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.