Sunday, February 26, 2006

A brief goodbye

Just a quick post to say goodbye to Brian's Brief Encounters. I've removed this site from my links, as he has retired from police orientated blogging, due to pressure from above. He never stated exactly what had been said to him, or by whom, but hinted that his supervision were aware of his blog and none too happy with it. Thanks for the past Brian, and hopefully one day you'll pick up where you left off. Until then, bye for now!

I'd also like to submit a missing person report for David Copperfield, owner/writer of The Coppers Blog. No new posts and no sign of life since February 9th, if I'd been sent to this job I'd be putting the door in. So, a general observations message for DC, please report any sightings!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Colour Blind

Random Acts of Reality is a paramedics blog, in which he recently writes about being accused of not helping a patient who was clearly faking, just 'because shes black'.

Reynolds, I wouldn't worry about it. Whenever I arrest a white person, I regularly get "You don't bovver arresting them asians/blacks though do you, they can do whatever they want." Whenever I arrest a coloured person, its very often "Only because I'm black". I used to get extremely irritated by it, and often used to try and explain the mistake to my prisoner. I've given up on it now though. The only thing you can assure on my shift, is that if you choose to say anything such as the above, you lose any chance of respect from us.

I'm not racist, and no one on my shift is racist. I've never seen anyone on my station acting in a racist manner. However, some people tend to justify the fact that they've just been arrested for stabbing someone in front of us with the obvious and clear fact that if they had been white/black/green we wouldn't have bothered.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A long time to arm the law...

This recent post from The Bow Street Runner shows another officer gunned down in the line of doing her duty. Doubtless it may get the 'Should we be armed' debate for frontline officers up and running again. For the argument, my stance on this is that I wouldn't actively lobby for a gun, but would take one without argument if they were offered, and would vote 'yes' on a referendum. I'd ask for a taser though, I honestly can't see why they aren't on our already overloaded kit belts.

In my force, the quickest I have ever heard a firearms unit be able to reach one of us without prior arrangement is 10 minutes. Thats a lot of time for someone to consider pulling a trigger or not. It's all very well asking us to 'risk-assess' everything carefully first, but you aren't always sent to the job with the clear information that the offender(s) may be armed. Sometimes you walk through the door, and thats the first time you see the gun. Sometimes you hear an alarm going off, get out of the car and thats the first time you see the gun. Sometimes its the last thing you'll see as well.

I doubt very much that this shooting will be the one that forces a change in British policing. No, I think that a good number more officers will need to be shot - hopefully not killed - before that happens.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CPS: Direct and to the point

I was going to leave it at just the one post for today, but I visited The Thin Blue Line, read about his nasty CPS experiences, and had to write this post.

For the uninitiated, the CPS are the Crown Prosecution Service. If you don't know what they do, either take a guess, or have a look at their official site. One bonus thing that the CPS now do, that changed about 2 years ago is that with most cases, they decide if it goes to court or not. This decision used to be made by the custody sergeant, but because those bad sergeants were sending a lot of guilty people to the courts who had REALLY good excuses which meant they would get off at court, someone decided to save loads of money by putting making the CPS decide what went to court, so they only had to work on the really really easy to prove cases.

What this means to the officer is that if a CPS lawyer should be available to them in between the hours of 9 to 5 - or actually, 10 - 4 (they go home early/come in late) and allowing for a lunch break (about 2 hours is about right). This lawyer can then give you a face to face consultation about your prisoner, in order to say "Let them go, we can't prove it" or "Charge them, but first bail them for a month or two so you can do loads of extra paperwork, just in case they plead not guilty".

However, if you are dealing with a bad prisoner who decided to commit crimes outside office hours, you have to ring up a lawyer on the telephone (CPS direct) for the same advice. The system should then work in exactly the same way. However, after a recent conversation, I have decided that the people on the telephone have decided that they do not like working outside the above office hours, and so have decided to punish the police for arresting people at these unsociable hours. See below a story that happened a while ago:

CPS Lawyer Bob - played by himself. The baddie. Boo!
ANM - A non mouse. Played by me. The goodie. Hurray!

(Phone rings)
CPS: CPS Direct, Bob speaking from the north. How can I help.
ANM: I need a pre charge decision on a prisoner for criminal damage please.
CPS: Ok, have you done an MG3? [form explaining the brief case]
ANM: Yes, would you like me to fax it?
CPS: Yes, but not yet. Have you got all statements?
ANM: Yes, no outstanding witnesses. I haven't done my arrest statement, but I didn't see anything, I merely arrested the offender so it will carry nothing of any real evidence. I'll obviously complete it for the court file.
CPS: Hmm. OK, you'll need to complete that before I can help you.
ANM: Seriously, it'll just be an arrest statement. Never knew the guy. He was pointed out to me by a witness who has been statemented. Arrested him. No reply after caution.
CPS: (Sighs) I'll need it before I give you advice. Let me just check everything else first. Any CCTV?
ANM: Yes. I've viewed it, copied it and produced some stills which I can also fax to you.
CPS: Ok ok. Do you have the offenders previous convictions?
ANM: Yes.
CPS: Is he cautionable?
ANM: No.
CPS: Does your custody sergeant think there are grounds to charge?
ANM: Yes.
CPS: Any reasons to deny the offender bail?
ANM: Yes. He's a persistent young offender, who has previous for offending on bail and failing to appear at court.
CPS: Ok. Have you done a ROTI?

CPS is basically asking me here whether I have sat down for around 2 hours with a tape of a half hour interview, typing all the important bits out so that he can see what was said

ANM: No I haven't - it was a no comment interview to every question.
CPS: Thats it. I'm fed up with police officers calling me when you haven't completed everything first. I'm not going any further. Call me back on this number WHEN you have everything correctly. Passes number
ANM: Erm... I haven't actually told you what the offence is yet...
CPS: (really ranting now) It doesn't matter! I'm not doing anything until you have completed your statement and your record of taped interview. Call me back when you've done your job.
ANM: But its a criminal damage where a known offender has been caught on very good quality CCTV, from two different angles and sources, writing on a phone box with a marker pen. Theres also two witnesses who know and observed the offender, the statement from BT complaining. The offender had the marker pen in his pocket when he was arrested. He's signed HIS name on the damn graffiti. He's gone 'No comment' simply because he always does, and hes already told me over a coffee that he'll be pleading guilty at court as its a 'nothing offence' which he won't get much for. I've put all this on the MG3. Are you seriously saying you still want a roti for this job?
CPS: Yes. I don’t care what the circumstances of the offence are, thats not the point.
ANM: Surely it should be the major point.
CPS: Its not. Call me when you've done it properly.

CPS hangs up the phone on me.

The story has a happy ending, as I called up again, managed to get a different lawyer who was much more cheerful, and happily authorised the charge and remand of my prisoner, with just a quick overnight file. He plead guilty, got some fine or community sentence (I never bothered checking), and I never heard from anyone about the case again.

Special Cases

Firstly, apologies for the time since last posting - I've been on a bit of a break, but I'm back now.

I've been thinking about this post for a while, and apologise to Lennie Briscoe for not answering his query in one of my earlier comments before. I made a comment that basically said "Most policeman moan endlessly if crewed with a special." Lennie, being a special (and from reading his blog, a very competent one) quite rightly felt a little put out by the comment. I'll start off by mentioning that (from my humble experience) it is true. Most police officers I know don't like being paired with a special. It is not the case for all of us though. I don't mind being paired with a special at all, but I also quite like tutoring probationary constables, so maybe I am better suited to it.

So why don't most of us like working with specials? Well, the normal reasons given all tend to boil down to a lack of training. Specials (in my force definitely) are given very little training - I believe it is near to two weekends worth - before being handed CS, a baton, a warrant card and sent out into the world to try them all out. A new special is not going to be in any position at all to assist you in a matter unless you have explained to them what they need to do, and with the workload thrust upon response officers, many don't want to spend that extra bit of time breaking everything down and explaining things. Which is understandable.

So why don't those officers moan about being paired with probationers? They need everything 'explaining' just as much? True, but the thing about a probationer is that they will normally only be paired with experience tutors for a while, who won't mind training them on the job. After that, you know that the probationer is still going to come in the next day, and practice their new skills again, and again, until you don't need to re-teach them. Specials can have a long wait between shifts, meaning they simply don't get the same chances to practice and hone their skills.

Theres one further problem as well. Specials are not paid. They give up their own free time to do the job; they are keen. Very keen. Most of them will shout up for every job going - but they aren't the ones who will get the paperwork that goes with it. Not for them the long, extensive follow up enquiries. No, thats for their partner of the day.

As always, the above isn't true for everyone. There are specials I know who are actually better than some regular officers, but on the whole... I dunno. I can only speak from my own experience, and as its not fair to judge every special in England on the ones that come to my nick, I'll not draw any certain conclusions. My own personal opinion of specials is that I have no problem with them, I don't mind working with them, and they can be useful if used correctly, and not just sent straight out to wander the streets, on their first shift, with no supervision.

I have once spoken to a respected member of society (vague enough for you? ;) Hope so!) who thought that specials should quite simply not exist. Their argument was why allow members of the public with very little training access to a firearm (CS), a deadly weapon (baton), and put them into a situation where they could get attacked, insulted, shouted at and generally hurt, paying them nothing and expect them to act 100% professionally. The arguement that 'we need the extra numbers they provide us' didn't cut it with him, as his reply to that was "Hire more police then. If the specials really want to help the community, why not swear them in as those community officers. No police powers, non confrontational, but still helpful to society as a whole, and less risky for everyone."