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


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.