Monday 28 March 2011

TUC March - Who is Responsible?

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens

Like many police officers, I felt angry and frustrated that a few hundred extremist idiots were allowed to run amok in London last Saturday almost with impunity. I live in hope that evidence gatherers will be able to identify at least some of these cretins and they may yet be brought to justice. That is of course justice as we now have it in this namby pamby, arty farty, airy fairy apology for a justice system. Remember the lad arrested following one of the student fees protests for throwing a petrol bomb? He got a 12 month referral order, a.k.a. a slap on the wrist and an occasional chat with a youth offending team worker. But, is it strategically acceptable to stand by and allow premises to be destroyed and people injured and then try and pick the offenders up later? I think not.

Having thought about the violence further, I thought surely the management could not have got it that wrong? The intelligence was there, the officers were there, we just didn't have the strategy and tactics in place to deal with a small minority of people intent on just causing trouble and injuring officers. Forget the latest offers from Theresa May about new policing powers. The powers are there. All these idiots could have been searched and photographed and even turned away from the area if that is what was needed. Forget also the talk about all the arrests made. The vast majority of arrests were made at Fortnum and Masons. The protesters there were pretty soft targets. Hardly any of the real violent thugs got arrested.

The person responsible for public order policing in the Met is Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens. Lynne is a high flyer and potentially the first female Met Commissioner. She is nobodies fool. So what was the plan that day? If Lynne is going to get that job then she cannot afford to mess up in a big way.

Was the plan to take a softly softly approach because of the criticisms over kettling and risk what took place? Or was the plan to let the extremists run riot and smash up business, banking premises etc. Perhaps that will wake a few people up to what will happen if the police are not there to protect them. Was Lynne thinking about our future pay and pensions?

Saturday 19 March 2011

Smiley Culture - Murdered by the Met?

A slightly risky subject, but here goes. Firstly, my sympathy to Smiley's family for the loss of their son/brother/father. Whatever he may or may not have done, no decent person would have wished harm on him.

The story reminded me of a drugs raid I was on many, many years ago. I was young, naive and inexperienced. Instead of handcuffing the suspect, I let them wander around. We were conversing while other colleagues were searching the house and all seemed well. The next thing I know they have managed to grab a knife and are slashing at their wrists. Fortunately, I managed to get the situation under control without serious injury to the suspect or harm to my colleagues. A short time later we found a substantial quantity of Ecstasy. The suspect knew we were going to find it and that he was going to go to prison for a few years. He was an addict himself and decided that he didn't want to go to prison and attempted suicide. I was fortunate. The suspect was white. He wasn't seriously injured and I was able to learn a lesson from this experience without it being taken further..

Smiley Culture had a couple of minor hits in the 80's. He has led a lifestyle since that begs some questions. He claimed to have made money investing in third world gold and diamond mining. In September 2010 he was charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and was due in Court for trial on the 21st March 2011.

I don't know what further evidence the Met had to execute a search warrant at Smileys £1million house on the 15th March, but a magistrate was obviously satisfied there were grounds to do so. An hour and a half after the Met arrived at his address, the officers allowed Smiley to go to the kitchen to make some tea. In the kitchen he took a knife and stuck it in his chest, piercing his heart.

The family don't believe this and are calling for a public inquiry into his death. I have no doubt that the Met are not responsible for his death. I feel sorry for the officers involved in this search. They are going to be dragged through the mill with an investigation by the IPCC and at the inquest by legally aided barristers, representing the family. All sorts of nonsense, with no basis, will be alleged. I hope they get through it unscathed.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Working with Partners

I get a call to help out. In the front office of the police station we have a young mother, a Social Worker and a lady from a women's hostel. The young mother and her boyfriend have had a row and he has taken their 13 month old daughter to his mothers address nearby and says he is keeping her. They want the police to go and seize the child and hand her to the mother.

I ask some pertinent questions. I am nice and polite and want to create a good impression with these partners. The lady from the hostel is rude and ignorant. She clearly hates men and loathes the police, so I have no chance. The Social Worker is polite but naive in the extreme.

I explain that we have no power to just go and seize this child. The lady from the hostel has the simple view that the child belongs with its mother and no man is fit to be looking after her. Clearly not been on the police Diversity Course. Perhaps we could offer her a space and build relationships?

I know the lad who is the father. He has been in a bit of trouble but he is not bad and I know I can talk to him. I tell them that the Social Worker and I will go and visit dad, while mum and hostel lady can park up nearby and we will see how we get on. I go to the door with the Social Worker, it is answered by the lad. The Social Worker immediately says. " We've come to take Kylie (not real name) away." The lad says. "You can fuck off." And slams the door shut. I suggest to the Social Worker that perhaps that was not the best opening line. I will speak to the lad alone. I knock again, get invited in, The lad is their with his mum. The child is fine and being well looked after. After a cup of tea and a chat he agrees that he cannot look after the child. He has work in the morning and it would be best to hand her over to her mother. I call Social Worker in and child is taken to mum. Sorted. Hostel lady is still scowling.

I quite like working with partners generally, but many of them are ignorant, useless, bigoted and rude. If I behaved like that I have no doubt they would make an official complaint about me. The police tend to accept this behaviour from partners as if we are in some way deserving of it. I didn't complain about these people. Perhaps I should have?

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Winsor Report - Police Shafted!

Watch your backs, you are about to get shafted!

Well, the long awaited report is out and I have been disturbed to read that some of my colleagues think it is OK. This Government has been working the media like a puppet and putting out the most outrageously false and malicious examples of police pay and allowances to gain public and media support. Officers should not be duped by this. The media have concentrated on the financial stuff and it is true that officers might have been even worse off financially, but 40% of officers will lose around £3000, or more, a year and ALL officers will be worse off taking account of the recommended cuts, a two year pay freeze, increased pension contributions and inflation. On top of this, the pension review is yet to come and it is looking more and more likely that as well as a 3% increase in pension contributions, the benefits will be considerably reduced. There is talk of pensions being paid on the average of your whole career rather than final salary and that you may not be able to actually get your pension until aged 65.

The most worrying of the Winsor recommendations do not involve salary or allowances, but will effect officers futures dramatically. These include redundancy, expansion of Pension Regulation A19, on call and changes to shifts. I have summarised some of the key recommendations below with my personal notes on how this may effect officers in the future. Believe me we are being shafted!

Recommendation 2. Officers working between 2000 and 0600 will receive an extra 10% on pay only for those hours. (This extra pay is not pensionable. This is less than CRTP which is pensionable. Therefore less pension.)

5. The Chief Constable should only have to consult the Police Federation on shift patterns and not have to obtain agreement as they do now. (This would effectively mean Chief Officers would be able to impose any shift pattern they wish.)

6. Overtime currently incurred on a normal shift and currently paid at time and a third to be paid at flat rate. No minimum four hours, just the time you work and travelling time. (So, if you are on call and have to take a call to give firearms advice etc. You get paid 30 minutes? More about on call later.)

7. Overtime paid for rest days less than 15 all to be paid at time and a half. No double time for less than 5.

8. Officers to be paid double time for Christmas Day and seven other days of their choice. ( So no automatic payment for all Bank Holidays. This is a reduction as some years there are 11 Bank Holidays.)

11. Mutual Aid, officers to be paid only for time worked and travelling time.

12. Officers retained overnight on mutual aid etc. have to be provided with a single room and en suite. If not, they can claim £30 overnight allowance. (This is a huge change to the Hertfordshire agreement, where officers were paid 8 hours for sub standard accommodation.)

13. Officers held on reserve to be paid an on call allowance of £15. (So you hang around all day waiting for a call to go to work and all the restrictions that means for £15?)

15. No appeal to the Secretary of State for officers with business interests. (This may cause difficulties as more and more officers seek second jobs to pay the bills.)

25. Chief Officer bonus scheme to be suspended for two years. (Just so you know they are suffering too, but their £100K plus should see them through.)

26. Chief Superintendents to continue to receive posting allowance taking account of responsibilities.

27. Superintendents bonus scheme suspended for two years.

28. Higher basic pay for Metropolitan Inspectors and Chief Inspectors to be retained in the short term. (So I guess after the Olympics, don't be surprised if you are reduced to the country bumpkin levels of pay.)

29. CRTP abolished as of 31 August 2011. (This was an additional pensionable allowance for those at the top of their pay scale.) Also, there are to be no incremental pay rises for two years. (So, a two year pay freeze and no increments or CRTP to help out.

31. Team Awards of between £50 and £100 p.a. for good work.

32. ACPO and the Police Federation to establish a working group to establish a series of new National Policing Awards. (Sounds like one of these American style bashes where we all try and big each other up  and forget the real world of unpaid bills.

33. Abolish SPP's as of 31st August 2011. (For some officers in my Force this means a loss of £6800!)

34. Introduce an interim Expertise and Professional Accreditation reward of £1200 per annum. (The examples in the report show it being paid to Neighbourhood Officers, Accredited detectives and PSU officers. It partly compensates some for loss of SPP but is also clearly designed as the start of a plan of pay differentials between officers performing different functions. If you move to another function you lose it and it is not pensionable.)

42. Regional Allowances to remain in the short term. (Again, I strongly suspect that after the Olympics this will be reviewed.)

43. The replacement to housing allowance will be frozen as of 31 August 2011. (Inflation will erode this allowance and again reduce officers standard of living.)

44. A national on call allowance to be introduced of £15 per day, after the officer has completed 12 days of on call. (This has major implications. At present, on call is voluntary. The introduction of the allowance may make it mandatory for all officers. It appears that you will have to do 12 days of on call for nothing each year and then only get paid from the 13th. The payment is derisory for the inconvenience of being held in reserve for a day or being woken up at 0400.)

48. Maternity pay will increase from 13 to 18 weeks. (Good, but this just puts us in line with other organisations.)

52-54 All relate to unsatisfactory performance and the suggestion that there should be a cross border cadre of ACC level experts to deal with UPP. (This tells you that the organisation wants to get a lot tougher and more professional on UPP so that they can deal more effectively with it.)

57. Expand the use of Pension Regulation A19 so that it can be used for service critical skills and performance. ( This is very worrying and would effectively mean that once you reach pensionable service you can be dispensed with for almost any reason.)

58. As soon as possible, voluntary exit terms for police officers should be implemented as per the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. (Buried almost at the rear of the report is this huge change to police officers status as officers of the crown. If implemented, this recommendation will mean that officers can be made redundant. In an organisation that Chief Officers reorganise every five minutes this is a huge risk to officers. You find your department amalgamated or moved and instead of a move to another station you could be facing redundancy.)

Sorry this is quite long, but I think it is worth airing. You can see the full report if you follow this link.

My condolences to all fellow officers, but this is going to be a difficult few years and everyone is going to have to tighten their belts. I only hope that the Police Federation can negate some of these recommendations and do their utmost to ensure officers standards of living are maintained. When the Fed ask for action, officers must support them.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Police Pay and Conditions

Well, next week we will see what the Winsor report has to say and recommend regarding police pay and conditions. We can have a good guess as to what might be coming after Theresa May this week announced that the police must expect cuts in pay.

It has already been announced that there will be a freeze on pay for the next two years. The cuts will almost certainly come in the form of cuts in overtime and allowances and an increase in pension contributions. It has been leaked that there will be a recommendation for an increase in pension contributions from 11% t 14%. The press are forever slating the public sector and particularly the police for their pensions. No mention that we pay through the nose for it. Currently 11%, I don't know of any other organisation that pays anything like that.

It also seems likely that allowances such as housing allowance, South East and Met allowance and Special Priority Payments will be cut or abolished. I won't explain all of these but suffice to say if they are abolished and pension contributions are increased officers could lose up to £6000 a year.

Finally, it seems likely that overtime payments will be cut. Forget what you have heard in the tabloid press. General overtime is paid at time and a third, cancelled rest days less than 15 days are paid at time and a half and cancelled rest days and bank holidays are paid at double time. For the inconvenience to officers private lives this is fair. Too much overtime is paid because of managers lack of planning. If officers private lives can be mucked around with almost no penalty to the organisation then poor planning will be encouraged and officers private lives put in even more turmoil. This will have devastating effects on morale and productivity.

I don't expect any sympathy with regard to this subject. I would merely like to state (as have other police bloggers) that the risks around this are that we will go back to the 1970's, pre the Edmund Davies review of police pay and conditions. Like MP's jobs, there will always be candidates for the role of constable, but the quality will be very poor as it was in the 70's.  The consequences partly led  to the riots of the early 80's. And when the next lot of protests regarding student loans and cuts takes place, don't be surprised if there is a shortage of police. When officers get a phone call at home and are expected to drop everything and go to work with no recompense, they won't answer the phone or will say sorry, been drinking cannot help.

It should also be remembered that the police by law cannot take industrial action and to incite it is a criminal offence. The police deserve to be treated with respect and rewarded for this restriction on their working conditions. It appears that the Government, having only recently suggested they would give us the right to take industrial action, have decided that they will continue to withhold that right but have no regard to it when considering pay and conditions. I wonder what would happen if every firearms officer who voluntarily holds a weapon protecting Prime Ministers, Home Secretary's and Royalty, handed in their weapons and left them to it?

Thursday 3 March 2011

Corruption Update

Last year I ran this story regarding senior management corruption. Two senior officers had been given exemptions from fines and points by other senior officers. They were given exemptions as they claimed to be attending important meetings and were on call in case of serious incidents.

Truth was they were not attending meetings, but my question was; even if they had been, why on earth were they exempted? Is it common practice for senior police officers to exempt others from driving offences for such frivolous reasons? The two officers went to court but were acquitted. Why they weren't disciplined remains a mystery, until perhaps now.

I have it from a very good source that when the officers made a request to view undisclosed material some startling facts were uncovered. During the investigation the Force had obtained the full banking details of at least one officer and two other persons, linked to him, but not employed by the Force. It had also obtained full details of telephone usage by the officers.

So, it would appear that the Force decided to go on an unlawful fishing trip to see if they could dig up any other dirt on these officers. The DCC, having told people he was going to personally see to it that the officers were disciplined and sacked, appears to have had to back down and let them have their jobs back or face being sued, with all the embarrasment that would have brought to him and the Force.