Call by tory for police to wear body cameras

In light of #plebgate tory stalwart David Davies calls for all officers to be issued with body cams.
I will be clear on any conflict of interest over Mr Davies – never met him, but after his media attacks labelling us all liars, I have grown to dislike him.

So what if officers were issued body cameras?  I have long thought this a good idea. Attend a domestic,  or public order job, and it could be highly useful.

But I am close to changing my mind. Davies says it will make police more honest and (my opinion)  he thinks we are all liars, and therefore there will be fewer complaints.

So why would I think that this is a bad idea?  for a start who will wear it?

‘ front line officers ‘
Fine for the response bobby,  but what about the CID or crime team detectives that deal with serious criminals,  or victims? If you call the police do you want a camera recording everything you say? 

‘when will it be used? ‘

What will the instructions be for use? If this equipment was issued in a non political manner, we could just use it on patrol. Davies would have it available for complaints and ipcc – so will I be disciplined for  switching it off while in the loo?  or with a vulnerable victim?  
I can sense that instead of helping to avoid vexatious complaints,  if these cameras are politically issued then they will actually increase complaints.

How do I evidence that?
Let’s start with civil liberties – in the UK these groups are extremely vocal and powerful ( liberty etc). There would be an uproar. And some of our ‘customers’ would probably demand we switch it off and actually cause or provoke incidents by their use. Think of those TV series where they go ‘ get that camera away from me.’

The next, and more worrying issue,  
Is that of complaints. Going back to when do we wear this gear?  if I switch it off,  go to the toilet, but get a 999 call.. Maybe forget to switch it back on. Will I be stitched up by ipcc?  or perhaps I moan to my colleague about having to attend the same address and people for the 5th time that shift?  I might deal with it perfectly,  but if they got wind of me moaning about them,  will I be disciplined?  it’s a private comment after all. What about MY civil liberties?  surely I have some?

I will leave you with this – the fed officers who met with Andrew Mitchell weren’t on patrol- and what about meetings between senior officers where big decisions are made?

Should they have cameras too? 

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It’s just the people crying out

At the risk of being a bit nostalgic, I downloaded an old album I used to own back in the 80’s (just) – Streetfighting years by Simple Minds.  There’s a song on there that just hit a nerve with me, its called  Soul crying out 

This album came out in 1989. I have been noticing some trends recently at work, and in my personal life that take me right back there. So why blog about it ?

As austerity bites, I have been shocked at how many people I see day to day who are absolutely in the gutter. I’m not talking sowetto poor, but its a disgrace of our age.

I’m not even talking about our criminal friends – I’ve noticed perfectly decent people, who have been victims of crime, say they have had property damaged or stolen – they are beside themselves as they cant afford to replace things. There has been a sharp spike in first time shoplifters too – normally honest folk who have become so desperate that they have had to steal food. Yes, food. Not luxury goods.

The connection to the song I’ve linked to is this – its a protest song, from a protest album. Soul Crying out is about the introduction of the famous ‘poll tax’ and how it hit the poor the hardest. As a teenager in work, I was hammered by the poll tax. I lived at home and suddenly my guardian went from paying rates to the poll tax (an increase) and just to make it fair, they taxed me the same amount as well. Our household outgoings doubled overnight.

When you earn £50 a week thats not a slap in the face, its a hammer blow.

There was no recourse, no appeal, no internet to gather support, nothing. Some went on to riot in London – All I had was a little salvation in my music. Despite working all my life, I’ve never had a well paid job. As a police Sgt I finally managed to push my earnings up a bit, however even that has now been slashed to bits thanks to the ‘independent’ Winsor report on policing.

I have pointed out huge similarities between the 80’s and now – People are poor again, savage cuts to all public sector jobs and services.  Privatisation, Belfast in flames, the world concerned over Mandela, the hot/cold weather, Hillsborough, The miners strike, teachers strikes over pay and pensions.

There is a stunningly chilling lyric on the song ;

‘I feel them coming
So close behind
Sister says, we’re next in line
The man he says, that’s OK
And the Government says you’re gonna pay, pay, pay
And you pay
Still you pay’

All around me I see people struggling with the bedroom tax, and cuts to benefits, the cost of living  – its heartbreaking, but familiar. I last felt it in 1989.

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What do you want from me?

In light of this past weeks events in Woolwich I find myself wondering what the public actually want from the police.
I’m questioning my faith. Not the religious kind, the kind that comes with my vocation. Or job as I’m calling it at the moment.
The reason for this is due, in the most part from seeing and hearing some great work from the officers who took down those two terrorists – who had just brutally murdered a young squaddie named Lee Rigby.
So why am I upset ?
It took less than two days for the first anti police story to emerge. It’s like a competition with these journalists, I really wonder if the last three years of the government led ‘run down the police with negative stories’ has undermined us so much that we have lost the ability to police with consent.

Others have blogged about this more eloquently than me, but Keith Vaz has been slated for asking why the first police officers at the scene didn’t immediately intervene, leaving a few women in the area with the murderers. Vaz has, on the whole, been a moderate supporter of the police, and in fact he was one of a rare few who bothered to turn up to debate the issue of our pension theft. I hesitate to have a go at him over his comments in the press.

The gradual breaking down of the police from a force into a service, while at the same time society has changed from (mostly) respecting each other and the law, to one where even those with a reasonable position in society regularly refuse to accept authority, has led to widespread abuse towards regular officers and the undermining of the rule of law.

Now there’s always someone who thinks they can do better. I am sick and tired of being blamed for Hillsborough, or Orgreave. I was a teenager then, so blame it on those who actually dealt with it.

So how did I come to be a police officer? Apart from wanting a better life for my family, I thought I could walk the walk – not talk the talk. I have mostly been proved right. I make mistakes but none have been fatal and to err is human.

I have even had students, the same age as my own kids, tell me they pay my wages while making unreasonable demands. They are unreasonable because it’s the law you idiots. And while I’m on, if you are a student you don’t pay anyone’s wages.

So we have seen society become an aggressive, vocal, selfish reflection of itself without consequence. At the risk of being profound, the police are the conscience of that society.

Dozens of armchair experts pick over everything we do and think they could do better.

So, we now live in a world where it could sometimes be rightly assumed that the police have become risk averse. For fear of being sued, castigated, disciplined, named in the press, sacked and above all jailed, we are now frightened to jump in and deal with some things. But when you arrive at an incident such as woolwich, it is simply common sense to stay alive- we can’t help anyone dead. I also feel sure that had these crazed madmen started on the public then the officers would have stepped in, risk or not.
As it was the incident was subjective- they had time to watch, listen, and call for what assistance was required.

I saw the CCTV – it took around 1-2 seconds for that guy to close down the ARV that moved in. An unarmed officer would be dead.

So – I think it’s time for a choice.
Do you want a hard hitting old fashioned police force that get stuck in, and to hell with the consequences ?
Or we continue down the road with the ‘touchy feely’ approach that in my view some people (and most criminals) take the piss out of..

So what do you want from me?

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‘10,000 Serious violent offences’ dealt with by community resolution ? Not on my watch !

Headlines today from the BBC that 10,000 serious violent offences have been dealt with by Community Resolution. Really ?

The guidelines are they are to be used for low level, minor crime such as theft, or assault without injury. Over on twitter the trolls have already resumed slagging off the police – Labour have blamed it on budget cuts – rubbish. Its up to the officers how they deal with incidents.

BBC correspondent Danny Shaw says 2000 domestic violence cases have been resolved informally last year – Not on my shift they weren’t. I have NEVER authorised a DV being dealt with by community resolution.

One twitterer has commented that perhaps police are persuading victims not to go to court, but any officer will tell you we spend so much time actually trying to get victims into court not the other way round!

I will deal with the non DV cases first..

Actual bodily harm (ABH) – sounds serious, but under the national crime recording standards it can simple be ‘reddening of the skin’ or anything up to black eyes, or a chipped tooth. Serious ? depends on the circumstances. If two schoolboys fall out, and one hits the other that could be ABH. But why criminalise decent people who make a mistake without a lasting consequence? Take the same incident, but this time the culprit has been arrested for this before, and this time he picks up a piece of wood and uses it to hit the victim in a pre-meditated attack. The same injury is caused, so whats the difference ?

In the first scenario, that could be open to a community resolution, as its all about the gravity factors. The offender is sorry, its a one off, they will make amends. They also wont be prevented from getting a good job via a CRB check in the future because of something they did as a child.

In the second scenario, thats more serious intent, and I would never deal with it by comm res – a charge or a caution (if over 18) would follow. In other words it fits the crime, and thats what this is all about.

To issue a community resolution there much be sufficient evidence to charge, it cannot be used where victims refuse to prosecute. In my experience its usually first time shop theft, or minor damage to property that get the comm res. Its not about figures, the crime is still recorded and will lie ‘undetected’ by using a comm res to settle it. Surely if police were obsessed with figures they wouldn’t use it at all ?

Domestic violence cases

At any one time on my work station there are several wanted persons, most of whom are for DV related offences. Although the crimes are relatively minor (Criminal damage, common assault without injury etc) the level of investigation is comparable to a serious crime investigation. The DV element puts it into a category whereby several levels of police supervisors get involved and drive the case forwards.

The reason ? most murders result from DV households, and begin with these low level offences. But why do some of these offenders receive cautions ?

The answer is surprisingly simple – DV by its very nature is an emotive issue for those victims whose partners have abused them – they fear them, but love them, or they hate the police as they’ve been raised that way. They still call us though when needed. Either way they dont want to go to court, or get their partners arrested. Sometimes there will be evidence that the crime has occurred, and the offender has admitted to it. Perhaps its their first arrest. The victim wont prosecute, so what do we do ?

For non DV cases the law says police CANNOT issue a caution when there is insufficient evidence to charge. DV is a legal exception – in order to save lives and get offenders into the ‘system’ a caution is allowed – it will be for at least 5 years and will effectively be a criminal record that will show up on a CRB check. Try getting a job with a DV caution !

My main points are to beware the sensationalist headlines – I have NEVER issued , authorised or even heard of a community resolution being issued for a genuine serious offence – come on BBC just ask those who do the work and we will tell you.

If you rely on basic figures then thats just plain wrong.

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A Right to remain silent ? Cumbria PCC decides not to speak out. A first for a politician..

Cumbria PCC involved in expenses row – arrests made !

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-staff-arrested-following-leaked-details-of-cumbria-pccs-expenses-8577438.html

While this may not be the first headline on the news, there is a real public interest in this story that has been splashed in all the major (and even local) press.

Cumbria PCC Richard Rhodes used a chauffeur service to attend two evening functions. The cost to the taxpayer was around £300 per trip.
Quite why he needed a Mercedes E class I don’t know. And that’s the point – a spokesperson has said this was done for ‘personal safety reasons’ but they and the PCC have declined further comment.

The lack of comment is astonishing. I for one am now wondering if this was just a jolly out with a few drinks with a posh taxi on the taxpayer. It’s highly likely that it was official ‘business’ but now tongues are wagging.

Worse than that, two Cumbria police staff have been arrested for whistle blowing, presumably by leaking the cost to a newspaper. This is the part that makes me angry as public sector whistle blowing is being encouraged at the minute, even by Rhodes own party due to the Staffordshire NHS scandal.
Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to extend to the police.
A third person has now been arrested on suspicion of perverting justice today and a search warrant executed.

Mr Rhodes will not say if he had involvement in, or knowledge of the arrests (in fairness I don’t think any operational senior officer would allow that but he may have applied pressure in his position) – again the silence is deafening and allows speculation to mount.

Interestingly he has paid back the expense of these trips out of his own pocket. Does anyone see where I’m going with this ? When MP’ s were found out fiddling expenses they simply called it oversight, or blamed clerical errors. Some said they had done no wrong but paid it back anyway. I think it’s fair to say that most MP’ s couldn’t be prosecuted due to parliamentary privilege. Mr Rhodes is not protected by any such legislation.

I have nothing against a PCC having a vehicle to conduct their business. I certainly don’t think it needs to be a gas guzzling expensive car with a driver supplied.

I will not sit on the fence on PCC’ s – I hate the idea of a politician interfering in the police, but I accept they exist and expect them to have the same, if not higher expectations of integrity than police officers due to the power they yield.

Now, as long as those arrested have not profited out of their whistle blowing or tried to remove an elected official from office then I seriously doubt whether it is in the public interest to prosecute them.

With regards to the paying back of the expenses – if no wrong had been done then why pay it back ? If a thief steals and later pays it back he still committed theft to begin with. That’s the law. I’m not labelling the PCC a crook – my point is its the perception of the action.
If I had been in that situation I would have charged the public purse what I thought was a reasonable sum and perhaps settled the difference myself. Mr Rhodes could even have just claimed the whole amount and just said it cost too much so they stopped it.

By paying it all back and staying silent it has left him open to criticism from people like me, but more importantly he risks being cast adrift by the few people who bothered to vote for him in the first place.

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Mothers of the Disappeared

ACPO announced this week that plans are afoot to change the way Police deal with missing persons. Story from BBC

For those of us in the police, missing people take up a huge amount of time and resources. We don’t actually mind looking for people – we are rather good at finding them- but the public should know how these things are dealt with and why so much time is wasted. Nothing I am writing here is not publicly available and I am going to add an officers perspective so hopefully you will leave here with slightly more knowledge than when you arrived.

When a person goes missing they are ‘risk assessed’ by a police supervisor (me) into Low/Medium/High risk.
Low means that we may not actively look for them as there are no concerns for their welfare.
Medium means we have some concerns – maybe some info they are self harmers, or they are under 18 and deemed ‘at risk’.
High– well these are taken from a lowly Sgt and a high ranking officer will take control and throw everything at finding that person. This is usually an imminent threat to life.

I have tried to list below the types of people reported missing, and how we react to them.
I will whizz through what happens with these for the non police readers :

1. Children living at home with family:
This is when children go out to play , or have gone to a friends house and haven’t come back on time. Usually children get an automatic ‘medium’ risk due to their age. These are not usually really young- 12 to 16 is the norm. Most are found nearby or come back when police are filling in the HUGE form for a missing person.

2. Toddlers who wander off from an adult :
– straight to high risk this one- all units attend, dog section, silver command the lot. Everyone wants to find the child quickly. Good news is they are usually found within a few minutes close by.

3. Adults who threaten self harm
– mixed bag this: mostly they are regular callers with mental health issues. Usually medium risk unless it an imminent threat. Lots of attention seeking is a common theme. You get people who have had a falling out with their partners and say they are going to kill themselves, but have actually gone to cool off or to the pub. We take these very seriously though – sometimes they do mean it and need to be found fast. These take up considerable staff hours even for the attention seekers.

4. Adults who inexplicably go missing
– these can be a worry too, however it’s often that 19-25 year old (usually female sorry) has not returned from a night out. I’ve never had one yet who suffered foul play and I will leave it to you to imagine what they were doing overnight.
Also though this includes normal people who simply ‘disappear’ and have never done so before. These are the ones to worry about. Occasionally good people breakdown and go off to somewhere scenic to end it all, or maybe just to think. Many turn high risk if they’ve left notes saying goodbye etc.

5. Mental health inpatients
– mental health wards have to allow sectioned people some rights, one of which I must have missed that says you can leave a secure unit to smoke. They then wander off and staff cannot get hands on with them – and call police. This has been going on for eons and nothing ever gets done about it.

6. Hospital patients
– these are not secure wards, and sometimes people leave in their gowns with a canula stuck in their veins. Or need urgent treatment. Rather cynically I have found most of these to be criminals who absolutely will not listen to anyone in authority be it doctors or police. They can go high risk but are usually found at home drinking where they left off. There is the odd confused patient who wanders off, but generally found close by.

7. Elderly people
– same as with little kids- high risk , and mostly they are dementia sufferers or confused by illness. We pull out all the stops to find them, and usually do. Sadly they sometimes come to harm due to their vulnerable condition and I have known a handful die as a result.

8. Children in local authority care
– this is the reason for the blog post. Every authority has to provide care for children who are at risk or vulnerable. You will find a home in every town. For some reason known only to the council and to god, they house young offenders with vulnerable victims of abuse in the same homes ( not the victims actual abuser) what happens here is astonishing. All these children have curfews, and most of them don’t come back by the required time. The home call the police and report them missing.

What’s wrong with that you say? It’s the job of the police to find missing children!

– No, children are the responsibility of their parents, or if in care it’s the local authority staff who have that role to play. If your child (aged 12-16) didn’t come home on time what would you do ? A parent would ring them up, call their friends, go to their mates houses, visit the local park etc. all the things a good concerned parent should do. If you still can’t find them you call the police.

So what happens within the homes? I have many years experience in attending care homes and I like the staff , but the first thing that happens is they get the child’s file out. They will tell you the child is vulnerable and the reason why police have to look for them. Fair enough. The next bit will be familiar to all police officers

‘So what have you done to find them ?’ I ask
We’ve rung their mobile, but they told me to F-off’
‘Ok, what else have you done, have you been to look for them?’
‘Cant do that, there needs to be 2 of us here minimum as we can’t be alone with the children as they make allegations all the time’
( I have a fair bit of sympathy with that one)
-there are always just 2 staff on, they seem to run on minimum strength all the time.

Children’s homes also have something I call ‘the one way lock’.
This is the front door of the home – it’s secure, with a buzzer entry system. Even police can’t enter without staff coming to let them in.

‘So how did he get out ?’
‘Oh we can’t stop them, not allowed to touch them’
‘So they just walk out?’
‘Yes, but we call you guys straight away’
That’s ok then.

It’s worth now pointing out that under the current system (change pending) all these kids are medium risk straight away, due to age and being vulnerable by nature. That means we have to actively look for them. The massive form has to be filled in, and at least one officer will spend sometimes a whole 10 hour shift looking for them, and checking addresses etc.
sometimes they return same night, often it takes 2 or 3 days. Multiply all the police hours per shift doing research. We will often have to have officers on other areas check addresses too, so they join the hunt.

And what happens quite often is that the child themselves will dial 999 from wherever they’ve been to get a lift home when they need fed or to sleep. That is what ACPO mean by us being a taxi service. The home often call telling us where the child is, and again say they can’t collect them as they can’t leave the care home.

Under the new rules certain missing people won’t be investigated unless there’s a risk involved. I disagree with NSPCC when they say it will mean these kids will be left open to grooming and exploitation – if they had better care in the first place that would minimise the risk and just maybe they wouldn’t go missing in the first place.

If children escaped from police custody it would be a national scandal – how it hasn’t been up to now mother only knows.

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#cardsforcops

A fairly short blog this one – from a conversation I had with someone like minded I had a (small) idea about how officers can make their feelings known to Government, around how much we have lost financially since their ‘reforms’.

This year, at the annual Police Federation conference, instead of heckling the Home Secretary, how about the audience hold up display cards that contain info on how much that officer has lost in £ due to the winsor review. This can also be pensions, and how its affected you, or an average etc.

This comes on the back of my previous post ‘I cant believe its not better’ where I make an attempt at outlining how tough things are for us at the minute, with pay cuts and the cost of living etc

Last year, the media portrayed those officers who heckled TM as thuggish, and outside of our circle we didn’t come out well. We gained little public sympathy.

So lets play the one real card we haven’t played yet – the human aspect – we all have families, homes,mortgages, and a lower life expectancy than most upon retirement. I say we highlight those facts. The Fed could run a parallel campaign (twitter, or however you like ) with posts from officers around the UK with snippets of how we have been affected.

After all, if MP’s can secretly poll for a £20k pay rise, and have their pension rise deferred, then why cant we use the same methods ?

 

I would also suggest that we use the hashtag #cardsforcops on Twitter.

 

I am genuinely trying to help the fed here – if they like the idea, then I hope they use it. After all I am anon…!

 

 

 

 

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