Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Win some, lose some

I'm a union member, and I went out on the march last November - almost a year ago! - along with many other public sector workers.  It was a really positive experience: I met people who were really passionate about doing their job well, and the main topic of conversation was a description with slight guilty undertones of how they'd arranged for cover while they were out.

Nearly a year on, and there's news in from the union.  As far as I'm concerned:


Well...  I think we won.  I think the changes to the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) in the new proposal are fair and reasonable, where I would have labelled the proposals we went on strike about a theft or a fraud.

One of the unions involved is still unhappy with the new proposals but it's highly unlikely there'll be any more strike action.

Has this small fact been in The News near you at all?  Of course not.  Good news, or the happy outcome of old news, never gets in the news.

LGPS members rejoice.

Meanwhile, the pay structure for police officers has been mucked about with beyond recognition.

Some people are raking it in.  I don't have any real obligations outside of work and I actually like working nights so if I were a police officer I'd be pulling all the night shifts God sends and as a result I'd actually be better off as a result of Winsor.

But the people who can't do the unsociable hours are far worse off.  In a Control Room environment, that means young mums.  Sorry if that sounds sexist and old-fashioned but it happens to be true.

It goes like this:  Young people go into response policing.  Young people also tend to have babies.  They may not then want to go straight back out into fighting with drunk people every night, so they fall back to the next position - the Control Room.  It's the only job where their experience is totally relevant and there's no chance of them getting into a physical fight (until the thing living in the rota fridge actually develops motor skills).

This has always been a good thing for us.  It means we've got a few police officers with recent experience in the room with us, which is truly invaluable.  We've always known they were earning more money than us for doing the same job, but it didn't matter because we knew they'd earned the salary for previous training, and that they'd probably go back to "full" police work in the fullness of time.

Not no more.

The plan is to get all police officers out of the Control Room.  Those who physically can't go back on front-line duty are seeing life-changing pay cuts.

This is wrong.  Civil rights campaigners have fought and died for the principle that you don't lose money if you decide to have kids.

Slightly rarer but still extant is the person (usually but not always male) who comes off front-line duty because of an injury and ends up in the Control Room because his experience is useful there.  Again, they used to keep their police officer salary and we staff never begrudged it.  Surely the injury earned it.

They're now being offered the choice of a redeployment to an "officer" job that they might not want, or be any good at, or a pay cut.

Since when did this society think it was OK to offer someone a pay cut because they'd been injured in the line of duty?

I'll tell you.  It was the day that we were told it was OK for an MP to call a police officer a pleb for trying to do her job.

I don't want to live in a society where it's OK to talk to another human being like that.  I certainly don't want to live in a society where the lack of respect for authority has reached the point where it's OK to talk to a police officer like that.

But that's where we've got with the current ruling party.  They're all toffs, millionaires,  Eton alumni.  Scratch at the veneer and that's what they think of all of us.  Anyone who works for a living - we're all fucking plebs as far as they're concerned.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

No, No, No (a Conservative government should recognise that)

Read this.

I'm not working longer.  I'm not contributing more.

I'm going to fulfil the contract that I signed up to - and so are you!

You have no right to change it.

Hands off MY MONEY or I call the police.

Oh...  Bugger.


I'm generally a very calm person, but I found myself shouting at my computer screen today when I came across a Channel 4 News article claiming that the proposed Unison strike on 30th November would cost approximately £500 million and that we spoiled public sector workers should suck it up and go to work anyway because there simply isn't enough money in the public pot to pay our pensions as promised.

Now, that's bad enough.  As it happens I'm on a rest day today so I watched You've Been Scammed on BBC1 this morning (so much classier than keeping up with my frequent customers on Jeremy Kyle) during which I learned of the existence of a government agency called the Insolvency Agency which, among other duties, wraps up companies which take money for services that they actually have no ability to offer.

So...  We've been paying into our pensions all this time (and let's not hear any "gold-plated" bollocks, they're good pensions but no better than a decent private-sector employer) and now they say they can't afford to pay out?  Sounds like a job for the Insolvency Agency to me.

But wait.  Here comes a conflicting set of figures.

Like most of my colleagues, I'm a member of Unison.  Like most of my colleagues, it's not because we're red-flag waving 1970s British Leyland workers but because Unison supports its members when, inevitably, a member of the public makes a complaint against us.

Unison says that the Local Government Pension Scheme is in rude health, that it currently takes in more money than it gives out, and if all contributions suddenly stopped it could support its retirees for another 20 years.

I don't know The Facts, but I've read widely around the current crisis and I've arrived at the conclusion that it was caused by a greedy group of banks aiming for profit with no regard for the good of their customers.  This shouldn't be any surprise - George Soros did much the same thing single-handed in the '90s, but we're looking at all the banks coming up with the same idea at the same time rather than a single individual this time around.

My own experience has taught me to trust what Unison says over and above the sewage that issues from the current government.

I believe that my pension, which I have been paying into in good faith, is being plundered in order to rectify the mistakes made by reckless bankers in the pursuit of wealth.

I do not work in the pursuit of wealth.  I work damn hard in a pretty unpleasant shift pattern and I earn almost exactly the average salary for a British male of my age.  I do it because I believe I do good work, and because I believe my colleagues are above reproach.

If you think this doesn't matter to you because you don't work in the public sector, ask yourself this: Are you immune from burglary?  Is your car theft-proof?  Will you, your spouse, your children never suffer from mental health issues?  Or addiction?  Will you never know anyone lose their job and become dependent on benefits?

At the moment the press seem to conspiring with the government to display "the public sector" as your enemy, as a cost to society.  We are not.  We look after your kids when you can't, we reassure your grandparents when they're alone, we protect you drunks from yourselves, we also look into real crime on the rare occasions that we have time.

Let us have our salary and our pensions.  We love our work, but we can't buy food with love.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Definition of a Missing Person

I've been reading Winston Smith's excellent blog for some time, and I couldn't help thinking of him while this incident was going on.  I'd have loved to hear his take on it.  His chronicling of the failures in our system of "care" for young people has a direct link to policing as so many of our frequent fliers come from the "care" system.

So.  Imagine you're the manager of a care home in Shitsville.  Two of the young men in your care, aged 15, are well-known to police for a variety of minor nuisances and Anti Social Behaviour, possession of drugs and the odd theft and burglary.  You happen to know that these two owe money to a local drug dealer at the moment, so when they calmly walk into the care home's lounge, remove the 40" flat-screen TV and walk out with it, you immediately call the police.

Not to the report the theft though (although the call-handler does her job well and creates a crime report for that).  Oh no.  You're reporting the pair of them missing.

I can only assume this must have been down to one of a care home policy because surely no sane, rational human being would react to the theft of £700 worth of taxpayer-funded hardware by reporting a concern for the safety of the thieves.

One of our policies states that all mispers have to be managed by the duty Response Inspector, so I gave him a phone call.  He's new to the division, having transferred over from a part of the county where there aren't any care homes.  By coincidence they all seem to be on Y Division, so he's new to all this nonsense.  I haven't met him yet, but he seems to have a sense of humour so I succumbed to the temptation to give him the details completely deadpan.  He got the joke, but was a bit baffled as to what to do with the job, his view being that they were surely wanted rather than missing.  I get the impression that he wanted to simply ignore the "missing" aspect and leave CID to crack on with investigating the theft of the TV and arrest them at their leisure.  You can't just ignore the fact that someone's been reported missing though, so we let CCTV know, put out their descriptions on the radio (although the response team all know them well) and kept the job open to await developments.  The Inspector's last sentence to me on that phone call: "Surely they won't be stupid enough to go back, will they?"

I had a private bet with myself that he was wrong on that, and I awarded myself a chocolate bar when I won it.  Towards the end of our shift, the care home called back: the two miscreants had returned, clearly under the influence of cannabis and minus a flatscreen telly.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the county, another customer from one of the Y Division care homes is calling 999 (because he hasn't got any credit left on his phone) to ask if he's been reported missing, because he's missed the last train, he hasn't got enough money for a taxi and the home will usually send a car to collect him.  He hasn't been reported missing, but the call handler phones the home anyway to ask them to pick him up.  Sadly they don't have any drivers available.  The temptation is to leave it at that and let him take his chances...  but he is only 16, and anyway the local NSO happens across him at this point.  His hands are tied: he doesn't want to be a taxi, but we have a duty of care to under 18s.  Sure enough, we end up transporting him home.  Country's finest taxi service, we are.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chasing for crime reports

We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time chasing people to make allegations and put on crime reports when they clearly don't want to, and I'm curious to know if other forces do it too.

Whenever I question this, the answer is that we have to follow the Home Office counting rules, which means that we have to officially record every crime we are made aware of and generate a crime number so that the government can accurately track crime statistics across the country.  I can see that this is necessary, but don't believe for a minute that it's accurate - different forces work in different ways, and anyway it's far too easy to massage the figures.

Don't assume that I mean the figures are massaged to make forces look good, or to make certain areas look safer than they are - the way my force works, I sometimes think that management are deliberately trying to make the place look worse than it is.  The street level crime maps at are quite fun for this - I live in a very quiet and safe area, and yet it comes up with about a hundred reports of anti social behaviour per month.  I suspect a lot of these are absolutely rubbish, locals complaining about kids making noise in the skate park and so on.

The really annoying ones for us in the control room are the jobs where someone has called something in, maybe made an appointment to see officers, then cancels the appointment and stops answering their phone.  We end up calling them back every couple of hours, leaving answering machine messages, sending officers to put calling cards through their doors...  Sometimes if a person drops off the radar there's a concern for their safety but for most of these cases it's quite clear that they've just changed their mind about reporting whatever it is that's happened and don't want to talk to us any more.  Often they were drunk at the time of the original call, and the sober mind realises that the matter's not worth pursuing.  I wish I didn't have to waste so much of my life chasing these people, but supervisors and closers rarely let me close an incident without a crime number on it.

It would be hilarious if a member of the public tried to get us done for harassment after turning their phone on and finding all the messages we've left...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Bloody hell.  I chose a really good couple of weeks to go on holiday, didn't I!

So, no juicy first-hand information to share, no insider news, just a slightly educated commentary.

I have, of course, been getting cross at the half-digested versions of facts being presented on the TV news, especially the thin-ness of the analysis around the facts.  16,000 extra police deployed in London tonight sounds fantastic, but no-one's asked where they come from.  The Met don't have 16,000 extra officers lying dormant in stasis until they get charged up and sent out, so the answer is surrounding forces and cancelled leave and rest days.

No human being can carry on functioning at those stress levels for long without rest days, so I worry for those Met officers.  I also worry about the proportion of my force which has been working in London, not only because some of them are personal friends but also because I understand how thin the capacity is back here at the moment.  We simply cannot afford to have a major incident or even a busier-than-usual shift at the moment.

Incidents like the current riots, the Norway shootings, Derek Bird and the Mumbai incident always lead to a round of "How would we have coped with that?" in the mess room.  The debate isn't a pretty sight and the consensus is generally somewhere along the lines of, "We'd be fucked."  The Control Room is ludicrously short-staffed, under-trained for major incidents and morale is low.  When I speak to officers on the outside I find much the same thing: they're totally committed to job of protecting the public, but struggling with kit that doesn't work properly, bizarre and conflicting instructions from senior management and concerns over pay and pensions.

Getting back to today's news, there was the usual round of criticising police for being too tough, or not tough enough, whichever it is this week.  I think the number of arrests quoted on the Six was 150, which shocked my other half ("What!  There were thousands of them, why didn't you nick the lot?") and impressed me ("Blimey, we've only got space for half that in the whole county's custody suites!")

It doesn't matter anyway, because the whole lot will be out on bail this time tomorrow.

That's not just cynical bandwagon-jumping, by the way: on my last run of nights, we nicked the same bloke for breach of time/location conditions (ie: You must not be in Shitsville Town Centre between 20:00 and 08:00) six nights in a row, then on the seventh night Custody refused to take him but told us to drop him off far enough away that he couldn't get back in time to breach again.

The courts are simply a joke to repeat offenders who know how to play the system to get off with a rap on the knuckles.

I have a regular rant on about standards in society, respect for parents, teachers and police which I will spare you because the bloggers who inspired me to start this have said it all far more eloquently than I know how to.  Go read this from Inspector Gadget, this from PC Bloggs and this from Winston Smith, and if you hadn't read them before go back and read the whole lot.

My inner Guardian reader is ashamed to say this, but we've just got to get tougher.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Sat Nav dependence

I know, I know, I know.  There are a thousand blog posts and stupid Daily Mail stories about idiotic sat nav use.  But I just have to get this off my chest - bear with me.

Recently we had a job where the victim was from a couple of hundred miles away, and for reasons that I won't bore you with she had to come here to do something.  We wanted her to come to a police station, but she insisted on meeting officers at a motorway service station and going onwards in convoy because she didn't have her sat nav with her and wouldn't have been able to find it.

Seriously?  In any town the police station is a pretty good landmark: all you have to do is follow signs to the town centre then pick up signs to the police station or ask someone.  It's not hard.

Typing this up reminds me of a job from the winter when there was heavy snow.  We had a call from some lads who'd got themselves stuck on a country B road that hadn't been cleared.  When we finally got to them, they said they didn't know the area because they were visiting from London and just following their sat nav.  Did it not cross their minds that it might be more sensible to stick to the main roads when there's been heavy snow?

I have a sat nav and I love it, it's a really useful tool.  But it doesn't do all the thinking for me: I have to engage my brain when driving as well.