Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

In the warm, drinking tea again.

I would like to wish Jack Straw a Happy New Year, but I won’t. He gave an interview today during which he stated that the police aren’t really bogged down with paperwork. We just like hanging around in police stations where it is warm.

A number of recent Home Secretary’s have upset the police with their lack of understanding of policing issues. As a former Home Secretary and now the Secretary of State for Justice I expected better. The gaffs this Government have made with regard to the police have been beyond compare. Jacquie Smith did really well shafting us on our pay deal resulting in a protest march of over 20,000 off duty police officers.

We have had more Home Secretary’s over the last decade than I have had prisoners and a few hours in the warm. Most of them, including Mr Straw, departed because of their incompetence. I thought Mr Straw would have learnt his lesson and thought a little before putting his foot in it on the subject of police bureaucracy.

I wrote recently about one of the worst pieces of bureaucracy and its interpretation by the Surveillance Commissioners. This was the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. (RIPA.) One of a myriad of pieces of legislation that has been introduced in recent years and which keeps dozens of police officers skiving in the warm, filling out forms, ticking the right boxes, risk assessing everything. We love it! All this form filling stops us having to go out and do our job. Mr Straw introduced RIPA when he was Home Secretary, along with lots of other legislation that keeps us in the warm.

I see that Jack Straw’s father was banged up at Her Majesty’s pleasure during the Second World War because he was a conscientious objector. Did he prefer it in a nice warm prison rather than going to fight? I doubt it. I suspect there was more to it than that. I thought, Mr Straw, you might be a bit more understanding.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A Few Ramblings

First of all, can I make a request. I see a number of bloggers saying Happy Holidays. I am not particularly religious but I guess I live in a culture that is steeped in Christian values. My understanding is that some people think it is offensive to non Christians to refer to Christmas and say Happy Holidays to make everyone feel included.

I would not dream of suggesting to Muslims that they change the name of Ramadan to fasting month or that Hindus shouldn't celebrate Diwali as it is named. I am happy to understand and, where possible, join in their celebrations. I feel sorry for the Christian faith. They are being marginalised and treated less favourably than other faiths. Christmas is almost exclusively a Christian festival. Why can we not say Happy Christmas? Why should this offend anyone?

To get this back on track as a police blog, I wanted to relay some experiences I have attending meetings with some of our partners. I spend a lot of time in meetings. Most of it is wasted. One of the meetings I attend discusses Persistent Young Offenders. These are the young people of Utopia who are committing crime day in and day out. We sit down with other agencies such as the Youth Offending Team (YOT) and Social Services and discuss what more we can do outside of the court system to try and stop the offending.

What I invariably hear is that these young people need help. They need a mentor to give them advice and support. They need help to get back into school or to get a job. They need trips to McDonalds and weekends away etc. etc. Invariably these kids are from backgrounds where there is no parental control or support and I agree that they need the help being suggested. What I never hear though is any mention of negative consequences. There is never any thought for the victims of crimes. No thought of consequences for offenders when they offend again or fail to turn up for their trip away, appointment with social worker or tell their YOT worker to "F**k off." They just need more help and we are supposed to ignore the behaviour. There has to be negative consequences for bad behaviour. If there isn't what reason is there for anyone to change? The positive work and rewards should follow on from the consequences.

This reminds me of the Parable of the Good Social Worker. I am sure you know it. A traveller is on the road from Wandsworth to Brixton. He is set upon by muggers and is beaten senseless, robbed of all his valuables and left laying in the gutter. Another traveller passed along the same road and saw the unconscious man laying there. Not wanting to get involved he crossed to the other side and walked on. A second traveller came by and did the same. Then a Social Worker came along. They saw the man laying unconscious and went over to them. "My God!" They said. "Whoever did this needs help." Then they hurried on their way to try and find them.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Shoplifting


This article caught my eye. Father Tim Jones announced during one of his sermons that the poor should go out and shoplift. He wasn’t suggesting that all shops should be targeted, just the large multi nationals. That way no small family shops would suffer and the multi nationals would just bump up their prices a bit, effectively taxing those that can afford to pay and helping out the poor.

Father Jones, you are stark raving bloody mad! There are exceptions, but in general the poor are poor because they have no sense of responsibility. We have one of the most generous benefit systems in the world and I know of a number of people on benefits, the responsible ones, who seem to be able to live very well and even run those absolute essentials such as cars and mobile phones, which taxpayers should quite rightly pay for.

On the other hand there is an uneducated and rapidly growing underclass that receives generous benefits but chooses to spend it smoking 60 cigarettes a day, going to the pub seven days a week and eating take away pizzas and kebabs. There are also drug addicts who make the choice, every day, to spend their money on drugs. (Let's not do the legalisation debate again!) That is why they are ‘poor’ and shoplift clothes and food etc. to subsidise their irresponsible lifestyle.

I had a quick look at the crime statistics in Utopia and this year is no exception; shoplifting starts increasing in the middle of November and peaks on the 23rd December. This is just a record of the ones that get caught, of course. About half of those caught are on benefits. If being on benefits is the criteria that makes you poor, it appears that they don't need any encouragement from Father Jones. Some very expensive items are stolen and many of them are presents for family members.

How many people will be waking up on Christmas Day and receiving nice presents from their 'poor' son, daughter, husband etc. Do they think about where it has come from? Do they give a damn?

Happy Christmas to one and all and best wishes for the New Year. Bah Humbug!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Police Bungling Responsible for Another Death

"But he still loves me"

Unfortunately, I see that Ellie Bloggs has beaten me to this storey but I have a slightly different perspective on it.

A victim of domestic abuse has tragically been murdered. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have looked into this and decided that the police are partly to blame. Silly old police took eleven reports of incidents from the victim. The incidents were all low level and a risk assessment was carried out each time. As they were low level incidents the case was never categorised as high risk. Apparently, we should have come to the conclusion that because there were so many incidents the victim was at high risk. How stupid of us. Why don't we make them all high risk then our backsides are covered?

If the offender/victim had been categorised as high risk would it have made any difference. I doubt it very much. I have attended dozens of domestics incidents from minor rows to serious assaults. If there are any grounds to arrest anyone we do. We try and obtain statements from victims. More often than not they will not provide them. despite the beating they have had they tell us they still love the insecure prat they are living with and he loves her and he won't do it again etc. etc. The victim then gets spoken to by specially trained officers and still refuses to make a statement. The offender gets interviewed by specially trained officers. He knows the victim hasn't made a statement so says nothing, or she fell over etc. We try and deal with it by way of victimless prosecution but there are usually no witnesses and that is it, the offender walks out. If he then goes and stabs her to death, that is our fault apparently.

The family blame the police. They told us he was dangerous. They want to blame someone so the IPCC investigate and after months of pouring over the paperwork we are criticised for ticking the medium risk box instead of the high risk box.

I have two issues with this. I have said before that I am fed up with this nanny state we live in where it never seems to be the fault of the offender who stabbed the victim. It is always the fault of one of the public services who seem to have taken over responsibility for every aspect of peoples lives. If I really thought my sister was at risk of death from physical abuse I would round up the family and use the pressure that families can to deal with the problem. It may not always work and services should help, but can we not get back to a society where people take more responsibility for their own lives and that of their loved ones instead of just foisting it onto some overstretched public service and blaming them when it goes wrong. We cannot do everything unless you want your taxes increased substantially more.

The second issue I have is with the IPCC. Almost every week I read all these wonderful words of wisdom from the IPCC. They tell us when we have failed to investigate someones crime properly, when we haven't looked after someone in custody well enough visiting them every 5 minutes rather than 15. They tell us when we have not attended someones address quick enough to answer their 999 call and when the Neighbourhood Officer has not dealt with some local problem properly. They recommend all sorts of changes to policies and procedures to make sure this does not happen again.

If we really mess up I am all for saying sorry and learning from it. In most cases what the IPCC are recommending is more bureaucracy, more resources and more time spent dealing with a particular issue.

I can assure you that police resources are stretched to the limit. If we put more resource into domestic abuse it has to come from somewhere. That means someones 999 call won't be answered so quickly, someones else's crime won't get investigated and someones neighbourhood problem won't be solved. That will be more criticism from the IPCC and more bureaucracy, more resources moved around on the board and little achieved.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Haven't We Got Better Things to do?


I thought I would risk something a little controversial again.

This is a photo of Roger Day, a carpenter from Leicestershire. He hit the papers recently when he was photographed taking part in a Remembrance Day Parade wearing some spectacular medals. This numbskull didn't think that if someone really had a set of medals like that they would be renowned.

I do understand that some military will be horrified that this man should do this, but feelings aside, has he harmed anyone? All he has really done is made a complete pratt of himself. His whole neighbourhood and everyone who knows him are aware of his stupidity. Isn't this enough? I wish we would move back towards a society where public shame is used to affect behaviour rather than the one we have where you can do almost what you like and no one is supposed to judge you.

So why have the police got involved in this and arrested him? We should file this under C for Cock and get on with investigating some of those robberies and burglaries that are sat on a desk gathering dust.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Bureaucracy


I have just finished reading Jan Berry’s long awaited report on reducing bureaucracy in policing; all 120 pages of it. The report starts off with a strategic view of what is required to engender a culture of change within Government and policing circles. It then gives a few examples of where bureaucracy can be reduced. It finishes with a long list of recommendations from previous authors of similar reports that have yet to be implemented.

The language of the report is, I fear, not strong enough. I don’t get the feeling that Jan has the confidence that she has the ear of the right people at the Home Office to actually get some of this implemented and make a difference. I hope she does or this report is destined to gather dust somewhere like its predecessors.

I thought I would mention one piece of bureaucratic nonsense that affects the police every day and prevents us from doing the job we wish to be doing. If you are ever suffering from insomnia have a look at the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. (RIPA) On reading it the legislation is actually quite sensible and makes the police accountable for things like surveillance and getting information from phones. It requires the police to write down and justify why they are following/watching someone or why they require data from phones etc. This needs to be signed off by a senior officer, usually a superintendent. In non emergency situations it takes about a week and 6 to 10 hours of work to get these forms completed and authorised!

The problem is that with the legislation came a Quango called the surveillance commissioners. The legislation clearly talks about directed surveillance and obtaining private information about individuals. Risk averse police managers started asking the commissioners if they required forms completed in all sorts of other situations totally outside of the legislation. Risk averse, empire building commissioners of course said yes.

Years ago I can remember my sergeant sending me out to a local street because milk was being stolen off the doorsteps. I was told to stand in a doorway and see if I could catch the thief. The first morning I was there I did. More recently at a public meeting a resident asked me why the local police officer couldn’t stand behind a fence and catch the yobs damaging it on a Friday night. Very recently one of the local villages was suffering with burglaries. We had no idea who the suspects were but I sent my officers out in plain clothes to patrol the village and see if we could identify the suspects.

In the case of milk thefts and damaged fences this now requires a RIPA. Remember that is 6 to 10 hours work and a week to get it authorised. But it won’t be authorised because the crime is regarded as too trivial and so it is not considered proportionate for the police to be hidden in a street watching for an offender. What on earth is wrong with a uniformed copper standing in some shadows watching for offenders? The public expect us to do this but the interpretation of the legislation is tying our hands. In the case of the burglary problem the plain clothes patrols came to the attention of senior managers who immediately ordered that they stop until a RIPA was done. Targeting an area with plain clothed officers is apparently directed surveillance even though we have no idea who we are looking for. So 8 hours work and a week later we continue our plain clothed patrols.

The legislators never meant for this to happen. If we are following or watching a named person I understand the accountability and checks need to be in place. Standing in a street waiting to see who might be committing offences or patrolling an area because of crime are basic policing and should never require this bureaucratic nonsense.

The problems I have highlighted above have been brought to the attention of everyone up to and including the Home Secretary. No one seems to have the balls or determination to sort this mess out and tell the commissioners to stop this nonsense

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Policing Pledge


I have been hoping for months to be able to write something positive about the police service and at last it seems the time has come. The Policing Pledge was introduced last December and Forces are queuing up to announce they are all signing up to it. Not that we have a choice; the Home Office have imposed it and that means if you don’t do it, black marks from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

There are ten key points in the pledge. If you cannot be bothered to learn English, it has been produced in at least nine different languages for you:
1. Always treat you fairly with dignity and respect ensuring you have fair access to our services at a time that is reasonable and suitable for you.

2. Provide you with information so you know who your dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team is, where they are based, how to contact them and how to work with them.

3. Ensure your Neighbourhood Policing Team and other police patrols are visible and on your patch at times when they will be most effective and when you tell us you most need them. We will ensure your team are not taken away from neighbourhood business more than is absolutely necessary. They will spend at least 80% of their time visibly working in your neighbourhood, tackling your priorities. Staff turnover will be minimised.
4. Respond to every message directed to your Neighbourhood Policing Team within 24 hours and, where necessary, provide a more detailed response as soon as we can.

5. Aim to answer 999 calls within 10 seconds, deploying to emergencies immediately giving an estimated time of arrival, getting to you safely, and as quickly as possible. In urban areas, we will aim to get to you within 15 minutes and in rural areas within 20 minutes.

6. Answer all non-emergency calls promptly. If attendance is needed, send a patrol giving you an estimated time of arrival, and: - If you are vulnerable or upset aim to be with you within 60 minutes - If you are calling about an issue that we have agreed with your community will be a neighbourhood priority (listed below) and attendance is required, we will aim to be with you within 60 minutes. - Alternatively, if appropriate, we will make an appointment to see you at a time that fits in with your life and within 48 hours.· If agreed that attendance is not necessary we will give you advice, answer your questions and / or put you in touch with someone who can help.

7. Arrange regular public meetings to agree your priorities, at least once a month, giving you a chance to meet your local team with other members of your community. These will include opportunities such as surgeries, street briefings and mobile police station visits which will be arranged to meet local needs and requirements. Your local arrangements can be found below.

8. Provide monthly updates on progress, and on local crime and policing issues. This will include the provision of crime maps, information on specific crimes and what happened to those brought to justice, details of what action we and our partners are taking to make your neighbourhood safer and information on how your force is performing.

9. If you have been a victim of crime agree with you how often you would like to be kept informed of progress in your case and for how long. You have the right to be kept informed at least every month if you wish and for as long as is reasonable.

10. Acknowledge any dissatisfaction with the service you have received within 24 hours of reporting it to us. To help us fully resolve the matter, discuss with you how it will be handled, give you an opportunity to talk in person to someone about your concerns and agree with you what will be done about them and how quickly.

If some of this sounds familiar, it is. Most of it was in customer service charters we produced in the 80’s and 90’s. Did that make any diference then? No, to be honest. Most of it very basic and sensible but my biggest concern is the Pledge is symptomatic of our society at the moment. It is all about rights but silent on responsibilities. In an ideal society we wouldn’t need to remind people of their responsibilities but we are certainly not an ideal society. A small minority of the population soak up all the police resource and the Pledge is just a charter for more of the same. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:

3. We won’t be in your neighbourhood 80% of the time. We will be in the neighbourhoods of the underclass dealing with their alcoholism issues, domestic arguments, fights over girlfriends, petty squabbles etc. All those problems that the uncivilised and needy have, living in close proximity to one another, which they can now allege is harassment or threatening or abusive behaviour. If you have trouble with rowdy drunks walking down your street at midnight, we might patrol it once in a while, at 3 a.m. when everything else has settled down.

4. In the Utopian police force we have employed some police staff ready to return your call within 24 hours to comply with this and to tell you that your neighbourhood team will call you back when they are next working. At weekends we have neighbourhood police officers sat in the police station returning the calls within 24 hours telling you that your neighbourhood officer will call back when they are next working. So you used to ring your local officer and you would be told when they are next on duty and you can expect a call back then. Now you ring your local officer and get told someone will ring you back within 24 hours. Then you get another call to tell you when your neighbourhood officer is next working and that you can expect a call back then.

7. We are committed to so many clinics, surgeries and street meetings, there is hardly any time left to deal with all the problems that people want us to deal with. Being there and listening to people is an absolute requirement of neighbourhood policing. But if you don’t deal with the problems people raise they will lose trust and stop bothering to tell you.

I have been involved in Neighbourhood Policing for many years and I am committed to it. I believe that having local officers in communities finding out what the issues are and tackling the problem people and places is the way to make a difference. I want my officers taking on the yobs, drug dealers, violent thugs and car thieves. I want my officers in their faces and banging on their doors and arresting them. Does the Policing Pledge take this forward and help achieve those aims?

We need to break away from being a front line social services department for the needy in society. All the time we make promises to respond to allegations of abusive texts, harassment via Facebook and name calling, we commit, and waste, most of our time to this and don’t have time to tackle the problem people and places that the majority would like us to. We have been in neighbourhoods long enough now. We know what the problems are. If we don’t tackle those problems we will lose the trust of our communities, Policing Pledge or not.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Victims of Crime

" The wall is owned by a property company based in the Bahamas, Sarge. OK if I pay them a visit next week?"

We must be approaching an election. Our Home Secretary, Alan Johnson has announced that he believes all victims of crime should be seen by the police no matter how trivial. I have some sympathy with this view but in practice this is unworkable.

Any crimes that the public would regard as serious deserve a visit and if you have your home broken into or if you are assaulted you will be visited. Many people who have their car broken into will get visited by a Scenes of Crime Officer to see if there are any fingerprints or DNA left by the offender.

What about the chap that rang the Utopian Police Force to report two dust caps stolen from his car wheels? Have they really been stolen or did he leave them at the garage when he checked his tyre pressures? Will a visit achieve any more than the phone call and the 30 minutes we have already spent recording, analysing and filing his crime? At least we have fulfilled our obligations to the Home Office by recording it and ensuring we don't feel the wrath of the National Audit Office for not having done so. What about the scratched car? Was that someone with a key vandalising it or a careless shopper in the car park with a shopping trolley? A visit might help decide. For now it is just recorded over the phone as criminal damage.

If we start visiting all these people we won’t have time to visit real victims of crime. Victims like Tracy who rings us to say that her boyfriends ex, Sharon is threatening to kill her. That certainly deserves a visit. Look she’s sent me a text saying ‘You’re a f**king slag and I’m going to f**king do you.’ After we have visited Tracy and spent hours taking statements etc we visit Sharon. Sharon then shows us the text Tracy sent her. ‘He’s mine now you slut. Just f**k off or I’m going to slice you up you f**king bitch.’ So now Sharon wants to allege that Tracy has threatened to kill her. Tracy gets another visit and after we have spent 6 hours time on their allegations they decide to call it quits rather than both risk ending up in court.

If we didn’t have to visit all these real victims of crime we could visit most of the victims of crime that are currently perceived as too trivial to warrant it. What would you rather we did?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Police Cautions


I cautioned a 17 year old lad recently. What was slightly unusual was that it was for Grievous Bodily Harm, Threatening Behaviour and resisting arrest. He had been drinking with friends in a park on a Saturday afternoon. They decided to go into town for a burger. In a busy takeaway on a Saturday afternoon he decided he didn’t like someone. There was no reasoning behind it. He started pushing another lad around. Families scattered, lots of threatening abuse and frightened kids. The other lad didn’t want to get involved and just kept asking him to leave him alone. The drunken yob eventually punches the victim in the face knocking him over and he cracks his head on a table leaving him requiring 8 stitches. The offender then runs off but is followed by CCTV and the police turn up and arrest him. He decides he wants to fight and there is a scuffle and he ends up handcuffed.

The police take statements, seize CCTV, seize victims and offenders clothing and cover all the bases to get this lad charged. There is a problem though. He has no previous convictions. CPS decide he must be cautioned. Three times the case is referred back to the CPS but they would not budge.

I do feel sorry for the victims who have said that they feel the police have only carried out cursory investigations before cautioning offenders for theft and assaults. I hope victims understand that we have put up with this position for years. As soon as an offender is booked into custody a check of previous convictions is carried out. If the offender has no convictions, unless the offence is murder, manslaughter or rape, they will almost inevitably be cautioned. It is pointless spending hours and hours building the case. If the offender is making admissions, you can hardly blame us if we caution them and move on to the next case. Is this justice for some of our victims? Of course not. Many first time offenders quite rightly deserve a chance and cautioning them is the right thing to do but for many they should be in Court.

The media has at last picked up the fact that offenders are being cautioned for serious offences and have made a fuss about this. Inevitably we have had strong words from the Government about how things have gone astray but it is going to change. I am afraid nothing will change. Our prisons are too full and the Government don’t want more offenders in Court. I can only tell you that we will carry on arresting offenders and hope that eventually victims will see some justice done.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Drug Legalisation


I was hoping the last post regarding force structures might generate some debate; unfortunately not. So let’s have a look at something more controversial.

It seems to be de rigour at the moment to join the liberal call to legalise drugs. We are led to believe that spending millions of pounds fighting the scourge of unlawful drugs is a waste of money and we are criminalising thousands of people for possession of drugs for no good reason. The pro legalisation lobby claim that this will be more effective as drug dealers will be put out of business on the basis of supply not being required as demand disappears.

What does legalisation of drugs actually mean? Does it mean anyone can go and buy skunk, cocaine or heroin over the counter? Are we going to restrict purchase to the over 18’s like alcohol supposedly is? Or does it just mean we give it to addicts and they can lawfully possess and use it?

This seems to be the biggest problem with the pro lobby. There is no overarching strategy and solution to the problem just disparate suggestions based mainly around the contention that the current strategy does not work. I have looked at some of the suggestions from the pro lobby and I cannot see they provide the answer to the problem.

One suggestion is that the prohibition of alcohol did not work and so why should it for drugs? Alcohol was and is used by the majority of the population; drugs are used by between 3 and 5% generally. There is no comparison. If the majority of the population used drugs the very fabric of our society would fall apart. Who would be going to work, paying taxes etc? Who would pay for the free drugs for all these addicts?

Portugal is hailed as a country that has seen the light and legalised drugs. They have not. Portugal had a serious drug problem, the worst in Europe. They decided that a policy of education combined with feeding arrested users into treatment rather than punishment was the way forward. This is not very different to that which we do here. No one is prosecuted for a first offence of possession of controlled drugs. We have spent a fortune on education and treatment programmes. Offenders going into custody for acquisitive crime are screened and all are offered drug treatment and counselling. Few take up the offer. All Portugal has achieved is a reduction in drug usage to a similar level to the rest of Europe.

Tacit approval of drugs or legalisation in the same way as alcohol delivers totally the wrong message to society. Suggesting it is OK to use drugs and that we will supply you with free drugs until you fancy giving them up can only encourage more users. When are people going to realise that we cannot afford the mess the liberal brigade have already got us into and drug legalisation will only make it worse.

For example, society protocol used to demand that couples saved up to get married, found somewhere to live and then thought about having a family. The welfare state was there to pick up the pieces of those who made mistakes. Now we have a society where people just breed, get houses, never work and that is all OK. It is not PC to criticise as this is their right apparently. This is another story really but the point is that we are now paying out in benefits more than we raise in income tax for the first time in history. We cannot afford any more daft ideas and need to recover some ground already lost. If we start handing out free drugs to addicts we will have to give free drinks to alcoholics and free cigarettes to smokers. And it will have to be Chateauneuf du Pap as I cannot drink anything else and refusal will be a breach of my human rights.

I feel exasperated that some people think that by supplying drugs to addicts we will stop demand and so the drug dealers have no business and disappear. If we give free drugs to addicts the dealers will simply target other young people, mostly young teenagers, to increase the demand. At best, some of them will move on to other crime such as prostitution and people trafficking. At worst there will be a price war while they try and put the Government out of business. We are almost bankrupt so it is a serious possibility. The suggestion that they will disappear is ludicrous.

The laws of our land should reflect the sort of society we want to live in. We don’t want drugs in our society and we should not encourage people to use them. I am fine with users being encouraged into treatment. Dealers should be hunted down, imprisoned for a long time and every penny they own seized. The state should not become just another drug dealer.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Brief Return of Hobbes

I've been out of the blogging business since my last post 'Market Research' way back when. My colleague Inspector Lex Ferenda has done a wonderful job taking the blog further and the visitor mark past 20,000. He's doing a better job than I ever did, and he's more handsome too. I'd pretty much said all I wanted to say when I handed over the mantle to Lex. Except, however, for one post that I couldn't quite articulate. There are times when we - the police - get things wrong. Quite a lot of things in fact. Our problem is, if we're the investigative experts, the ones who get paid the big bucks to get things right, who can tell us when we've done otherwise? Below is an admirable example of who can, and a pertinent reminder that behind every victim there is another victim, and another victim, and another....those being the primary victim's family and friends.

If there was one guest post that is worth my coming out of retirement to publish, then it is the one below. I salute John Allore, and I sincerely hope he and his family finally receive the justice - and service from the police - that they deserve.

Us and Them (and fear of the other) *

Police are cold-hearted functionaries; at their worst, dim-witted donut-eaters - punching the clock, but never really solving problems. Crime victims are whiners; bi-polar depressives who through their “advocacy” ultimately serve as a distraction to serious police work.

The story of my sister’s murder, and how the Quebec police bungled the investigation over thirty years ago is well documented. If you want the full story you can find it here on my website. Moreover, the former Vancouver police officer – and now Geographic Profiling professor at Texas State University – Kim Rossmo featured an entire chapter on Theresa Allore’s case in his recent book, Criminal Investigative Failures. I have been asked to write down some words about the victim’s perspective in the victim-police-society equation. To that end I’d like to make some comments about how we often come round to seeing police as lazy functionaries and victims as whiney troublemakers:

  1. After 30 years the murders of Theresa Allore, Manon Dube and Louise Camirand remain unsolved. Quebec police to this day refuse to investigate a possible connection between these murders. The murders occurred within 17 months in 1978-79. The Quebec police claim they had no indication that the murders could have been connected despite the fact that the lead investigator in all three cases, who’s the whiney victim and who’s the donut-eating cop?
  2. The initial media articles in 2002 on the death of these three young women laid a foundation for serial murder with particular focus on Kim Rossmo’s groundbreaking ideas on geographic profiling. At the time the Quebec police pooh-poohed the concept of geographic profiling as a criminology fad. Two years later I intercepted the lead investigator into Theresa’s death on his way to Washington; why was he traveling to the States? To learn about a new frontier of police research called Geographic Profiling. Who was he going to study with? Kim Rossmo.
  3. Five years after all three murders remained unsolved Quebec’s Surete du Quebec made the decision to dispose of all physical evidence from the cases. I usually keep anything that has an unresolved connection with my past be it pictures, recipes or memorabilia: Again, who’s the investigator here?
  4. Having learned that my sister’s body was found with a watch on her wrist stopped at eleven o’clock, I resolved to purchase 4 similar watches on Ebay from the 70s and place them at the crime scene at the same time of the year that she disappeared (to see when they would stop, to establish a time of death). The Quebec Police ridiculed this exercise as pointless-victim-meddling, yet all four watched stopped within 15 minutes of 11:00 PM, thus establishing an approximate time of death. Again, who's the victim, and who's the investigator? Because it would appear that I am both.
  5. Similar to the watch; my sister’s wallet was discovered by the side of a road in the Spring of 1979. There was some disagreement as to whether the wallet had been thrown there the prior winter (when she disappeared) or whether it had been placed there more recently in the Spring after her body was discovered. To answer the question I purchased a similar wallet from the 70s, placed it in the Canadian snow around the same time that she disappeared, and retrieved it the following Spring (around the time that the actual wallet was discovered). The results? The wallet was probably tossed in the Fall when she was murdered. The Surete du Quebec’s reaction? I was a whiney troublemaker not contributing what-so-ever to solving my sister’s murder.
  6. Faced with the reality that my sister’s wallet was found by the side of the road approximately 10-miles from where her body was discovered, the Surete du Quebec was asked, “doesn’t this prove that the killer drove a car, and disposed of the wallet after murdering her?”.” Not necessarily”, replied lead investigator, Roch Gaudreault… “Wild animals could have carried the wallet from the crime seen to the resting place by the side of the road.”

Yes… wild animals… following the roadways of men, traveling ten miles, and conveniently disposing the evidence along the banks of a highway.

Do you still want to ask me why I question the professionalism of police officers?

* Footnote: Us and Them: Dark Side Of The Moon was the first album Theresa ever bought and she DID listen to it on headphones.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ringing in More Changes


I have been having a look at Force collaboration projects recently and other initiatives that Forces are putting in place to restructure. We have gone through a great deal of change over the last 25 years and it is clear there is an awful lot more to come.

A number of Forces, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Surrey, to name but a few are looking at a complete change in management structure. There will be some similarities to Norfolk, where last year they removed the Divisional structure and just have one HQ based management structure controlling all operational policing.

The other Forces are looking at a similar structure but will want to put their own mark on it. It appears that we are going down the route of having a few strategic police stations where you base your custody, response and investigation teams. Neighbourhood teams will be housed with partners or in a few local rented premises. Depending on the model, there will be no one over the rank of inspector or chief inspector at these stations.

At HQ you will have a number of senior managers responsible for investigation, response, custody and neighbourhoods and protective services. Savings can be made selling off, but more significantly, not having to maintain many police buildings. Further significant savings will be made by reducing the number of senior managers, by as much as 50%. Finally, centralisation of all HR, Finance and other services is made to reduce costs further.

All of this will be made more palatable to partners and the public by increasing the number of front line officers with some of the savings made. The former Chief Constable of Essex, Roger Baker, tried something similar in Essex, albeit his savings were largely coming from general cost cutting. I think this sowed a seed with many other Chief Constables.

The thought of losing 50% of our senior managers will appeal to many, but there are risks and negative points too. If we reduce all officers of Chief Inspector and above by 50% where does this leave those with aspirations to reach the dizzy heights of senior management? If you are not on the High Potential Development Scheme your chances of progressing beyond inspector may be very small for a number of years to come. What pressures will there be on the managers that are left?

Even the mighty Metropolitan Police will come under pressure to review their management structure. Can they really justify almost 100 ACPO equivalents?

Force collaboration projects are progressing at an ever increasing pace. Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire are heading towards a merger, probably within two years. Kent and Essex are in bed with one another with joint IT, recruiting and shortly major crime. HR and Finance are likely to follow with one centralised service for a number of forces.

Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Thames Valley are collaborating on aircraft, technical support, IT, uniform, protective services etc. Officers from those forces have already been transferred to Thames Valley to provide a regional counter terrorism unit. Secondments in some other areas are planned to take place next year.

Publicly the Chief Officers deny that this will lead to regional police forces. Privately, I can assure you, they are already speculating which of them will be taking over the new super forces.

I would be genuinely interested in others views on all this.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

PCSO's Don't Work



PCSO's: a cost effective resource?

I have been involved in Neighbourhood Policing for many years and welcomed the first tranche of Police Community Support Officer’s (PCSO’s) who were introduced to the Utopian Police Force in 2003. We had recently introduced beat officers into every area in the county. They were spread a bit thin and PCSO’s were welcomed by most as an additional resource to help us gain intelligence, provide a uniform presence and deal with low level anti social behaviour and problems in the community.

Even then PCSO’s had their critics and they were seen by some as policing on the cheap. They were ridiculed for their lack of powers and it was suggested that the public were being conned when they saw uniforms patrolling the streets with limited training and effect.

Like police officers, some of the PCSO’s proved to be very good, others not so. The good ones got stuck into their communities and became well known. They came up with diversionary activities for young people and kept Neighbourhood Watch, Residents Associations and Councillors happy by giving them time and providing a conduit for information. They gathered intelligence and were a font of knowledge regarding their communities.

Over the last 6 years I have seen things change. We still have two types of PCSO in Utopia. We have the younger recruit who is using the role to have a look at the police with a view to joining as an officer. Their commitment to Neighbourhoods is limited. If they want to join the police all they want to do is jump in cars and respond to 999 calls. The majority are not really interested in getting involved in communities.

The second type are the older PCSO recruit, some of whom are an interesting bunch and vary from housewives returning to the workplace after having a family to people with all sorts of experience who may have been made redundant or just fancied a change of career. Disillusionment has set in among many of these. There is no career structure for PCSO’s. Pounding the beat on your feet in all weathers for year after year starts to lose its appeal. Even the best of our PCSO’s are struggling with motivation and the best managers are struggling to get value for money from them.

The media has made a lot of a small number of incidents where PCSO’s have apparently failed to act. I don’t place much store in any of that. We have all heard the story of the two PCSO’s who allegedly watched someone drown. The truth is they arrived ten minutes after the victim had disappeared in the water. There was nothing they could do. The fact is the public and, of course, offenders are wise to the limited powers and capabilities of our PCSO’s. The police cannot help them every time some yob is lippy or abusive to them. The public are becoming disillusioned with this role. They still regard it as better than nothing but want real police officers with powers and who use them.

I was a fan of PCSO’s; now I feel we need to review the role and its place in our police force. Should we try and make the role more interesting and support other areas of the business by giving PCSO’s additional tasks to do, for example, taking witness statements and viewing/seizing CCTV?

In April 2010 the Home Office subsidy on PCSO funding comes to an end and the whole cost will be borne by the Police Authorities. I now believe that is the time to reduce the number of PCSO’s and use those savings to increase the number of police officers in Neighbourhoods.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sentencing



It’s an old chestnut, but there have been a few sentences of offenders recently that have made me stop and think, what the hell is going on. I am sure I am not the only one who has been thinking about sentencing and the fact that crime and consequences seem to be out of kilter.

For too many years we have taken a softly, softly approach with drugs, theft, anti social behaviour etc. and a culture of toleration and understanding and trying to ‘help’ the poor offenders that perpetrate these crimes. In particular I would single out the Youth Justice Service and their weak and watery staff and policies that do nothing other than put barriers in the way of addressing poor behaviour and the concept that such behaviour must have negative consequences.

I fully understand that feral yobs and the like are the product of their upbringing and this is often the real cause of the problem. YJS workers telling me that it is pointless forcing parents to attend Parenting classes and that they must be persuaded to does nothing to give me any confidence that they are achieving anything other than pandering to the wishes of those responsible for criminality.

We are failing to address the poor behaviour of too many young offenders who are escalating into more and more serious offending. I had started to seriously wonder how our prisons were going to cope with the dozens and dozens of out of control young men and women who, after years of lackadaisical and ineffectual supervision, punishment and rehabilitation, eventually commit such serious offences that they are sentenced to life with recommendations of minimum sentences of twenty or more years. I thought we must start building more prisons now or there won’t be any room.

Now I see how our masters are going to deal with this problem. These young men and women that should be behind bars for a very long time are no longer being given long sentences. Even the judges have given up or been directed to stop sending serious offenders to prison for long periods. Here are a few examples.

July 2009, Colt Wesley Welch was in a vehicle that police tried to stop. He fired a sawn off shotgun at the officers. He later ran off from the vehicle and threatened other officers with the gun. He was eventually arrested. The gun was found to have been stolen from a burglary and later sawn off. We are supposed to be getting tough on gun crime. The sentencing guidelines are supposed to be 5 years just for unlawful possession of a firearm. What did Welch get for not just possession but firing the weapon at unarmed officers? Five years!


The yobs with numerous convictions for violence, breach of ASBO etc. who beat a man to death with a hammer because he dared challenge them regarding their behaviour. The hammer wielder got life with a recommendation of minimum sentence of 9 years 2 months. The rest of the gang got between 12 and 28 months.

I do understand that in the longer term Government policy and strategy must change and do more to remove this cycle of behaviour and address some of the social ills and irresponsibility their policies have partly brought about. In the meantime, sentencing must reflect public distaste and provide a proper deterrent to this criminality.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Police Cuts



Sorry about the picture but I thought it was a timely reminder when talking about cuts that some of our colleagues are facing real cuts on the front line.

Like many Forces, Utopia is reviewing itself and all sorts of projects are underway to cut police officer and police staff numbers. We are also bracing ourselves for further cuts when the public spending axe will undoubtedly start swinging next year.

I don’t know about your Force, but in Utopia police officer numbers are reducing steadily while police staff are increasing quite dramatically. We keep being told that police staff are better value and we can get more of them for less. We all seem to have been brainwashed now to accept this view.

I decided to look at the numbers and I would urge you to do the same in your Force. Over the last ten years we have lost 235 police officer posts but we have gained over 1500 police staff posts. Now I only got a C in Maths at ‘O’ Level, but even I can tell that for 1500 police staff I can get about 1000 police officers. So are police staff really good value for money?

Whilst reflecting on where we are spending money and where we might make savings I started to think about some of the beasts that have been created to oversee and manage the police service. If further money needs to be saved in future, is there scope to make it among the quango monsters that seem to be the tail wagging the dog? I have excluded the Home Office, for now, but this is where the big bucks are spent and where we should perhaps be focusing most of our scrutiny.

The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) was created in 2007. It employs 2327 staff and costs the taxpayer £700 million a year, enough to run two medium sized police forces. What do they actually deliver? They oversee some national products such as Airwave. (An expensive dogs mess!) In general it seems to be an expensive gravy train for lots of overpaid senior officers to provide advice, recommendations, support etc to Police forces that really takes us nowhere.

Look at some of the roles:
Peter Neyroud, Chief Constable and Chief Executive £195 K p.a. plus perks.
Angela O’Connor, Chief People Officer £145K p.a. plus perks
Richard Earland Chief Information Officer £160 K plus perks
Nice work if you can get it.

And some of the roles tell a tale about the pointless task that they perform:
Planning Dependency Manager £32-39 K p.a.
Transformation Change Analyst £43-53 K p.a.

I could go on but you get the picture. Would we miss it if it disappeared into the ether?

Next is Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary. Compared to the NPIA it is small fry. Home Office funded and only £12.34 million. But what do we actually get from the HMIC? They simply provide work for the bureaucratic machinery within each force, demanding statistics, reports, teams of officers preparing for inspections etc. Bugger off and leave us alone then we can save millions in bureaucracy and concentrate on the basics of policing and spend some money on filling the obvious gaps you so cleverly identify.

Next, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. £32 million at the last count. Is this value for money?

Finally, I wanted to mention ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers. Most people are under the impression that this is a staff association. It is not! There is a Chief Police Officer’s Staff Association. ACPO is a limited company funded by the Home Office to the tune of £15m last year and also by the Association of Police Authorities. Far from being an independent voice for the police service, it is a money making business funded to advise and influence but also to promulgate the views of the purse holders and masters. In bed with the NPIA; a very cosy nepotistic relationship providing lots of jobs for the boys and girls.

There is too much fat and too much overlap within all these organisations. When the public spending axe starts swinging next year I hope it cuts a swathe through these quangos and not within the Forces. As I first stated in this missive, left to the forces, they will cut front line staff rather than backroom police staff functions. God help us!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Police Federation Letter re Yvonne Fletcher

This is not the usual type of posting in this blog but I felt that this was of such importance that it was worth publishing and debate.

The following is a letter that the Police Federation of England and Wales have sent to the Prime Minister. I do realise there is a bigger picture here, but this just shows how far this Government is prepared to stoop to try and win some trade to try and help get us out of the crap they have dropped us in.

LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER 14th September 2009


Dear Prime Minister, Together with the 140,000 police officers throughout England and Wales that the Police Federation represents, I was shocked, appalled and disgusted at the revelations in the Sunday Times that the Libyan killer of PC Yvonne Fletcher will never be brought to justice in Britain following a deal struck by your government.


This is an absolute disgrace. PC Fletcher was gunned down in cold blood 25 years ago by a cowardly and callous killer who managed to flee to Libya. Now we discover your government rolled over three years ago abandoning any attempt to bring Yvonne’s killer to face the UK courts and justice. Only you and your colleagues know the true reasons why such an arrangement was agreed but for those I represent and for a large number of the public the timing of the agreement would suggest your government was prepared to sell its soul for trade deals being negotiated at the time.


This case is particularly close to my heart, not least because I attended the same school as Yvonne, albeit a few years ahead of her, and then our lives took a similar track again as we both joined the Metropolitan Police. Yvonne was an absolute professional with a promising policing career ahead; her untimely and tragic murder whilst serving this country needs proper resolution for her family, friends and past colleagues.


I appreciate that this deal was secured under the watch of the previous Prime Minister, but police officers throughout this country need to know that the dangers they face are understood by the government of the day and, if tragedy strikes, that political leaders will do everything in their power to ensure that justice is served.


I look forward to hearing what assurances you can give and what actions your government will undertake to bring Yvonne’s killer to face a jury in a UK court.

Yours sincerely,
Paul McKeever
Chairman, The Police Federation of England and Wales

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

More from Lex Ferenda

Targets! Here we go again.






Policing in the Utopian Force is taking a worrying turn.


I am a great fan of neighbourhood policing and the idea of local officers tackling problem people and places in their communities with the help of partners and public is something I have worked with and supported for many years.


I am sure many of you remember the bad old days (sic) when performance was measured largely by crime and detection rates. Now, one thing the police service is good at is meeting targets. Set us almost any target and it will be met by hook or by crook. Some Forces didn't bother recording crime and most massaged the detection rates. Catching the teenage graffiti artist and getting them to clear up 100 other offences bumped the detection rate up a couple of percent. It was easier to focus on minor crime and get detections rather than spend a lot of resources trying to detect one burglary.


OK, I am not naive and I know that detection rates are still a performance measure in many forces, but now the focus is all about public confidence and satisfaction. The Home Office were convinced that focusing the efforts of the police on a number of specific measures was skewing resources towards those areas. Policing is such a vast portfolio, it is impossible to measure all activity and results effectively. What we needed was the one target of public confidence and satisfaction. This would ensure that we were providing a good all round service to the public. Sold! To the mug in charge of the Home Office.


What everyone hoped to see was a steady rise in public confidence and satisfaction as crime rates dropped, more offences were detected and problem people and places were eliminated. The problem is that senior managers are not prepared to wait five or ten years for the investment in neighbourhoods and elsewhere to take effect. The next career progression is measured in much shorter terms.


So, in Utopia, what is happening now is that we have droves of staff monitoring and collecting data regarding confidence and satisfaction. We have project teams dreaming up new ways of pushing up levels of public confidence and satisfaction. It is not all bad and there have been some useful improvements around keeping victims of crime updated. In neighbourhoods we are asking our teams to spend their days knocking on peoples doors to introduce themselves and ask what the local problems are. When they are not doing that they are holding 'surgeries' throughout their areas. Tackling the problems in the community is not a priority and not getting done. This might result in short term gains in confidence as the public gets to see their local officer, but in the medium term it will fall. Next time they knock on someones door they will be told that there is no point anyone telling them who is doing what as they do nothing with the information they already have.


I wish that instead of wasting resources on projects and promoting neighbourhood policing, instead we put those resources into the front line and produced real long term results. Short term gains to help careers progress are not sustainable and will result in a drop in confidence and satisfaction rates in the medium to long term. Never fear, I guess that will be the opportunity for the next tranche of senior managers wishing to move ever onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

More Leadership

General Patton

I am pleased to be able to post another contribution from a colleague on Leadership.

More Leadership

I read with interest Inspector Hobbes article on Leadership. This is an area that has concerned me for some time. We regularly castigate politicians for the apparent lack of support we get, quite rightly. Leadership is something that we can address ourselves and we are not doing it.

I joined the police twenty something years ago and I still vividly remember some of the leaders around then. There were a lot of strong characters. They were in charge. There was no doubt of that. They understood policing and had the respect of their teams. There was a lot of shouting and barking but the really good ones maintained that equilibrium between compassion and direction. The important thing was, when the wheel came off the sergeants and inspectors knew what they were doing, took control and no one questioned their directions.

Now, some of you will be thinking that the old twit has got his rose tinted glasses on and we all like to believe that things have gone downhill since our day. Hear me out and let’s have a look at how things have changed.

Once you had passed the law exam, promotion used to be by recommendation from line managers. Experience in the field counted for everything and you had to show that you had the skills and experience to do the job before you got recommended for promotion. The system was open to abuse and allegations of ‘jobs for the boys.’ Largely though, it worked pretty well.

Over the last 15 years the Police Service has taken up the cudgel of political correctness and decided that law and order is not our only raison d’ĂȘtre. We must also educate the general public in all ‘isms.’ Height, fitness levels for recruits, anything that might suggest we are discriminating against anyone were thrown out. I’m not suggesting that we should reverse this but somewhere the baby went out with the bath water.

Senior Police Officers were tasked and built careers on the race to increase representation from minority groups at all levels. We needed to recruit women and other under-represented groups fast and push them up the ranks as quickly as possible. The unwritten rule that only a few exceptional people were promoted or went to CID before five years experience and service was torn up. We started promoting officers barely out of their probation period. Many of them had not learnt the massive role of policing and had few leadership skills. I am not suggesting for a minute that it is the minority groups within the police that are ineffective. This was part of the cause, the effect of which led to a significant number of ineffective leaders across the whole spectrum.

Around the same time the service also decided that it needed a more academic recruit to cope with the plethora of legislation and accountability being foisted upon us. More recruits came to us from the middle classes, some of whom had never so much been in a playground fight, never mind got stuck into a Friday night brawl. Some of these recruits want to progress quickly through the ranks, but lack leadership skills: Supervisors plotting target results on a spreadsheet, is for many, their idea of leadership, rather than leading from the front.
Fortunately, there are still many good leaders within the service but too many are a manifestation of the blind leading the blind and a self perpetuating cycle of poor leadership. We have ineffective leaders recommending too many applicants for promotion when they are totally unsuitable. The promotion system of a paper application and interview is not weeding out sufficient of those applicants. We need to break out of this cycle.

We need leaders like Inspector Hobbes who go the extra mile to ensure that their staff are delivering the service and not falling into bad habits. Leaders need to have the knowledge and experience to command respect, manage staff and control critical incidents. Just as importantly, we need leaders who can identify and develop new talent and manage the expectations of those who are not ready to do so and who may never be.

The answer to any problem is never very far away. In the services potential NCO’s are identified and put forward for promotion. Once recommended, they attend a selection course that is pass or fail. If they fail badly, the officer’s that recommended them are held to account.

Taking the police promotion exam should trigger a meeting with a line manager where an honest discussion should take place regarding the candidates suitability for promotion. A clear plan should be put in place so the candidate understands when, and under what circumstances, they may be recommended for promotion.

No one should be recommended for promotion unless there is a consensus from the applicant’s first and second line managers that the candidate would be a welcome addition to the recommending officer’s team, capable of leading that team and gaining the respect of all they work with. The candidate should then attend a pass or fail course based on practical assessment.

It should always be born in mind that not everyone will be suitable for promotion and everyone has a ceiling. Being honest and managing expectations are also qualities of a good leader and need to be practised more often.

Monday, 3 August 2009

An Officer Speaks: Should Drugs Be Legalised?

I apologise to everyone who regularly visits my blog that I have not been posting for some time now. One reason is that I simply do not have the time. Another is that I have determined not to respond to any adverse media reports concerning the police services of England and Wales. Why? Well, other police bloggers do so and I would merely be writing about the same topic but in a different manner. As I have said before, I only ever wanted to explore what it is to be a police officer and to share this with a wider audience. I wanted to demonstrate that being a police officer isn't just a job, it's a vocation, something that affects every aspect of your life whether on-duty or not.

I can't think of any better way to illustrate the above other than in this latest guest posting. It's from a police officer in Canada who devotes his own time to an issue he feels very strongly about: the legalisation of drugs. Of course, I have read about this in numerous newspapers, but it has always been portrayed as an indication of defeat on the war against drugs to even to consider it. I'm still undecided on the issue, but will certainly post a comment once I have digested what Officer Bratzer has written.


I would like to thank the Inspector for the opportunity to write this guest post. A successful blog represents a great personal effort and it was gracious of the Inspector to share a community of readers drawn together by his excellent writing.

A little about me: my name is David Bratzer and I am a police officer from Canada. I have a strong interest in drug policy reform which I pursue off-duty as a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is an international organization of 13,000 current and former law enforcement officers who seek to minimize death, disease, crime and addiction by gradually legalizing and regulating all drugs. I should clarify that my opinions are my own and they do not represent those of my police department. Also, I still enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act while on-duty (this is the act that criminalizes drug use in Canada). This might seem hypocritical - and often I do feel that way - but one can’t swear an oath to uphold the law and then pick and choose which laws to enforce.

The argument in favour of legalizing drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy is not that they are beneficial or fun. Instead, LEAP argues these drugs are so dangerous they need to be regulated and controlled by the government. Under prohibition, the government has no control. It is the drug dealer who chooses price, purity, cutting agents as well as business location and operating hours. And these dealers certainly are not asking minors for ID, nor are they encouraging their
customers to moderate or abstain from drug use.

After decades of heavy enforcement, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent and more available than ever before. By legalizing and regulating drugs, the British government could launch an economic war against organized crime by removing the profit motive from the black market.

Although legalization might seem like some kind of crazy utopian idea, it is actually a well researched crime control theory with broad support from across the political spectrum. This includes conservative organizations such as;

The Economist magazine as well as The UK Libertarian Party which promotes the “legalisation of all narcotic substances for adult consumption” as part of its platform.

LEAP has several representatives in the UK: Francis Wilkinson, retired Chief Constable from Gwent; Paul Whitehouse, former Chief Constable of Sussex; and James Duffy, a retired police inspector from Scotland. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation maintains a more complete list of officers who believe the current drug laws should be partially or fully abolished.

LEAP also offers stealth membership for those officers who are concerned about personal attacks and harassment if they go public with their views. You might have noticed that many of the names above are retired officers or senior police managers. Perhaps the readers of this blog can enlighten me: what are the laws and policies in the United Kingdom regarding police officers and free speech? What would happen if rank-and-file serving officers called for drug legalization as a public safety measure?

This is an important question because the War on Drugs has been a disaster for British police agencies. It is time for officers at all levels to acknowledge the significant damage done to the vital profession of policing through the enforcement of drug prohibition.

These consequences include diminished public respect, alienation from youth, recruiting difficulties, increased call loads, budget pressures, unfavourable case law, drug-related corruption and on-duty officer injuries and deaths.

Drug trafficking and drug use are consensual but harmful activities. Criminalizing these activities instead of regulating them results in gang violence, organized crime, property crime and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Police and the legal professions must examine crime control efforts with a critical eye, particularly in the area of drug policy because the time for change is long overdue.

What do you think? Should drugs be legalized and regulated?


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Saturday, 25 July 2009

An Inspector Speaks: MP's Slam Police for Being Racist

We've had Sierra Charlie Speaks and Plastic Fuzz Speaks (Plastic - please write more), the postings of whom were both very popular. I'm very honoured that these officers submitted postings to my blog and it's marvellous to share the perspectives of officers from different levels of the police. I've always wanted this blog to be an avenue to give the public an insight into the daily lives of police officers in the UK and to portray the 'human' face of the men and women behind the uniform. It's also been very beneficial for me to read the comments left by members of the public the majority of whom, contrary to media reports, are very supportive.

So I am extremely pleased to present this first posting written by another Inspector from another Force. I'm sure you'll agree, it represents a good portent of things to come from this officer should they decide to contribute regularly to this blog. Either way, for me at least, it's a breath of fresh air - expertly researched and well written. I can't say I'm surprised, their credentials are of the highest order. I have actually invited the Inspector to become a team member of this blog, with a view to eventually taking it over. I've written about and reaffirmed the reasons why I joined the police, shared some of the highs and lows of being a police officer, and have concluded with what it is to be a leader. I've pretty much said all I wanted to say. There are a couple of other things that have been on my mind which I may write about but this is, in essence, the beginning of my long goodbye. I hope the Inspector takes me up on the offer of continuing this blog.

I did read the report that the Inspector writes about below and, needless to say, I was absolutely incensed. There's a saying about people who live in glass houses not throwing stones which Keith Vaz should take heed of but, not wanting to steal the Inspector's thunder, I shall leave you to read and digest their posting.



Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz and his cronies have criticised the police. He says that despite the recommendations of the McPherson inquiry, we are stopping and searching too many black people and failing to recruit a proportionate number of ethnic minority officers. He went on to say that there is blatantly a disproportionate representation of particularly black people in the criminal justice system.

Before I comment further let’s look at the integrity and credentials of Mr Vaz.


Mr Vaz has claimed £75,500 for a flat in Westminster despite having a £1.15 million family home 12 miles away. In May 2007, just after the taxpayer had paid the Council Tax and Service charges of £3095 on his flat, he flipped his second home to another property in Leicester as he had rented out the flat. There was no mortgage on this ‘second’ home but he managed to claim £16,000 in expenses for it including; £480 on silk cushions, £2614 on a pair of leather arm chairs and £750 on new carpets. In May 2008 he flipped his second home back to the Westminster flat and started claiming mortgage and expenses on that again.

His family arrived in this country from Yemen in 1965. He received a good education and qualified and worked as a solicitor until elected to Parliament in 1987. His career has not been without controversy and how he has retained his position is questionable.

In 1989 he led a protest against Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, later stating there was no such thing as absolute freedom of speech. In the same year he suggested that an IRA bomb at the Leicester army recruiting office may have been planted by the British Army.

In 2000 he was investigated and subsequently censured following the Filkin report, which he refused to co-operate with. He owned five properties at this time. He was found to have accepted money from Sarosh Zaiwolla, whom he later recommended for a peerage.

In 2001 he was severely criticised for getting involved with the application for British citizenship from the Hinduja brothers who paid his wife’s company money for an event at the House of Commons.

In 2002 Mr Vaz was suspended from the House for one month for making false allegations against a former policewoman. I could go on but hopefully you get the picture.

The message I have for Mr Vaz is very simple. A disproportionate number of black people are stopped and searched and are in the criminal justice system because a disproportionate number of black people commit crime. I won't entertain any argument that they are predisposed to commit crime, only that they have been so alienated and let down by the government's failed social programs and promises that, for many, they have been given no avenues to do otherwise.

To suggest that there are more black people in the justice system because the police target black offenders and therefore ignore white offenders is an outrageous slur and a complete distortion of the truth. In Lambeth and Hackney for example, it is almost 100% groups of black youths committing robbery offences on black, white and Asian victims. The police target the offenders. We can’t lawfully search white people just to balance the books.

What Mr Vaz and his colleagues should be doing, instead of bleeding as much as they can from the expenses system and building property empires, is to look at why there are so many black people committing crime. What are Mr Vaz and the Government doing to ensure that immigrants to this country are not a danger to the public and are not gunning down policewomen on the streets of Nottingham? What is Mr Vaz and the Government doing about ensuring young black people get a proper education, are lifted out of poverty and despair and led away from a culture of gangs, drugs, unemployment and the criminal justice system?


When the levels of education among black people reach the national average the police will find it an awful lot easier to recruit, retain and promote them.

No organisation, public or private, has done more to promote equality and diversity than the police service. Many would say we have gone too far, but that is another story. Our prisons are overflowing and the Justice system cannot cope with the offenders we are putting into the system. So the offenders continue to offend and get caught in the incessant merry go round. That too is another story.

When you have done your job Mr Vaz, ours will be a lot easier and will appear fairer to your ignorance.

Don’t knock us for doing ours so well.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Leader

When I went to see the Utopian Analyst for his findings on my last post, he said to me, "Mr Hobbes, your posting raised more questions than it answered, not least for me. What I would like to know is what qualities a handsome, hunky and wind-swept officer such as you needs to possess in order to bring the best out of his officers?" After politely refusing his offer of a romantic meal together, I actually spent some time considering what qualities a good leader should have. Whilst I could not disagree with his observations that I am an extremely attractive man, I've never sat down and actually thought, "Am I a good leader? What do I need to do to inspire my officers to go that extra mile?" I've come to a conclusion of sorts below, but I'm not saying that I either personally possess or display these qualities. Maybe I should, maybe there are learning points within this post that I can take and apply to my team. Maybe the serving officers, retirees and public who commented on the last post can add more?

I did actually begin thinking about this last week, when I read of the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thornloe in Afghanistan. What struck me about this was not that questions were asked why a commanding officer should have been at the front-line in the first place, but that he was commended by all for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his men, experiencing what they experience. Defence analysts said it was vital for such a high ranking officer to be with his troops taking the same risks. Chris Keeble, an officer during The Falklands Conflict, further said, "We lead from the front. The death of a commanding officer is no less or more of a tragedy than the death of a private soldier." Are you already thinking that these are the kind of men that you would follow? I am.


Already, it is apparent that a good leader should - at times - be visible when routine is the norm, but be a constant presence when an incident is critical. I literally like to take a back seat for most of the tour rather than patrol alone. I'll sit in one of the vehicles with the PC's when nothing much is happening. It's not so I can keep an eye on them, but rather to see what they have to deal with and to get to know them a bit better. If a Critical Incident does come up, that's when I take control. I'll make the decisions and explain later, there's not always time when responding to an urgent development. If the need arises and I'm present when the danger is increased, then I'll be the first to deal with it ahead of my PC's. It's not that I doubt their ability, but if my decision to react increases the danger, then I'll be the one to take the brunt of it.

I initially caused a bit of a stir with the Sergeants when I joined my response team. I told them that on the occasions when there are two of them available to patrol, that I don't want to see them patrolling together. I want to see them either in separate vehicles or patrolling with PC's. I would also wander through the custody suite at two in the morning, and if there were no prisoners, I'd get one of the Sergeants out to patrol and supervise. The PC's don't have the luxury of taking it easy when nothing much is going on. They still have to patrol, be proactive, and show a visible presence. Why shouldn't a Sergeant do the same? "Lead by example" are the words of advice I always give and live by.

So, I'll be the first through the door at the beginning of the tour to prepare my team, and I'll be the last to leave at its conclusion. If my officers are unable to take refreshment breaks due to the volume of calls we receive, then I won't have a break either and will go and answer calls also. I know some of my peers say I shouldn't do this. They say I should be there to maintain an overview. I disagree. Hog Day Afternoon, one of the most enjoyable blogs I read, provided me with an example that highlights my own personal view.



General Bill Slim, when leading a retreat through Burma during the war, came across his men lying in a jungle clearing. They were in a bad way, clearly demoralised. Then he saw why. He saw his officers making themselves a bivouac. They got this aspect of leadership wrong, in my view at least. They may have thought they were setting an example to the men that, even though they were equally exhausted, they were demonstrating that extra fortitude to build proper protection for themselves from the elements. What they should have done, I would argue, was to go amongst the men and to assist them in building their bivouacs, leaving their own until last.

As General Slim commented, "Officers are there to lead. I tell you therefore, as officers, you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done those things. If you do this for them, they will follow you until the end of the world". For General Slim, discipline begins with the leader and spreads downwards. Genuine teamwork begins when everyone does more than is required of them. He quotes Napoleon Bonaparte, who said, "There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers".

Okay, so I'm not a soldier or a general. However, if you look at your own bosses in any sphere of work you've undertaken, you should be able to see which qualities from the above that they possessed. They either inspired you to work harder, or you determined to do as little as possible to help them achieve their goals. I've worked for both types. I think I've learned from it.
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