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.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Just a quick post today. PC James Patrick is a brave man. He is risking his job and pension, and believe me - the senior management of the Metropolitan Police Service absolutely cannot bear criticism.

It will be interesting whether in the end he keeps his job/pension, or perhaps the Met will settle out of court? And if this ends in his favour, will the floodgates open? Will officers like myself then be able to reveal our identities and start exposing the disgraceful and dim-witted management? I hope so. Goodness know, the whole edifice of Met senior management needs prying open. In fact the whole culture within the UK police - attitudes of the bosses towards the officers, and towards the public - needs transforming into something decent and humane.

One more thing - I have noticed that wherever the newspapers discuss PC Patrick recently, they seem compelled after his name to add '...currently under disciplinary proceedings..' as if to imply he might be under-performing/dishonest/negligent. However as far as I know he is only on a disciplinary because he's had the guts to speak out, and the organisation simply cannot have that. The papers seem to be using him to attack the Met, but simultaneously they seek to undermine him . Why are these papers always so filled with hate? But that's another question - one I don't wish to go into today.