Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cyber Police

This story appeared in a number of the national newspapers and caught my eye. A school liaison officer in Reading has engaged a 'volunteer teenager' to scour Facebook for bullying and inappropriate remarks and this could end up with the 'offenders' being sent a warning or possibly arrested. My best guess would be this officer wants to make a name for himself for some reason. I think we have better things to do.

I recall about 8 years ago one of my officers received a complaint as he declined to deal with some silly remarks on a website, I forget the name of the site but something just prior to Facebook. I went to see the complainant, who wanted the police to go and speak to a boy who was making stupid remarks about his son. They were both about 13 and at the same school. Real juvenile stuff. I suggested that he go and speak to the boys parents. He didn't want to do this as he was unsure as to what response he would get. I suggested he tried and if he got a poor response we would reconsider. No, he wanted the police to do it. I declined and ended up with a complaint too.

You will see from the article that Reading police alone receive about 240 complaints a year of online harassment or abuse on Facebook. Nationally, obviously, it is thousands of crimes. All of these have to be recorded and investigated or we will be castigated by the National Audit Office (This QUANGO is soon to be scrapped.) Add to this all the thousands of 'crimes' we have to record because of threatening and abusive e-mails and texts (that the underclass, largely, cannot avoid sending to each other) and you will understand that we are spending thousands of hours dealing with petty juvenile abuse that is inappropriate for the police and courts.

I do understand that bullying and harassment can have very tragic consequences and persistent and serious cases will still have to be dealt with by the police. I think the Government as part of the 'Big Society' needs to review whole areas of work that the police have had to take on because of shortcomings elsewhere and unrealistic expectations. There should be a clear expectation that individuals, the websites, parents and schools deal with this sort of low level antisocial behaviour and the police focus on real offenders.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Colin Hatch RIP?

I guess like many people, when I heard of the death today of the murderer and child abuser Colin Hatch, I thought bloody good riddance. If you don't know what crimes this disgusting man was responsible for have a look at this.

I have no doubt that there will be an inquiry regarding how another inmate managed to murder him in a Yorkshire prison. I do understand that there is a duty of care towards all prisoners. Prisons cannot be allowed to become institutions where inmates kill or maim others as they see fit. Where will it end?

In the case of Hatch, I just hope they don't spend too much on an inquiry. There will be very few mourning his demise.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

ACPO and the APA

I recently wrote about ACPO regarding their handling of covert operations. I suggested that perhaps it was time their cozy funding arrangements with the Home Office and the Association of Police Authorities came to an end and we said goodbye to ACPO.

Police Authorities throughout the country are looking to save money and funding to ACPO is under review by many. ACPO is now fighting for its survival. Many Police Authorities believe that ACPO has grown too large and should be subject to the same cuts that Forces have been subjected to.

Incidentally, over the last decade or so, Police Authorities have grown large secretariats, employed chief executives etc. And members expenses are not insignificant, resulting in large increases in the running costs of Police Authorities, paid for out of the police precept. While police forces are struggling to find 20% savings on their budgets, my Authority has no plans to save anything from its own budget. I suspect other Authorities are the same.

Maybe we should welcome the new Police Commisioners in 2012 after all.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Civilian (Police Staff) Redundancies

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been very critical of my force for the way they have managed the overall budget. Instead of focusing on front line resources, we have invested millions of pounds on spin doctors and backroom departments whose role is to convince the public we are doing a good job. In reality we have reduced the number of front line officers significantly and we con the public. For example, we have police staff whose role is to telephone the victims of crime and try and convince them we have done all we can to detect their crime. The reality is, we have done little or nothing to do so.

A year ago the force attempted to balance its budget by cutting the number of police managers. Inspectors were reduced by 30%. Chief Inspectors by 50% as were Chief Superintendent posts, reduced from 8 to 4. At the time there was little support to retain the managers other than from the mangers themselves. The senior management found it very easy to convince the public, Police Authority, councillors etc that reducing the number of senior managers was cutting fat and we could survive quite easily without these expensive resources. The reality is that officers on the ground are not being directed, supervised and supported properly. This will have adverse long term effects on the training and development officers and a risk of negative cultural issues arising. Interestingly, we reduced to 4 Chief Superintendents as planned, but have since increased to 6, including one who is acting up from Superintendent. Two of them have  been given project type jobs to do until we can find them something else to do or they find themselves a job as an Assistant Chief Constable.

Another part of the grand plan was to reduce the number of police buildings. We were to sell expensive old police stations and have officers working from shops and surgery's. To date we have not sold one police building.

The Comprehensive Spending Review has meant further cuts and the force has now had to cut its police staff propaganda machine. 43 police staff  managers are being made redundant. Other police managers are having their roles redefined and they are having to reapply for roles with slightly different job descriptions and lower grades and salaries.

I feel very sorry for the police staff who are losing their jobs. I know many of them and they are good people who thought they had lifetime careers with the force. They have mortgages, families etc, and the consequences for some are quite dreadful. I blame the senior management who introduced these roles in the first place when they were unnecessary. The sad truth is that when all these latest redundancies have been completed over the next few months, front line officers will not even notice. They will hope that there will be less intrusion and bureaucracy being imposed upon them. We live in hope!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Have we lost the plot?

You're Fired!

Like all police forces, ours has become a model of political correctness. Sadly, it appears that you are more likely to get promoted for reporting a colleague for inappropriate behaviour than for being an effective police officer. How does an officer tick the box and give an example of how they have dealt with an colleagues inappropriate behaviour if they are just getting on with the job and arresting offenders?

Last week an officer faced a gross misconduct hearing for inappropriate behaviour and was sacked. I have reflected on this ever since and I feel very strongly that the officer was dealt with too harshly. Am I right or am I just an old dinosaur out of touch with the world of today?

The circumstances are very simple. A young male officer walks into a police building and sees a young female officer, who he knows, but has not seen for some time. She is on her mobile phone and facing away from him. He walks up behind her and taps her bottom with his toe. She turns around and he waves and says hello and then carries on so as not to interrupt her phone call. She believes that he patted her bottom with his hand but he has always insisted it was his toe. She cannot be sure. She reports the incident.

I fully accept that what the officer did was unacceptable and that he was wrong to do it. But did he deserve to be sacked? I feel the right course of action would have been to give a formal written warning. Then, if he was stupid enough to repeat similar behaviour, of course he must go.

I would be glad to hear the views of other officers and particularly members of the public. Am I, or are the PC police out of touch with the real world?