Tag Archives: news

Offline

On 31st October Tomasz Kroker was sentenced to 10yrs in prison. Whilst driving along the A34 at 50mph in a truck he collided with stationary traffic. Nothing new there. Collisions happen every day right? Well this one was different in that as consequence a woman and three children tragically lost their lives. So what was the cause? How could this have happened? Kroker was scrolling through music tracks on his phone to choose his next track. With eyes off the road and mind off the road he left a trail of destruction and devastation that nobody wants to see on our roads.

On 6th September Christopher Gard was sentenced to 9yrs in prison. With 8 previous convictions for using his phone whilst driving, Gard chose to send a text message to a friend about a dog walk. Whilst doing so he lost control of his vehicle and collided with cyclist Lee Martin and killed him outright.

Just think about that for a moment. 5 lives taken over the choice of the next music track or something so important as a dog walk

Smartphones and the multitudinous apps that they can run have brought about an always on 24hr society. We can’t stand to be parted from our phones and eagerly await the next alert or notification. Somebody just replied to your Facebook post. Your tweet just got retweeted but by who.. a celebrity maybe? A new Snap from a friend, your Ebay item just got a new bid, a Whatsapp message inviting you to a party. This list goes on. Our desire to be informed, up to date and fully connected is important to us. We thrive on the pace and instancy of our online lives and take it with us wherever we go. The FOMO (fear of missing out) factor plays hard ball with us and when that notification sounds we can’t help but look. We have to know.

Whilst this is great and a product of our desire for information and connectivity this behaviour is spreading to somewhere it shouldn’t. Our cars. It’s a well established fact that driving and using a phone is illegal. In fact, in the UK it’s considered so serious the government are on the verge of increasing the penalty to £200 and 6 points yet the problem persists. If anything it may well be increasing.

People are dying on our roads every day and the involvement of a phone or mobile device is becoming more prevalent. So what can we do about it? Simple. Don’t phone and drive. Don’t text and drive. #DontStreamAndDrive. In fact, if you’re driving, don’t do anything with your phone at all. Even a hands free call is a distraction and can significantly impair your driving performance to the extent it’s equivalent to drinking and driving.

Make a promise to yourself today. Commit to never use your phone behind the wheel of a car. Keep yourself and every other road user safe from injury or death.

We live in an always on, 24hr society and we love it. Make sure you don’t love it so much it overtakes common sense and you switch from always on to permanently offline.

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In The Hood

A suspect arrest a short while back
has caused the police to get some flack.
The suspect chose to struggle and fight
the officers using all their might
could not contain this fight, this war
they had to take him to the floor.

The struggle went on
and on and on.

An arm swung up, “look out a fist!”
A cuff placed swiftly on a wrist.
Cuffed, restrained nowhere to go
but with a crowd he made a show.

Immobilised legs, arms no use
with nothing else he hurled abuse.
The crowd recorded with their phones
every cry, wail and groan.
Live video and vines on a loop
on YouTube this will be a scoop.

This will be an Internet hit.
The cops had used all their kit.

With arms and legs out of play
and nothing more he could say
he played his final gambit
spit spit spit

He missed but ohh this was not good.
But wait the cops had a spit hood.
This man was a total stranger
infection was a real danger.
Swiftly placed upon the head
his ill intentions were put to bed.
Bystanders and what they saw
caused outrage, shock and uproar.

Foul behaviour cut off mid flow.
The cops knew they had to go.
On his feet they took their man
and lodged him securely in a van.

The suspect may not ever tell
of what he thought whilst in that cell.
Yet despite how spit hoods might appear
causing shock, anger or fear.
The cops who engaged in that fight
went home to loved ones safe that night.

Civilised society to you and me
is often not what we cops see.
The nasty underbelly of life
can cause gentler folk some strife.
This is just what we cops do.
Fight for our safety, me and you.

Skype Wars

Click here for Star Wars crawler

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away……

[cue Star Wars fanfare]

A New Hope

It is a period of civil unrest.
NPCC rebels striking from
a hidden base, have won their
first victory against the evil
Empire.

During the battle, rebel spies
managed to steal secret plans
to the Empire’s ultimate weapon,
the DEATH KNELL. A cunning plan
to reduce rebel numbers,
increase their workload and destroy
policing forever.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister
agents, Prince Alec of the Cambridge
alliance races to HQ, custodian
of the stolen plans that can save
his force, the public they serve and
restore freedom to the galaxy…..

At my recent TEDx talk I said that Skype, FaceTime and other video applications would become more common place in policing and forces needed to build this into their call handling infrastructure.

Yesterday, amongst a tidal wave of misinformed commentary, Cambridgeshire Police announced plans to use Skype as a contact method. The story was reported in the media in a variety of ways.

The BBC were fairly balanced and the Daily Mail (as you would expect) were less so.

Cambridgeshire Police were far calmer, rational and informative with their news release. 

There was also a discussion on LBC about it. Clive Chamberlain (@MrCliveC) appeared on the Nick Ferrari show and the conversation continued later in the next show.

The pilot the Cambridgeshire Police are running has been described as a retrograde step and ushering in an era of “virtual policing”. Callers to LBC explained how this service was going to maginalise pensioners who cannot afford computers, don’t use computers and don’t have internet connections. Others said it was a disgrace and just a cost cutting measure. Another way the police were squirming out of doing their job. The commentary ran from the ridiculous

“I’ve been burgled and my laptop stolen. How can I Skype you?

to the absurd

“How am I supposed to Skype the police whilst being stabbed?”

In order to address some of these concerns let’s apply a healthy dollop of common sense to the whole debate.

Skype is a big, no, enormous business that allows millions of users worldwide to connect and engage in video conversations with friends, family and for business. It is a modern form of communication that is increasing in popularity as faster internet speeds have made it easier to achieve a reliable service.

If the public are using this service in vast numbers then why not the police if we can see a use for it?

How are the police going to use it? It’s important to immediately dismiss any notion that Skype will replace emergency 999 calls or that it is to be the only method of contacting he police. I tweeted to LBC;

The Skype debate is not “we are moving to Skype get used to it”…. It’s “here is another option you may choose to use” @LBC

It actually made it on air and to be fair Tom Swarbrick really couldnt see the issue his callers had with the proposal.

The Cambridgeshire news article is quite clear. They deal with some 101 calls by an appointment system. This won’t be all 101 calls but it will be those that have been assessed as being suitable to be dealt with by appointment. This is not new. My force runs such a scheme. West Midlands have also had a “diary car” for some time. These booking systems work and provide a good service. Let me explain why.

You are having continual problems with your neighbour. There is nothing going on right now but you want to speak to the police about the issue. You call 101. The police take the call and consider the priority to deal with the it. Many people will demand to see a police officer and you do too but tell the call handler that you are only available until 3pm and need to see someone before then. The call taker can see the list of imagepriority and emergency incidents already pending. They make an assessment and try to steer you toward an appointment. The nature of demand means we cannot promise to get to you before 3pm. You could sit there waiting all day only to get a call at 2.50pm apologising that we can’t get to you and asking when you are next free. You get cross, arrange a time window for the next day of 10am to 2pm. You sit around all day again and we still haven’t got to you. This process can sometimes roll on for days. This makes us worse than the boiler repair company who say they will be with you at ‘some’ time between 8am and 6pm. Your whole day, or several, are wasted.

So we make an appointment. A dedicated officer not responding to immediate and priority incidents will attend at a given time and see you. You can plan your time accordingly. Brilliant. You get a better service and we come to see you. Win all round.

The appointment systems are a good way of ensuring we deal with (a phrase not liked in policing) ‘slow time’ demand.

So where does Skype fit in with this? Many issues do not need the physical presence of a police officer. We just need to take the facts, evaluate the circumstances then give advice and put a plan in place to deal with it. So in the appointment scenario above the call handler asks the Skype question. You are a modern person. You understand the demands on policing and you don’t really care how you communicate the problem to the police, you just want something done. You accept the offer, the police officer Skypes you at the given time and the matter moves along. It’s different and more interactive than just a phone call.

Of course you may say “I don’t have Skype” or “I really would like to talk in person with an officer”. Then guess what? We’re coming. It’s as simple as that.

Of course this is a new direction for police contact. Traditionalists will see it as a step that distances the police even further from the community. Some will see it as the thin edge of the wedge and the harbinger for virtual police officers based in call centres in Bangalore.*

Will this save money? Yes but in reality a negligible amount… fuel etc. Will it save time? Yes. Stacks of it; particularly in rural forces where beat areas can be several hundred square miles. In policing our most precious resource is our staff and their most precious commodity is their time. If in some small way we can utilise a more efficient way of communicating with people, when it suits them and us, then it has to be a good thing. It saves us money but more importantly time. Time we can then put to good use.

The outrage bus of misinformation was in top gear in the fast lane yesterday. This is not the death knell of policing as we know it. This is not the end of personal visits from police officers. This is not the abandonment of traditional contact methods such as 101, 999, email, letter and webpage. This is adding another option for the public to use to contact us in a way that suits them.

The space the police occupy on the internet is increasing every day. We Tweet, we Facebook, we Instagram, we Periscope, we YouTube and more. We are starting to broadcast public meetings on Blab so that those who cannot attend such meetings in person (disability, single parents and more) can do so digitally and have their voice heard. Now we Skype too. Is there seriously something wrong with that?

To those of you that doubt this idea I repeat the words of a famous Dark Lord…

“I find your lack of faith disturbing..”

Darth Vader

May the [police] force be with you…  in a way that suits you, us and works.

  • [irony and sarcasm alert] The police have always been years behind the private sector. Just as the banks are moving away from off shore call centres it would follow tradition that we would now move off shore! There are probably a few call centres going cheap. [/ends]

Rome is burning

This week the NPCC will meet and vote on the controversial topic of compulsory severance. A place they have been before when they actively campaigned for it a few years ago. In a nutshell, if the “ayes have it” and it is granted by government (legislation required), it would give senior police officers the ability to make officers redundant. Something they have never been able to do.

The office of constable is rather unique and not fully understood by many people outside the service. We are not employees and we have none of the industrial rights afforded to other workers. We are independent legal officials appointed by the crown. As such we are not a para-military service that does as it is told. We are empowered as individuals to refuse any instruction that we believe to be unlawful regardless of the rank of the person issuing that order. The constable is the bedrock of policing by consent and compulsory severance will irreparably undermine that role.

This topic is not new though. Sir Tom Winsor included it as part of his review at recommendations 46, 47 and 48. It was rejected by the Police Federation and taken to the PAT (Police Arbitration Tribunal) where it was also rejected. At this point the Home Secretary, who has the power to simply ignore PAT conclusions decided to accept it. The proposal was not taken off the table though ..

This remains a reform that I believe government and the police should continue to consider

Of course this was, at least in relation to Winsor, a minor victory in what became swathing changes to UK policing. I’m afraid I’m rather sceptical when it comes to the government and fear this tactic was no different to a car salesman who decides he wants £3k for a car. He therefore puts £3.5k on the screen and allows himself room to be negotiated down to what he wants.

Of course the last few years haven’t been good for the PFEW and when a group of people (the members) feel disenfranchised and hurt they will look for someone to blame. Sadly, this blame was directed at the PFEW for not doing enough rather than the government who rightly deserved it. I’m not naive enough to think that the PFEW are perfect. In fact far from it, but what good work they have done has been lost in criticism and complaint.

The PFEW from this point went, in my view, into meltdown. The membership increasingly took to social media to vent their frustrations and the federation main office was not ready or prepared to deal with this level of communication (they still aren’t). As a consequence rumour, speculation and misinformation has filled the void and exacerbated the problem. I’ll be quite honest, I have been a critic of this poor response too and in my own way added fuel to the fire.

The years have then rolled on. The Home Secretary has faced boo’s, stoney silence and more recently, polite applause at the national PFEW conference. The reforms and cuts to policing have continued but as the PFEW were facing a crisis of confidence from the membership, the Home Secretary,  like a master tactician then delivered her killer blow.

The PFEW was always set up to fail. It was never a trade union. It has only ever been a negotiating body that the government have the power to completely ignore at a whim. The PFEW had already set up the Normington Review to look at how they should reform. They had also agreed to adopt the report fully before the national conference but the Home Secretary forced this home by saying “reform yourselves now or I will do it for you”. The fact the PFEW had adopted the report was now a moot point. There could be no delay. Things needed to happen now and happen fast. Yet here was the skill of the Home Secretary. She knew the structure of the PFEW. She knew the archaic legislation that bound them. Despite the speed she called for and some in the PFEW knew we needed, it was not going to come easy.

The local branches don’t trust head office. Head office can’t tell the branches what to do with their members subscriptions and every minute step has to be scrutinised in great detail at committee level.. sometimes several layers of committees. There may be many in the PFEW who have wanted to run toward change and then focus back on members but found themselves trying to sprint in treacle.

Petty internal squabbles between branches and head office have severely restricted progress and hampered the efficacy of the organisation. This has led to even more upset by members. Local branches, used to acting independently, have continued to do so and started to make private arrangements to show their own strength of feeling about the reforms. This led to campaigns such as #cutshaveconsequences and #whatdowestop. Campaigns that have been taken up by additional branches in a piecemeal fashion that look like one campaign but is actually several that are individually financed, employing expensive consultants and are, in all honesty, largely unproductive. These are campaigns HQ have not been able to get involved in. This again looks like apathy and thereby increased the criticism of the centre by the membership whilst the branches burn your subscriptions with campaigns that have a large voice but the efficacy of a single crewed cop at a pub fight.

There is no single voice. There is no national strategy and poor national communications both to the media and the members. A newly reorganised communications team raring to get stuck in is being held back by the same internal wrangles. The net result is a fractured, disjointed organisation that is, overall, very weak, divided and failing. An organisation needing momentum that is being stifled by legislation and, from my perspective, some self interest and empire protection. Behaviour that in the long term is working against members interests. This is exactly where the Home Secretary wants the PFEW to be. Scrabbling around trying to sort out internal strife whilst she pushes reforms through. If the destruction of UK policing as we know it wasn’t so important you’d have to admire the skilful manoeuvre she has executed.

The vote is going ahead. The result could be catastrophic for policing as we know it. The Home Secretary has declined to implement it once but if it comes to the table with an NPCC endorsement it’s a different kettle of fish. Yet what will compulsory severance actually mean? In the short term it will allow senior officers to force expensive, experienced officers out of the service and replace them with cheaper ones. Further down the line it could lead to all sorts of issues as police officers move toward being employees but with no industrial rights to redress the balance.

Disgraced ex Chief Constable Nick Gargan once said “I want compulsory severance but have no plans to use it”. This was a scary phrase that implied to me a lie. I hope that NPCC officers, who are all constables, will vote this week and take a stand that supports the office of constable. Not destroy it.

In the meantime the PFEW have a dilemma and as time rolls on I fear the division between branches and HQ is becoming insurmountable. It’s going to take something extraordinary to get them all on the same side and supporting one another. Whilst they remain in this trap so beautifully placed by the Home Secretary the only outcome I can realistically see is their demise. They will be criticised for fiddling whilst Rome burns and those within who really want to make change and make it now will be thrown to the dogs as failures which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Branches and HQ need to put history, tradition and self interest to one side, join together and become a staff association with one voice, one message and a force for change. The alternate doesn’t bear thinking about.

The Horse’s Mouth

I have just caught the 10am news on BBC Radio 4. One of the topics and one I have tweeted on already today is the further cuts to policing and how some PCC’s have increased the council tax precept in order to try (and I say “try”) to reduce the impact on the great undefined phrase of “frontline policing”.

Policing in the UK has made savings. I’ve no doubt there are more that can be made that will involve not outsourcing but greater collaboration between forces in areas such as uniform, fleet and IT.

On the news a spokesperson was wheeled in. Sadly I didn’t catch who it was*. He commented on police cuts and then talked about making savings. He gave an example of how money could be saved;

When there is an accident on the motorway we send the police, the ambulance crews and fire service to the scene. All in their own separate and very expensive vehicles. If they were to collaborate and save on those vehicles attending then savings could be made

(not verbatim)

Now I don’t know about you but in recent days/weeks/months I’ve not heard such misinformed and ignorant hogwash.

All three services have very separate roles, responsibilities and commitments to such a event.

Just imagine a 3 in 1 vehicle. It would need to be huge because the fire engine will need water. It will need a paramedic bay in order to treat casualties and it will need a large crew cab to carry firefighters, paramedics and police. Picture a fire engine… but longer… much longer, heavier and slower.

Now imagine that heavy, large, cumbersome vehicle attending the scene of a fatal pile up on the motorway with all three emergency services onboard. It arrives on the motorway to find a huge tailback. It heads up the hard shoulder and eventually gets to the scene. There are a car and a HGV involved. The truck driver is out of the cab walking wounded but his truck is on fire. The car is crushed into the central barrier. The passenger is dead and the driver is in a very bad way.

The firefighters rush to the fire, the paramedics rush to the casualty and the police begin the laborious process of trying to piece together what happened, maintain the safety of everyone else at the scene and facilitate the clearing of the stationary traffic.

Tick tock.. 20 mins later. The fire service have put the fire out and made all the vehicles safe. They no longer need to be at the scene. They want to go. They can’t leave.

Tick tock.. another 15 minutes. Paramedics have stabilised the casualty and need to get off to hospital immediately. They need to go. IMG_0564They can’t because the police still need to stay there. The Polambulengine 3in1 vehicle is the only thing between the officer maintaining the scene (a potential crime scene) and the traffic still on the motorway.

There is a large rubbish dump fire in a neighbouring town. The firefighters get a “mate pumps 10” call. They have to get to another fire. They can’t. The paramedics have a casualty that desperately needs to get to hospital. They can’t. The police officer wants to help them both but has a responsibility to the scene, the investigation, traffic flow and everyone’s safety.

I don’t need to say anymore… you already know the example given on the radio this morning was absurd. I’d go further. It’s stunning ignorance of what the emergency services do.

Making such ridiculous statements are unhelpful and contemptuous. If you want to know the truth of a situation you need to get information from the horses mouth. Those who do it every single day. Not those who spout suggestions about what professional police officers, paramedics and firefighters should do with no clear knowledge of our roles.

Get the facts from the horses mouth. Not a jackass.

* Since posting the blog it has been brought to my attention that the spokesperson in question was former policing minister Damian Green

The PolAmbulEngine image is courtesy of @martinwoods on Twitter

(Featured image courtesy of Meg_Nicol on Flickr)