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.

The list

This has made me want to throw sharp heavy things at the author. Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwent, has decided it is unacceptable that a local police station is closing its public front office, and wants to know why.

The soon-to-retire Chief Constable is warning of the future effects of government cuts now.

He warned before, 2 years ago, that the government cuts were destroying the force, and it could well not be viable after 2020.

The PCC of the time warned four years ago about the effects of  government cuts.

The police federation warned 6 years ago.

I could write a book listing the number of times the police service has warned that cuts have consequences.

Have a guess which party Jake Berry MP is an MP for. Go on, I dare you. On his Facebook page, he’s has a right royal roasting from his constituents who can work out why, even if he can’t or won’t.

His name is now on the ‘sharp heavy things’ list. This list will expand.

The list so far:

Theresa May.

Tom Windsor.

Amber Rudd.

Jake Berry.

It’s not how many police officers you’ve got…

…it’s how you use them that matters. Yeah, right. While the Queens Speech meanders its way through Parliament, we meander through another day.

The total of outstanding 999/101 calls to be dealt with is around 2100 (having been down to 1200 only a month ago), thanks largely to cheap alcohol, plus hot weather and stupidity, which are free. For this week, neighbourhood policing basically stops and it’s all hands to the pumps to bring the workload down. Not out of concern for the response staff, (someone will always find us something to do whether it’s 999 calls or getting cats out of trees – true story), but the longer apparently inane calls go unseen, the longer the occasional one that’s actually really nasty goes unseen too. As mentioned previously, I’ve been to rapes and murders that came in as ‘we’ve had a bit of a row’ and minor verbal arguments over a garden fence called in as ‘The neighbour is killing my husband’, and I’m pretty sure every cop around the world has had similar. Until you’re actually there, you just don’t know for sure. 

As the Prime Minister said, “It’s not the number of MP’s you’ve got that matters, it’s how you use them that counts”. Oops, I meant to say officers, not MP’s. Silly me. Apparently if you’re in government and some of your MP’s are taken away by the electorate, you get to negotiate the issue to get new ones, even if they are someone else’s. if it happens to public services, not so much.

Looking at the Queens Speech, the draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill illustrates the point perfectly. It will be welcome, but like any legislation, it’s futile unless the staff are there to enforce it. After having the obvious pointed out to them, again, by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Met police recently, that moving staff to counter-terrorist functions moves them away from other areas of work, such as domestic abuse, child abuse and so on, the Home Office response can be summarised as 1) Overall police funding will be protected in real terms and 2) Counter-terrorism funding will increase by 30% over the next five years. 

So where’s this 30% increase coming from? If your salary doesn’t rise but your mortgage does, a small child can work out that you’ll have to cut back somewhere else. So whatever good work is required by the Domestic Violence bill will simply enter a queue, that will just get longer and longer. As you’re far far more likely to die at the hands of a violent ex-partner or a drunk driver than a terrorist, I’d question the logic of such a disparity in funding. 

Governments and propsective governments love trumpeting new legislation, but we don’t need new laws, we need the resources to enforce the existing ones. It’s quite simple, but from a government where the Home Secretary doesn’t even know the starting salary of police officers, a figure set by the very Winsor report that they commissioned, I’m not holding out much hope. 

Our queue of jobs has gone up 60% in the last 2 months, even with drafting in almost all beat officers for the forseeable future, the staff level has not. Notable jobs in the last few days are a teenage boy drowning whilst swimming in a local lake, a tragic sign of the weather. One idiot with a firearm chases another idiot (presumably without a firearm) through a school grounds, taking potshots at him, thankfully hitting no-one but terrifying children in the process. A call about a possible helicopter crash thankfully turns out to be a false alarm. We plan for a far-right protest march at the weekend, taking a number of officers away from attending 999 calls for the day. Football season is thankfully over for a couple of months, otherwise we’d be planning for regular weekend matches on top of marches. 

To add to the fun today, one of the radio servers fails due to the heat. Our radio and telephone traffic is handled over three redundant servers, each sited in a different building, and one of those starts dropping out radio traffic and telephone calls. So we’re proof against hacking, car bomb attacks and the like, but not the sun. Hmm. There was a news article on the BBC a couple of days ago, about certain airline flights in the USA that were cancelled due to the heat. 

Without going into the tedium of fluid dynamics too much, air changes its behaviour as it gets hotter, both as it flows over the wings and goes through the engine, and above certain temperatures, some models of plane cannot safely be flown. Which begs the question of why our computer servers aren’t tested through a proper temperature range, and fitted with adequate cooling systems. Imagine having something like July 7th or any of the more recent attacks happen, and 1/3 of your radio coverage being taken away at the same time, it doesn’t bear thinking about. 

On the plus side, due to a sudden resupply of plastic forks (thanks mum!), I am no longer reduced to eating my dinner with teaspoons. So it’s not all bad.

Crystal balls…

No surprises, the Monday morning inquest / hindsight brigade are out in force in the papers today. Why was this allowed to happen? One of the London Bridge attackers was known to the police and the security services!

Along with about 20,000 other people.

His ‘footprint’ on the system was minimal. He associated with Anjem Choudary, along with thousands of other people over the last fifteen years or so. He ended up featured in a documentary recently about extremism, although I haven’t watched it, I’m pretty sure he didn’t break the law on screen – the dire ‘Benefits Street’ program resulted in prosecutions when this happened, and I’m pretty sure if they’ll do it for benefit fraud they’ll do it for terrorism.

There have been plenty of people who have done more to be of interest to the security services than him – as evidenced here, for example, nearly 300 arrests in 2015-2016, of which 100 resulted in prosecution. So he simply wasn’t towards the head of the queue. Bar a crystal ball, I invite any of the armchair critics to say how they would have done better, without infinite resources.

It appears to have escaped the notice of those who write for the Sun and the Daily Mail that associating with someone of interest or ranting and raving on TV isn’t actually evidence of criminality in itself. The moment we decide to lower the standard of proof, we simply make the problem worse – detention without trial based on suspicion only was tried in Northern Ireland in the 70’s. It was called Internment, and it did more for IRA recruitment than anything they could ever do.

I can only conclude that they’re writing this ‘Why?’ drivel because it sells papers, rather than because they’re genuinely stupid enough to not know the answer. The police and security services have been saying for years that it’s impossible to watch everyone, and it’s not a difficult concept to get your head round.

A day in the life…

Force total of outstanding response jobs – 1450

Number of officers – 10% below minimum staffing. On a busy Saturday evening.

Isolated incidents amongst the fog of more routine work:

Bloke walking down the road with what looks remarkably like a samurai sword slung over his back. As no ARV is immediately available, a response car drives up to him for a chat, on the grounds if its genuine, he’s unlikely to be able to slice through the roof of a Vauxhall Insignia before they drive off, turn round and prepare to run him over if he doesn’t put it down.

We watch on CCTV as they speak, there’s a few laughs and he hands it to an officer, who takes hold of the ‘scabbard’ and slides it up to reveal it is in fact an umbrella. Amusing though it is to watch the officers Mary Poppins impression, he could have been approached by armed police. Recently some idiot at a gaming convention at the NEC near Birmingham walked from his hotel to the NEC, through Birmingham Airport. In full black combat gear and an imitation rifle over his shoulder. In the current environment, he was lucky not to be shot – a panicked move towards his pocket to produce his ID could have been mistaken for something else. Umbrella man carries on with smiles and a handshake, lucky boy.

Caller rings as there’s a pile of cigarette butts in their garden that wasn’t there the day before.  What’s worse is the call taker originally puts an appointment in for an officer to go see them, instead of tactfully explaining that littering into someone’s garden / civil trespass is not a police matter. It’s not even so low down the priority list as to be unreachable, it just shouldn’t be on the list in the first place.

If you think that’s bad, Avon & Somerset once had a call about one neighbour complaining about the neighbour above hims hanging baskets dripping water onto the path after they had been watered, which he claimed was ASB. And they wonder why we don’t have enough officers to get to 999 calls when we’re wading through trivia like this.

Revisiting this a few days after the Manchester bombing to polish it a little prior to posting, with a lot of hard work and another round of ruthless decisions about garden related trivial we weren’t going to entertain, the total outstanding job count was pushed below the 1,200 barrier. Two days after the bombing as I went onto a little mini-break in London chez wife, it was at 1570 and rising, I’m pondering which side of 2,000 it’ll be when I go back next week. Back to square one…