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Posts Tagged ‘Diary of an On Call Girl’

…is all over the airwaves at the moment, in the wake of a serious case review (after which lessons will no doubt be learned, gold standard best practice adopted, and many new and more complex forms introduced).

I’ve just been listening to Sir Peter Fahy squirming on BBC 5 Live as Victoria Derbyshire asked him over and over again how it was that his officers failed to take seriously those complaints which were made.

It’s a very good question, and one I’d be asking were my daughters involved.

Of course, my daughters wouldn’t be involved, because I know where they are and who they are with at all times, as – doubtless – do any parents reading this. That is the point, really. Yes, there were other factors, but young teenage girls cannot be abused (systematically) by anyone if their parents or carers (most of the victims having been in care) know where they are, and who they are with.

But as The Guardian says,

There was a lack of strategies to respond to frequent “runaways”, which allowed them to return to their abusers.

‘Frequent runaways’ is a bit throwaway, isn’t it? I can think of at least one simple ‘strategy’ for stopping kids from ‘frequently’ running away, which is, don’t let them. Unfortunately, for reasons not unconnected to lawyers and other experts, it seems it’s not that easy.

But what is the relevance of this to our books? Well, a number of them have explained frequent runaways and the problems they cause.

In Wasting Police Time, PC David Copperfield defines ‘MISPER Enquiries’ as:

Enquiries into missing persons – usually kids who have run away from care homes or school to play in the amusement arcades and drink cider in the park.

But why don’t the care home staff or teachers bar the door? PC Bloggs (Diary of an On-Call Girl, criminally under-rated) explains why in this story of a missing child:

I AM STILL in custody, waiting for Will to find me, when the radio pipes up once more.

‘Could you attend the Benucci Foundation. Colin Roach has gone missing again.’

The Benucci Foundation is a Care Home, providing twenty-four hour supervision of troubled under-16s, and the name of Colin Roach is more familiar to me than my own. He goes for a jaunt two or three times a week, and the staff at the home do little to prevent it.

One of the rules of the twenty–four hour supervision is that it is the police’s responsibility to keep track of the youngsters who live under it. Thus, when a Missing Person is reported, a police officer will be dispatched to the relevant home, where a five-page description and Risk Assessment will be completed. This is actually the most crucial part of the whole process, as without knowing whether the Person is classified as High, Medium or Low Risk we are unable to determine which rank of officer will be fired if they are found dead.

Luckily, we are proficient at finding them alive. Not only do we have the ability to telephone their family members and ask if they’ve seen them, but we’re also good at driving to their favourite haunts or texting them on their mobiles to ask them where they are.

These skills take many years to master and should not be attempted by civilians.

Most Missing Persons are regulars. They are usually in care or foster homes, and have poor criminal or behavioural records. They are between 13 and 16, they drink, smoke and do drugs, and they ain’t scared of no Feds.

All of these factors mean that their carer is under a legal responsibility to inform the police when the Person goes Missing, even if Missing just happens to be going down the shop for a Mars bar. No matter: the police delight in spending hours on pointless tasks, so we are more than happy to cruise the streets of Blandmore searching for these youngsters, and, when we find them, it’s always a joy to spend half an hour trying to persuade them to go home without any actual power to make them do so.

Colin is 13 and I have located him three times already this year. On each occasion I found him in the same place: back at the Foundation sitting in front of the television.

This time, we are shown in by Carlita, one of the live-in carers. She makes me a cup of tea and apologises for having to call us out.

‘So,’ I say. ‘Why did he go this time?’

‘He went for some fags. We usually let him have one after doing his homework, but he wanted one now. So he just left.’

I look at the front door, a sturdy-looking PVC thing with two bolts. ‘How did he get out?’

‘He opened the door.’

‘Did anyone try to stop him?’

‘We aren’t allowed to do that!’ She looks horrified at the suggestion. ‘If they become violent, we retreat.’

‘But couldn’t you just lock the door?’

‘We don’t lock them in,’ she says. ‘That might make them violent.’

Perhaps I have misunderstood the nature of the Foundation. I ask for a recap. ‘Why are kids here again?’

‘High risk offenders. Most of them have committed rapes or sexual assaults on younger kids. Colin raped a younger boy last year.’

‘And they aren’t in prison because… ?’

‘Well, most of them were also abused as kids,’ Carlita explains. ‘They’re not even sixteen, so it wouldn’t be fair to just chuck them in jail and throw away the key. They’re mixed-up kids.’

‘So let me get this straight: you have a house full of boys who have been victims of sexual assault, living in a house with boys who have committed sexual assaults?’

‘Well, they aren’t allowed in each others’ rooms.’

Colin is under a Supervision Order from the court and Carlita shows me the Order. It lays down in no uncertain terms that Colin is to stay indoors at the Benucci Foundation all day, except when escorted to school and back by staff or taken on outings authorised by staff. He is to abide by the rules of the house and is not allowed to be rude or threatening or to assault anyone.

‘So he breaks this Order every time he goes storming out?’ I ask.

She nods. ‘If he does it again he’ll be put in a high security home.’

Will takes out the paperwork. ‘He’s done it… let’s see… 30 times in the last three months.’

Sadly, this is no exaggeration. Colin and others like him really exist, as do their records of going ‘missing’.

She shrugs. ‘Well, like I say. One of these days he’ll be put in high security.’

While the sergeant is there, I trick him into signing his name on my Missing Person paperwork; that means it is now he who will be fired if Colin Roach is not found. Even as he realises what he has done, the radio controller interrupts us to inform me that Colin is now back at the Foundation and could I please go and lay eyes on him so the incident log can be closed.

Inspector Gadget (Perverting the Course of Justice) has the issue in his area, too:

CHARLIE is 14 years old, he lives in a care home and he’s vanished.

Again.

Charlie is a MISPER.

There are two types of missing persons.

The first type is persons who are actually missing.

They might be stressed husbands who left work four hours ago and haven’t come home. They might be mums with post-natal depression, or old people with Alzheimer’s, or kids who are playing in the park and have just forgotten the time. We don’t get many calls like this, and we take them very seriously indeed.

The second type of MISPER are persons who aren’t really missing at all – like Charlie.

In fact, in our area – as in any area – the vast majority of these cases fall into this category.

Most of them are wayward teenagers who have disappeared from one of the foster/children’s homes on our patch. They’re kids with no obvious future except crime, unemployment and poverty: disturbed, unwanted youngsters from broken homes, born to underclass parents who just drop them and never bother to pick them up again. Usually, mum or dad is in the middle of some drug or alcohol daze, or has a new partner who doesn’t want to know. The result is young boys and girls left to fend for themselves, out in the big wide world at the age of 10 or so. They end up in care, and they abscond very regularly – some of them several times a week – after being told by the staff that they can’t smoke cannabis, or can’t drink, or simply because they want to go and hang around in town with their mates. The staff watch them stroll away (they are not allowed to detain them), and then they call us.

They’re undoubtedly tragic, these kids, and they’d break your heart if you let them.

[E]very time Charlie vanishes, we ramp up an entire system.

How this starts is with a risk assessment.

In theory, this is to decide which of three levels of response we adopt: high, medium or low.

In practice, it’s really about getting some poor bastard’s name on it – usually that of a Duty Inspector like me – so that if and when things get bent out of shape they have someone to stick it to. Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see it.

Let’s go back to the theory. It sounds sensible: if someone is at high risk, let’s have a high level of response.

The problem is, what is ‘high risk’? If it means any kid who goes missing, you can forget it. A high level response requires a helicopter. It needs search dogs, a Gold command (Assistant Chief Constable or above) and incident command posts. It needs large teams of level two-trained officers – the specialists who you see on the TV news, dressed in white overalls carrying out painstaking, fingertip searches. Charlie’s always disappearing and he’s not alone in that: if we act like this for every kid who goes missing in our area every time they do it, I’m going to need eight helicopters a day. I will need hundreds of people. It’s impossible.

As for low risk… well, no-one is ever going to be low risk, are they? I mean, would you put that on a form if you were me?

So what happens is, we end up recording the vast majority of MISPERs as ‘medium’ risk (I think I’m supposed to make that judgment based on an e-learning package I did on the computer once). Hence, the entire, bureaucratic, time-consuming, box-ticking, arse-covering exercise that is the risk assessment is actually a big fat sham.

Medium risk doesn’t mean we just shrug our shoulders and don’t do much about it, though. There’s still a whole list of things that have to be done – at least 50 of them, on forms which are about eight pages long.

For instance, you have to:

- Search Charlie’s home and any outbuildings

- Check for any diaries, letters and calendars he might have, seize them and put them in evidence bags

- Question all people in the home.

- Carry out house-to-house enquiries locally and in areas of interest.

- Do an area search of the places that Charlie is known to frequent.

- Alert CCTV.

- Broadcast his disappearance to other officers.

- Get it on to the briefing.

- Put him on the Police National Computer as ‘locate-and-trace’.

- Go to his school – even though it’s long after dark, and he doesn’t go to school most days anyway.

- Visit his last two known addresses.

- Contact his family and friends, and physically go round and check for him there.

The list goes on for quite a while yet – and everything, of course, has to be written down and recorded in triplicate, just in case something bad does happen, so you and your bosses can prove you did all that was humanly possible to prevent it.

So I take two officers off my shift and put them to work on finding Charlie. They trawl the canal towpaths and the children’s playgrounds and the underpasses and all the hidden away places Charlie likes to meet up with his mates and they eventually find him, mildly pissed, lying in a rosebed next to the bandstand in the park.

By that stage, he’s quite happy to get a lift back to the home. They drop him off, knowing they’ll be out looking for him again within the next three or four days.

I could give you many, many examples. Mandy is another 14-year-old who also lives in a care home in one of our towns. She has an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contract’ with the home: if she generally does as she’s told, once a week she’s allowed out to go and buy cigarettes. Yes, I know this is illegal but they have to work with what they’ve got; if they just say No to her, what’s going to happen? What sanctions do they have?

(One day, undoubtedly, Mandy will find a no-win-no-fee lawyer who will sue the local authority on her behalf for allowing her to smoke.)

She’s supposed to go to the local shop, or to her mother, or to whoever it is that provides her with the fags, and then come straight back. She gets half an hour for this, and every single time she doesn’t come back. Instead, she goes into town, nicks a load of make-up from Dorothy Perkins, swipes some vodka from the offie and spends the afternoon getting smashed with a load of older kids. All our medium risk responses grind into action and we get officers out looking for her. Sometimes we find her, other times she comes back of her own accord. Depending on how she’s feeling, it might be that night, but more often it’ll be a day or two later. The following week, we’ll go through the same thing all over again. And the week after that, ad nauseam, until they’re no longer juveniles.

As a normal person, unfamiliar with the way these things work, you are probably thinking that this all sounds a bit mad.

If she keeps going missing, why don’t the care home staff just ban her from going out in the first place? (Because she’ll ignore them and go anyway.)

Why don’t they lock the doors? (They aren’t allowed to.)

Why don’t they grab hold of her? (They don’t want to get done for assault.)

And Mandy and Charlie are but two of many. At any one time, I will have half a dozen of these cases on the go.

In other news, our office cat Harry had to be put down this week. He would usually be sitting on my desk looking disdainfully at me as I batter yet more nonsense into my keyboard; 16 years we’ve had him (and his brother Percy, until he died a couple of years back). It’s a terribly sad thing.

Harry

Still, the office dog is sleeping easier:

molly.jpg

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In another shock, horror revelation, the Public Administration Committee was told yesterday that the cops sometimes fiddle the figures when recording crime.

A witness told the MPs that

“cuffing” crimes could involve officers deciding they did not believe complainants, recording multiple incidents in the same area as a single crime or recording thefts as “lost property”, burglaries as “theft from property” and attempted burglaries as “criminal damage”.

Hmm. Where have we heard this sort of thing before?

So how widespread is this, and why do they do it?

Today, Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon told an ACPO conference that ‘he had spoken to officers from many police forces who said senior officers were applying pressure on them to reduce the crime figures.’ They are

‘inadvertently… still putting pressure on officers to do all they can to manipulate and create crime reductions.  I don’t think they do it because they are inherently corrupt but because pressure is put down to reduce it. It is whether we have the nerve to step away from crime reduction and obsession with crime figures, and whether we can move to a real environment where we do properly record.

But why are these ‘senior officers’ putting this pressure on?

Probably hundreds of run of the mill bobbies have moaned to me about this since we published Wasting Police Time, Perverting the Course of Justice and the rest. They would probably answer the above question with three of their own:

1. Do senior officers get bonuses if the figures look good?

2. Do politicians get re-elected at least partly on the back of boasts and lies about crime?

3. What is a PDR?

Of course, it’s not just that sometimes a shed break-in gets recorded as damage by badgers, there’s also pressure to criminalise effectively innocent people – if you can create a ‘crime’ that you know you can ‘solve’, that’s so much better than recording actual crimes you know you probably can’t. Here’s probably my favourite piece from Inspector Gadget’s book:

LET’S go back to basics for a moment.

Lots of people probably don’t quite understand the words ‘crime’ and ‘detection’, and the role they play in modern policing.

That’s not surprising, because what they mean in reality and what they mean in surreality – ie modern policing – are often two completely different things.

In real life, a crime means something which we would all agree is against the law – theft, assault, burglary – and has an actual victim who has really suffered some harm.

In policing, a ‘crime’ – because of the ‘victim-focused’ National Crime Recording Standard I mentioned earlier – can mean, in practice, almost anything which half sounds like it might possibly be a bit like a crime and which is reported to us. (Because who are we to tell Mr Hughes that his ex’s nasty text message isn’t a crime?)

Here is one example of a non-crime taken seriously by us.

It’s late one afternoon in the middle of last December. The Christmas lights are ablaze on every house in Bigtown, and the concrete walkway outside the local Spar is covered in fresh white litter. Inside, there’s a queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries. Halfway down the line, a little girl and her mum are chatting about Santa Claus, and the presents he will be delivering in a fortnight.

In front of them is a typical Bigtown youth – Burberry scarf, Nike trainers, NY Yankees cap and a ton of bling.

Overhearing their conversation, he turns round, looks at the girl and says, ‘You don’t believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum’s telling you lies… he ain’t real.’

The little girl bursts into tears and the angry mum storms out of the shop.

I like to think that, if that happened to me, I’d tell my daughter that the nasty man was talking rubbish, and chalk it up to experience.

But modern life being what it is, mum doesn’t do this; instead, she phones us on her mobile from the street outside, like it’s a police matter.

OK, so we get a call from a lady wanting to report a Santa denier.

We just tell her we’re awfully sorry but it’s not really one for us, right?

Wrong. The call-taker logs it on the system as a harassment offence. We all know that if the woman had been calling to report a criminal damage that had happened the night before she’d have got someone out a week next Tuesday. But because certain triggers are hit – there’s a child involved, this area happens to be a crime hot spot and the man is still at the scene – a patrol is despatched immediately, to speak to the mum and little girl and, if possible, grab the ‘offender’ (or seize the CCTV to see if they can ID him).

To me, that’s just about as mad as it gets. Is it, even at the edges of abstract technicality, a crime? Harassment is about causing alarm or distress to another. As a senior officer asked in the SMT morning meeting, ‘How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn’t exist? I mean, he doesn’t. Does he?’

He’s got a point. Short of producing Santa himself at an ID parade and proving he’s real, the case is going nowhere. But time and resources have been wasted in a fairly ludicrous way.

Here’s another one.

Two young lads outside a newsagent. One, a 10-year-old, goes in and buys a packet of crisps. Walkers, salt and vinegar I believe. When he comes back out and opens the packet, his 11-year-old chum swoops on him, sticks a fist into the bag and legs it down the road, cackling in glee with a handful of crisps.

The first boy tells his mum and, yes, she calls us. The ‘thief’ is questioned but – horror of horrors – he denies it. This causes our whole system to collapse, because we’re all about getting people to cough to minor offences and accept cautions for them to make detections. Where do we go from here? Forensics? ID parades with witnesses from the scene who saw the boy make off with the crisps? Thankfully, there is some residual common sense in the police, and the case eventually got ‘no-crimed’ – but not before hours of police time was wasted, and only after submissions in triplicate to the crime auditors to get them to wipe it off the computer.

These aren’t isolated cases. Here are a few others from the papers recently:

– A man ‘found in possession of an egg with intent to throw’.

– A child who removed a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

– A woman arrested (on her wedding day) for criminal damage after her foot slipped on the accelerator and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier.

– Another child who threw cream buns at a bus.

– A 70-year-old pensioner arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour’s conifer trees.

– A man who threw a glass of water over his girlfriend.

I didn’t make any of these up. Anti-social, yes, and in some cases maybe we ought to have a quiet word with the people involved. But are they really ‘crimes’?

Once someone reports them to us as such, and the call-taker enters them onto our computer databases as such, then, yes, they are.

So that’s ‘crime’. What’s a ‘detection’?

You perhaps think this refers to a mechanism whereby the person responsible for a crime, real or surreal, is caught and punished for it.

In fact, it may just mean that a suspect has been charged* – he doesn’t have to be found guilty. Equally, he may have been cautioned, or reported for summons, or been issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder, or the offence may have been taken into consideration when he is sentenced for other matters.

What are the implications of all of this?

They are many and varied.

Firstly, all of a sudden anyone who has been looked at a bit funny can ring the police and demand a response.

Secondly, this will mean one extra recorded crime on the force’s figures (eg ‘harassment’ for looking at someone funny).

Thirdly, we can’t just ignore them. Under NCRS, we mostly have to take them seriously, which is just one reason why it takes us three days to show up for your burglary. Plus lots of undetected ‘crimes’ make Chief Constables look bad, and worry the Home Secretary, so they have to be detected with a response that is bureaucratic and slow and will take officers off the street for hours.

Fourthly, a boy who throws a piece of cucumber at a classmate may feel under pressure to accept a caution – and a permanent entry on his criminal record. This may affect his chances of employment later in life. (Though at the rate we’re criminalising the population, it won’t be long before pretty much everyone has a record, and it’s weird if you haven’t.)

Finally, in many forces, each officer now has an individual ‘Detection Target’. If he or she does not hit this target, he or she will end up with an ‘Action Plan’ on his or her Annual Appraisal. This is essentially a negative statement on your file, which can exclude you from an interview for a specialisation or promotion at the ‘paper-sift’ stage. Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from happening in the first place – none of these count against your individual target.

Of the above implications, the only one that really matters is our figures for undetected crimes. That’s because these are the only ones that affect senior police officers and politicians.

It doesn’t matter that bobbies might be so tied up looking for youths who don’t believe in Father Christmas that they can’t come out when you’re assaulted, because senior cops and MPs don’t very often get assaulted. If the young salt and vinegar crisps thief gets a criminal record, that doesn’t matter either, because who cares? And neither does the systematic degradation of what was once a force into a ‘service’ that often only seems to serve the non-contributory members of society, because if the Chief Constable or the Lord Chief Justice or The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith MP has a gang of rowdy youths hanging around outside late at night, you can bet there’ll be a rapid and forceful response to that. (Though remember, Jacqui, that you were once a humble schoolteacher, and you won’t be Home Secretary for ever.)

PC David Copperfield was the first to break ranks and tell people about this nonsense. Since then, there have been lots of noises about how it’s all going to change, and they’re going to slash bureaucracy and cut targets. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

Incidentally, the crisps theft was not a lone incident. There were 500 similar thefts, of ‘nominal value under £1’, across my force in the past six months. What are these £1 thefts? Well, this might explain some of them: If your credit card is nicked and used, and the guy who stole it is later arrested with it still on him, this presents us with an opportunity. How about if the police crime this twice? Once for the deception involved in using it to buy alloy rims for his Vauxhall Corsa, and once for the theft of the actual piece of plastic, nominal value under £1.

So some copper calls you up. ‘Mr Smith, isn’t it great? We got the guy who nicked your card. We’re talking to the bank about the loss of the money, and we also want to deal with him for the card itself. Can we just come and take a quick statement from you?’

This is called a ‘Loser’s Statement’ – it’s designed to head off a defence in court that you are the thief’s best mate and you always let him use your card.

You say, ‘Yep, no problem’, and the Old Bill nip round. Result: the theft of the credit card itself is detected and the crime figures for theft look a little better. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether we’d bother criming the theft of the card if we hadn’t actually already recovered it.

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The fall in crime in England and Wales ‘may be exaggerated’, says the BBC.

What? Crime figures being manipulated to meet targets set by the idiots in government?

Who knew?

PC David Copperfield in Wasting Police Time:

The country seems to be divided between those who think that things are getting worse, and those who think that things are getting better and that it’s all in our heads.

The latter includes most politicians, the liberal left, and ACPO. Many of these people earn quite impressive salaries and can afford to live in areas where crime is, for the time being, relatively low. This may explain their optimism.

The former includes: everyone else, many of whom live in areas where crime happens, and are people to whom crime happens.

The UK population has risen steadily over the last century or so, from 38 million in 1901 to around 60 million today (note, it hasn’t doubled).

In the same period, the total number of police officers employed by the State has risen from around 40,000 to close to 130,000 now (ie it has more than trebled).

What about crime? Well, the number of indictable offences known to the police in 1900 was 2.4 for every 1,000 of the population. In 1997, the figure was 89.1. I’d put my house on the fact that it’s gone up since then.

I suppose some cynics might interpret these figures as to show that the police are actually causing crime. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do wonder this: where are all these new police officers and what are they doing?

Inspector Gadget in Perverting the Course of Justice:

I don’t trust official crime figures… I know the Home Secretary says we have more police than ever, but how many of them are working Response? I know, too, that we have PCSOs now, and that they look a bit like police, but very few of them work beyond 9pm because it’s too dangerous (it’s not too dangerous for the public, note, but it is too dangerous for PCSOs, despite their stab vests and their radios). In the first few months of 24 hour licensing, we were given enormous amounts of centrally-funded extra money to put more bodies on the street – the overtime was great for the Sergeants and PCs. As a result, everywhere you turned there were police. Once that dried up, we were back to normal – and we really don’t have the numbers to do much more than control things to a just-about acceptable level.

So, what if we could do something to the figures, to make it look like things are better? If it’s not within our gift to stop the nations’ youth getting drunk and fighting, and it’s not, the only place left for us to go to, to get the reductions we need, is our bureaucrats.

If we arrest lots of people for relatively minor things, so we get lots of ‘detections’, we at least have some ammunition to use in our defence when people start squealing about NTE ['night time economy'] crime. Or if police statisticians start to look at definitions of crime, maybe we can shift things that would have been counted into areas that wouldn’t be?

For instance, someone is being aggressive and drunk in the street. We have two options. We can arrest him for being ‘drunk and disorderly’ or for one of the offences under the Public Order Act 1986 – sections 3, 4 and 5 of which are more commonly known as ‘Affray’, ‘Threatening Behaviour’ and ‘Disorderly Conduct’.

What’s the difference? The difference is that ‘drunk and disorderly’ is not a recordable crime. You are found in that state by a police officer, arrested and bound over to keep the peace at court the next day (or, more often, given a Penalty Notice for Disorder and sent on your way). It doesn’t show up on our figures. S5 POA is recordable, and does.

There is widespread anecdotal evidence of PCs being put under pressure to arrest for drunk and disorderly. Even if they arrest for S5 POA, it can later be changed to d&d – this is perfectly legitimate, no-one is doing anything technically wrong or illegal, but it does have the added benefit of making the NTE figures look a lot better than they actually are, doesn’t it?

PC Bloggs in Diary of an On-Call Girl:

(M)y mobile rings. It is the Scrutineer Herself.

‘Hello, PC Bloggs? About this racist incident?’

‘Yes?’

‘We can’t just reclassify it.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, how do you know it wasn’t racist?’

‘The victim doesn’t think it was.’

‘Well, how does she know it wasn’t?’

She’s got me there. I mean, just because Mrs Patel doesn’t think it was racist doesn’t mean it wasn’t, I suppose. But I recover like lightning. ‘Um… well, how do you know it was?’

There’s a momentary silence, and it sounds like an irritated one. Then she replies. ‘I will change it to a criminal damage, but unless you can provide verifiable evidence that it was not racist, the classification will have to stand.’

Will is now watching me with his head on one side, looking thoroughly amused. That’s the problem with more experienced officers: they treat all this Crime Managing stuff as a joke and just go along with what the Scrutineer wants.

I swivel my chair to face away from him and refuse to succumb. ‘Verifiable evidence that it was not racist? Like what?’

‘Perhaps if we knew the motives of the offender?’ She says this as though she is talking to a small child, or an idiot.

‘Perhaps if we knew who the offender was,’ I say, ‘I could arrest him or her and find out. Do you know who the offender was?’

‘Now, now, PC Bloggs, I know it seems pernickety, but we have to abide by ethical crime recording rules.’

‘But if it’s racist, I have to do a report to the Hate Crime Unit. I can’t do that because the victim doesn’t think it’s racist. So the report will just say that it isn’t racist, in which case why am I sending it to them?’

‘Well, I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.’

‘But…’ I am starting to doubt my sanity. ‘How did it become a racist incident in the first place? The victim doesn’t think it is, for goodness’ sake.’

‘If someone perceives it to be racist, then it is.’

‘It looks like the only person who perceives it to be racist is the Crime Centre.’

‘Well, that is ‘someone’.’

‘Look, this is just some kids chucking stuff at a door. It’s antisocial, it’s annoying and I’d love to arrest the little blighters if I knew who they were, but it isn’t racist.’

‘That’s your view.’

‘Fine… can we just file it then?’

‘Not without the report to the Hate Crime Unit. It won’t get through Crime Compliance.’

‘Fine, I’ll do the report.’ The call ends.

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Following the Manchester shootings, PC Bloggs wrote a comment piece for yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, entitled What life is like on the front line for policewomen.

(For those who haven’t read the book, a more detailed explanation can be found in Diary of an On Call Girl.)

It might read like a moan (‘Now I am a sergeant, with a team of mostly men under me. Our numbers are so depleted that I scarcely notice the gender of those turning up for work. My few female officers are as likely to work with each other as with a man, or by themselves. Extreme budget cuts have done more for gender equality than any amount of positive action.) but you’d be hard-pressed to find a less miserable person than Bloggsy.

The usual mix of sane and insane comments underneath.

One chap writes:

I do enjoy reading the comments below. Some are useful, most are not, pushing their own political square points into the round hole offered to them.
I have also been a police officer “on the front line” for over 15 years – the incident above is doubtless not the scariest thing that the author has encountered. It is however typical, and frequent. It is one that I recognise. However as a 16 stone male I am usually (but not always) able to fight them off physically – a 10 second brawl then translates into 6 hours of writing.
Equally telling, is the comment my colleague makes about being a sergeant and seeing not a team of men and women, but a team; numbers steadily declining (rapidly over the last few years regardless of who holds political office) necessitate single crewing, even at night, in the rural, or in the violent town centre I work in.
Our back up is not other officers, it is almost always doorstaff who are first to help on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday – Thursday nights as well thanks to licensing laws.
The  commentator below who babbles on about not arresting someone high on drugs, please remove your head from its current location, you will sit more comfortably – alcohol is a very potent drug and people do extraordinary things when they are pissed – as to arresting them all, you have no idea, really no idea, we do not have enough officers or enough cells.
I could write for hours about the state of policing, and the state of the country, but I see no point and I have no voice beyond this page, we are not a political entity. Just be happy we are there, our job is crap, but at least we aren’t soldiers, they have the toughest jobs.

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The terrible shooting of two bobbies in Manchester has led to the usual mixture of handwringing, lies, and radio phone-ins. The amazing thing is the ignorance exhibited by journalists about modern British policing. It’s not like it’s a secret.

On Radio 5 Live yesterday, Victoria Derbyshire appeared not to know either that the police often patrol alone, or that sentences for serious assaults on cops are woefully weak. There was also confusion from lots of people about bail (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act isn’t written in foreign) and over the question of whether the police put too many or too few resources into the hunt for the guy. Hard to win that one.

As for arming the police, I’ve spoken to many of them over the years since we published Wasting Police Time. It’s not scientific, but I’d say 95% of the front-line cops I’ve interviewed want to be armed. Life has changed since the mythical days of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ (who, let’s not forget, was actually shot dead while on duty). The argument that it makes officers unapproachable is hard to sustain: millions of Britons happily take their holidays in countries where the Old Bill are all tooled-up.

Anyway, from Wasting More Police Time:

Single-crewing is stupid. It only makes sense if you think the point of the police is this thing about ‘reassurance’, which is, the public see lots of police about so they feel better… The fact is, it’s a tacit admission that we have decided that a certain level of actual crime happening to some people is a price worth paying for this spurious reassurance of the rest. It’s an admission, actually, that we can’t do much about real crime, we can only massage your ‘feelings’ about it. I don’t personally buy the reassurance argument, anyway. Two years ago, if we went to a proper call needing four cops, we’d go in two cars. Now you’ll have four cops in four cars and everyone sees four pandas rock up and immediately assumes world war three is kicking off on their doorstep.

And:

It has been introduced by people who will never have to live the policy they force on the rest of us, and it doesn’t work for very obvious reasons, reasons you only wouldn’t see if you were a senior policeman or woman who doesn’t understand that things have changed on the streets in the 15 years since you last walked them, if you ever did…

And:

In my force, assaults on police increased dramatically after single patrolling was introduced. Scrotes who would have come relatively quietly when there were two of us now will chance their arm, on the basis that they might get away and if they don’t the courts will not add anything on to the ticket for assaulting a police officer as it’s supposed to be ‘part of our job’.

And:

I get assaulted, both verbally and physically. I’ve been spat at and bitten and then spent weeks waiting in fear to find out whether I’ve contracted hepatitis or HIV/Aids or whatever the person I was arresting told me they had – during which time I can’t live a normal life with my wife. I’ve never had any of these assailants prosecuted to the full extent of the law, because it’s part and parcel of the job, apparently, and not in the public interest to deal with these people.

And:

(F)ar from giving stronger sentences for assaults on police, the reverse often happens. As a uniformed Inspector, and before that, as a Sergeant, and a Fed rep, I’ve been involved in a large number of cases of assaults on my officers. The general pattern is one of the CPS refusing charge except in the most egregious cases. In the cases where they do charge, they will accept pleas to lesser offences – so the defendant says he won’t plead to GBH but he’ll plead to ABH, or he won’t plead to ABH but he will plead to common assault. Instead of saying, frankly, bollocks to that, we’ve got the evidence, let’s have a trial, they roll over to keep their own stats up. And then, the courts do next to nothing to offenders. I’ve had a young WPC bitten and scarred – no jail for that. I’ve had officers hit with iron bars, chains and bottles, and the offender is given anger management and a small fine. I’ve had an officer stabbed with a syringe where the offender claimed that he had AIDS, which turned out not to be true but was horrible for the officer. No jail for that. It makes me very angry.

And so on and so forth. We’ve published four books dealing with this sort of thing now – not far short of half a million words. Gadget has been blogging about it for years, as has Bloggs, and Copperfield before them both, and lots of others. Victoria Derbyshire even had Copperfield and Bloggs on her show!

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The crucial thing to establish, when publishing books by anonymous coppers (or anonymous anything), is their bona fides. Are they actually coppers?

Inspector Winter looked like he was; turns out he wasn’t. Before we move swiftly on, nothing to see here etc, this from behind The Times‘ paywall:

Inspector Winter was the darling of the police social media scene [er, not quite. Ed.]. At the height of last summer’s riots, he tweeted and blogged about his experiences on the front line — comforting people who had been burnt out of their businesses in Tottenham, arresting suspected rioters in dawn raids and drinking tea with bedraggled fellow officers in rescue centres. His fan base of more than 3,000 Twitter followers included police and the media, and he was even commissioned by The Daily Telegraph to write a first-person piece that described the “chaos” of policing the riots… The only problem was that Inspector Winter was not a policeman. He was a serial conman…

He spent the next two-and-a-half years on the run, effectively hiding in plain sight by visiting police stations, mixing with officers and pretending to be one of them. He fooled at least three lovers into believing that he was variously an officer in the Metropolitan Police, an officer in Essex Police, a captain in the Army and an officer in the Royal Military Police…

Ward’s claims ranged from the believable to the implausible. In Ware, Hertfordshire, he posed as Ethan Winchcombe, a major in the Royal Military Police. He told local residents he had a false leg after an incident in Afghanistan, had served in Northern Ireland and owned a series of restaurants and a garden centre. He drank at the town’s Royal Legion club and even participated in the Remembrance Day parade last year wearing an RMP uniform.

John Hawthorne, owner of the Albion pub where Ward was a regular, told The Times: “He said he had his leg shot off in Afghanistan, and that the bullet ricocheted up through his nose. We realised that wasn’t true when we saw him jogging along the street.”

Ho hum. The weird thing is, if The Daily Telegraph want pieces about riots by genuine coppers, we’ve got them coming out of our ears, and the Telegraph know that.

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Wasting Police Time opens with the pseudonymous PC David Copperfield reporting for duty in ‘Newtown’ and finding himself the only uniformed response officer on duty:

The other day I turned up on my own to the morning parade.

I don’t mean I had got the wrong room, or turned up late after everyone had gone.

I mean I was the only uniformed officer on duty that day, in a town of about 60,000 people.

Let me just spell that out again: the population of the town in which I work is about 60,000, and I was the ONLY UNIFORMED OFFICER ON DUTY AT THAT POINT.

True, there were other uniformed officers inside the police station; there were even a few officers on duty who were not wearing a uniform. But as for officers, in uniform, on duty and able to deploy to a call from a member of the public, there was only me.

The ‘thin blue line’ had become a very insignificant dot.

When PC Copperfield outed himself as PC Stuart Davidson and ‘Newtown’ as Burton on Trent, Staffordshire Police essentially said he was making this up, and that he had never paraded alone. The repulsive, reptilian then-Police Minister Tony ‘Second Home’ McNumpty went further and used parliamentary privilege to denounce Copperfield as a liar, his book being ‘more of a fiction than Dickens’. He later conceded, on the BBC’s Panorama special about Copperfield, that this was not the case and that the book was in fact an accurate portrayal of the woeful state of modern British policing.

We didn’t need the fatuous McNulty (who could himself call on armed police guards to protect him from the consequences of his government’s policies) to tell us this: we’d had literally hundreds of police officers ringing and emailing us to tell us that the book was spot on. There was also a recurring phrase in those conversations: ‘The wheels are going to come off.’

There are lots of cops, they said; the trouble is, most of them are sat on their backsides in police stations filling out forms and chasing government targets.

Of course, Copperfield, Gadget and Bloggs had also pointed this out, explaining what happens when a member of the already stretched thin blue line actually makes an arrest. In Perverting the Course of Justice, Gadget tells how – thanks to the mania for paperwork and box-ticking – arresting and dealing with ‘Mikey’ for smashing a window takes hours and hours and hours:

Here’s a list of the paperwork required from the patrol who were unlucky enough to arrive at the scene and arrest Mikey:

- A full, handwritten, pocket notebook entry detailing the incident, the grounds for his arrest and anything he said about the incident.

- A typed arrest statement containing exactly the same information, only in more detail.

- A typed form requesting the release of CCTV tapes. We don’t need the CCTV, but we still have to view it. If we don’t, Mikey’s lawyer will claim it contains evidence exonerating his client of the offence that four people and the CCTV operator saw him commit and to which he has confessed.

- A handwritten custody ’search and booking-in’ form.

- A property sheet, listing the contents of his pockets.

- A typed Persistent Offender form, containing the same information as the arrest statement but in a format which prevents ‘cut-and-paste’ (meaning everything has to be re-entered).

- A typed Young Offender form, containing the same information as above, but in yet another format.

- A typed or verbal ‘update’ for the computer log held by the Control Room, containing – guess what? – the same information as all of the above.

- A typed Crime Report, with the same information as in the notebook, arrest statement and Young Offender form, but with the details in different fields which, again, cannot be cut-and-pasted.

- At least two MG (Manual of Guidance) forms for the case file, summarising all of the above.

- Witness statements from at least two of the people who saw the whole thing occur.

- A PNC check of all his previous convictions.

- A witness statement from Beachtastic Breaks saying that Mikey didn’t have permission to smash their window.

- A print out with a map showing their address.

- An ‘intelligence report’ about the incident (the full details of which we can’t discuss here).

- A typed Domestic Violence form (because Nicci was mentioned by Mikey as a reason for his committing of the offence) with all of the same information again, and a complete risk assessment for her, even though she wasn’t there at the time. (This risk assessment will take hours and is likely to involve several appointments made with Nicci which will be broken by her when officers arrive at her home to find she’s gone out to the pub.)

- The paperwork for Mikey’s fingerprinting and DNA record. This will run into at least four pages.

- The Custody Record. This will be at least ten pages long (though admittedly this is completed by the custody team and not by the patrol).

- The brick will have been seized as evidence: there will be the forms and statements to be filled out for that.

- A typed ‘update’ on the ‘Night-time Economy Incident’ diary sheets.

- A three-page Community Impact Assessment briefing form for the Inspector (because Mikey is a ‘traveller’ and therefore his arrest has an ‘impact’ on the ‘community’). As the Inspector, this enables me then to fill out a longer version of the same thing, totalling six pages.

- A handwritten two-page form for the Licensing Officer discussing where Mikey might have purchased the alcohol he had drunk, again containing all the details of the offence.

There will also be a ‘control sample’ of the glass from the window for CSI, and associated paperwork, so that the defence can’t claim later that he did smash a window, just not that window

They then take it to the Sergeant, who looks at it and then fills out his paperwork, another huge tranche of forms and writing.

You may think that this is insane for such a simple job. You would be correct.

We collect all of this because we live in fear of Mikey getting to court and saying, ‘I didn’t do any of this. I just said I did because the police bullied me. Now prove it.’

It’s about worst-case scenario policing: every job we go to, we have to assume that it is going to go really bent at trial.

This isn’t a triple murder, it’s a smashed window. A smashed window, moreover, which Mikey has already admitted breaking.

Imagine what happens if it’s slightly more complicated than the incident described.

What if Mikey doesn’t admit the offence?

Or if there are two offenders, and each blames the other?

What if drugs or a weapon are found in his pockets when he’s searched – as they usually are? Mikey will be arrested for those offences, too.

We haven’t even talked about nicking him for resisting arrest, or assaulting the police, or about the lengthy booking-in process (we’ll get there in a minute).

If any or all of these factors come in to play, the whole process doubles or trebles in size and complexity.

If any of these forms contains a single mistake – even a genuinely unimportant error, like a digit wrong in a postcode, which could easily be corrected by the admin clerk who discovers it – it will be sent back to the arresting officers for correction.

We need paperwork. We need to know that the police are not fitting people up, or maltreating them in custody. We need to keep a close eye on domestic violence offenders. I don’t know a single police officer who believes otherwise. But do we really need all of this? Of these forms, half are duplicating information for the Crown Prosecution Service and the remainder are ‘data mining’ exercises to satisfy various national or local initiatives and ensure we’re hitting centrally-imposed targets.

As with reviews of our books about education (Frank Chalk just ‘hates kids’) and doctoring (Theodore Dalrymple just ‘hates his patients’), lots of people were quick to shoot the messengers as right wing apologists for ‘the man’ – ignoring the fact that the victims of crap schooling, unrestricted criminality and random violence are the poor, not the rich.

Well, now there are a lot of windows being smashed by ‘Mikey’ up and down the country, and the wheels really have come off. I’m sorry to say it, but we saw it coming.

++

Winston ‘Generation F‘ Smith may be on BBC 5 Live at 1pm today. They want to hear from him first hand what it’s like to work with the kind of people who are currently rioting. (Winston works with the Youth Offending team in Manchester.) Here’s a clue.

++

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Theresa May says she’s going to end police bureaucracy. Aaarrrggghh! We’ll get no more books out of that, then!

Luckily, commenters at Gadget’s blog (now at six million hits) have their doubts:

Nick Herbert is a dangerous individual with a clear agenda and Teresa May is the same.

May: “Police need to move away from ‘cover your back’ culture.”

Stop stabbing us in them, then.

“Wants to further enhance officers’ discretion”.

Christ, how many times have we heard that? How many times are such soundbites crushed by constant SMT micromanaging?

“Any police officer who knows of unnecessary police bureaucracy should write to me personally” – May

Dear Home Secretary,

Thank you for the invitation to raise this issue with you. In a similar fashion I wrote to David Cameron some time ago on following his triumphant statement: “Police targets: smashed”. At the time I was very puzzled by this because as a serving ‘Frontline’ police officer I can attest to the fact that now, more than ever, targets and bureaucracy are a weightier burden upon thinly stretched police more than ever before. With this in mind I wrote to Mr Cameron and asked him for clarification. Had been misinformed by civil servants, was he simply ignorant as to the reality, or of greater concern, was he simply telling the public that which he thought they wanted to hear? Unfortunately I never did get to the bottom of this matter as Mr Cameron obviously did not think my comments worthy of a reply. In fact I did not even receive an acknowledgment.

Similarly, I have now written to my local MP on three separate occasions asking for him to state his position on a Royal Commission on Policing and whether he supports the cuts to policing. He has not replied nor has he even acknowledged my letters.

Mrs May I suspect that were I to write to you, my letter would also go unanswered. You do not need any officer to tell you that bureaucracy is endemic in our organisation and strangles the small number of officers available to answer calls from the public. If I arrest someone for a minor offence, perhaps you can explain to the public why it will take me on average, and seldom less than, 4 or 5 hours to process this prisoner before I can get back out onto the street? Would the public be surprised to learn that if at the beginning of my shift if I make an arrest, then I will, more often than not, be off the street for the rest of my shift? I believe most people would be shocked. I certainly was when as a young probationer I discovered how much time was wasted in completing pointless paperwork for minor matters.

I will however not waste my time in sending you this email, as it will not be read by you, simply deleted by one of your staff. Instead I will post it on Inspector Gadget’s blog where I am assured it will be read..

Home Secretary, I firmly believe that neither you, nor anyone else in your Government, hold any interest in reducing police bureaucracy. Your interest in the police starts and finishes with finance. Neither I nor any one of my colleagues on here believes you would lift so much as a finger to do reduce bureaucracy and your words are nothing more than yet another empty soundbites we’ve all heard before.

Sincerely,

another angry Rozzer

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