ACPO to go

ACPO to go

This is not a strange order for a take out. ACPO have announced that they are to disband and regroup.

Read here from West Yorks Federation.

There is superb empirical evidence available in this area. It shows that when something is failing and has a negative reputation that rebranding and rising like a Phoenix from the ashes is highly successful.

Take a look at Centrex… sorry I mean the NPIA… ah hang on … er.. Yes! The College of Policing!

London Centric Cops

The Met Police have announced that the recruitment if new PC’s will be limited to those who live in London.

The lines being used are “Londoners policing London” and having “a police service that is representative of its community.” I don’t disagree with the latter part. The police service should reflect its community.

So are the Met becoming London living cop focused? Do they want Londoners who know, love and have lived or even grown up in their boroughs? Maybe they do. There could even be an argument for this. Yet this is not the issue. The Met, like most forces, fall short on BME recruitment and this is a push to try and redress that balance. By restricting the process there is the hope that more BME recruits will come forward.

Are they really that naive?

The Met and other forces must look at increasing BME representation within the ranks. This needs a focused and rational process that addresses why so few BME people are unwilling to join and how those people are retained. That is the question that needs tackling. Narrowing the goalposts and trying to force the issue does nothing to answer that question. It may make short term gains that can be promoted and hailed as a success but does nothing to engender a long term solution.


Four People

There were once four police officers. They were named, Somebody, Anybody, Everybody and Nobody.

One day a suggestion was put forward to have #100COPS at the UK COPS survivors weekend. This wasn’t ACPO and senior officer ranks but frontline operational officers. The purpose was to support the families of police officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The plan was put forward and gained much support on social media. There were no special requirements.

The opportunity was open to Everybody. Anybody could do it. Somebody should do it but in the end Nobody did it.

Everybody thought Somebody would do it and agreed that Anybody could do it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry. They chose to shout at Everybody and said Anybody could do it. Everyone agreed that Somebody had to make that first step and commit to #100COPS and Everybody would then follow suit but Nobody stepped forward.

In the end the matter gained momentum. Nobody held back and Somebody said Anybody could go and eventually Everybody went and stood, with pride, alongside families and paid tribute to police officers gone… but never forgotten.


Pushing the Buttons

What does the image below mean to you?


If it’s not entirely obvious….

It’s about the difference between turning on a man and turning on a woman. Blokes are apparently relatively straightforward. [one click]. The ladies on the other hand need a combination of a number of factors all in sync before the magic happens. Switch A on, knob B at position 2 but only if dial 4 is at 50% and so on….

Before I get into territory that will have people yelling at me.. hit the pause button. That’s not what this blog is about. It’s about obtaining a reaction.

It was once very easy to obtain a reaction from the police. You simply called us up and we came. In other words the police were like the ‘man switch’ on the image above. We might not have attended straight away but we would come.. eventually. Even when I joined 20+ years ago we didn’t always come straight away. Many times I found myself apologising to someone for how long it had taken us to get to them. Over the years things have changed.

House alarms. We always went. Just a quick check over to ensure all was secure, contact the key holder if we had one and sympathise with the neighbours facing the noise. These days we don’t go. We only attend if there are additional factors reported. e.g The alarm is ringing and the door is wide open, or a strange man is in the back garden. Unless of course you have lots of money and have a monitored alarm.. then we come. (The contradiction of the latter annoys me and may form another blog about equality of service.)

If your shed has been broken into, your lawnmower stolen and nothing seen we are unlikely to come. We may send the forensic team if we think an opportunity to recover evidence is there. Otherwise we may not come at all.  I won’t go into a long list of incidents that we will not ordinarily attend. Suffice to say that times have changed. It’s not totally black and white. A particularly vulnerable or upset victim may well get a visit over someone who just wants a crime number. It becomes clear that we have moved from the man switch to the multitudinous buttons, knobs and dials of the woman model.

So the police have changed how we react to incidents. You could say we have streamlined in order to maximise our resources. You could say we have made it more difficult for the public to get to see us? Either way and whichever take you agree with there is, as our numbers reduce,  a need to be more efficient with our resources.


The public used to expect us to simply attend.. and we did. We have changed our reaction  but my experience is that in many cases the public haven’t really changed their expectation. The amount of calls we get where the public are insistent or demand to see an officer hasn’t changed.

I have been in the control room now since the end of January and I am thoroughly enjoying my new role. It has given me the opportunity to monitor an awful lot of incoming incidents. What has become apparent is that the public are adept at ‘twiddling our knobs and pushing our buttons’. This is not something new but as we have changed the public have adapted. Members of the public who want a police patrol to attend but know we won’t come have become savvy. For a house alarm they will say ‘there is a suspicious person on the corner’ or ‘I think I saw someone on the flat roof’ or ‘I know they are on holiday and I can hear banging’. To be fair sometimes this is perfectly genuine and we should respond. Other times though it can be a manufactured response. A report of youths being a nuisance at a play area in the park will engender a response but not immediately. If the caller also says ‘One of them is waving something around. I can’t be sure but it might be a knife’ then suddenly the risk increases and we pull out all the stops to get there.

The difficulty is how to sort the wheat from the chaff. How do we differentiate between the genuine call and the manufactured call? Local intelligence and repeat callers helps but in reality our buttons have been pushed and we are coming. The net result is that the demand on the resources is not reduced.

Yet there is another factor now coming into play that I hadn’t noticed before. We have become smarter about how we respond to incidents and when dealing with partners we often throw questions back at them such as ‘What have you done to resolve this?’ We now try to deal with it from a ‘how can we support you’ position rather than ‘what do you want us to do for you?’

Mental health is a good example. The demand on resources for mental health, concerns for welfare/safety and missing from homes is not reducing. We regularly challenge partners on what they plan to do. They cannot simply report it to us, sit back and wait for us to solve for them. They have ownership too. With the help of Insp Michael Brown (aka @mentalhealthcop) we have become much wiser on mental health law and protocols. Where we once would have simply just responded to a request to accompany an AMHP to see a patient for a possible section we now challenge it. Where we would simply have attended at a hospital to help the staff administer medication we now question the need. We consider our powers more carefully, demand cooperation and teamwork and challenge their approach (e.g. informal attendance at an address to section someone over a s135 warrant).

This has had some positive outcomes but in between the successes are some incidents where our partners are starting to demonstrate the same behaviour as some of the public. They are pushing our buttons and presenting the right ‘key’ words in order to engender a response. We recently refused to assist with a mental health case without a warrant. All the RAVE factors were present, the known risks were obvious and a warrant was the best option to ensure the safety of all and we acted within our powers. The MH team decided they did not like this, attended at the address on their own and then called us saying the patient was aggressive and they needed back up. Irresponsible? I would say so.

The traditional 5 o’clock call on Friday afternoon about a concern for welfare of a vulnerable person is proliferated with all the key words that mean we cannot simply ignore it. As those staff head for home we are left to find the vulnerable alcoholic person with suicidal thoughts, mental health problems, cannot be trusted anywhere near children, has not taken their meds and as such can lead to highly unpredictable behaviour. All the issues that person had at 8am that morning when the staff came on duty.

The police are adjusting how we respond to demand. In many cases this will work. The vast bulk of the public understand we are under pressure and accept, maybe begrudgingly, that times have changed. Others however are ready to manipulate the circumstances just enough to get the outcome they want. To exacerbate our problems I now see this filtering into the behaviour of some of our partners. This is not about avoiding jobs. It’s about working efficiently and cutting out waste.

Unless the expectation the public and our partners have of the police changes then the demand on our resources will not reduce. We can present them with a myriad of buttons, dials, switches and knobs to obtain a reaction and they will simply push every one until they get it.


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Detention Not Authorised

I was a traffic officer for 7 years. You may be able to tell by the amount of tweets I put out about drink drive, speed, phones, seat belts and others. I had dealt with every type of accident you can imagine. A fantastic job and one I miss very much but I made a decision. That decision was based around finances and my family and meant that I transferred to another force.

In a naive kind of way I expected my new force to assess my skills and put them to their most effective use. How wrong could I have been. They binned the lot of them and put me on a custody investigation team dealing with run of the mill arrests for the response teams.

After 4 months and a few weeks a brand new custody facility opened. I went from a small police station based custody suite, that was pretty awful if I’m honest, to a smart up to date unit with over 3 times as many cells. I continued to work in this role as a PC for another 8 months. During this time I passed my Pt2 Sgt exam and passed a board interview.

Nobody wanted to work in custody so I made it known that I would gladly work in custody should the opportunity arise. It did. Far quicker than I expected. In October 2006 I was promoted to Sgt and moved from the upstairs investigation office to the charge desk downstairs. I’ve been there ever since… until today.

I walked out of custody today for the last time as a full time member of the custody staff. I may well get called back in to cover on occasion. I may well get asked to do overtime. But as of today I am no longer part of that team.

What an experience it has been. I have authorised the detention of 1000’s of suspects for every offence you can possibly imagine… well maybe not all of them..  Men, women, boys and girls. There have even been a few dogs.. albeit not proper prisoners but just lodged with us in the kennels for a while. Assaults, drugs, drink drive, drunk and disorderly, public order, rape, sexual touching, indecent images, murder, conspiracy, pervert the course of justice, prison recalls, warrants, international extradition warrants, death by dangerous driving, child neglect, firearms, immigration, fraud, proceeds of crime, mental health and more. I’m really only scratching the surface. I even touched on a terrorism matter but only briefly. (fortunately.. this is a very complex area of custody business!) I’ve booked in the local drunk, the respected business person, the teacher, the social worker, the celebrity and the frequent flyers. They all come.. they all go. In one way or another.

In my previous force the solicitors were treated like the enemy. It was a culture I was born into. I knew nothing different and it was often adversarial in custody. When I came to this force it was different. I have built up a rapport with many of the local firms. There are some I don’t particularly like and wouldn’t have represent me but there are also some who I would recommend my best friend to. I have a great relationship with many of them and this is wholly conducive to a better working relationship and works in the favour of the detainee.. everyone, working together to get to the right result.

I’ve had arguments with difficult solicitors but I’ve had far more arguments with stupid drunks, intolerant people and those who simply refuse to listen. I’ve met people whom I have had compassion for and those I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. I’ve sat on cell floors chatting with people who need help and someone to talk to and I’ve slammed the door on those who want to spit in my face, kick me in the groin and tell me they will hunt down where I live and rape my wife.

I’ve conducted strip searches, fought with drunks, had my hand down people’s throats, rolled around on the floor in pools of urine, cut clothing from around people’s necks, talked people out of self harming and wrestled with a naked woman with mental health problems. I’ve laughed and joked with prisoners and at times I’ve been scared to death. I’ve made some great decisions and I’ve dropped a few clangers but fortunately, I’ve not lost anyone in all my time in custody. I thank God for that!

I’ve had occasions where I’ve felt that no matter how hard I’ve tried it was, in the eyes of some, never enough. I also have some pride in the occasions where I know I have made a difference… particularly with youngsters. That is something that is massively satisfying.

I’ve made decisions that some have loved and I’ve made decisions that some have hated. I stand my ground, make bold decisions and don’t simply fall back to the default position of sending matters to CPS and letting them take the flack for a decision. This invariably means that I come into conflict with others opinions. Some have been right decisions.. some wrong. One that was deemed to be wrong I still believe was right.

I got tweeting and was then discovered and identified by my Ch Insp and Insp. I took the wrap but they were good to me. My tweets from the desk were curtailed and then stopped but it led to some positive leadership and a huge deal of support from the ACPO command that has, in my eyes, paid dividends. I am very grateful to my force for the trust I have been given.

Custody can be an awful place. Every single drunken, fighting, spitting, swearing person arrested ends up in front of me. It takes a lot of personal control to remain professional in the face of such adversity. If you don’t have a strong constitution it will soon get the better of you. The key to my length of service in custody though was the team I worked with. A great set of DO’s, a brilliant team of Sgt’s and excellent medical support. The team are the people that keep you going. The team are the people who pick you up when you’re down and make you laugh. The team are the people who make it work, keep everyone safe and get the job done. This is as true now with my custody team as it was the first day I joined my section colleagues back in the early 90’s.

As of Monday I start my new job in the control room. I’m looking forward to the challenge but it’s going to be tough. I can handle the technology with ease but getting to grips with many of the practices I’ve not had any dealings with for 7 years or even longer will take a bit of getting used to. I’m going to have to fly by the seat of my pants for a while and no doubt there will be a few mistakes along the way.

In the words of my late tutor con.. “Error is the discipline through which we all advance”... I will remember this as I get going in my new role as I have throughout my service.

My time is up. There have been good days, bad days, brilliant days and some that I try very much to forget. Overall though it has been fun and barring a torn ligament in my wrist I have come out of 7 years in custody with no other injuries or problems… if you don’t count being of a rather pale complexion and an adverse reaction to daylight.

I have decided that my twitter name will stay the same. The blog will also stay the same for now. I thought about changing to @thecommsgt and ‘The Incident Log’ but if my role changes again then the same situation arises. I will start to look for a generic name and blog title that will travel with me no matter what I do. Until then I will remain exactly the same. The service will continue, I will no doubt comment on custody matters as and when they come to my attention but will also start to look at how we manage resources against demand and control room issues. It should be fun.

I’m replacing the cell keys with a headset.

My detention in custody is no longer authorised.

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