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Posts Tagged ‘Inspector Gadget’

Finally, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary has admitted what PC David Copperfield, Inspector Gadget and WPC E E Bloggs said all along: that the system of recording crime is as bent as a dodgy Flying Squad copper circa 1973:

The police are failing to record as much as 20% of crime – equal to three-quarters of a million offences – including 14 cases of rape and some serious sexual offences, according to the first official inquiry into the integrity of the police crime figures.

At the same time, confusingly, the police are rushing out to apprehend people for telling children that Santa doesn’t exist (true story from Gadget’s book). It makes no sense at all, unless you consider whether senior officers want their juniors to record crimes that are not easy to solve, but would quite like them to record crimes that are easy to solve.

For saying this sort of thing, Copperfield and Gadget were both lied about by government ministers. (Bloggs didn’t get lied about – she just sold the TV rights to her book.)

You can read free extracts from the three books here, here and here (and obviously we’d love you to buy copies if you haven’t already).

Meanwhile, here’s that Santa Claus story from Perverting the Course of Justice:

DETECTIONS

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 his ex’s nasty texts 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 and rings us on her mobile.

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, 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 hotspot 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’ and even 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.

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 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.

*The reason we’re judged on ‘detections’ and not the outcome of a case at court is that the police have no real influence over what some crazy buffoon of a magistrate decides to do, and no control over a jury in Crown Court. All we can really do is influence the investigation. Though in many cases we can’t really do that either – witnesses decide not to give evidence because they are a friend of the accused, or victims (often women in DV cases) are frightened to assist in prosecutions.

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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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We’ve had a number of people contact us to ask whether @InspGadgetBlogs is the real deal.

It is he (or she).

Here’s a brief statement, for want of a better word:

I stopped blogging because I thought I had said enough. It was that simple. I wasn’t found out, nobody identified me, or even came close.

But most of the things Copperfield, Bloggs and I were trying to say were finally ‘out there’, some of our solutions to problems had even become national policy.

I was getting bored with saying the same stuff.

Plus, I had 13 million hits, regularly had 1,000 comments on each post, and it was becoming a monster.

I am back on Twitter because I can’t stand by and see issues like the media bias in Plebgate coverage, all the damage done by ‘cuts’ (which in some cases are actually costing more money, not less), and the continued and I think largely unanswered criticism of the police every day, with no attempt at context etc.

Some of the people leading the charge against the police are themselves people who have been disgraced or proven to be liars in the past; yet nobody challenges their narrative.

Whether people liked it or not, Inspector Gadget was a reasonably influential and uncensored voice for frontline policing.

This was largely because the newspapers reported the blog posts.

I was only writing what most cops were thinking. I think this needs doing again.

Twitter is easier and faster, and I won’t be blogging again.

Maybe nobody will read my stuff ever again; I don’t have a problem with that.

My strongly-held position is this: I am a police officer who does my absolute best to fight crime, protect the law-abiding and support the other emergency services and NHS.

I adhere strictly to the law and I work hard to make sure my team has a successful and respectful relationship with the law-abiding public.

I understand the concept of vocation and public service; however, I am also a citizen in my own right, a voter, a tax-payer, a veteran, and a married parent.

This means that I believe I have the right to hold views about how the country is run, and to air those views.

I am still on the frontline, still in uniform working shifts with my team, and still in Ruralshire.

He (or she) may do media interviews; if you’re a journo and you’re interested, drop us a line.

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The papers have been full of stories about how the café culture, AKA the night-time economy, AKA spending all night getting bladdered out of your mind and then beating up the nearest bloke for looking at your bird as she chomps on her kebab, hasn’t been quite the roaring success that the-then Labour government said it would be.

Heck, even Alastair Campbell says they ‘might have got it wrong‘, and he’s not a big believer in admitting they got stuff wrong.

All of which put us in mind of this section from the late Inspector Gadget’s book, Perverting the Course of Justice:

24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE

WE HEAR a lot about ‘booze Britain’ these days, but it’s not the booze which is the problem, it’s the people.

Most of us like a drink now and then. As a younger man, particularly when I was in the Army, I had a few beers and rolled back home drunk more than once, but I never smashed all the car mirrors off in the streets on the way back, or attacked anyone with a baseball bat, or told the police to f**k off. I still enjoy a pint from time to time, but I don’t get absolutely slaughtered and I don’t go out and smack people in the face and puke all over the pavement. I don’t drink-drive and I don’t beat up my wife or kids or neighbours. I don’t smash shop windows, or urinate in doorways, or use foul language at the top of my voice.

I’m nothing special: there are millions of people who don’t do any of these things, and you’re probably among them.

The problem is, there are also quite a lot of Britons who don’t feel like they’ve had a decent night out until they’ve ticked several of the above boxes, and had a kebab/KFC.

Of course, their behaviour is often appalling when they’re sober, but it’s far worse when they’re drunk, as whatever inhibitions or social polish they might have had are swept away on a tide of Stella Artois and blue, vodka-based pop.

There are people who say that it was ever thus, and point to Hogarth’s Gin Lane and the back streets of our port cities where sailors would get tanked up and fighting drunk after months at sea. But this new phenomenon is happening on our High Streets, at least three or four nights a week.

The protagonists are often young, and they have a lot of disposable income: they can’t afford to buy houses anymore so they all live with their parents way beyond when they used to. With no responsibilities, and with discount drink far cheaper than it ever was, why not go out and get hammered every night?

Into this poisonous cocktail the Government recently threw another ingredient – 24 hour licensing.

Not many places are open 24 hours, it’s true, but lots are now open much later than they were. I don’t care what the figures say, this has caused us huge problems. When the nightclubs used to shut at the same time, we could gear everything to that point. We would have a flurry of issues – the town centre fights, the robbing or bilking of taxi drivers, the drink-driving accidents, the people falling over and smacking their heads on the concrete etc – but at about 2.30am it would all start to die off. Now it carries on all the way through to 6am. Ask any front line cop, and they’ll tell you: broad daylight on a Sunday morning, getting towards the end of the shift, and they are still going to fights in the High Street. What’s going on?

The Government calls it the ‘Night Time Economy’ (NTE). This Orwellian phrase refers to those bars, clubs and other such venues operating at night in town centres. It is a nightmare of vomit, urine, chips and police officers being punched in the face, but that doesn’t square with the official vision of longer licensing and the NTE – where everyone meets up in cafés to share polenta and vine-ripened tomatoes, sip their five units of alcohol and chat about the issues of the day.

Again, I may have missed it but I don’t think any minister has gone on telly and admitted that the NTE licensing experiment has been a disaster. They don’t like to admit they’re wrong about much, do they? Instead, the pressure is on the police to find ways to deal with NTE crime and anti-social behaviour.

Launching an advertising campaign recently, Jacqui Smith said, ‘I am not prepared to tolerate alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder on our streets and this new campaign will challenge people to think twice about the serious consequences of losing control. It reinforces Government action already underway to deal with excessive drinking, including tougher sanctions for licensees who sell to young people, new powers for the police to disperse disruptive drinkers and better education and information for everyone.’

The Government’s input, then, is an advert, some ‘better education and information’ and the wildly misguided hope that the lunatics we arrest each weekend will somehow start to ‘think twice about the serious consequences of losing control’.

As for actually sorting it out, that’s down to us. Luckily, they are legislating to give us ‘new powers’.

The problem with politicians these days is that very few of them have actually ever done anything in the real world. They go from university, to jobs as MPs’ research assistants, to themselves becoming MPs and then Ministers. Being law-abiding types themselves (save for the odd run-in with cannabis), they actually believe that a ton of extra verbage on the statute books is all it takes. If only it were that simple.

The Government says irresponsible landlords who serve drunk people should be prosecuted, and that we should also identify the bar staff who served these idiots their booze. Which sounds great when you announce it at the despatch box in the House of Commons, or on Richard and Judy’s sofa, or in an exclusive interview with some newspaper political editor. It’s not so easy at midnight in our towns, when the streets are full of paralytically drunk yobs who are kicking off, smashing windows and fighting with us. We don’t have the time or the personnel to start checking CCTV to find out where they just came out of. Even if we did, and we went to speak to the manager of the venue, what’s he going to say? He’s going to say, no, we didn’t serve them, they came in pissed so we kicked them back out. So we spend however many hours reviewing the tapes to find all the previous venues they went to, and the managers there say, no, we didn’t serve them either, they were pissed when they came in here, too.

OK, so we grill the bar staff instead. We push our way into a club we think a given bozo has come from. There are 300 people in there, the ‘music’ is at about 140 decibels, the five barmaids are all Polish and hardly speak a word of English. Shouting to be heard, we’re trying to ask them if they served a man in a striped shirt with tattooed forearms and a gold earring, in a club containing about 200 men in striped shirts with tattooed forearms and gold earrings. Back on the street, meanwhile, a whole different group of drunks is now kicking the living s**t out of my officers.

This is the stuff of fantasy. It is ludicrous. It is dreamed up by people sitting in air-conditioned rooms whose experience of modern drinking, I can only think, must be limited to nights out in country inns in the Cotswolds or metropolitan bars in London. In a trendy pub in Islington, there might be three dozen people sitting listening to jazz all night and if one of them later goes mad outside the 24 hour Tesco possibly you can pin something on the people who served him his last quart of pinot grigio. But these are not the places from which the trouble emanates.

The police can shut problem pubs, says the Government. Yep, we can. But it’s not quite as easy as it sounds when you say it to Andrew Marr and he’s nodding in agreement. I have shut a pub down. Once. But it was a really difficult thing to do, it took days of police time and it wasn’t easy to get it through at court. The licensees don’t just roll over, they put up a vigorous defence because it’s their livelihood you’re taking away. Plus, all it does is displace the problem. People don’t stop drinking and brawling just because their favourite bar has closed, after all.

I don’t know the full answer to the problem. I suspect no-one does. It probably involves all sorts of things, from improving attitudes to civility and behaviour from a very young age, to changing our drinking culture, to making booze harder and more expensive to buy (though this would penalise non-problem drinkers), to tougher enforcement of the basic laws against public drunkenness and violence.

This latter element of a wider solution is the one thing the police actually could do something about – after all, Ms Smith says that she has given us new powers to ‘disperse disruptive drinkers’. But this is another one straight from the la-la land school of public order: ‘Excuse me sir, can you put that bottle down and stop trying to blind that other man? We have new powers to disperse you, you see.’

Disperse them with who, Jacqui?

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. I know, because I was one of them – the overtime was great. 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 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?

I don’t even really blame senior officers if they are creating this pressure: the Government has said it wants to see reductions, so we have to provide them.

Whether it actually makes things better… well, who in authority really cares? As long as they aren’t getting stabbed in the kebab house, or having their car walked over at 3am, or being woken up by people fighting in their front garden – and they aren’t – then is there really a problem?

 

 

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I had lunch here with Inspector Gadget a week ago, with a couple of TV people. One of them is a very well-known writer. Appropriately, Gadget had Cochon de lait, chou, purée d’oignons et pruneau. I didn’t pay the bill. I can’t say any more about it at this stage than that.

Interestingly, during the lunch it came up that someone called Jed Mercurio, who wrote a BBC show called Line of Duty, had based a lot of it on Gadget and PC Copperfield. This was news to us. World Productions, who made the show, bought the rights to Generation F from us… but not Wasting Police Time or Perverting the Course of Justice. Strange.

Apparently, Victorian people were more intelligent than us. We know this because reaction times – a reliable marker of general intelligence – have declined steadily since the Victorian era from about 183 milliseconds to 250ms in men, and from 187ms to 277ms in women. Obviously, this is all rubbish – but then the median Monday Books score was better than 250 (and worse than 183) so there must be something in it. You can test yourself here.

An amusing review-ish of the new Dan Brown novel, by Steven Poole.

Mark Steyn on Mayor Bloomberg.

And another book due out from us later this year. Pete Ashton was an undercover cop who spent ten years busting major heroin and crack gangs. Along the way, he may have dabbled in drugs himself and certainly changed his views on the rights and wrongs of legalisation. In the wake of the still-rumbling Mark Kennedy scandal, it’s an interesting look at what it’s like to live several lives at once.

Undercover - AI Cover jpeg

 

 

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? In the case of the police, the answer is the PSD (professional standards departments – though names vary from force to force).

These are the watchmen who watch the watchmen (though I understand there is an ongoing debate within the ranks of the thin blue line as to who watches the watchmen who watch the watchmen. From talking to a lot of police officers over recent years, it seems that, in many cases, they have some very interesting issues of their own. But that’s for another day.)

A number of people have contacted us – including members of the media – to ask whether Gadget has been busted by his* own side.

As I said yesterday, the answer is no.

It will disappoint certain people, who simply cannot stand the fact that Gadget had a voice listened to across the world, while their own was ignored even in their own street. To choose a subset entirely at random, monomaniacal lunatics from Huddersfield, say.

But the fact is, Gadget has quit entirely on his* own terms, at a time of his* own choosing. After seven years, enough is enough. Let someone else have a go.

So: to the concerned, I say: don’t worry about him* and if you haven’t read the book, here’s a free extract, and here’s a link (and, at the bottom, given today is booze day on the BBC, is another segment from the book).

To Melvin T Rumpelstiltskin, I say: keep on stamping those little feet!

*Or her

24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE

WE HEAR a lot about ‘booze Britain’ these days, but it’s not the booze which is the problem, it’s the people.

Most of us like a drink now and then. As a younger man, particularly when I was in the Army, I had a few beers and rolled back home drunk more than once, but I never smashed all the car mirrors off in the streets on the way back, or attacked anyone with a baseball bat, or told the police to fuck off. I still enjoy a pint from time to time, but I don’t get absolutely slaughtered and I don’t go out and smack people in the face and puke all over the pavement. I don’t drink-drive and I don’t beat up my wife or kids or neighbours. I don’t smash shop windows, or urinate in doorways, or use foul language at the top of my voice.

I’m nothing special: there are millions of people who don’t do any of these things, and you’re probably among them.

The problem is, there are also quite a lot of Britons who don’t feel like they’ve had a decent night out until they’ve ticked several of the above boxes, and had a kebab/KFC.

Of course, their behaviour is often appalling when they’re sober, but it’s far worse when they’re drunk, as whatever inhibitions or social polish they might have had are swept away on a tide of Stella Artois and blue, vodka-based pop.

There are people who say that it was ever thus, and point to Hogarth’s Gin Lane and the back streets of our port cities where sailors would get tanked up and fighting drunk after months at sea. But this new phenomenon is happening on our High Streets, at least three or four nights a week.

The protagonists are often young, and they have a lot of disposable income: they can’t afford to buy houses anymore so they all live with their parents way beyond when they used to. With no responsibilities, and with discount drink far cheaper than it ever was, why not go out and get hammered every night?

Into this poisonous cocktail the Government recently threw another ingredient – 24 hour licensing.

Not many places are open 24 hours, it’s true, but lots are now open much later than they were. I don’t care what the figures say, this has caused us huge problems.

When the nightclubs used to shut at the same time, we could gear everything to that point. We would have a flurry of issues – the town centre fights, the robbing or bilking of taxi drivers, the drink-driving accidents, the people falling over and smacking their heads on the concrete etc – but at about 2.30am it would all start to die off.

Now it carries on all the way through to 6am. Ask any front line cop, and they’ll tell you: broad daylight on a Sunday morning, getting towards the end of the shift, and they are still going to fights in the High Street. What’s going on?

The Government calls it the ‘Night Time Economy’ (NTE). This Orwellian phrase refers to those bars, clubs and other such venues operating at night in town centres. It is a nightmare of vomit, urine, chips and police officers being punched in the face, but that doesn’t square with the official vision of longer licensing and the NTE – where everyone meets up in cafés to share polenta and vine-ripened tomatoes, sips their five units of alcohol and chats about the issues of the day.

Again, I may have missed it but I don’t think any minister has gone on telly and admitted that the NTE licensing experiment has been a disaster. They don’t like to admit they’re wrong about much, do they? Instead, the pressure is on the police to find ways to deal with NTE crime and anti-social behaviour.

Launching an advertising campaign recently, Jacqui Smith [the then Home Secretary] said, ‘I am not prepared to tolerate alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder on our streets and this new campaign will challenge people to think twice about the serious consequences of losing control. It reinforces Government action already underway to deal with excessive drinking, including tougher sanctions for licensees who sell to young people, new powers for the police to disperse disruptive drinkers and better education and information for everyone.’

The Government’s input, then, is an advert, some ‘better education and information’ and the wildly misguided hope that the lunatics we arrest each weekend will somehow start to ‘think twice about the serious consequences of losing control’.

As for actually sorting it out, that’s down to us. Luckily, they are legislating to give us ‘new powers’.

The problem with politicians these days is that very few of them have actually ever done anything in the real world. They go from university, to jobs as MPs’ research assistants, to themselves becoming MPs and then Ministers. Being law-abiding types themselves (save for the odd run-in with cannabis), they actually believe that a ton of extra verbage on the statute books is all it takes.

If only it were that simple.

The Government says irresponsible landlords who serve drunk people should be prosecuted, and that we should also identify the bar staff who served these idiots their booze. Which sounds great when you announce it at the despatch box in the House of Commons, or on Richard and Judy’s sofa, or in an exclusive interview with some newspaper political editor. It’s not so easy at midnight in our towns, when the streets are full of paralytically drunk yobs who are kicking off, smashing windows and fighting with us.

We don’t have the time or the personnel to start checking CCTV to find out where they just came out of. Even if we did, and we went to speak to the manager of the venue, what’s he going to say? He’s going to say, no, we didn’t serve them, they came in pissed so we kicked them back out. So we spend however many hours reviewing the tapes to find all the previous venues they went to, and the managers there say, no, we didn’t serve them either, they were pissed when they came in here, too.

OK, so we grill the bar staff instead. We push our way into a club we think a given bozo has come from. There are 300 people in there, the ‘music’ is at about 140 decibels, the five barmaids are all Polish and hardly speak a word of English. Shouting to be heard, we’re trying to ask them if they served a man in a striped shirt with tattooed forearms and a gold earring, in a club containing about 200 men in striped shirts with tattooed forearms and gold earrings. Back on the street, meanwhile, a whole different group of drunks is now kicking the living shit out of my officers.

This is the stuff of fantasy. It is ludicrous. It is dreamed up by people sitting in air conditioned rooms whose experience of modern drinking, I can only think, must be limited to nights out in country inns in the Cotswolds or metropolitan bars in London. In a trendy pub in Islington, there might be three dozen people sitting listening to jazz all night and if one of them later goes mad outside the 24 hour Tesco possibly you can pin something on the people who served him his last quart of pinot grigio. But these are not the places from which the trouble emanates.

The police can shut problem pubs, says the Government. Yep, we can. But it’s not quite as easy as it sounds when you say it to Andrew Marr and he’s nodding in agreement. I have shut a pub down. Once. But it was a really difficult thing to do, it took days of police time and it wasn’t easy to get it through at court. The licensees don’t just roll over, they put up a vigorous defence because it’s their livelihood you’re taking away. Plus, all it does is displace the problem. People don’t stop drinking and brawling just because their favourite bar has closed, after all.

I don’t know the full answer to the problem. I suspect no-one does. It probably involves all sorts of things, from improving attitudes to civility and behaviour from a very young age, to changing our drinking culture, to making booze harder and more expensive to buy (though this would penalise non-problem drinkers), to tougher enforcement of the basic laws against public drunkenness and violence.

This latter element of a wider solution is the one thing the police actually could do something about – after all, Ms Smith says that she has given us new powers to ‘disperse disruptive drinkers’. But this is another one straight from the la-la land school of public order: ‘Excuse me sir, can you put that bottle down and stop trying to blind that other man? We have new powers to disperse you, you see.’

Disperse them with who, Jacqui?

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 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?

I don’t even really blame senior officers if they are creating this pressure: the Government has said it wants to see reductions, so we have to provide them.

Whether it actually makes things better… well, who in authority really cares? As long as they aren’t getting stabbed in the kebab house, or having their car walked over at 3am, or being woken up by people fighting in their front garden – and they aren’t – then is there really a problem?

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Gadget has blogged his* last.

He first started the Police Inspector Blog in 2006 – inspired, as it happens, by another Monday Books author, PC David Copperfield, who wrote Wasting Police Time and created the now-defunct Coppersblog.

Few blogs last anything like that long – certainly not when they’re updated two or three times a week.

As a result of his efforts, he has received nearly 13 million hits.

I remember first meeting him, in a little restaurant not far from Euston Station; he was full of ideas for how the legal system could be changed, and how the poor, weak and elderly on his patch could be protected from the depredations of nasty, recidivist criminals. Few of his ideas have been adopted; common-sense never got anyone a QPM.

We published his book, Perverting the Course of Justice, not long after that first meeting. It has sold well, if not as well as Copperfield’s, but sales – for the sake of sales – were never Gadget’s main motivation, and I have never paid a penny to him for having written it.

Like WPT and PC E E Bloggs’ Diary of an On-Call Girl, the idea was to get politicians and voters to wake up to the realities of life on Britain’s worst housing estates, in an era when many senior coppers were becoming more adept at spin than in catching serious criminals.

He has written on a number of occasions for the national press and has spoken a fair bit to the BBC. It’s hard to exaggerate the risk he was taking in doing this. In the police, speaking out can cost you your job.

He’s been traduced by people like Nick ‘he is not an Inspector’ Herbert, and is a figure of hate for others.

I’m not sure why this is, when what he does as a day job is to recover dead children from car accidents, cut suicides down from tree branches or goalposts in the park, and try to catch distraction burglars who suck the wedding rings from the fingers of elderly widows. (The spit helps the rings to slide off more easily.)

I know from talking to him that it has become harder and harder to say something new on his blog.

I didn’t agree with him on everything, though on policing matters I deferred to his experience and knowledge. He let me win on publishing, northern soul and cricket. Beer and rugby were a draw.

He is and will remain a very good friend.

Vale, Gadget.

*Or hers.

NOTE: COMMENTS NOW CLOSED. WE HAVE PUBLISHED ALL COMMENTS RECEIVED (AS THE LAST-BUT-ONE SUGGESTS), APART FROM ONE WHICH ORIGINATED IN HUDDERSFIELD.

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