Friday, 29 March 2013


Lord Dear & Steve at the House of Lords

With immense pride, I met with The Lord Geoffrey Dear Kt QPM DL at the House of Lords this week.

Lord Dear was Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police from 1985 to 1990 when he became one of her Majesties Inspectors of Constabulary.  He was described by the broadcaster Sir Robin Day as "the best known and most respected police officer of his generation". Having served in the West Midlands whilst Lord Dear was in charge, I would totally endorse that comment.

Readers will know that we posted our support of Lord Dear recently. when he wrote an article in the Times that outlined the need for Leadership in policing. As a result of that article and contact with Lord Dear, he kindly extended the invite to the Lords. The article link is below if you missed it.

23 years after his retirement from the West Midlands force, it was a privilege to meet the “Boss” again. Now 75, Lord Dear is even more pragmatic and eloquent than I remembered.

Lord Dear acted as our guide, with fascinating insights into the history and activities of the Lords, against the splendour and majesty of the building. For anyone who has not had the privilege of a tour you may wish to click the links below to see a short video and an online tour of the Lords.


This tour is also available on Youtube at

The most enjoyable moments however were the conversations over coffee. Lord Dear is an engaging and compelling speaker, both publicly and one to one.  34 years as a police officer, many in the most senior capacity has endowed him with vast experience of policing, justice, the law, politics and business. It was most pleasing to hear his common sense views and values on important subjects such as free speech, international business affairs, the malaise that presently exists in UK policing resulting from the lack of real leadership right through to the thorny subject of gay marriage. In a letter to more than 400 peers, Lord Dear criticised the way David Cameron “shunted” the bill through “a very one-sided” Commons committee stage after “wholly inadequate” scrutiny in the Commons.
He said his initial soundings suggested there was a real possibility that the bill could now “go down” in the Lords despite support in the Commons.
“The thing that really bothers many is that the normal process for something as potentially divisive as this has not been followed.”
“The feeling in the Lords is that although (in the Commons) the whip was officially declared not to be on there was a lot of arm twisting going on.”

Another of Lord Dears passions is that of free speech. Perhaps the best example of this is his tabling of the proposal to remove the word “insulting” from section 5(1)a of the 1986 Public Order Bill.

To see Lord Dear introducing the amendment go to

Lord Dears passionate and compelling drive for the changes to Section 5, attracted the support of no less than Rowan Atkinson.
As Rowan commented, it is strange that this act, unless amended with continue to represent life imitating fictional humour characters, as in the Not The 9 O'Clock News sketch about a manifestly racist Constable Savage...
The problematic section of the act reads:-

A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)that his conduct was reasonable.
(4)A constable may arrest a person without warrant if—
(a)he engages in offensive conduct which a constable warns him to stop, and
(b)he engages in further offensive conduct immediately or shortly after the warning.
(5)In subsection (4) “offensive conduct” means conduct the constable reasonably suspects to constitute an offence under this section, and the conduct mentioned in paragraph (a) and the further conduct need not be of the same nature.
(6)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

With his customary eloquence Lord Dear opened the debate with:-

“My Lords, in introducing Amendment 119 I have in the front of my mind the words attributed to Voltaire as far back as 1759:

"I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

That is what it is all about tonight. The amendment seeks to curb what I believe is an increasing misuse of the criminal law so as to curb or prevent the proper exercise of free speech. The amendment intends that the word "insulting" should be taken out of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and that Section 6 of that Act should be similarly amended to take account of the earlier change”.

On the Thin Blue Line, this is a subject particularly close to our hearts for the following reasons:-

  • We feel the demise of responsible whistle blowing police blogs is largely due to extreme pressure forced upon their authors, effectively restricting free speech. This is often as a result of accusations that authors have brought their force or individuals into disrepute. The withdrawal of the hugely popular Inspector Gadget blog is the most recent example.
  • We have reported frequently on these pages that Section 5 has been widely abused as a result of Chief Officers identifying it as an easy win offence where detections are more likely. However, the matters under investigation are all too often minor domestic issues that should really not form part of police activity unless to protect life and property which is rarely the case. The common example is that of estranged couples, allegedly insulting each other to the point where one or both can allege being in fear, when in fact this is more often than not a ploy used by either or both to call in the support of the authorities to exert control over their former partner. Chief Officers have all too often been guilty of “Gaming” in the form of “Skewing” which is redeploying resources to the easy wins to the detriment of more difficult to resolve crimes that the public have a genuine fear of.
  • Section 5 appears in its 000’s in the recorded crime registers, distorting the real picture of crime and criminalising otherwise innocent members of the public who will falsely admit alleged offences for fear of the trauma and uncertainty of prosecution.  
Geoffrey James Dear, Baron Dear, QPM, DL  is a retired British police officer. His career makes interesting reading. 

  • 1956: Joined Peterborough Combined Police (which became part of Mid-Anglia Constabulary in 1965) as a Cadet then as a Constable   
  • 1965: Went to University College, London on a Bramshill Scholarship to study law. Graduating in 1968
  • 1968: Served as divisional commander in Cambridge
  • 1972: Appointed Assistant Chief Constable (Operations) of Nottinghamshire Combined Constabulary
  • 1975 to 1977: Seconded to Bramshill Police College as Director of Command Training.
  • 1979: Awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct for his arrest of an armed and mentally deranged man who held his infant son hostage and barricaded himself in a house after a shooting incident.

Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct
Geoffrey James DEAR, Assistant Chief Constable, Nottinghamshire Constabulary. For services leading to the arrest of an armed and mentally deranged man who held his infant son hostage in a barricaded house following a shooting incident.

  • 1980: Transferred to the Metropolitan Police as Deputy Assistant Commissioner (Training). In this role he came to public attention as he instituted racial awareness training for police officers in the wake of the Brixton riots, into which he also conducted an internal investigation.
  • 1981: Appointed Assistant Commissioner "D" (Personnel and Training
  • 1982: He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal (QPM)
  • 1983: Headed the Met's investigation into the shooting of Steven Waldorf.
  • 1984: Became Assistant Commissioner "A" (Operations and Administration) of the Metropolitan Police. He was the last officer to hold the post of Assistant Commissioner "A" before it was abolished in the reorganisation later that year.
  • 1985: Became Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. In the West Midlands, he quickly came to the fore with his handling of the aftermath of the shooting by police of a young boy and, separately, the aftermath of the 1985 Handsworth riots. He instituted wide-ranging changes in that force, both administratively and operationally.
  • 1989: He headed the investigation into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, the findings of which were roundly endorsed by the 2012 Independent Enquiry into the same occurrence.
  • 1990: He was appointed one of HM Inspectors of Constabulary.

1997: He was knighted in

the 1997 New Year Honours,
shortly before his retirement.


  • 1997 to 1998: He was a member of the Glidewell review into the Crown Prosecution Service from and advised the Auld Review of the Criminal Courts process in 2002 and the Virdi Enquiry in 2003.
  • 2 May 2006: Dear was created a life peer as Baron Dear, of Willersey in the County of Gloucestershire.
  • He has held a number of remunerated positions as non-executive director or chairman, and is currently non-executive chairman of Blue Star Capital plc.
  • He takes an active and regular part in the business of the House of Lords, speaking from the cross benches on home affairs, criminal justice, and rural affairs. In 2008 he successfully lead opposition in the House of Lords to defeat the Government's intention to extend from 28 to 42 days the length of time that suspected terrorists could be held without charge.
  • He is Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire, was Vice-Lord Lieutenant of that county from 1998 to 2001, and is an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn. He is a Fellow of University College, London and an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham City University
Lord Dear

Please accept our warm and sincere thanks for the superb welcome and kind hospitality shown to us during our visit.

The subjects covered resonated strongly with us all and we will continue to take a great interest in the work and debates where you are involved. It is a great comfort to meet someone in a position of influence who is so in touch with the general feelings and views of so many in the community.
With warmest regards and best wishes
Steve Bennett
Retired Police Officer
West Midlands Police
Creator and Author of the Thin Blue Line UK
Post script...
After the photo's were taken and Lord Dear returned to his duties inside the building, we had a thoroughly enjoyable 20 minutes chatting with the DPG guys on duty at the Peers entrance. A pleasant surprise, in  these dark days of policing, to meet a group of guys and girls with a sense of humour and obvious passion for the job. Thank heavens the majority of coppers do not reflect the disgraceful behavious or some of their Chiefs and seniors of recent months. Great to meet you guys, and a massive thank you, to you and all the other rank and file front line coppers for all that you continue to do for us.  

Monday, 18 March 2013


Superintendents' Association president warns that new approach to law enforcement is needed.'Threaten-Policing'_62268.html

What refreshing news, to hear that the new President of the Superintendents Association conced that the police service has been engulfed and threatened by a target culture.

The new president of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales has warned that a “tick box” target culture is prevailing in the Police Service – despite the best efforts of the Home Secretary to return discretion to front line officers.

Ch Supt Irene Curtis, who takes over the helm from predecessor Ch Supt Derek Barnett today, March 18, maintained that officers are still battling for arrests and detections – and that “a different approach” is now required.

The experienced senior operational officer told reporters: “The use of numerical targets in performance management is embedded in the police psyche.

“Policing should not be a competition. It should be collaborative and in the best interests of the public we serve. A different approach is needed to how we police.”

Ch Supt Curtis said the service needed to move away from the “tick box” focus on performance culture. Although Home Secretary Theresa May had officially removed central government policing targets – claiming the only goal for officers is “to reduce crime” – the president said targets remain a huge issue in policing “at multiple levels within the majority of police forces”.

She added: “Despite assurances from the government about the removal of central targets there is still a strong performance management culture in the service.

“This has created a generation of people who are great at chasing targets but do not always recognise that doing the right thing is the best thing for the public.”

Ch Supt Curtis, who is the first woman to take up the full-time presidency of the association, warned that targets had the “unintended consequences of forces, teams and even individual police officers concentrating efforts on ticking boxes and outdoing their peers at the expense of simply being the best they can be”.

The officer told reporters “I'm proposing a return to common sense policing which focuses on doing the right thing for victims and the public.

“This would include freeing up the performance management framework from targets that lead to increased audit and compliance work and dysfunctional behaviour.

“There is an urgent need to develop a more trusting performance management culture in the service. It is important that forces have measures to help them to understand how they are performing, but they should not be dominated by targets.”

Ch Supt Curtis, who has nearly three decades of policing experience under her belt, said she believed “front line officers are currently stretched beyond where they should be”.

She added: “What is required is the evidence-based deployment of resources rather than arbitrary numerical targets.

“I strongly believe that such an approach is essential to reduce demand and thus create further capacity for the diminishing resources available for policing as a consequence of this and the next Comprehensive Spending Review."

Ma'am, we genuinely wish you the very best of luck with your objectives and convincing your colleagues that this is the only way forward. Unless and until the target culture blight is wiped out from the service,  confidence cannot begin to return, either from the public or the rank and file officers still plagued with bureaucracy. Targets have driven operational policing for too long with disasterous consequences. The statistics are no longer trusted and the public have become weary and angry with a service that have become box ticking, form filling adminstrators that seems to have lost its way of genuinely serving and protecting the public.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Wherever you are Guv, take care & best wishes

In a sad indictment of modern policing, one of the best-known anonymous police bloggers has quit writing after seven years of sharing an officer's eye view of the world of policing.

This country's police were once the envy of the world; now they struggle to retain the confidence of their own people and have long since lost the support and confidence of the British public. Weighed down by political correctness, burdensome targets, excessive paperwork, non-core police activity and incessant government tinkering, fewer officers than ever are seen on the streets. Everyone knows that policing needs a root and branch overhaul – not the structural reform so beloved of the Labour government, but a cultural rejuvenation that restores to trained professionals the freedom to take their own decisions.
These were the subjects that Gadget focused on. The job he and we loved so much has been eroded so dramatically, it no longer bears any resemblance of the police service that was once so deserving of the world’s respect. Gadget implored the outside world to recognise what was happening to the service in the hope that someone, somewhere, somehow would listen and take steps to returning the service to a world of common sense and justice. He wrote about the malaise affecting the British Justice system, the ridiculous and strangling bureaucracy that pervades in the job to this day, the mindless target driven culture among Chief and senior officers that obstructs frontline and response officers from doing their job moist effectively, the endless fudging of crime statistics and the political interference in the everyday operational duties.

Those close to the Gadget say he has grown frustrated at the cuts to the police service and feels he is unable to enact any change through his writing. It is not known whether he has been directly warned off by senior officers in his force but he quits at a time when those officers who are tweeting under pseudonyms say they are being intimidated off social media by their bosses.

Inspector Gadget is by no means the first to quit the medium voluntarily or otherwise.
One of the first and most visited police blogs was authored by a Lancashire Detective, Richard Horton, who in 2008 started blogging under the pseudonym "Nightjack". Recognition for his writings came in the form of the Orwell Prize in February 2009. Richard is the first to admit that some of his posts had taken on a harshly political edge. Winning the award threw him into the spotlight and he lost his cloak of anonymity when the Times newspaper traced him and sent photographers around to his house. The result was that he felt pressured by his force to close the blog and cease his writings.

Pc Stuart Davidson served as an officer in Staffordshire police and his "Coppersblog" site was among the first to expose the problems that had beset UK policing. Blogging as PC David Copperfield, his true identity was discovered by his force and as a result, he felt compelled (or was pushed) to close down the blog and is now a serving police officer in Canada.

A whistle blower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organization or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organization. The revealed misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law , rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest , such as fraud , health/safety violations, and corruption . Whistle blowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).
Whistle blowers frequently face reprisal , sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law.

Origins of term
The term whistle blower derives from the practice of English police officers, who would blow their whistles when they noticed the commission of a crime. The whistle would alert other law enforcement officers and the general public of danger.

In 2002, a Government amendment gave police officers the same protection for whistleblowing as the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998  (PIDA) provided other workers, including their civilian colleagues.

The need that police officers should not be discouraged from blowing the whistle on wrongdoing was strongly supported in 1998 during the passage of Richard Shepherd MP’s Public Interest Disclosure Bill. The Government gave assurances then and since that police officers would receive PIDA equivalent protection.
However, even such good intent has clearly not resulted in Police Officers having the freedom to speak of matters that clearly require reform.

As is clear from research from HMI on whistleblowing policies:
“There is a strong feeling amongst officers and support staff that retribution, subtle or direct, would result from making complaints against colleagues. There is a perception no one commends such officers for demonstrating moral courage". “The Inspection found grievance procedures were widely held to be ineffective, with a misunderstanding of what they might achieve…in most forces, for a variety of reasons, there was little or no confidence in the system. …One force recently carried out an equality audit and, with a response rate of 53%, it revealed that 75% of police officers…believed it was either true or partly true that making a complaint or formal grievance would be held against them.”
The provision in regulations and guidance that supervisors and managers should ensure that police whistle blowers are not victimised is also insufficient as HMI discovered:

“A concern emerged strongly during the Inspection that officers who are more senior will not support junior colleagues who challenge on an integrity issue. Once a manger who has tried to challenge and rectify bad behaviour, has been undermined by those in more senior positions, perhaps because of weakness or nepotism, they are understandably less likely to make a second challenge.”

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."                  Fran├žois-Marie Arouet  a.k.a.Voltaire
Whilst we have not always agreed with everything Inspector Gadget has written, he makes some very relevant, important points. If he has been shut down because of paranoia in the upper echelons of policing, this must be seen as a backward step in the honest reforms so badly needed for UK policing.

"All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher 1729-1797)"
To Quote From Gadget :- My message to the government is this; ignore all the vested interests and the claptrap. Give us some old school traditional police front line leadership and we will deliver where others have failed. Although you might not be able to count it in the same way.

Inspector Gadget, whose blog recorded more than 12m hits, unexpectedly tweeted on Monday that he was "going state 11" – off duty – and has since deleted postings dating back to 2006, many of which attacked the sometimes farcical bureaucracy he believes is strangling the police service. The last posting on Gadget's blog before all posts were deleted read: "This jobs is f...d".
If the leadership of the police cannot bring itself to accept, openly and honestly, that reforms are needed at all levels within the service, then once again, we the British public will be hoodwinked and conned into believing that all in the police garden is rosy, which it clearly is not. Who will take up the mantle and restore the public and officer confidence so badly needed now?

Never has true Leadership been required in the service more than right now. Lord Dear (former Chief Constable of the West Midlands and perhaps one of the last real Leaders in the service) said it so well in his recent Times article.
What the job desperately needs now is Leaders NOT managers. The service doesn't seem to know the difference. Sadly, Leadership is not the only element lacking at the top. Public confidence and that of the troops will never fully return until there is distinct evidence that the Chief Officer standards and qualities are beyond reproach. Over as many months, 18 Chiefs and SMT ranks either disciplined, arrested, or dismissed for unprofessional and even criminal conduct is an indictment of how so many clearly feel they are above the law they are meant to uphold.

How do you instil moral compass values in a hierarchy that doesn't seem to know the difference between crooked and straight?

The bonuses paid to Chief Officers in return for allegedly reducing crime, when in fact many were scurrilously and deceitfully cooking the books, would eclipse the outrage caused by the MP's scandal if it were fully exposed.
For twenty plus years, too many so called good men did just that. Fallacious decreases in crime, 000's no crimed, 000's more screened out, 000's more again left as incidents to keep them off the books have decimated the true picture of crime and distorted the reality beyond belief. Yet still, they bleat about how crime has reduced!!

The single biggest negative consequence of this crime of the century, is the slashing of frontline troop numbers all as a consequence of Chief Officers fudging the numbers for personal gain. Look what it led to, politicians who choose to use the numbers as a political football to slash resources. The only people to blame are the Chief Officers who orchestrated, condoned, overlooked or failed to act. Authors of misfortune that is now the burden of the rest of the service.
Before any leadership skills can even be considered, there needs to be a root and branch cull of those corrupt officers whose continued presence poisons the service.

To Inspector Gadget. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for trying to highlight all that ails the service. Let us hope that all of your efforts were not in vain.

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