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


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


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