Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hacking, Working with Probation and Supervision

I've gone out of my way this week to talk to people about the phone hacking issue. It is clear to me that the general populous are thoroughly bored with the subject. There is an acceptance that this has happened, the politicos are trying to score points, millions will be wasted on inquiries and little will change. The terrible events in Norway have now taken over the front pages and even Amy Winehouse shooting up her last dose of heroin is up there above the hacking story.

So moving on and back to the sharp end; this weekend my team were joined by a Probation Officer who wanted to come out on patrol with the police and see what it is like from our perspective. I like these attachments and hope that we can genuinely show partners what we have to deal with and that they will learn and take something back from this. There is always some trepidation, I still worry that an officer may say something stupid, but after two years of weeding out the idiots I am confident they will acquit themselves well.

After almost two nights with various officers I met the Probation Officer to have a chat about her experience. She told me that she had been surprised at how tolerant officers were. In the face of drunken abuse, threats and violence she felt that officers had shown remarkable restraint and maturity. She told me that whenever 'clients' had been arrested for drunk and disorderly or public order offences they always said that the arresting police officer had wound them up. This excuse is so commonplace that most Probation Officers accept that D & D and public order offences are actually caused by the police, hence no one ever gets recommended for any substantial penalty in the Probation Officers report. Worse still, Probation Officers when compiling their reports for any offence simply interview the 'client' who gives their account full of bullshit excuses and lies, which the Probation Officer's generally accept. So when the case comes to court the prosecution case is outlined and then the defence outline their case, which is supported by the Probation report. Two one to the defence and their story is accepted as the truth.

We hadn't finished our conversation when a neighbourhood officer called for assistance nearby. I attended with the Probation Officer. On arrival we find two neighbourhood officers, a drunken idiot and a gathering crowd all in a residential street. The drunken idiot is shouting at one of the officers. "Fuck off you bald cunt." The officer is trying to reason with him and to calm him down and send him home. The other is standing there like a lemon. After repeating the abuse twice more I told the officer to arrest him. "What for?" says the officer. He later told me that abusing a police officer was not an offence. I end up arresting the idiot before more embarrassment is caused. He wants to fight but he is drunk and he finds his face kissing the tarmac before he knows what is happening. The crowd are the residents of the street and not the usual drunken town centre morons. So instead of abuse and threats I got a cheer and a few claps from the residents who obviously thought it was about time someone did something.

Back at the police station I have a frank discussion with the Neighbourhood officers, including suggesting they might like to think about a change of career. I will speak to their supervisor, hope they are not equally useless, and tell them to put the officers on performance measures. I have one request for supervisors. Don't send useless officers to Neighbourhoods or CID. Deal with them and if they cannot be developed then get rid of them. In my Force Neighbourhoods have become infested with ineffective officers. We cannot afford to carry them. If we had good Neighbourhood officers our jobs would be so much easier. 

Update 24th July - I have just found out the officer who failed to make the arrest has not arrested anyone this year. How can an officer be out working the streets and not make an arrest for almost 7 months. I am going to be on his case from now.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


  1. Absolutely spot on.
    In my station there are so many officers that do the absolute minimum time on response,then scuttle off to safer neighbourhoods or some squad or other.
    I was chatting to a PC the other day who had six years service.( I work in the Met by the way).He had never attended a fatal RTA and had only once given evidence at Crown Court.He had been on a homebeat for 4 years after his probation.

  2. I am afraid this is not uncommon and I don't necessarily blame the officers concerned. I had a conversation with a publican not long ago who was amazed that he had seen a drunk push over a Police Officer in front of him and she just shrugged her shoulders and said there was nothing she could do. We were told that noone ever touches the cloth but " newer" attitudes within the organisation have impacted on our colleagues.Posters up within the station from complaints reminding us that we cannot be caused harrassment,alarm or distress according to the courts don't help. In a situation such as yours it is easy to forget that drunk and disorderly is still an offence or indeed that any number of the residents could have been upset.

  3. can you go more into examples of what useless officers are like nowadays? i am not a cop but I am curious

  4. I agree that some neighbourhood officers can be useless ineffective idiots.....but hey many of those make it up through the ranks in many other departments too. It's interesting though don't you think that the officers thought process was to think he couldn't be sworn at, but that comes down to experience doesn't it. Can't say I would have been so tolerant at being called the 'C' word in front of all the bystanders, like yourself he would of been on the deck and in the back of the van in a jiffy.
    The neighbourhood role can be so much more than most people think, depends on your style of policing and what you want to achieve 'A better area for your community' or 'A job where you can blend into the wall paper with minimal effort'
    Loving your blog......if I had the time it's such a good release and I could spend hours talking about the same things you blog!!!!

  5. @ anonymous 0234 and 0808 - the problem seems to me that we are recruiting nice middle class people who have no idea what policing really involves. I think they have this idea that they are going to be chasing criminals in cars and drinking tea with old ladies. When they arrest someone they will put there hands up and give up.

    The reality is that they spend much of their time on the street dealing with abusive youths, drunken idiots and threatening and violent criminals. Many young officers haven't got the gumption or wherewithal to deal with it. They hope their qualifications will get them promoted and behind a desk asap.

    So then we also have ineffective sergeants, inspectors and above who haven't got the balls to tell PC's looking for promotion or moves to neighbourhoods/CID etc. that they are not up to it.

    I worked as a cycle beat officer back in the 80's and I have worked in the 'new' neighbourhoods. It was a fantastic job. But when I did the role beat officers were the local sheriffs. You got to know everyone who mattered and yes you drank tea with old ladies and talked to schools but you got your respect in and out of the station by arresting villains on your patch. Many current neighourhood officers just go there to hide and are a public embarrassment.

    The officer outlined above has eight years service. If he doesn't know now that the offender was drunk and disorderly AND using threatening, abusive, insulting words and behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress (to the residents if no one else.) then there is little hope. The truth is he wanted to avoid an arrest at all costs because it might have involved him in a scuffle and he was due to finish in less than an hour and the paperwork would have taken three. But he did the paperwork anyway.

    Everyone on my team is expected to perform. If you don't perform you go on performance measures with a view to termination. And no one gets promoted or moved to another department unless they are performing well. Passing your problem on to someone else is failing in your duty.

    PS This is not a class issue. I am very middle class but. I like to think, streetwise and capable of arresting offenders.

  6. 'I am very middle class but...the problem seems to me that we are recruiting nice middle class people who have no idea what policing really involves.'

    Be novel and tolerate disagreement. The problem is recruitment of uneducated yobs. Take a random sample of blogging done by the likes of 200 and shijuro. Deplorable expressions in dreadful English are the hate tattoos of contemporary scruffs. Such dross have experienced early elimination in most other job interviews and even if it could be successfully argued that they will earn their pay and benefits, they will never have the trust and respect of the public majority, never.

  7. Judas H Priest Lex! this is a never ending saga. Nothing has changed. oh woe is me. I can write of stories like this until the superintendent comes out on patrol (as I suspect you and many others can). 20 years ago I had a `dressing down` chat with similar officers on the `neighbourhood team` who totally misread their role, primarily their understanding of the word `discretion`, interpreting it as `constantly turning a constant blind eye and arresting no one`. I explained that in my opinion, it was very good, nay vitally important, for the local community to see their local beat officer actually feeling collars and booking offenders. The deal, from my days as a beat officer (and beat officers sergeant)was that 1. I was not to be messed with but, 2, that I would respond to sound reasoning and devote a little extra time to longer term problems. Those who saw the beats as an easy path to doing naff-all were `encouraged and guided` into doing otherwise` until they got the message or couldn't stand me any longer. This paralysis has been creeping for years. Christ, how depressing to hear this.

  8. @ Anonymous 1127 - unsurprisingly, I will disagree with you. It is true that in the 70's the police recruited some (by no means all)officers of questionable quality. Police pay at the time was so appalling that you got some monkeys. Since then I think we have actually gone too far the other way. If more than 30% of recruits are graduates but less than 20% will ever make it beyond sergeant we haven't got the balance right.
    Of course police officers must have a reasonable education and that has become more important over the last 25 years as more and more legislation, accountability and demands are placed on the police. In my experience the best street coppers have been those that may not have an 'O' Level or GCSE to their name but they understand criminals and are not afraid to take them on.
    Being able to string a sentence together and putting evidence on paper is vital to the role. I can forgive a few gramatical errors and even the odd spelling mistake from a good street copper. I prefer reading reasonably presented prosecution files to nicely presented reports from officers trying to make a name for themselves in other ways.

    @ Hogday - and it will ever be thus until some senior leaders get a grip of this and start delivering the message. In the last two years I have sent three sergeants back from whence they came as PC's. I have gone to see their Inspectors and asked them what the hell they thought they were doing recommending these people. Two virtually admitted they were getting rid of a problem. The third genuinely thought the sergeant he sent me was very good and all her PDR's confirmed this. I pointed out a few issues such as her lack of arrests, reluctance to leave the station and her Facebook page which suggested she didn't like the job and couldn't wait to retire in 15 years!
    I think we have all got to challenge these people who make appalling recommendations and change their behaviour. We rightly moan about everything else that is wrong but we need to get our house in order.

  9. As a current neighbourhood officer or beat officer as I prefer for the last five I have said as above anon 02:34 once reading this blog when finishing a shift at two in the morning I do agree with many of the comments made as it is very obvious that you are in the job too...... some people see the neighbour role as an easy ride!!
    I still see that the beat officer role should be one where you make it your business to know all the local toe rags and know what's going on where a little mutual respect doesn't go unnoticed, it's funny how one minute they can be effing a geoffing on a Friday night outside the bars and clubs in front of all the younger officers or those with a degree straight out on university and then I walk along and funny enough they wind their neck in and close their traps. Let's be fair though I'm sure there aren't many coppers that don't look at the old watch close to the end of a shift and think 'No please not now'
    But that is the job we all signed up for ? and let us not forget it!! It's too easy to let an officer bumble along without a superior officer saying enough is enough after being put on reports and action plans time and time again........anyway rant over. Be safe!!

  10. See what you have done.....I have been inspired to create a blog 'not that I'll have time to keep it up to date though' formally anon 02:34 as above.

  11. It is above all a failure of the managerial class. Failures are promoted upwards and perpetuate failure exponentially through their management (lack of) techniques. I refuse to recommend anyone for promotion unless I think they can do the job. Sod what anyone else does or doesn't do.


  12. I completely disagree with the description of how probation reports to the courts are prepared... The reports should be a professional objective analysis of all information, assessing risk of reoffending and public protection issues and giving a clear recommendation to the court! These reports are not merely repeating the defendant's views as described in your piece above and I must admit being really perplexed and concerned if that was the impression that you was left with by your visiting probation officer...This is certainly something I would suggest you would want to flag up to her superiors as this is not an accurate account or reflection at all of what is entailed in interviewing and preparing a pre sentence report to the Court's!

  13. as a Probation Officer I have to disagree. in my area we have a great relationship with the police and back them up to the hilt. I know for a fact my collegues don't take what an offender says at face value. we don't call them clients BTW.