Are you trying to be funny?

This just in…Dame Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden in Solihull, is launching a petition for an increased police presence for her constituents.

I have it on reliable authority from someone who works in that force (West Midlands) that Solihull is the quietest area in the whole force. I also have it on reliable authority that the minimum staffing levels for Solihull are so low, if you go there shopping and stop in McDonalds for lunch, there will be more staff behind the counter than there are response officers on duty. Despite this being the case for a long time, their workload does not spiral out of control, suggesting the number is about right.

Dame Caroline is a Conservative MP, and has been for 20 years. 

Who has steadfastly voted to support the austerity measures that have led to reduced staffing levels. 

In the same week that an unnamed Conservative MP told officers at the Conservative Party conference that she wasn’t impressed with the numbers of officers on duty to protect them. Funny that, given what austerity has done to staffing levels. Last year, an MP was struck by a protesters flying egg, hence her concern. Eggs aren’t generally dangerous if thrown, and this one wasn’t even hard-boiled, so my sympathy-o-meter is firmly sat on zero. 

There are domestic assaults reported in my force, and doubtless every force round the country, that are a week old and haven’t been seen yet, largely due to staffing levels. Most domestic murders in this country (3 a week on average) have a long domestic history to them before the final episode. Lack of prompt police attendance makes both parties think the police won’t come out, encouraging one to do it again and the other not to ring when it does happen. And we’re supposed to be concerned about eggs. 

Reap what you sow. 


Bank Holiday Blues

Due to the requirement for police officers to be paid double time on bank holidays, they are usually a subject of much cheer and merriment at work. It has been known on Christmas morning to greet the incoming shift with ‘Happy double bubble’ rather than the traditional Yuletide greeting. That’s just us.
Where it has more of an effect is on staffing levels. Most forces won’t provide more than the absolute minimum cover of staff on bank holidays, due to the cost. Today we’re running at one under minimum manning already, one single crewed car goes to sit on a cannabis factory pending the cannabis team coming to remove the plants and then smash the equipment up so it can’t be reused (Awesome job, being paid to break things), and one car despatched to try several arrests from jobs from the previous shift. So available officers, actually four under minimum staffing for now.

Also no beat officers out walking the streets today, but as a plus, we do have a local priority team, who get to do drugs warrants, patrol certain areas where needed, a problem with a flasher in a local park, trouble outside schools, Friday night at kicking out time etc. They’re in the toybox for now. Deep joy, we have a possible right wing extremist march later today, if we have to cover that, then joe public and the ordinary jobs will get well below the minimum cover. Not a moan about being overworked, the team I control are hard workers and won’t bat an eyelid, not will I, but we’ll be handing over a longer list of jobs to the next shift than I like.

So far I’ve handed out a taxi driver/passenger dispute, one address search for another force who have 3 in custody for robbing an address at gunpoint, a safe and well check on a child heard blubbing ‘Mummy please don’t’ repeatedly over the phone to the NSPCC, a couple of missing person checks and an abandoned car that turned out not to be stolen. The mum in question is doing nothing wrong, it transpires, just putting the Monopoly away at bedtime and refusing to indulge a tantrum. With all the bad parenting we see on a daily basis, it’s reassuring to see the opposite.

One car gets sent to domestic threats, boy meets girl, boy goes to prison, girl finds new boy, old boy gets out, threatens to kill girl, new boy and girls mum into the bargain. Car sent, then diverted to another DV matter where the only person who speaks english is 4 years old and says ‘Daddy hit Mummy’. The call came from ambulance control, after their crew was locked inside the address by daddy. As the crew start making that, they have to stop and deal with a car abandoned in the middle of the road. An officer has to make the domestic single crewed, to be met by a sergeant shortly afterwards, one of the better ones, one who leads rather than manages.

Frequently this happens, a unit is sent to one job, only to be diverted to a fresh, more pressing one, sometimes two or three times in a row, it can feel like running through treacle at times. If it happens to you, sorry, but it’s not a decision we take lightly. The risk assessment is mum has a solid door between her and the problem at the moment, and the idiot is not outside, whereas daddy and his overactive fists are still in the same room as the victim(s). Eventually mum speaks to an interpreter over the phone while we are there and flatly denies any assault, so we end up leaving.

A couple placed in the local Premier Inn by social services for a few days pending a more permanent housing solution. Staff are allegedly trying to throw them out as they are smelling the room and corridor out. we could refer this back to the social services who put them there in the first place for a better solution, I’m concerned as the callers wife is disabled, and we don’t want to be a party to kicking them out onto the street, but guess what? Social services are on minimum cover too, and his social worker is not at work until tomorrow. Off we go…

None of the above is particularly exciting, unless it’s your life being affected, but someday it may be. All this was without the right wing march rearing its ugly head. We struggle to get to people today within sensible timescales, if your life must fall apart, try not to let it happen on a bank holiday.

Missing you already

Scores on the doors tonight are 7 double crewed cars and 4 singles, we have achieved the minimum acceptable staffing level for nights. Hurray! One car to hospital straight away to sit with a suicidal patient, a domestic violence victim.

Missing people, or mispers, are a regular feature of modern policing, and sometimes a source of tragedy. People leave their normal lives for all sorts of reasons. There are the teenage runaways who leg it from childrens homes, some just to be with their old friends, some to go out robbing and burgling, some to be sexually exploited by older men. Some who leave abusive relationships, you’d be amazed at the number of men who report their wife has left with the kids and taken their passports, and has no idea why, odd when the last police visit to the house was 2 days ago when we were locking him up for assaulting her. Hmmm, I wonder why she’s done that.

Some leave home threatening suicide, for whatever reason, some fear murder by their parents for dating the wrong boy, some are just late home from work / school as they missed the bus, or because they’ve been having it away with their mistress and forgot to tell the wife they’d be home late. Some have dementia and wander off to long forgotten addresses, or patients do a runner from A & E in their fetching blue gown as they don’t want to wait, or are worried they are about to be sectioned. Some escape from supposedly secure psychiatric hospitals. It takes all sorts, and there are all sorts of levels of response.

Tonight appears to be Misper night. Several, four in fact, have gone from kids homes, it seems to happen in waves. The risk profiling questions we ask indicate whose address should be visited right away, and whose can be ignored, where waiting for them to come home when the beer money runs out is a perfectly acceptable choice. Of the four, it is safe to say all have had troubled childhoods. One is a transsexual, and has mental health issues coming out of that, and vulnerable to sexual exploitation, the others are also vulnerable for several reasons. Whilst none can be described as cooperative with police, that’s not the point.

I question the judgement of a childrens home that allows one of their charges to go out with her boyfriend, sets a curfew time of 9.30pm, the implication being she is safe out and about until then, and then reports her as missing and vulnerable to CSE (child sexual exploitation), suddenly a high risk at 9.31pm. As the duty inspector so bluntly puts on the log, underage rumpy-pumpy can happen during the hours of daylight too.

Misper enquiries are not a popular task, it’s normally a succession of mind-numbing visits to addresses where you speak to adults who are sick of answering the door being asked if Johnny is there, just because he stayed there once three years ago. The vast majority will come back of their own accord when it suits them, and play the same game again tomorrow or next week or the week after that. But if we’re told, we don’t make such visits and then something bad happens to them, bad things happen to us.

A friend of mine was under investigation for nearly two years, along with the rest of her team and most of the officers they control, over a person reported missing by the husband (who had murdered her before he even made the call). Mistakes were made by some, not her, nothing that materially affected the response in looking for the wife, but two years on the naughty step, not knowing if you’ll still have a job in 3 months time, is not a nice place to be. She was blameless in the end, but not a pleasant two years.

So lots of misper chasing, plus domestic assaults, a civil dispute over ownership of a car where each competitor keeps ringing the police claiming the other one has stolen the car (which is only worth about £100 in any case), and it just doesn’t sink in when we keep telling them that in the circumstances, it’s nothing to do with the police. They agree on the circumstances of who has paid who what money for the car, but each one interprets those circumstances as meaning the other has committed theft, and neither has, it’s as simple as that, but they want us to wave a magic legal wand and sort out their own bad decisions for them. Not happening, but they keep ringing expecting a different answer and making things up to try and make us come out. Definitely not happening.

A quiet night, relatively speaking, punctuated in the middle by a random readiness test for a chemical attack incident – the whole force can apparently only muster 20 qualified, equipped officers in the middle of the night tonight, without turning people out from home. Sounds lame, and it probably is, but at 3am, dropping poison gas in the middle of a city wouldn’t be that productive for a homicidal terrorist, too few people still out and about to breathe it in. Best off doing it on a weekday evening, possibly a Bank holiday Friday, as plenty of staff who work office hours will already be away for the weekend. Let’s hope that my ability to think like a sociopath is correct here. Cracker I’m not, but home-made or knocked off nerve agent spreads better in the heat of the day when there’s more victims about too, so that’s what I’d do. A hot Bank holiday Friday would be best, if I ever go over to the other side, avoid public places on Easter weekend.

You messed up my mental health, I found a light in the tunnel at the end…

With apologies to Lilly Allen for misquoting ‘Smile’…

Today seems to be mental health day. Started the day with a jumper from a multi-storey car park, a fatal fall, which pretty much wrote off the entire team for a couple of hours, between standing there stopping passers by either being horrified at the sight of a mangled human being breathing their last, (or just stepping over it and carrying on with their shopping, see footage of the Lee Rigby murder if you don’t believe it happens), checking the top of the car park for any signs of a struggle in case he was pushed, checking his home address urgently in case he killed anyone else first before killing himself, etc. No indication anyone else was involved, 60 years old, lived alone, no prior history of mental health problems, suicide note at home, just decided that today was the day.

Also had to look for a suicidal male who drove off blotto in the family car, threatening to cause serious harm to another family member, then rang back home to say change of plan, he was now going to kill himself. Several units looking for him and eventually located and locked up for drink drive. We sit with him at hospital, where his medical treatment will take precedence over any investigation, and rightly so. The doctor says us taking a blood test will not hinder his treatment, so that’s arranged, he will get assessed for his mental problems, probably bailed by us from hospital as our investigation is complete once the blood is taken, and referred on to the local mental health services.

Also a 16 year old girl who went off having taken an interesting cocktail of Prozac and blood pressure medication and expressed an interest in dying as well. She is eventually found by several officers who left their existing commitments, neighbourhood officers who have anti-social behaviour to deal with, community meetings to go to etc, but that has to wait to find her and rightly so. If you were waiting for them, sorry, but she jumped to the top of the queue. Also referred.

Also an elderly male getting aggressive in a neurological rehab facility, threatening the staff. He’s in his 70’s and I’m not sure what exactly the staff are expecting us to do. His head injury is causing his confusion, it’s purely a medical issue, we can’t and won’t taser him if he is still aggressive when we get there. All we could realistically do is hold him down while they sedate him, and I’m pretty sure that hospital porters can or certainly used to do that. Currently that’s still in the queue.

Plus the usual shoplifters, street robberies, domestic disputes, abandoned 999 calls (see previous post), road accidents, all of which are stacking up because to be brutally honest, they can wait and the at risk mentally unwell cannot. Not a complaint about the mental health services, they are as stretched as we are, and like us, they often cannot react until the problem has already occurred.  Some bobbies do moan about the amount of time they have to wait for the mental health services to come out, or the ambulance service. We recently took these concerns to the ambulance service, and do you know who wastes the most amount of their time?

That’s right. It’s the police.  Calling them out every time we attend someone who reports they’ve been assaulted, even if we can’t see any injuries, presumably to cover our own backs. Meaning when we do need them desperately, sometimes we, meaning ultimately you, have to wait. It can’t be too bad, as they didn’t come to us to discuss it, but whoops nonetheless. 

So, light at the end of the tunnel for some, not for others, and a lesson in being willing to learn from your mistakes for us.