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.

Buffoon of the week VI

There hasn’t been a buffoon of the week for a while, I’ve not seen anyone who I think really qualifies.

Until now.

Young Saddam Miah, drain on society that he so clearly is with 25 convictions on his CV, was lucky to get a suspended sentence for supplying class A drugs. In places like Thailand or Iran, he’d be hanging from a crane before long, and in the USA, he’d be in for so long, he’d forget what the sun looked like.

But here, he gets away with a suspended sentence. While it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and rant about the judiciary going soft, I obviously haven’t read the judges summing up or any pre-sentence reports, so I’ll refrain. But it’s fair to say he was happy with the outcome.

So happy, in fact, that he went out, got blind drunk in a hotel to celebrate, then threw a vase round reception to get the staffs attention. When they objected to his behaviour, he went outside and smashed up someones car, for reasons best known to himself.

That being naughty, he went back to court, and was promptly sent to prison for celebrating NOT going to prison.

The irony made me smile, but I doubt it had the same effect on him.

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.

Monkey Business

One of our cars was asked to account for why they hadn’t got to a job they’d been sent to nearly two hours before. A reasonable question that I ask regularly, but the answer was one of the most surreal ones I’ve ever heard. 

In short, the two officers had been sent to the job this quiet Sunday morning, and were on the way, when they saw two young lads pulling a green wheely bin along the pavement. Gardening not normally being an activity associated with 14 year old boys, they stopped for a word, and enquired as to what was inside the bin. The lads were reluctant to say, but lifting the lid revealed a brightly painted statue of a monkey, that only just fit inside the bin, and the monkey was eating a banana. Kitsch in the extreme.

The issue of where it had come from arose, and they hotly denied having stolen it from anyone, and the one says to the officer ‘We didn’t steal it, we found it, I can show you where to prove it. There’s a gun there as well!’  

Dubious, but going with it, they make the two lads load the monkey into the car and go and have a look. Sure enough, in the garden of the void house the monkey came from, they show the officers a firearm, hidden behind some woodwork in the garden. It turns out to be real, a WWII relic but still perfectly serviceable, so that’s recovered for forensics too. 

Then to top it off, one of the lads reveals that he cut himself whilst loading the monkey into the car, and bursts into floods of tears. As the house was unoccupied, there’s no actual victim for theft of monkey, so they are driven home and told we’ll come round and take it further if anyone comes forward later on. 

I’ve heard some genuine but mundane reasons why people haven’t got somewhere on time, some interesting ones and some that were pathetic, but this takes the biscuit. Or rather, the banana…

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…

Big boys games, big boys rules…

It’s difficult to decide who should have less sympathy here, but on balance, I’m going to go with the family. Complaining about the police ‘executing’ your son when he had a silenced pistol and ammunition in his possession is just too ironic for words.

Not that I’m excusing it, but most armed criminals don’t actually want to pull the trigger. Not on moral grounds, they just want to rob whoever it is successfully with the minimum of fuss. The mere presence of a firearm is normally all that’s needed. The days of baddies not loading their guns before a robbery so there’d be no ‘accidents’ that put them on the wrong end of a rope are gone, as, thankfully, is the rope, but the principle is the same.

But having a silencer on a gun is a pain. They’re expensive, more difficult to get hold of, they make the weapon more bulky, difficult to operate and less powerful, all those payoffs are only worth it if you actually intend to shoot someone.  The resistance once assassinated a Nazi collaborator in hospital in Copenhagen in 1944, a single assassin dressed as a doctor walked into a ward full of patients with a silenced pistol called a Welrod concealed, walked up to their bed as if doing a checkup and shot them in the head without anyone noticing. But they’re a big bulky thing, you wouldn’t take it out if you just wanted to scare someone, and the same applies today.

So on balance, tough. As the saying goes, play stupid games, win stupid prizes. The surviving occupants of the car aren’t saying much to the IPCC, which is slowing things down, probably because they might end up facing charges of supplying class A drugs, possessing firearms or conspiracy to murder even, but that’s hardly the IPCC’s fault.

Sympathy meter reading? Zero.

On a lighter note, forks found at work today? Also zero. Today’s lunch was reheated Risotto. Eaten with a teaspoon.