Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cough it up

The editor over at Cough the Lot recently put in a post complaining about the lack of action over a local drunk he has had to arrest a number of times recently. He comments on how this particular 'gentleman' has breached his bail conditions 15 times, and yet every time he is only released with the same conditions again.

The editors says "I am ignorant of the ways of the court but would somebody please explain to me how this lunatic can regularly break the law on a weekly, sometimes daily basis and still be allowed free?"

Well, I would have replied on the site, in the comments, but theres some silly system meaning I'd have to register somewhere and then log in first, so I couldn;t be bothered with that ;)

The answers a simple one. People who have absolutely no regard for the law, justice or (more importantly) prison cannot be dealt with by our systems. The worst penalty we can impose is prison. If this is something which you have absolutely no regard for, treating prison in the way the honest member of public may treat going to work, theres nothing our justice system can ever do to stop you. This is noticed, recognised and so eventually the justice system gives up, as why bother filling the prisons with people like this? Please don't bring up the sensible reason of 'protecting the public', it'll only be swept under the carpet.

The message the courts seem to send out to me is "Oh, sod it. Prison doesn't work on you because you don't care about it, just ignore him and lets move on. He'll only be back tomorrow anyway, let the magistrates tomorrow deal with him."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The honest answers

Lennie Briscoe recently had a post in which he posted some quotes from his boss, asking questions and commenting about the police. I'd decided to answer all of these as honestly as I can to aid him, and any others with the same problems.

1.If we [the police] spent less time hiding in bushes with speed cameras then we would catch more criminals"
Ok, at our station we have (counts in head, this many shifts, this many on each shift adds up...) about 130 frontline officers. I'm not counting any "police officers" who are not frontline. About 10 of these are traffic officers. These are the only ones allowed to play with the speed laser guns. From what I can tell, they set up speed traps approximately once every two to three months. Could we really spend less time?

2."If we [the police] didn't spend so much time putting up speed cameras to catch the law abiding we could catch more criminals"
We (the police) don't put up the speed cameras. Perhaps some high up Chief Constable somewhere has some say in the matter, based on government suggestions, but the standard police officer has absolutely nothing to do with them and hate them as much as you do.

3. "Do you know that when PC Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered, a caller on a radio program told listeners that he refused to cooperate with police asking for information on her killer because he no longer trusted the police and didn’t care to help”
No, I didn't know that. But I'd put my entire mortgage on the fact that the caller didn't trust the police because he was a criminal that had been caught by them. And I'd place that bet at odds of 1/1000 if you offered them.

4. “Tony Martin the farmer who shot the burglar should be awarded a medal”
Some police officers would agree with you. We are bound to act as is the law. If you want the law changed, complain about the government. It currently says you cannot shoot someone who is running away from you after burgling your property. Therefore we can't just ignore someone doing this, whatever our personal feelings on the matter.

5. “The hit and run driver who recently killed a medical student and only owned up after the media publish photos of her deceased body 8 months later got 18 months. This isn’t justice.”
I agree. I've done a fuller post about driving problems like this, but in this particular case my personal feeling are to agree wholeheartedly with you. I may have felt slightly differently if he had stopped to try and save her. Slightly.

6. “The current socialist government [Labour] don’t understand that when the prisons are full, we need more prisons not shorter sentences or more community punishments.”
You are 100% smack on the money. Completely right. Absolutely, and you won't find a single police officer who will say to you "No, prisons not the answer". We are out of space now, and yes, it may take three years to build more prisons - but we'll still be out of space in three years.

7. “Why do some police drive round in BMW 5 series?”
Because they are part of a smaller, highly funded department (firearms, traffic) and are the envy of every frontline officer driving about in his 1.0d Austin Rover.

8. “The public simply do not trust the police any more”
If that is true its a shame. However, some of the police no longer trust the public either. Honesty and good manners are not a part of todays society, and the police can't be blamed for that.

Why we don't use common sense

In response to a post of mine, anonymous* said "It is time that the Police stopped taking these frivilous complaints seriously, they should start using common sence."

Here a story of how things could have gone...

CMOP - Concerned member of public
CSupt - Chief Superintendant
Sgt - Sarge
PC - PC Sense, our hero

(Phone rings in PC Sense's office)
CMOP: Hi I'd like to register a complaint. I've seen a gollywog in a shop window. I think they are racist and I want to complain.
PC Sense: Hmm, its only a toy - are you sure you want to complain?
CMOP: Yes. I find them racist
PC Sense: Ok, I'll create a log about this, but theres really nothing that we can do about this. They are only toys after all, and I am investigating 3 assaults, 1 domestic and an harassment at the moment.
CMOP: (Hangs up)

(Approximately 30 minutes later)
Sgt: PC Sense? We've had a complaint about you. Apparently you refused to take a complaint of racial abuse earlier.
PC Sense: (laughing) What, the gollywogs?

(stunned silence settles in the busy office)
Sgt: What? What did you just say?
PC Sense: (scared now) I was just asking if it was about the gollywogs...
Sgt: (leaning over, stern, all eyes in office now looking on in horror) The TERM, Pc SENSE, is GOLLY.
PC Sense: Sorry sarge.
Sgt: Why didn't you crime this matter. Are you racist Sense?
PC Sense: No sarge! But, lets use common sense sarge, theres no real offences there!
Sgt: (shouting) Common sense! Common sense?! This is the LAW boy, under home office counting rules if someone tells you about a crime you have no choice but to crime it! NO CHOICE! (calming down) Ok, I can't get you out of this one, I'll have to put a report in to the CSupt.

(Approx 30 mins later, in the CSupt's office)

CSupt: SO PC Sense, I have here a serious complaint from a CMOP and your Sgt of racist corruption. What do you have to say in your defence?
PC Sense: Erm, aren't I allowed a fed rep with me?
CSupt: Aha! So you are a racist! Why else would you want one?
PC Sense: No, no! Um, I don't want one I've done nothing wrong.
CSupt: You didn't crime it.
PC Sense: Ok, so _technically_ I did that wrong, but I was only using common sense.
CSupt: You do what the home office tells you to!
PC Sense: But I only didn;t crime it because if I crimed it we'd have to investigate.
CSupt: Nonsense, the home office only says we must crime the offences, the choice of the investigation we undertake is ours.
PC Sense: But sir, a racially aggravated section 5 is a racist violence offence, and so we'd be forced to investigate and detect it to stop our figures looking bad, regardless of what was obviously the right way to deal with it, which in this case would have just been to inform the shopkeeper about it and leave it with them. We'd be forced to find an offender and either charge or caution them to get the detection. Theres no CHANCE we'd be allowed not to investigate it.
CSupt: ...

Headlines next day: Racist Police Officer fired!

* Ok, seriously guys, can no one think up a funny pseudo name? I'm getting so bloody bored with all these anonymous's!

Death Penalties?

The Magistrates Blog has written recently regarding penalties given to drivers who, through little other than simple bad driving have ended up causing the death of someone else. In most of these cases quoted, drink was not an issue, nor was malice - it was simply a mistake, that cost someone the ultimate price.

So what of the sentences? Lennie Briscoe, the very well written special constable felt that 2 years for the driver mentioned was too lenient. You can see his point of view - through that womans actions she caused the death of 3 children and one adult. It was entirely her fault for chosing to drive the way she did.

But is she inherently bad? Is she a criminal? (Forget for a second the technicality that she has been sentence for a criminal offence, you know what I mean) Shes never going to appear on police briefing systems as 'Most Wanted'. Prior to her accident, police weren't desparately looking for her car as her driving was bad enough to kill.

The simple fact here is that cars kill. They are lethal weapons, and people are given access to them with very little training (3 months average for what, 60 years at the wheel?). You can pass a test in a 1.0 diesel Mini Metro, and instantly have the right to jump into a 3.0 litre Subaru Impreza. You only have to demonstrate adherence to the laws for a 30 minute test with an instructor before you develop your own driving style.

The average driver sucks. They really do. The first thing I realised when I took my police driving courses was quite how bad I was at driving - and I thought before then that I had been pretty good. The only way to actually prevent these sorts of fatal road collisions is for everyone to drive as you would be taught to on an advanced driving course - unfortunately thats never going to happen.

I always remember something I was once told - the best deterrent to speeding would be to outlaw seatbelts and put a large spike on the middle of the steering wheel. People would drive a bit more carefully then. I am almost tempted to suggest that if someone is found to be at fault for two road traffic collisions, they lose their licence automatically for s short period (3 months), and have to take an extended retest including an advanced driving course. Hell, charge em for it - the government can made it self financing like most of the road penalties!

To come back to my original point, I don't know where I stand on the sentence of 2 years for the driver in question. Anyone taking our lives by any other means would be looking at five to ten times that amount, but simply because the average driver is a danger behind the wheel, people have sympathy for them.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Copper's eye view

I saw the news recently highlighting the use of a new piece of equipment for the police - a 'head camera' which an officer wears on his head, which will then record images and sounds from his perspective. The news item hihglighted how useful it was in a domestic violence case, with some convincing clips also. We've been told about this camera at our station also, and a couple of them have been bought. There has been mixed views from my colleagues. Some are whole heartedly for them (promotion chasers), some are to busy to care either way (front-line officers), and a small minority hate the idea of them (better remember not to swear at your customers!).

Personally, my view is that they are a good bit of kit. I don't like the idea of them being permanently on, without being able to switch them off, otherwise for an entire 10 hour shift no one will talk to me, leaving me alone to wander about in silence! I wouldn't particularly want to wear one - but thats only because I think it'll make me look like a tit! Mind you, I have the same feeling about the ridiculous design of our police custodian helmets, and I have to wear them. :)