Adult Kids

Why does everybody seem to be in a rush to grow up? I know there are many factors affecting people’s decisions. But it often seems to me that youngsters are in too much of a rush to adulthood. At 21 I was a young single lad, enjoying life and planning the career I later started at 23 and still do. I lived at home, played sport, socialised with friends a lot and enjoyed the freedom of youth. I’m now married with children and am happier than I’ve ever been.

The point being that either I planned it well or I was lucky that it fell into place so well for me. I had a great young life and gradually morphed into the adult I am today.

Yet when you look at youngsters these days there seems to be a whole bunch in far too much of a rush to abandon youth for the trappings of this adult life.

I joined the cops when I was 23. I did my basic training and then got out on the streets to do the job to my best ability. Like any other job you make mistakes and learn as you go. I was 23, single, relatively mature but not blessed with the wisdom that only time and life can give you. Yet there I was 6 months in dealing with domestic situations with 30, 40 and 50 year old couples offering marriage guidance and common sense when I had no real experience in that area to draw upon. I was given powers and authority but flew by the seat of my pants rather than a position of solid life experience.

Last night toward the end of the shift I booked in a young 21 year old girl. Slightly intoxicated, hair all over the place, make up streamed all down her face, bruised, bashed and generally in a mess. She had been involved in a dispute with her boyfriend. She was no stranger to custody though I’d never met her before. She had a previous photo on the system. This was the heart rending bit. A very pretty, fresh faced youngster looked back at me. The complete opposite of what was stood in front of me and only 2 intervening years. As I booked her in she told me of her life and her problems. How her boyfriend beat her up. How she was worried about her child who was at home and only 4 months old. She didn’t work, lived in a tiny flat and got by on benefits.

What a complete opposite to where I was at 21! I know that for every case like this there can be several others that are total successes. But if there is one case like this then it is wrong surely? We all make our own decisions and must take responsibility for them. But what made this girl go down this track? She was very much still a kid. Yet she was bearing the responsibilities of being a mother, financial difficulties, no possible immediate future and subject to a violent and unloving relationship.

I don’t know if it is society, the media, peer pressure or simply learnt behaviour from our parents. But it makes me sad to see young people with potential and a life in front of them to do what they want to simply abandon it all for the oft perceived romance, happiness, bliss? that is this adult life.

If life is a swimming pool. We all have to get in at the shallow end and slowly make our way to the deep water. Running down the side and jumping in at the deep end may be exciting but you’re soon out of your depth.

I wish her well and pray her life finds some direction, focus and peace.


When Will They Ever Learn?

Throughout society we have rules, laws and regulations. There is no getting away from them. They govern our lives and behaviour.

There are many social reasons why people commit offences. Some simply through choice, some greed, some by example and others through desperation.

But it always surprises me that society as a whole can comply pretty much 100% with some rules yet continually fail in others. I’ll use two examples. They are not meant to be related but give an indication of the example I’m trying to draw.

The law preventing smoking in public places came into effect on 1.7.2007.

The current drink drive legislation is entombed in the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Such offences though stem back further to 1925 and the Criminal Justice Act of that year. However it was 1967 before the breathalyser at the roadside was introduced.

There was much upset over the smoking ban. This bit of legislation was not popular but overall the population have accepted it and comply. The problems envisaged never really came to the forefront. Our pubs, bars and restaurants have become much more pleasant places. Even custody suites! Years ago as a young probationer the most important piece of kit when working in custody was a lighter so you could light up the prisoners and keep ’em happy. The bottom line though is that we just comply.

So what’s the difference with drink drive? I spent some considerable years on a Road Policing Unit. I’ve seen lives and families torn apart by deaths from drink driving. The media is full of information and there is nobody who can say they are ignorant of the law in this area. Yet time and again the drink drivers just keep coming in. Worse still is the readings seem to be getting higher. Notwithstanding years of campaigns, public information adverts (THINK! etc) and enforcement campaigns by every force in the country it has little to no impact.

Now you may say that you don’t drink drive. You are a responsible motorist and would never do such a thing. I admire you. Neither would I. I plan to only ever see custody from this side of the desk! You may argue that this is just another offence by those in the “regular” criminal fraternity. Yet you’d be wrong. This offence knows no bounds and everybody and anybody from every social background is susceptible. It is the one offence that people come into custody for that would otherwise have no involvement with the police in their whole life.

So why can’t we comply? I don’t get it. We all know it’s wrong. We all know it’s more serious than pulling a sneaky drag in the pub. Yet we adhere to the minor and disregard the major. It’s like saying you’ll never steal a bar of chocolate but won’t worry about knifing someone. It just doesn’t add up.

I’m a proponent of a zero alcohol limit. This makes it clearer. The current limit is similar to introducing the smoking ban with a limit of one cigarette or half a cigar per person in a public place. Maybe it works because it is an outright ban. I’d like to think the same would work for drink drive.

The drink drive limit in breath is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. This weekend alone we have had people in who have blown 63, 84, 105 and 188! One of these had 4 children in the car at the same time!

It really is time this stopped.

Time Wasting

The last blog entry touched on how much time can be wasted on unnecessary change.

Now what about forced time wasting? Things we have no control over but have to do because of a policy agreed and driven by the Govt. Every Govt since I joined the job has said the police need to be freed of administrative burdens and bureaucracy. Yet without fail where they have taken away one form they have replaced it with another. The situation has never got any better.

Recent years have seen the introduction of RJ processes (these are good) and also conditional cautions (very good if used properly). The conditional cautions give us a great opportunity to satisfy the victim and have the offender see the true impact of his/her actions. But how much time is wasted on conditional cautions? Hours and hours and hours is the answer. The costs I wont even try to determine.

So why is this. Lets work on a simple damage offence. First off to be eligible for the conditional caution (CC) the offender must admit the offence. Second it must be an offence that is suitable for a CC and thirdly the previous history of the offender must not negate the issue of said CC. With all the factors met, the victim happy and the offender agreeable to the CC then the process can start. This involves putting a basic file together and sending it off to CPS to decide if we can do it. We can ask for compensation and letters of apology etc to be parts of the conditions.

Now you may think this sounds reasonable. The decision is taken away from the Custody Sgt and put in the hands of the prosecutor. Why? Well I’m told it is because if the offender fails to comply with the terms of the CC he/she will go to court and the CPS have to be happy the case would stand up in court. All still seems plausible.

But if we put this “offender” further down the line to the point where they cannot have the CC and must go to court… then I as Custody Sgt can send the offender straight to court without reference to the CPS. The CPS decision for an in custody case for a CC can take anything from 90 mins to 4hrs depending on whether it is CPS daytime or CPS direct overnight/weekend.

So, I’m authorised to send somebody to court without reference to the CPS. But for a lesser disposal that at worst could end up in court (just as if I had charged them) we spend hours chasing around to get the CPS to rubber stamp the decision?

Remember this is an admitted offence….. and they say we are inefficient.

I think the next post should be a bit more light hearted…..?

All Change

A regular occurrence for police officers is change. Changes to shifts, changes to roles, changes to policy and changes to legislation. Some of this is totally necessary but other areas are on the whim of senior officers. Yet what’s so special about that? Every organisation goes through the same process doesn’t it?

The police have two tiers of entrants. Normal and the high potential development scheme (HPDS). The latter has been about for many years under this name or previously the accelerated promotion scheme. But this is no different to companies offering graduate entry schemes is it not?

When I worked for The Post Office many years ago the graduate scheme seemed flawed. Only on the basis that people sat in management positions who had no idea or experience of getting up at 4am and walking in the rain with a heavy sack of mail. My belief is that managers must have fundamental experience of the primary role of the business. Those that do promote leadership and improvement from a position of strength.

The police are slightly different in that all officers start at constable. But one has to question how fast HPDS officers progress and how much time is spent doing the nuts and bolts of hands on police work.

So is one better than the other? Difficult to say. Both sides have excellent examples. I have experience of those who joined at base level and battled their way to senior positions and did so superbly. I also know of officers working through the HPDS that have been superb but others who were utterly dreadful. The key to me here is not what qualifications you can attain or how good you are at passing initial promotion exams. It’s about something far more fundamental .. Leadership.

Historically HPDS officers will have the biggest impact on policing in the UK as more of them attain the most senior positions than those who are not. These are career minded individuals who are task and performance driven. It often seems to me that the very reason there is so much change within forces is because senior officers, pursuing promotion are far more likely to make change for change’s sake to put something dynamic on their CV. How do you sell yourself for promotion saying that your current position needed little change, the staff work well and you left things alone. Promotion boards don’t seem bothered about morale or how cohesive BCU staff are. We know that statistics can say anything we want them to say. So a change is implemented, advertised as a total success whilst at the business end the staff often believe it to be a failure. The candidate gains promotion and moves on. The staff are left behind to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile the new boss moves in and starts looking at change. It’s a wonder we ever get anything done with all the time we spend on readjusting to a new idea.

There have been some colossal mistakes over the years. My force has realised some of its errors and, encouragingly, is moving some roles back to how they used to be. But in typical HPDS style we are not moving back. We are moving forward in a familiar way!

Less is more

Today could be a day to complain about the undervalued role of the office of constable.

Today could be a day to hurl criticism at politicians who seek to undermine our pay and pensions.

Today could be a day to point out all the failings of our government and it’s attitude to policing.

Today is NOT one of those days.

Less is more…. rest in peace Ronan Kerr

We salute you.

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