One of the better police blogs is http://200weeks.police999.com/ which burst into life on September 9th 2005. The site was created by a rEgular police officer who has dedicated his life to the force and area that he serves.
In his own words, the site author has spent his entire life "in the trenches" as a front line officer. In February 2009, the author hung up his boots and truncheon, and after 30 years service, became a civilian in his police force control room, a vantage point from where he is able to continue his insightful reports on policing as it really is in the UK today.
A prolific and intelligent writer, "200" posts regular articles that provide an honest and informed view of the challenges that face police officers in their attempts to deliver a fair system of justice, despite an ever increasing burden of bureacuracy and idiotic procedures.
The articles reprinted below are two fine examples from "200" of real world of policing in Britain in 2009.
NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH
The dreadful case of Fiona Pilkington whose life was blighted by anti social youths on her estate to such an extent that she took her own child’s life & committed suicide by setting fire to her car as they sat in it, will have some far-reaching repurcussions. The surprise is that, in the two years since this tragic event happened, there has been just about zero change in the way police deal with anti-social behaviour.
I spend every late shift in every town I control not sending police officers to anti social youths. This is despite the fact that I know what an effect it can have on people’s lives let alone their peace. I’m almost ashamed to say but I have anti social behaviour in my street & I never report it to the police, the reason purely & simply is, I know there is little chance of the police arriving before the youths have moved on. If it’s gotten too bad I have gone out there myself & given some ‘advice’, though I don’t like doing this in my own street. (I tend to climb over my back fence & appear from somewhere not near my house so they don’t know where I live).
The apalling crux of the matter is one of mathematics. We have X-amount of officers & we get Y-amount of jobs which take Z-amount of time. When Y x Z > X we cannot possibly get to all the jobs on time, if at all. We either have to make people wait, in some cases days, or we just don’t go.
The problem with antisocial behaviour is that it doesn’t fit in with any targets & we don’t get to tick any boxes. When Jay sends a text message to his ex-girlfriend Leah saying she’s a slag, that’s threats to violence or damage, malicious communications or a domestic, all of which are recordable & may result in a detected crime. When Mrs Miggins is fed up to the back teeth with a bunch of teenage yobs who spend every night shouting & swearing outside her bedroom & pissing up against her fence, that’s just a bit of ASB. Guess which one gets an officer sent to it whether they want one or not & which one gets closed off 2 hours after the youths have gone elsewhere with a ‘no officer available’ closing.
Mrs Pilkington did not have the protection afforded to certain groups within society. Had she been black or Asian, Jewish or gay, she would have had an officer every single occasion she phoned. There are teams within each police force whose sole job it is to look at ‘hate’ crimes against minority groups. I well remember a case of some kids throwing snowballs at a Jewish shop, on a day when the kids were throwing snowballs at everyone & anyone & we didn’t have the resources to deal with all the accidents & crime let alone kids chucking snowballs. Most of the snowball jobs just got closed off because there was absolutely no chance of us sending anyone; we had more important & immediate things to do. The Jewish shop had to remain open because the racism word had been mentioned. Within an hour the Inspector in charge of the diversity unit was on the phone to the control room inspector demanding to know why this racist incident hadn’t been assigned within the 1 hour requirement of force policy.
Nobody phoned up from any police unit who sit on their arses looking at logs in some office somewhere at HQ on behalf of all the other people being taunted by kids with snow. The fact that Mrs Pilkington had a disabled daughter, much of which taunting was aimed at, doesn’t seem to have cut any ice with the local constabulary.
I’ve blogged before about the unfairness of diversity policy & have argued that everyone should be treated on their own merits only. It completely baffles me that, for instance, a 6′6 Afro-Caribbean nightclub bouncer with years in the nighttime entertainment trade, who gets called a rude name is entitled to a better service than a vulnerable teenage girl who may be, unknowingly to us, considering suicide because of some bullying. How can a rule written on a policy somewhere at police HQ possibly differentiate between the effect on these two people & class one as somehow more deserving of a higher response than the other. Where is the leeway to attend based on the individual potential effect on the victim?
Just occasionally, someone will come up with a local operation to target antisocial behaviour. Extra resources will be called in & they will be tasked for ASB jobs alone, unavailable for RTCs, assaults or domestics. This is a clear acceptance of the importance of tackling such behaviour, but if it is important, why isn’t important all the time & on every estate.
Antisocial behaviour is the key to so many more problems in society. Someone who grows up not having consequences for their behaviour will learn that they are entitled to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want. They will grow up with a me, me, me attitude & will spend the rest of their lives demanding everything they can get. A child who grows up to respect other peoples needs & rights will end up as net givers to society.
When I was on the street I actually enjoyed helping to make other people’s lives a little better. One of the reasons I wanted to join the police was to help people who couldn’t help themselves. I held that belief until the day I retired. I still believe it. I am unable to do it because I do not have the resources nor the will from those who run the show to sort the matter out.
After the story of Mrs Pilkington, I will be wondering if the next job I fail to send an officer to will end up with someone murdering their child & topping themselves. That’s simply not fair & I don’t have the power to address it properly.
Time will tell whether the fallout from Mrs Pilkington will make any difference.
AND SO IT GOES . . . .
Twenty years ago Mrs Pilkington would have had a much better service than she got in the years leading up to 2007. There were many thousands less police officers. In March this year there were 144,000 police officers. In March 1987 there were 120,000.
We have 24,000 more police officers yet those available for front line policing have been slashed dramatically. I don’t have access to any figures for the amount of officers available for day-to-day policing calls so I can only go by my own experience. In 1987 one division I worked in paraded 18 officers split between 4 police stations. This did not include 3 rural cars which covered the villages, 1 officer in every neighbourhood beat & a rural officers who shared all the villages between them. We put out 9 patrol cars in the division plus a walker in each of the town centres & the police stations were open 24 hours a day.
Now those same 4 towns have a maximum of 8 officers between them, we are lucky if they can put out 5 cars in the whole division, all of the police stations are closed longer than they are open.
Back in the day the village bobby lived on the patch & knew everyone & everything there was to be known. He probably looked after 2 or 3 villages. Every estate had a neighbourhood officer who lived on their patch, they often had a little police office attached to their house, they too knew everyone, they were a vast source of information. What they knew & what they did couldn’t be recorded in an exel spreadsheet yet their value to policing was enormous.
Then someone in a wendy house somewhere decided that the only way to measure the success of an organisation was to match its performance against a written down set of criteria & the way to do this was to count beans. Suddenly, the value of everything was measured in beans & rural/neighbourhood officers didn’t grow any beans on their patches. Add to that the fact that they lived in expensive police houses.
The theory went that if you did away with neighbourhood & rural officers not only could you pull them all back to the nick where they could produce a few beans, you could also save the expense of maintaining their houses, sell them off & plough lots of lovely lolly into all the new & dynamic projects which were about to hit the world of UK policing. We lost a generation of intelligence which we are only now getting back, amazingly enough, through local PCSOs, who will, within a few years, be just as valuable a tool to police intelligence as the old village bobby.
It made good political – read voting – sense to increase the number of bobbies, so every government promised more. More bobbies means more votes ‘cos we all want more bobbies on the streets, only they never made the streets. They all went into disparate little ‘remit’ teams. You know the teams, they are the ones you ask for help when you’re struggling to meet all the frontline priorities who turn round & say “sorry, mate, not my remit”.
So we had the burglary squad, set up to specifically target burglary beans, the robbery squad busy collecting robbery beans, sexual offences squad, paedophile squad, computer crime squad, diversity squad, more officers means more potential for naughty goings-on so the rubber heel squad was boosted. We had the serious crime units, the bloody serious crime units, organised crime, it goes on. Then there are the units who monitor the other units, who count the beans, who supervise those who count the beans, who make sure the right beans are being counted.
So every time an Inspector of Constabulary comes a-calling & says, “now look here Mr Chief Constable, your force is doing particularly low in detections of spanner-wielding credit-card thieves” we have to have a department whose soul aim is to reduce spanner-wielding credit card thefts.
The problem for those on the front line is that most of the calls we get don’t lead to all the remit-beans. Nobody measures the prevention of crime, nobody measures kids who piss up your garage & chuck eggs through your windows, nobody measures depressed people who threaten suicide but never go through with it. You don’t get a bean for sitting outside a row of shops stopping the kids from spitting at people with special needs.
And if they’re not measured, they’re not important.
If the next Inspector of Constabulary comes round & says “Now look here Mr Chief Constable, the behaviour of teenage yobs in this area is apalling, this chart shows a 150% increase in bad language in front of old ladies, get it sorted” you’ll have so many shiny-arses out of their offices that the problem could be sorted in a year.
It ain’t gonna happen, though.
The authors of this site have been contacted by senior politicians who are capable of introducing effective criminal justice reforms. They tell us that they are interested and paying regular attention to the content on these pages. Whilst the statistical analysis contained in the reports from these pages is our work, the majority of the real life experiences are inspired by or drawn from people at the coal face of British policing, such as the author of the 200 site, Inspector Gadget, PC Bloggs and others contained in the "Thin Blue Line" links opposite.
To the politicians, Home Office civil servants and senior officers that may read these pages, we would invite you to spend some time reading some of the enlightening articles contained on these and other front line policing sites. Be prepared to confront the real world head on through these pages. We invite you to step out of your environment for a while, so that you may empathise with the challenges and obstructions faced by the front line officer. The content is an often colourful, honest view of the framework within which our guys at the coal face of society perform their increasingly difficult duty.
Listening is not enough. Take what you hear to heart. Then take the effective action only you are empowered to take, to make the necessary reforms that may ultimately restore public confidence in the Criminal Justice System that should be the bedrock of a decent, peaceful society.
We know the challenge is a difficult one that will require all your reserves of courage and direct thought. We know it involves accepting openly and honestly that mistakes have been made. Only by applying this level of honesty and transparency in any reforms you consider are appropriate, will your efforts bear the fruit in transforming society.
Britain is broken. You have the power to fix it. Cut through the distractions and obstructions that have plagued modern policing. Let us hear less of the minority projects and more of firm and effective use of police resources. Show us evidence that our taxes are being well spent, that the ratio of frontline officers actually available for real policework, dramatically exceeds those tied up counting beans, creating flow charts and ivory tower projects to justify the perpetuation of departments crammed with wasted resources.
Spend our money wisely. Show us the real value we deserve to see. You will find you have a much greater degree of public support and confidence from the wider public than you may have imagined.
We hope to see evidence of your efforts very soon.
The Crime Analysis Team
Nice 1 Limited