Wednesday, March 22, 2006

PCSO - Every Little Helps!

Plenty of my fellow bloggers are speaking about PCSO's lately (Lights, Sirens, Action and The Monkey) and in particular the government's plans to introduce another 10,000 of them.

When PCSO's were first mentioned, the public were assured that they were not "policing on the cheap", but just a dynamic, pro-active, re-active hyperwhatsisface way of dealing with modern crime. Yeah right...

They ARE policing on the cheap - theres no argument there, and most of the PCSO's that I know acknowledge this happily with us. However, that doesn't mean they are a bad idea: like most things, there are the positive and negatives to PCSO patrol. On the positive side, they do the job they are employed to do very well, they are excellent for hi-visibility public policing, they reassure the public by showing more police officers on the street. They know all the faces of the local criminals, and submit the neatest encounter forms you've ever seen!

The main problem with PCSO's is the fact that they have no actual powers. This means two things 1) The government pays them less than they would an officer, as they are "non-confrontational" and 2) If a PCSO actually spots something happening which can't be dealt with by a smile and a stop, they call for a police officer to join them.

Thus, you regularly get the following problem. All ten response officers on duty are tied up with their shoplifters, domestics, drunks etc, with no units available. All ten PCSO's are wandering about the town centre. Two PCSOs spot an assault in progress, shout up over the radio - and theres no one to turn out. Two more find a well known criminal, and shout up that they think an officer might be needed to search said youth (on what grounds you'll never know until you get there!). Two more are approached by someone reporting a crime - can we have an officer here too?

PCSO's look good on paper, and as I said before, do what they are paid to do very well. Its just unfortunate that a side effect of their actions is to stretch out a response shift which went well past snapping point two hours into the shift. Whats the solution to this? More police officers would be a start. Unfortunately, thats unlikely as the budget just got blown on 10,000 more PCSO's - who will also all be calling for more officers to deal with the job they've found...

In summary - PCSO's would be a tremendous benefit to the police, IF we had enough actual officers first. Unfortunately, we don;t have enough police, and so the governments solution to this is hire more PCSO's, as you can get more of them for your money.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Channel Four-go a fair hearing...

Thanks to The Policeman's Blog for this one. If you've already seen footage of Olufemi Ijeeboude's arrest, then the rest of this post won't work for you. But if you haven't, I urge you to take part in the following test for me. Hell, try it even if you've seen it.

Switch off your speakers first, and then click on the link above and watch the news footage without sound. Watch it carefully. Decide what you think happened. Now rewind it, turn the sound back on and watch it again. Did it change your mind?

I'm not going to say much about this, other than the following: thanks to Channel 4 for destoying any chance of a fair and just hearing for that officer. What you have done ensures that if he WAS guilty of anything, he'll worm his way out through being 'misrepresented by the press'. If he was innocent, he'll forever bear the weight of 'guilt by public declaration.'

I don't know the full facts of this case, so I choose not to comment on the case itself. I wish Channel 4 had shown the same common sense.

What I will say is that Mr Ijeeboude's quote of "Theres an offence in this country which is not on the statute books. Its driving whilst black" really, really pisses me off.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where do we go from here?

Interesting time on the blogging front recently. I, like the officer at Yor Nicked! have had an email from the bbc, as I would presume has every police blogger! For me, anonymity is key, so when I'm asked if I'm willing to be contacted I have to say that I don't live up to my pseudoname - I'm a mouse, not a man!

With all the doom and gloom settling about, I wanted to lighten the atmosphere a little and tell some of the funny stories that I've encountered. Of course, that would sort of blow the anonymity I spoke about out the water! I'm still going to post a story though, but this has never happened to me. Its a police 'urban legend' - every officer knows someone who knows someone who this has happened to. Whether it ever really has is another question... In the spirit of the urban legend though, I'll write it as the story of a friend.

Its a little known fact that a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher is a tool of many uses. One of its less documented uses is the fact that if you fire it into the face of a dog, the fear from the sound combined with the dog taking a breath means that you will have one instantly unconcious dog. Now, I'm not advocating animal cruelty, so please don't try this! The reason I mention it is simply for the story...

You see, my friend was a relatively new officer, who was off on one of his first drugs warrants. The house had some fairly specfic intelligence, which had resulted in the van of 8 officers being fully kitted out in riot kit, shields ready to go. The house they were attacking had two entrances - front and rear. The front was a UPVC door, bolted, and with a cage behind it. The rear seemed more vulnerable on paper - a wooden door, with seemingly no cage behind it. The plan was therefore formulated to enter through the back.
On arrival though, there was a problem. In the rear yard of the premises there was a huge Rottweiler, a particulary savage looking beast which gave the impression that anything entering the yard would quickly be eviscerated. Not wanting to slink off back to the police station, a plan was quickly formulated. On the riot van was a CO2 fire extinguisher, and one of the older officers suggested that this could be used to knock out the dog. He assured his fellow officers that he had seen an extinguisher used in the past, and they worked really well. One lucky officer could be armed with this, and be designated to take out the dog whilst everyone else ran for the door. With the dog out of play, the warrant could then be executed.
My friend, as the youngest in service was suitably volunteered to take the extinguisher. Young and keen, he didn't want to show any fear, so took it with relish. The rear gate was put in, and my mate was first through it. As the officers ran for the door, he ran towards the Rotty ushering a war cry. His fellow officers stared aghast at him as he raised the extinguisher to face the dog, and smashed it down onto the dogs head, promptly knocking it out cold.

Whilst everyone else couldn't help but pause, my mate turned to them and said "You're right, it does work well!"

Monday, March 06, 2006

Its what everybodys talking about

Police blogs are dropping like flies. Internal investigation committees are being set up, and mass emails sent to police to warn them of the dangers of blogging. Thats what I've heard anyway...

On a serious note, I can understand why senior management don't like blogs. It is very, very rare that a blog expresses their agreement with an 'official policy', and sings the praises of what a good job the police are doing. On the whole, blogs are used to rant and rave about them. With these 'anti-policy' views being thrown about, its no wonder they are slightly perturbed. However, going around threatening blogs is not the best way to deal with this!

Have any of you ever wondered why we write blogs? Why we spend our own free time putting our thoughts down on virtual paper, for all to see? The simple reason is because no matter how much we talk at work, no one is listening. There are NO forums for ordinary police officers to stand up and say "Thats good on paper, but THIS is what happens on the street". We can't knock on your doors and say "We've tried this policy, and I know it makes you look good to the public, but its causing more problems for us, because of THIS". There really isn't any way for us to do this.

We can't speak to our supervisors about the problems that policy causes - well to be more accurate, we could but it won't help. Sergeants are just as annoyed at most of them as us, and could only pass them to the inspectors. Inspectors are too busy managing all of the teams and policies, and might pass them to the Superintendants. The Superintendants are 1) Too busy playing buzzword bingo at the latest meeting and 2) Too far removed from the ordinary officer on the street to understand the problems brought to them.

Blogging is our only way to vent our frustration, and yes, we do want the public to know how frustrated we are (and WHY we are frustrated) because all that senior management teams care about is the view they give to the public. I honestly believe that senior management teams don't actually care anymore about catching criminals or solving crimes, which is what every officer joined to do. They only care about getting that extra detection, making those statistics look a little better, putting one more high visibility jacket (doesn't matter if its an officer or a PCSO) out onto the street so that the public will see them.

I could be wrong. Perhaps I have badly misjudged you. Its possible - I've never met you. I've never seen you. I've only read your blanket emails, seen your name at the bottom of every new policy. If I am wrong, and you truly do care, give us a proper chance to speak.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Well golly!

The Magistrates Blog has reported on this little gem from the news. A shopkeeper in Bromyard, Herefordshire who was displaying Gollywogs in his window had then removed by the police after a complaint from a member of the public that they were racist. They were later given back after the CPS advised NFA.

Initially when I heard this story on the news, I thought "Dammit, another case of political correctness taken way too far, which will only get the public more against us". However, I've been forced to reassess this viewpoint. Firstly, most of the comments on The Magistrates site seem to suggest that they do find the Gollywogs offensive, and were glad they were removed. No one was suggesting that the shopkeeper was delibrately seeking to offend, but hey, he wasn't charged - sensibly.

In the end, I have to concede that perhaps here, political correctness did have a part to play. A complaint was made, and sensible action taken - the offending articles removed and the shopkeeper advised. If a complaint hadn't been made, I'm sure no action would have been taken.

Its therefore unfortunate that because political correctness is often taken too far (still no arrests from those cartoon demonstrations?), its often always assumed that its a bad thing. Its not. Political correctness is needed, but its also needed to be sensibly applied.

Which is exactly why I've pointed out that in this circumstance, I agree with the action taken, but have also referred to the Gollywogs as "Gollywogs", and not "Gollys".