Posts Tagged ‘Wasting MORE Police Time’

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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In yesterday’s Observer, Nick Herbert, the former police minister, wrote at some length about what he said was the public’s loss of faith in the police. He said this had been caused by the fact that some detectives in Kent are being investigated for a scam involving TICs, and because of Hillsborough and ‘Plebgate’.

Leave aside the question of what on earth an MP of all people thinks he is doing lecturing people about a loss of faith; and the fact that the TIC scam is as old as the hills, and is partly in response to the government’s own insane target culture; and that Hillsborough happened in 1989 (90% of the cops in the country on that day having long since retired).

Andrew Mitchell resigned of his own volition after swearing at the police, and good riddance to the foul-mouthed yob. Arguably, the real scandal is that Mitchell was not arrested; if I were a youth who had been nicked for swearing at the police outside The Jolly Friar Chippy last night, I might be wondering why it is that pompous Tory MPs get a pass and I don’t.

But my main gripe is with this paragraph:

Anyone who doubts what was behind Mitchell’s downfall need only read the blog of Inspector Gadget. A serving police officer, the self-promoted Gadget (he is not an inspector) says: “The relationship between Conservatives and police officers is not just toxic, it is over.” Feelings about the reform of pay and conditions were so strong “there was bound to be trouble. Plebgate is trouble”.

So, just to recap: I say Inspector Gadget is a serving police inspector, or at least has been (s/he may or may not have been promoted).

Nick Herbert says s/he is not.

Does that mean Nick Herbert is saying that I am a liar?

Given that I publish non-fiction books, it is quite important to me that people believe what I say (outwith the usual disclaimers about names and details being changed to protect the guilty).

Can I sue Nick Herbert for libel? It’s an interesting question, with shades of Tony McNumpty.

Incidentally, I have met Herbert once: I found him to be on the slimy side of charming. It was (from memory) some time in early 2007, when PC David Copperfield was invited to give a talk to Policy Exchange, the Conservative think-tank.

I went along to hold his coat, the Daily Telegraph‘s Philip Johnston acted as MC, and the then opposition MP and shadow police minister Herbert was among the invited guests.

The audience was small but rapt: none of them had ever seen or heard a ground-level PC talking, openly and articulately, about the problems British policing faced (and faces). This was because no serving PC had ever done so. (This was a few months after Wasting Police Time had been published, and Copperfield had not yet outed himself; it took a lot of guts for him to attend, as he would certainly have lost his job if identified.)

Copperfield’s key messages were that, yes, the police sometimes are terrible – being human – but here’s why: too much police time was being taken up in pointless paperwork (he recounted how it could easily take six hours to deal with two teenagers for the theft of a pushbike; no-one was saying theft of a pushbike was not important, but six hours was a bit much); that serious recidivist criminals were not being jailed for the protection of their (usually poor, elderly and otherwise vulnerable) victims; that the target culture introduced by the Blair government was changing police priorities for the worse; that discretion was a thing of the past; and that policing much of modern Britain was a bit like dealing with drunk toddlers.

Herbert sat there and listened, gave an interview to some TV people who had attended, and then left.

Wind forward five years, and the paperwork has got worse, the targets are still there, people are still drunk and entitled, and the government can’t wait to let violent criminals out of jail. But then, thanks to the Plebs at the Gates, Dave and Sam have zero chance of being burgled for the kids’ Christmas presents.

Of course, if you want to read more by Inspector Gadget, you can always buy the book.

On that note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our reader!

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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.


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…


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’.


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.


(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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The BBC today reveals that the Crown Prosecution Service is a shambles, with inexperienced and poor-quality advocates receiving case notes at the last minute and agreeing to inappropriate pleas.

From Wasting More Police Time:

The CPS have many nicknames. ‘Couldn’t Prosecute Satan’, ‘Clowns Pretending to be Solicitors’, ‘Criminal Protection Service’, ‘Can’t Prosecute, Sorry.’ At my level they are almost universally disliked. Some of them are so risk-averse you can forget proceeding on a decent ABH based on witness accounts, or even admissions – they won’t authorise charge unless you’ve got DNA, CCTV, a full suite of forensics and mobile phone mast location data. There are others who seem to operate on the rock-paper-scissors method of deciding whether to authorise.

They don’t read files properly, they ask for information which is unnecessary – like, they will demand interview transcripts for utterly trivial matters where no-one has been interviewed in the first place. They lose files in this extraordinary black hole that they seem to have in their offices, and have to have them re-sent, by fax like it’s the 1980s, often more than once. Plus they seem to see themselves more as an arm of the defence than of the prosecution. I’ve known cast-iron cases where they refuse charge. If you argue with them, they’re quite ready to go over your head to your boss and complain about you.

In the last nick I worked at before my current one, we had in-house CPS, as opposed to on the phone, and someone stuck a picture on the office door of the fat bloke in the wheelchair off Little Britain, with the head of the CPS woman superimposed and the slogan ‘CPS says No’ underneath it. Quite brave, as the CPS office was on the top floor with the bosses. It was taken down and put back up, and taken down and put back up again, and in the end an email went round from the divisional chief warning people there would be serious consequences for whoever was responsible. There was a rumour going round that they were looking at a RIPA [Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which covers how surveillance is carried out] authorisation for cameras in the nick, but who knows if that was true? It would surprise me, but it wouldn’t amaze me, I think that’s how I’d put it.

PC, 38, Northern force

Meanwhile, in last weekend’s Sunday Times, PC David Copperfield rode to the rescue (once again) to explain how it could all be so much better:

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I think the long-term goal is the privatisation of the police. Call me paranoid, but ACPO is a private company. The government don’t like the fact that we are not answerable, at least in theory, to them and they are determined to make us accountable under the cloak of ‘value for money’.

So says one northern police inspector, as quoted in our new title Wasting More Police Time.

Sometimes, even when you’re paranoid, it turns out they are out to get you.

Meanwhile, Tony McNally – author of Watching Men Burn – meets up with an Argentinian veteran of the Falklands war via the auspices of The Guardian.



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Let’s hope it’s not a dog.

Wasting More Police Time should – should! – be in stores now.

It will be on Kindle over the weekend, and on iTunes in a couple of weeks.

Gadget says: ‘This is the most important document to be published about front line policing in a long time.’

Also coming soon as eBooks, another couple of titles possibly of interest to the Old Bill.

The first is Roger Graeff’s Talking Blues – basically, an oral history of what it was like to be in The Filth in the 1980s (complete with people accidentally falling down the stairs, and officers going ‘over the side’ with every WPC in sight, taking part in re-enactments of famous war films and racing around at about 45mph in sky blue Austin Allegros).

The second is a rather more sedate affair – Theodore Dalrymple’s The Policeman and the Brothel: A Victorian Murder. This tells the story of the killing on Jersey in 1846 of one George Le Cronier – stabbed to death by the madame of a notorious brothel called, somewhat incongruously, Mulberry Cottage. Le Cronier is still the only police officer murdered in the line of duty on Jersey.

Though we say ‘murdered’; the defendant was actually convicted of manslaughter, despite the fact that she told people she was going to kill the next copper who came through her door and sat waiting for him with a knife she’d specially sharpened. Despite the relatively clear-cut nature of the crime, Victorian juries were reluctant to see women swing. She was transported Down Under for life, and was free and married a few years later.

More details on both as and when. Please watch this space.

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is almost there. Please bear with us as we check a few final facts.

One of the salutary lessons involved in talking to a large number of cops about their job is listening to their descriptions of road accidents. I drive slower now.

This BBC link to every road death in the UK between 1999 and 2010 is interesting, too, albeit in a slightly macabre way.

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…should have been published today, but is delayed, I’m afraid. We’re still editing and adding in stuff from interviews done last month. It should be out in about a month from now (we hope).

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn on Occupy Wall Street:

You won’t be surprised to hear that Ben & Jerry’s, the hippie-dippy Vermont ice-cream makers, have come out in favor of Occupy Wall Street. Or as their press release puts it:

We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity.

Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever.

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