and performance figures. These are poor proxies for the real business of policing, but are the only information that can be easily measured.

Unfortunately, as I've explained in earlier blog posts, these proxies are almost meaningless.

What happens in practice is the Commissioner creates a philosophy, or brand. The two or three ranks below turn this into a broad set of principles. The two or three ranks below then convert these into a package of actions. Finally, the lower three ranks attempt to carry out this, now highly theoretical, scheme. Examples are Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model, or Sir Paul's Single-Patrolling.

Why not halve the distance between the top and the bottom? Eliminate those highly-paid ranks that achieve little but insulate the Commissioner from the rank-and-file: Chief Inspectors, Chief Superintendents, Commanders, Assistant Deputy Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners. These cosy layers ensure that Commissioners' schemes are disconnected from reality.

With a much flatter hierarchy the top bosses might better understand and be motivated to take into account the experiences of the officers at the coal face. Those constables struggle to make the policies work, fighting against day-to-day realities.

This leads me to the other factor. The senior managers never feed the constables' experiences back into their grand schemes. They are unwilling to tweak and amend the policies to get them to work. Once begun they are always cast in stone, and so ultimately every top-down scheme fails. I don't care how many graphs and spreadsheets the Commissioner can produce to 'prove' otherwise. My colleagues and I witness the consequences at the ground level.

Bill and Melinda Gates run a multi-billion dollar charitable foundation aiming at helping impoverished people in the developing nations. They travel around Africa speaking to and living with the same people they are working to help. Bill and Melinda take note of what they learn and use this information to decide where the Foundation's money is channelled.

They only consider that a project has succeeded if they see a tangible result for money spent. They really care that the Foundation's work results in products that work.

Their reward derives from the satisfaction of creating these products and real improvements in people's lives. Met managers of all levels, however are satisfied if they simply gather enough performance figures to keep their managers happy. The senior officers consider it a success if they have the figures to generate graphs and spreadsheets demonstrating they have achieved notional reductions in crime and increases in public confidence.

There's a huge difference between these two ways of interpreting 'success'. One management style works and the other doesn't. The Met's approach flows from the fact the Met managers are embedded inside a reward structure that recognises only one thing: achieving targets – arrests, detections, stop-searches.

As long as this reward structure continues nothing can change. We will continue along this trajectory of rewarding managers for figure-gathering. Sir Bernard claims 'Victim Focus' is everything, and yet every officer would say we are not at all in the business of focussing on the victims. We are hounded daily for figures. Figures are everything.

If an S-grade – a rape for example – has reached 59 minutes with no officer free to attend, it is down-graded to an E-grade (48 hours attendance target) and becomes simply another appointment in the Local Police Team's diary.

Technically the attendance target was hit, but this is poor consolation for the victim. We have totally failed insofar as Victim Focus is concerned. An officer should have been with the victim within 60 minutes, not 48 hours.

We are trapped inside an obsession with figures and the fear of not achieving those figures. Failure means promotions withheld.

A change in attitude can only flow from the mentality of the person at the top – the Commissioner. He or she needs to set an example all the managers and constables can follow.

The Met functions to a degree but could do far better.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Figures Prove It's Working!

Panicked by suggestions from the public and media that Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model is a shambolic failure, Simon Byrne – the Assistant Commissioner, soon to be Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary – has been holding public meetings.

The meetings were attended by community members, press and cops. One of my contacts described to me how, prior to the arrival of the public, an inspector organised a police-only 'briefing'.

“We need to make this look good,” he told the assembled constables. “If you are asked questions, give the impression that it's working well. Reassure them and don't say anything negative.”

A constable told me afterwards:

“He was asking us to lie to people - sickening. Our job was to make Simon Byrne and the Local Policing Model look good.”

The officer explained that people looked askance, but Byrne just kept pointing at his graphs and repeating himself:

"Look at the figures - they prove there are more officers out there. The figures prove it's working!”

The Local Policing Model certainly might function if it received a little tweaking, but Sir Bernard refuses to accept that there are problems. "Nothing will be changed" we are constantly told. This shows an ugly element of police management: a fear of losing face. Senior bosses think that acting upon constructive criticism means losing face. They therefore refuse to accept any useful constructive criticism, of which there is plenty coming from the constables struggling to make it work.

Simon believes his graphs really do indicate increased patrolling and more effective policing. His a certainty is an interesting symptom of the dichotomy between senior management and rank-and-file:

Their spreadsheets and graphs are the senior bosses' reality. To the guys and girls who are hands-one with victims and criminals, the realities are the victims and suspects, the events they witness and the day-to-day organisational stupidity that threatens to drown them.

I don't blame Simon Byrne. It's understandable that he is unaware of the realities of policing, and that his perception of policing is riddled with misconceptions – he is nine ranks above a constable, so how could it be otherwise. It's unavoidable that all senior officers at that level are PR managers.

What is avoidable is that they force their policies through, ignoring feedback from the rank-and-file, and so fail to fix or discard their failing initiatives. They grit their teeth, ignore reality and keep presenting their graphs.

That is unforgiveable.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


The Guardian: Police officer Mike Baillon smashed pensioners car window

Most police journalism is painfully tendentious however this piece by Vikram Dodd is relatively balanced and transparent. Incidentally, I enjoyed the two spelling mistakes in the link: "penshioner" and the officer's name.

It's no surprise to me that this officer was treated with contempt by his managers. When my colleagues have taken time off for injuries on duty, their inspectors have taken no interest in their convalescence. On the contrary they usually attempt to force a premature return to work by threatening disciplinary action.

Making armchair criticisms of this officer's actions is the easiest thing in the world. But what qualifies people to give their views? Police officers start work each day not knowing what will happen during the shift, except for the likelihood of facing confrontation and violence. Who, apart from the military and police, is qualified to pronounce on the split-second decisions that constables make every day under great pressure?

I broke a windscreen once, in order to save a colleague's life. She and I were with a woman regularly beaten by her husband. While I was writing the victim's statement the guy arrived in his car so we went to outside with the intention of arresting him. I asked him out of the car but it was clear he had no intention of cooperating.

“Fuck off and keep your pig noses out of our business!”

He was known for assaulting police and carrying weapons so I watched him very carefully and called for back-up. He grit his teeth and would probably have punched me, had he been outside the car. He then put it into reverse gear, clearly intending to drive away.

At that moment I realised my colleague was standing directly behind the car. I drew my baton and slammed it into the windscreen, creating a web of cracks. This gave him pause - he climbed out and screamed threats at me. I wrestled him to the ground and put handcuffs on, then arrested him for a string of domestic assaults.

If I hadn't made that split-second decision to smash his windscreen he would have reversed over my colleague. It was a scary situation and I don't regret my decision for one second.

Police officers only do such things when absolutely necessary. Each of us knows that any action or inaction can can result in dismissal, public infamy and a criminal court case.

We know all this but are still prepared to do the job. The ultimate armchair critics – the media – ought perhaps to show a little appreciation from time to time?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My Thumb's in the Hole!

I am sorry to hear of PC Patrick's resignation:

The Guardian: Victimised Metropolitan Police Whistleblower Resigns

He is a brave man. Many of us spell out the senior officers' constant lying in blogs but PC Patrick called their bluff. Not being able to see him sacked must have felt like a knife in their sides. I'm not surprised he is leaving: ethical acts such as disclosing to outside world the huge lies told by senior bosses such as Simon Byrne, the new Chief Constable of Cheshire Police, and Sir Bernard, are considered anathema. PC Patrick would be constantly forced to work the most unpleasant jobs until he quit voluntarily. That is the real face of the 'caring' Met.

PC Patrick, good luck on the outside! Perhaps leave a comment here reporting on life out there?

Why is the Met like this? It's an infection of management culture which meshes perfectly with senior managers' desire for promotion and status.

The Commissioner and his underlings rule by command-and-control. They are in thrall to performance indicators, which the Sir Bernard and the likes of Simon Byrne use to defend themselves from criticism. But these are 'indicators' – they should be allowed to 'indicate', and no more.

The water is pouring through the dam, but Bernard and Simon have their thumbs in holes:

“Yes I know water is pouring through, but look – my thumb is in the hole. It's achieving nothing, but it's in the hole! I deserve my promotion!” 

They create practices like the disastrous Local Policing Model (see my post below) – and pass rigid requirements for figures to those below. This propagates downwards, each manager knowing that he is safe as long as he can provide his boss with the figures she wants. For the PCs – the ones doing the work – they must do exactly as they are told, even if it's impossible.

“Square pegs in round holes? Just do it. I don't care how.”

Consider Yves Morieux 2013 fascinating TED talk about removing complication in management:

Yves explains:

"When there are too many layers people are too far from the action, therefore they need KPIs, matrices – they need poor proxies for reality. They don't understand reality and they add the complication of matrices and KPIs...the less rules we must have to give discretionary power to managers.

We do the opposite – the bigger we are the more rules we create and we end up with the Encyclopedia Brittanica of rules. You need to empower everybody to use their judgement, their intelligence.”

Doesn't this sound like a photographic negative of the UK's Command and Control policing, where KPIs and matrices are everything and nobody can make decisions except the Commissioner?

The Local Policing Model belongs to a world of make-believe. Sir Bernard believes that by taking away from officers all flexibility or self-determination he ensures it will work. Unfortunately the reverse is true - he ensures that nothing works effectively.

It's likely the Local Policing Model would function to a degree if tweaked – the senior managers need simply listen to the problems experienced by the PCs and make amendments. But they don't do this. Each strata of management simply orders the layer below it:

“Make it work exactly as we've told you. Nothing is going to change.”

So here is the lack of power to make a decision. Managers and constables are not empowered to make choices. Sir Bernard reserves that only for himself.

So the blame lies at the top – a Commissioner unwilling to accept that policing cannot work without flexibility, and that new practices will never work first time. It's not about saving face, but being realistic.

When a company manufactures an item, the final design comes about by an iterative process of development, taking problems on board. When a fault is found with a manufactured product it will be recalled and fixed – for example a car. So why can't police managers do this also?

Another is that it is foolish to expect a constable to be a Jack-of-all-trades when even the simplest arrest will spirit away eight hours of her time. Sir Bernard has closed the prisoner handling teams, but why not reconstitute them? Every PC knows how well they worked - effectively processing prisoners and providing excellent investigative training for new officers.

Tom Winsor dislikes the idea of constables in back office roles, therefore Sir Bernard has obliged by closing support teams such as the prisoner handling units and the 'IBO' - a kind of help-desk. Those officers were then moved to the Local Policing Teams - a show of strength that was heavily sold to the media. Ironically, those uniformed officers are rarely available on the streets because they are the first port of call when PCs are needed to deal with prisoners or fill vacant roles in the 'Grip And Pace' - a half-hearted replacement for the IBO function. The remainder of the time the LPT officers are standing on cordons, bulking out response team or anywhere else a gap is perceived.

Recreating the support roles and particularly the prisoner handling teams must be made a priority. Those teams would free up PCs for the street, reversing the moribund disaster of Sir Bernard's beloved Local Policing Model.

Any new system, such as the Local Policing Model, has flaws that appear after implementation. One such flaw is the closure of police stations and replacement with the appointment system and the 'Contact Points' – a PCSO shuffling her feet in a town hall for an hour, unable to report crime or do anything except direct people to the nearest 24-hour station. Why not recognise this as a failing and revise the plan?

That doesn't happen in Britain. Police senior bosses seem to ape each other in absolutely refusing to admit that some decisions are mistakes.

Incidentally, with all these hoops that members of the public must leap through to see a constable, no wonder Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe can claim crime has fallen.

Flat Out

“I pay your wages.”

“Just do your job.”

“She stole a packet of chewing gum – you need to arrest her!”

Just who do these people think they are, giving us orders? Please bear with me – I want to get something off my chest.

I'm beginning to feel as if people assume police constables are either dishonest or lazy, but does anybody realise how hard the LPM is pushing officers?

Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model has achieved a remarkable magic trick – spectacularly reducing resources and forcing officers to be Jacks-of-all-trades, now that Sir Bernard has closed the supporting departments. We've always been strapped, but the inefficiency has become absurd.

Last week one of my friends in the Metropolitan Police Service – lets call him Graham – worked flat out from 1pm to 11pm dealing with minor crime, neighbour disputes and mopping up the paperwork and endless work returns. His only 'meal break' was the usual Subway sandwich at the keyboard.

At 11.15pm, about to go off duty, Graham and a colleague found a young Asian man with an abdominal stab wound. They gave him first aid, potentially saving his life, then accompanied him to hospital in an ambulance. Graham knew he wouldn't be going home that night.

In hospital the lad was resentful and uncooperative, refusing to give details of the stabbing, yet maintaining that he wanted Graham to investigate the incident.

“Look bruv, I been stabbed, innit!”

At 2am the lad was stitched and discharged. Nevertheless, he told the doctor:

“I'm staying here tonight, yeah?” as if the ICU ward is a free hotel.

When Graham pointed out the twenty pound note in his pocket and suggested he take a taxi home the lad became aggressive and demanding.

“I didn't ask to be brought here – you gotta take me home innit.”

Graham explained that he had no vehicle and would himself have to make his own way back to the police station.

At 4am Graham had been on duty fifteen hours and was back in the station creating the crime report. He found the young man's police record: twenty-seven pages of convictions and arrests including sexual assaults, assault on police, carrying weapons and drugs, robbery and burglary.

At 5am Graham finished the report and adopted a sleep-like state on an impromptu bed of coats on the floor. At 7am, stinking of body odour and with a headache and stiff back, he tidied up the coats and continued his paperwork.

He booked the lad's bloodied clothes into the store at another station and delivered the paperwork to the detectives' office.

By 2pm he had consumed nothing over the previous twenty hours except biscuits and a gallon of coffee. About to eat, he was instead sent to a shop where a customer had exposed his genitals. Graham finished statements and paperwork at 6pm, viewed the CCTV – noting the cameras and times when the man's penis was visible, then finally went off duty.

It emerged that the young man has a history of slashing himself to gain sympathy and attention - Munchausen Syndrome - and that's what he did this time. He wasted twenty hours of Graham's time, not to mention a bed in the Intensive Care Unit and hours of surgeons' and detectives' time.

He deserves time in court for making a false allegation, but that won't happen because he will be considered vulnerable and mentally-ill.

When Graham finally boarded his train home he had worked twenty-seven of the previous twenty-nine hours and felt ill.

Let get this straight – police constables work hard.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Concerned About Dying on Duty? No Problem

The Chancellor's concession to emergency services – freedom from inheritance tax should you die on duty – is I suppose some sort of recognition, but frankly it's laughable. This will cost the Inland Revenue almost nothing because, in absolute numbers, so few of us are killed on duty. It's pure politicising, and badly done.

The Independent : 2014 key budget announcements

I can only speak for myself, and certainly not for firemen or soldiers, but for what it's worth here are my thoughts.

I doubt people realise that Metropolitan Police officers are more often killed whilst travelling home after a long shift while on duty. Let me explain.

Few of us can afford to live in London and live fifty or more miles away, so inevitably we have a hundred-mile round trip or longer each day. Constables are sometimes given a mandatory requirement to start work at a time when no trains are available - 4am during the Notting Hill Carnival for example - and the officers' only choice is therefore to drive to work. When we go off duty after perhaps a twenty hour shift we must then drive/ride home.

Needless to say, officers fall asleep behind the wheel and are killed. I've had two colleagues die in this way, and have myself struggled to stay awake on numerous occasions. I once suffered a minor collision, following several days of sleep-deprivation.

My point is that driving home would not be 'on duty'. If the government recognises that policing involves a chance of dying, perhaps they should bother to look more closely at the causes of death?

Having said all this, let's remember that those working in the police, armed forces, fire and ambulance services are all more likely to be killed at work than those earning their living through normal jobs.

The government has accepted every proposal to cut officers' pay and pensions, without any consideration of our welfare. Our pension contributions are by far the highest in the public sector and the pay has dropped considerably in real terms. We're expected to roll around on the pavement fighting people until we are 65. Yes, the police must do their bit, but we've taken more of the burden than any other sector.

And the reason for this?

We can't strike.

The government can treat us any way they want and there's literally nothing we can do. Even Employment Law doesn't apply to police officers. We aren't 'employees' but 'officers of the court' – a clever little trick that means we can be used and abused with impunity.

Constables' work load has increased significantly over the last few years because the managers – who do not 'manage' but simply panic about performance indicators – are terrified of criticism, so introduce yet another redundant layer of accountability almost every week. Are more criminals being caught? No. Are police officers jumping through hoops and ticking boxes more than ever? Yes.

Let's be clear – this inheritance tax change is no more than a sop to give cops and soldiers a little pat on the head. It benefits us after we're dead, and only if our estates exceed the nil rate band - how many cops have an estate exceeding 325k?

It will be interesting to observe whether, after this change is implemented, the Inland Revenue will argue and incur a proliferation of test cases examining what is meant by 'on duty'.

Sorry for the morbidity, and please be clear I have no political axe to grind – I dislike each party equally. But Mr Osborne...please don't insult us.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

As Many As You Can!

The Mirror: Police officers ordered to do fifteen stop-searches each month or face disciplinary action

This article by Justin Penrose makes some good points. However despite Sir Bernard's claim that stop-search is driven by intelligence, my sergeant tells me each week:

“Get as many stop-searches as you can.”

And her favourite opinion is:

“I don't believe in stop-and-account. If you have grounds to talk to someone, then you have enough grounds to search them.”

I also enjoyed the MPS spokesman's assertion:

“The Metropolitan Police Service has no policy of setting individual targets for stop and search or for arrests.”

That might be true of the official policy, however most inspectors and sergeants relish imposing their own arbitrary targets – Targets not sanctioned by Sir Bernard or Theresa May.
Imagine I said to my inspector:

“Guv, I have no detections or arrests this month, but I'm working on a very complicated fraud that will take six months to bring to court. The victim is very happy with my work.”

His response would be:

“Why are you getting tied up with grief like that? You have failed to hit your targets. I'm putting you on a disciplinary.”

So it is in my best interest to deal with the easiest crimes first. Police officers, like all employees, are pressured by their bosses into hitting targets, but constables despise targets - we want to be free to catch the bad guys, but instead we're forced to jump through hoops.

Let's consider:
1. The Home Secretary removed targets two years ago, and made that order explicit at the Superintendents Association conference in 2013.
2. Sir Bernard has told officers to stop-search fewer people

Great! Our top bosses have realised that targets do not result in a better service to the public, so why are constables still threatened with disciplinary action if we don't bring in the figures? Two reasons:

The current generation of police managers knows only one management methodology – demanding performance figures from subordinates, then delivering those upwards to their managers. For example each inspector thinks:

“Thank goodness my sergeants have hit this month's targets. All the nasty emails I wrote have worked. I'll pass these figures up to the Chief Inspector. I'm safe for another month, and I've kept her safe too.”

Police culture has a deeply ingrained lack of trust:

“Keep a record of everything you do, just in case somebody asks you.”

That mantra is constantly reinforced. Every manager is scared of being asked to justify their role:  

“What have you done this month?”

But this could be solved by developing a culture of greater trust - trusting and respecting subordinates - and this change in attitude would have to begin with the Commissioner then gradually percolate downwards.

Ten Minutes

The Local Policing Model: is it working?

After discussions with LPM colleagues I understand the following: the key to the LPM is that since Sir Bernard closed most of the front counters the officers have to go out to people's homes. People can't report at stations, but have to phone up and request an appointment. These are put into a daily diary - one slot per hour.

It's 9.30am and an old lady, who was burgled the day before, finally gets a visit. She's sobbing her heart out in front of the officer, who is trying to ignore the Control Room calling him:

"Are you aware of your ten o'clock appointment? Hello? Hello? Are you aware of your ten o'clock?"

The Control Room then calls the officer's sergeant, who asks the officer to explain why he ignored his radio. Within the hour allocated to each appointment, the officer must travel to the victim from the previous appointment, or police station, take details and give victim care. The regulations dictate that the officer must then record that crime asap, therefore she goes back to the station to create the crime report. The officer is not allowed to accumulate reports during the day to save travelling time. If the officer is late for any appointments he is threatened with disciplinary action, however - it is inevitable that appointments are late or missed. Strangely, even if the officer is early for an appointment that also counts as one missed

Taking into account travelling time, each person gets about ten minutes of the officer's time.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Squandered Opportunity

The oath I swore to the Queen made mention of prosecuting offenders and preserving her Royal Highness' peace, but precious little about the Met's performance indicators.

So why is it that we, the police, still have targets?

Metropolitan Police Service senior officers like to push unfeasible targets on to the MPS rank-and-file to justify their next promotions – Cut crime by 20%!

What do such targets achieve? Police can only mop up after crime, not magically reduce it, so these targets can't possibly be met. Senior managers know this, but their bosses – the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners on so forth – still expect them to be achieved. So the senior managers take the only action they can: they order everybody to cook the books, and this has continued for decades. So let's get rid of these pesky targets. They achieve nothing and turn caring coppers into headless chickens running around chasing arrests and detections.

This isn't as impossible as it sounds. Few people seem to realise that the Commissioner is about to squander a once-in-a-career opportunity. Let me explain.

In 2013 Theresa May bravely ordered police chiefs to scrap targets, however police chiefs have ignored her instruction. Quite rude of them I hope you'll agree. Similarly, Tom Winsor has made it clear in his reports that he has little time for targets, and Chief Superintendent Curtis, president of the Superintendents' Association of England & Wales has also expressed the same view.

She said “...targets lead to increased audit and compliance work and dysfunctional behaviour. There is an urgent need to develop a more trusting management culture in the service.”
So, can we start to sense a consistent signal?

Oddly, a Chief Inspector on my borough recently took it upon himself to impose his own arrest and detection targets. Perhaps, like many of the cooks in the kitchen he feels he knows better than the Home Secretary? More likely, he is simply ignorant of the views of the Great and the Good. Unfortunately, he is very typical of police managers.

I've thought long and hard about this, and it seems clear we will be eternally stuck with targets because the present generation of police chiefs have no experience of managing without them. They rely on them. It's been decades since there were any real leaders in the police - they no longer know how, and simply stick with what they know. The opportunity that coppers thought would never come – no longer being slaves to the figures – has been granted - but the bosses haven't even noticed.

From the point of view of a police manager the great thing about targets is that they allow one to avoid actually managing - creatively solving problems or making decisions. You can get away with simply passing your own targets on to the staff, or sub-managers, beneath you. This is what Mrs May meant when she told the Superintendents that targets are “ excuse for lazy management.”

What neither the Home Secretary nor anybody else appears to have realised is that the target culture suits our C21st Metropolitan Police Service managers. They might lack the capacity for creative thinking and courage of real leaders, but these qualities are no longer needed: appropriately interpreted performance figures can easily 'prove' a manager's performance. She can then receive that pat on the head from her boss, and hope for her next promotion.

What this means is that we're stuck with targets unless the Home Secretary and Commissioner start forcing senior officers to eradicate them. And that can only happen if managers at all levels have the courage to make a leap of faith.

So come on managers - let's stop being scared, and embrace a new era of policing! Sigh...who am I kidding? This opportunity is going to sail on past, unnoticed, and the farce will continue.

I should probably include more humour in my blog posts, but it tends to be occluded by the sheer amount of fact to be communicated. With this in mind, perhaps all my points ultimately revolve around one theme – a view of our management expressed succinctly by one of my constable colleagues:

“No matter how hard you try, you can't polish a turd.”

Thursday, 23 January 2014

As if by Magic...It's Gone!!

BBC News: Crime stats - the truth is out there
BBC News: Crime in England and Wales down 10%

Interesting crime figures. Nowadays the majority of BBC journalism is disappointingly tendentious. Nevertheless, these articles give the figures for 2006-2012:

Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) - 17% fall in crime.
Police statistics - 33% fall.

Personally, I doubt crime has changed at all - up or down. Nevertheless, it's a rather suspicious divergence - presided over by Commissioners Blair, Stephenson and Hogan-Howe.

As for the lowest estimated crime since 1981, don't make me chuckle. It's all in the way they're (not) recorded. I am a constable in the Metropolitan Police Service and when I report a crime such as a burglary, for example, I often find the offence later changed without my intervention. A burglary mysteriously transmutes, as if by alchemy, into a theft and a criminal damage. A street robbery changes as if by magic into a 'snatch theft'. The logic behind this process: burglaries and robberies are graded as more serious than theft or criminal damage.

Sometimes a crime even turns into a 'crime-related incident' – a non-crime!

And there are other tricks:

If a victim decides they no longer support police action, the case will fold and it counts as an 'undetected crime'. To expunge this black mark on the books, constables are ordered to take a 'no-crime statement' from the victim. This amounts to saying, “I'm sorry I phoned the police. It was a false allegation.” The crime can then be taken off the system, as if it never happened.

One has to admire the creativity of the people who think up these schemes.

I must emphasize that constables find all this extremely distasteful but our hands are tied. We receive email instructions from MPS senior officers. For example:

“Robberies are too high. DO NOT create a robbery report without first liaising with the Robbery Squad DS.”

The principle here is that the Robbery Squad Detective Sergeant is expected to find creative ways to reduce her robbery figures. She is under pressure to persuade the victim that his robbery never happened. OR, click a button on the crime-reporting system to transform a crime into a non-crime.

Met constables are disgusted by these practices. Many of us have been telling everyone who will listen about this for decades - I'm fed up of banging my drum about it. So why has this only just come to light?

Tom Winsor and others are subtly hinting that the constables are responsible. Mr Winsor, please try to understand that police senior managers rule with iron fists and in the Met at least, they have it all sewn up. They cannot bear dissent, and absolutely cannot bear light being shone upon their venality and incompetence.

It's only the senior officers who are strongly motivated to do this. They have a lot to lose – acquiring more crowns and braid on their smoothly pumiced shoulders, and a better pension, depends on them showing that their teams have hit their targets. Those of us without stripes, pips or crown on our rather tired and rounded shoulders are simply trying to pay our mortgages and get through each day safely and without having to explain the lack of resources too many times to frustrated members of the public.