I thought I’d herd it all before…

Moped or motorbike based crime is big news at the moment, and we are no exception. Most nights we get to watch on the helicopter video downlink as a pursuit pans out of one of the dregs of society on a bike after they’ve committed a robbery or a burglary, and more often than not, they get away. 

Tonight, though, Bob lucked out. He made off from a burglary on his scrambler bike, thinking life will be easy from here on in, but was distressed to be chased by a police motorcyclist, who can follow places where a response car cannot. Bob struggles to get far from the police rider, who is a much better biker on a much more powerful machine, and eventually ditches his bike and runs off across a field, probably reasoning (correctly) that at 20 odd years old and in jeans, he can probably outrun a 40 something year old bloke in bike leathers and carrying a stab vest and a belt full of clobber.

We watch on thermal camera black-and-white-o’vision as he runs across the field, stumbling and slowing down as he goes, eventually dropping to a walk. Soon he starts waving his arms around. At first, it seemed as if he was gesturing at the helicopter, but then the camera zoomed out and it was apparent there were cows in the field, and he wanted them out of the way. They moved, and he made progress. 

Then the camera zoomed out another level, and it became apparent there were a LOT of cows in the field. The herd formed up behind him, and started moving towards him. He looked back, and started to pick up speed, unfortunately so did they, and he had to make a run for it. Amusing though it was to watch, if they’d fatally trampled him it would have to be investigated as a death in police contact.

He makes it to the fence finally, vaults it with an agility he probably never knew he had. After gathering his breath he shuffles off, straight into the waiting arms of two bobbies. Compared to being used as a doormat by 100+ cows, being banged up is fairly tame. Anyway, off to jail for you. He might have been a ‘Natural Selection’ winner, but not today.

Have a break…

Have a Kitkat.

Though on coming back to work after a delightful 3 weeks off where I only had to set the alarm clock once, my dismay is tempered somewhat by the fact there’s Cadbury’s Creme Eggs back in the staff tuckshop. Hurray. Type 2 diabetes, here I come… 
I walk back into 57 emails, of which about 5 are relevant, and that’s not including the folder where any email with the word ‘overtime’ in it is automatically diverted, in there are 156 emails begging and pleading for people to work to fill gaps in staffing levels. Boom, deleted. 

Total log count still around the 1,600 mark, so nothing has changed in the last 3 weeks, despite lots of people desperately trying to wring more performance out of the same number of staff.

Todays highlights are a far-right march where the protesters are outnumbered by the police, and told by the locals in no uncertain terms they are not welcome. Sadly, none of the protesters give any of the dog-handlers reason to unleash their beasts, but hopefully the clear display of available force will persuade them to sod off elsewhere next time they have a lager-fuelled hate day. 

Talking of lager, there’s also the start of football season to contend with, i.e. the usual contingent of idiots who can’t go to a simple sporting event without spoiling for a fight and having to be separated. Anticipating this, staff are moved off nights to work lates instead, which doubtless makes them as happy as it would me, but it just leaves nights with even less staff than usual. Because nothing really bad happens on a Saturday night… 

Last interesting job of the night is a motorbike riding suspected burglar who gives traffic the runaround for over an hour, as we watch the helicopter video live. The little tyke occasionally stops to refuel the bike from fuel cans he has stashed around the area, like some petrol-obsessed squirrel. Anyone who’s seen the moped crime wave explode in London and understandably says ‘Ram them off the road’ has clearly never tried to catch a motorbike in a car, but eventually the rider and his passenger come a cropper on rough ground, a quick game of hide and seek in the dark ends with a police German Shepherd sinking his teeth into the rider. Happy days. The dogs jabs are up to date.

We hate to say we told you so…

Actually, no we don’t. We tell you, Mrs Prime Minister and Ms Home Secretary, because. some of us are still deluded enough to think that it may sink in eventually. We tell you, mr and mrs public, and have done for the last 9 or 10 years, because it’s your protection that’s suffering, and we’re increasingly tired of being ignored.
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Repeatedly warning about police cuts is not about protecting my pay packet against sub-inflation pay rises. We’ve been stuck at 1% for the last few years, when I remember the days of 2.5% payrises. That 1.5% difference on a salary of £37,000 for top-rate PC is about £550 a year, nearer £350 after tax and other deductions. That’s one less chinese takeaway a month, I’ll live with that, and just be grateful that I’ve got a secure job.

It’s about the fact that cuts in staff mean less can be done. Each successive increase in efficiency brings less and less of an improvement, all the easy fixes, the low-hanging fruit, have already been done. The fact that we had to have the army on the streets 2 months ago, and a deputy commisioner in the Met is begging people to come back, surely demonstrates that budget cuts have gone too far?

I know full well other public services suffer the same, this is not asking to be treated above the others. Just asking our lords and masters to be honest about the effects their policies are having. Residents of London in particular can’t fail to be aware that moped/motorbike based robberies are massively on the increase and have been for a while, for example. The public are getting increasingly frustrated with lack of support.

There’s always an undercurrent of people who sort their own problems out, usually involving very very unpleasant things happening to the people they suspect, such as Ryan  . While their standard of proof before they act may or may not be as high as ours, that’s not really the point. Currently the people who do this are doing it on their version of principle, because they don’t like the police and the courts. When it gets to the point that suspects start getting beaten and start dying at the hands of people who do like the police, but are desperate because they never see them, will our lords and masters listen then? Or will they continue seeing roses until such time as even this stops being newsworthy?

(Current outstanding jobs, 1615. Last week the high tide mark was 2,500. Last year, 1,500 was seen as a tragedy, now it would be nirvana)

Overpaid.

The list now has to expand.

Philip Hammond is under the impression that public sector workers are paid better than the private sector. When pressed on whether he’d said in private that they were overpaid, he refused to answer, instead saying private conversations shouldn’t be discussed.

In other words, yes I said it, no I don’t want to admit it, but I don’t want to be accused of lying later on either if someone says it openly.

And this from a man ho earns £140,000 for what is essentially a desk job. And has numerous outside business interests that mean he could comfortably forego his salary and not even notice the difference, such as over £10,000 a month in rental income.

No general in the army would dare to speak of those under their command like that. But then that’s because they’re generally not hypocrites – they lead by example and they understand how to motivate people. Not things Hammond could ever be accused of.

That really takes the biscuit…

Sitting down this evening, I didn’t even have time to get my computer logged on and my epaulettes on before the phone rang with one control room asking for help with workload. The suitably sympathetic noises made, I ended the call and scoured the system for the workload in our different areas and rang round for the staff numbers, to see who’s worse off.

They weren’t unreasonable in asking for help, but one of the other divisions had twice as many calls to get to per officer, including one where someone has been shot in the head with a shotgun, and has already had ten officers from the support unit/reserve. As there was a good case for two of the other, less busy divisions to provide a bit of help, I approached them, only to be told in no uncertain terms to go away, as they had both just had shootings land too, both with injuries. So, division one rung back and politely told ‘You’re on your own’, division 2 told ‘We’ll try and find you some beat bobbies or PCSO’s to stand on scenes to release your response officers’ and divisions 3 and 4 told ‘Oops, sorry, don’t shoot the messenger. The log count has gone up another 150 open jobs since yesterday. The duty superintendent is trying to find extra resources, with about as much effectiveness as dancing to make it rain.

So that’s the first 45 minutes of my working day. On the plus side, someone’s brought doughnuts in. Which is nice. And now I’ve got the time to write this, as there’s very little for me to do just now. 

I’m beginning to think this spurt in demand is more than just a spurt. It’s lasted about 3 weeks now, a normal workload of about 1200-1500 open calls at any given time, (obvious peak times like New Years Eve apart), has been bouncing around the 1800-2200 area for the last 3 weeks, and drafting lots of beat bobbies in to deal with it sounds great, but it’s barely keeping pace.

Much though we like to poke fun at beat bobbies for being semi-retired and all having a shiny seat on their trousers as they spend all day sitting down, their normal community work needs doing, and it just isn’t getting done. As we approach Summer, it’s only going to get worse. I may start a surreptitious sweepstake about the highest open job count between now and September. If this doesn’t scuttle the Maybot’s stupid observation that how to deploy staff matters and numbers do not, I don’t know what does.

Meanwhile, in the Met, an officer has been taken off response duties, for A YEAR, over an open half-eaten packet of biscuits he found left on a table at work, and shared out with his team at the end of a shift. A year. A rough calculation, allowing for annual leave, court dates and training courses, suggests he could have gone to approximately 700 or so response jobs in that time. We don’t help ourselves.

Finders Keepers, Finders weepers, AKA Buffoon of the week VII

This buffoon of the week winner was dealt with by a friend of mine, not me, so is a third party winner, but worthy of note nontheless.

Bob was stupid and a small time burglar, who was happier burgling abandoned houses as there was less chance of being disturbed or bothered with. He would steal copper piping and other metalwork from boilers in abandoned or neglected houses and sell it to scrap yards, for pennies. He must have been paying himself well under the national minimum wage given how much time the whole process would take, no holiday pay or sick pay either, it would have been better to get a job stacking shelves in Tescos, but that was his problem, not mine.

One day, Bob hit the jackpot. He was burgling an abandoned house, when hidden in the kitchen, he found £70,000 in cash! Happy days. Drug money, concealed in a house by someone unwilling to keep it at home, and not concealed very well. Bob has just collected more money in a five minute expedition than he will possibly ever earn in a lifetime of burgling empty houses. The sensible thing to do, bearing in mind it must have crossed his feeble brain what sort of person has £70,000 in cash and a need to hide it, would have been to keep very very quiet indeed about it. Bob cannot have been unaware of drug gang activity in the area, even if he wasn’t involved in it except as a customer.

So silence would have been golden. What was NOT golden was going on Facebook and bragging about having found said sum of money. Although keeping it instead of handing it in is illegal, the police were the least of Bob’s problems from here on in. Bob received a death threat fairly quickly, giving him a day to make arrangements to hand the money back, or else. Unfortunately for Bob, he spoke to the police and spilled the beans, who came, promptly confiscated the money, then served an Osman warning on him and his family.

For the uninitiated, an Osman warning arose out of the case of Osman v United Kingdom [1998] , in a nutshell the police had information that the victims life was under threat, from an obsessive teacher at his sons school. They didn’t take effective measures to protect the families lifes, the teacher ended up killing two people and wounding two more, and out of this arose the Osman warning – If the police have information suggesting your life is at risk, but not enough evidence to arrest someone yet, they have a legal duty to come and tell you that information suggests there is a risk, and to take appropriate precautions. This normally means moving house in a hurry, and if you choose to ignore the advice and something bad happens to you, then they aren’t liable.

Frequently they are served on gang members because of threats from rival gangs, in which case it would be tempting to stand back and let natural selection sort out the problem and then arrest the survivors, but the law is there to protect everyone, even those who break it. But I digress.

Bob now knew who he had taken the money from, and suddenly unable to give it back, needed no encouragement for him and his family to move house. My friend, who relayed the tale to me, took a statement about the threats while the family were packing their life into a removals van and moving to Scotland. To be specific, he persuaded them to leave the washing machine in the hallway until last, and he used it as a desk, quizzing them for details as they passed him at speed whilst loading the removals van and writing them up in the periods they were out of speaking range. He finished the statement just as they came for the washing machine, practically threw it onto the van in their haste, and were the far side of Hadrians Wall several hours later, never to return.

For his sheer ability to snatch disaster from the jaws of good fortune, Bob certainly deserves his buffoon of the week award.

Market forces

There’s a pub just off my old area with the wierdest licensing hours I’ve ever heard of, it opens from 4am until lunchtime. Yes, you read that right. Not lunchtime until 4am. It serves the major market just off the city centre, and caters for those who get there at stupid o’clock in the morning to set up their stalls. They could probably open for longer, but the regular clientele are notorious for not causing problems, so why risk it with more conventional drinkers?

One pleasant Monday morning, Bob and I were sent to a guy who’d rung up to confess to a theft. More specifically to the theft of a dozen wooden flowers from said market, spray painted gold, which he’d stolen on the way home from a night out. He told us the story when we got there.

He’d been in town the night before, was ambling home in a pleasant alcohol induced haze when he wandered past said boozer just as it was opening.

He popped in for one for the road, so to speak, entranced by a pub that opens just as the nightclubs are kicking out, and the bar staff explain why the hours are so bizarre. It gets to about 7am and he realises that one drink has turned into several and the girlfriend will be cross. Realising he’s in trouble and in the market, both problem and solution are magically in the same place.

He staggers off round the market, looking with increasing desperation for something to disarm the girlfriend related wrath. Eventually, running out of ideas, he sees the gold painted flowers, and salvation is at hand. Unfortunately, his last pennies had already been spent on lager, and in his confusion, he grabs an armful and runs.

He gets home, but is struck by guilt at depriving a hard-working person of their income. In his confused state, he asked the girlfriend what to do, who said ring the police and get it sorted.

Bob and I tootled over, and spoke to the still inebriated chap. He ‘fessed up, but couldn’t exactly describe where the stall was. Admittedly not our brightest move with the benefit of hindsight (it was a technical breach of PACE) but to clarify who the victim was, when he offered to try and find the specific stall, we accepted. We put him in the back of the car and drove off to the market.

Although he was genuinely trying his best, we just couldn’t find anywhere selling gold flowers, or indeed flowers of any colour other than what nature intended. Due to his inability to stand for long periods and the fact he was in custody, we’d have been in a lot of trouble if he’d fallen over and hurt himself, so we gave up fairly soon and took him in.

When the doctor said he was sober enough to be interviewed, it was done in record time, and then the duty inspector, Mr Onions (another old school legend like Bob, albeit with a Welsh accent so thick he was difficult to follow sometimes) authorised a caution. Another technical breach of PACE, I found out later, as without a victim we probably didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, and cautioning someone can only be done if you do, but that one was down to the boss, not me.

I asked Mr O. why he did this, as he was notorious for always choosing to charge if someone had previous convictions, and our man had plenty. His reply taught me a lot – “It’s the right thing to do” – legally we should have bailed the guy, then left him on tenderhooks for a month while we went back to the market and made further efforts to locate the stall in question. Only by this point the market was shut, so if we’d gone back the next available day, there’d be no guarantee the stall holder would be there again, and from the lack of pursuit at the time, they almost certainly hadn’t seen the theft anyway, so wouldn’t know they were a victim. Not an efficient use of public money to spend all that time for £5 worth of tat.

Our drunk friend had lots of previous already, so one caution on top of that wouldn’t have ruined his life or anything. He’d been silly but done the right thing ultimately, and the boss wasn’t going to screw him over for it. We drove him home to his girlfriend, and left him with it. We only had the flowers left to get rid of then, the boss signed the form to authorise disposing of them and suggested we give them to the nearest charity shop. Job done.