Recall to Duty – Dads army of Policing

There will be obvious references to the old TV series now that the Police service has officially announced they are asking retired officers to return. In order to assist in dealing with the crisis caused by Covid – 19, the largest UK Police service, the Metropolitan Police, has advertised for retired officers to return and support policing.

This is an unprecedented move in unprecedented times and maybe exemplifies the challenge that faces society and law enforcement. Personally, I think it is a sensible move by the Met and other forces have followed suit, if they believe they need the resilience provided by additional staffing levels. There are some strict criteria to meet and you need to have been retired between one month and five years to apply to return.

Eligibility:

  • Must have 30 years pensionable service.
  • At least 1 month minimum & 5 years maximum retired from policing.
  • Retired as Constable or Sergeant to apply – more senior ranks can return as a special constable. (That tells its own story!)

Notes:

  • Its designed as a fast track return process.
  • You will be posted to a role/location that best suits your needs & abilities.
  • The Met will try to ensure you receive appropriate training and able to be deployed as soon as possible.
  • There is a minimum 6-month tenure.
  • This is subject to satisfactory vetting.
  • It is a full-time role – 40 hours per week.

There is some translation needed based on my experience & understanding of jargon used in Police job adverts. They will `try to ensure` you receive appropriate training – means be prepared to teach yourself on NCALT or just learn by doing it. The next is `you will be posted to role/location that suits your needs & abilities – means they will try to use your skills & locate you near to your home address but, as any serving or retired officer will tell you, you sign up to work anywhere in London and in any role the Met decides it needs you to perform.

Having said that, would I join again? Absolutely, and I know that there will be many who will do so but I also know quite a few that would not go near policing which makes me quite disappointed. You will often hear many serving and former officers describe policing as a family and it really is. You spend many hours and days with your colleagues, and some become as close if not closer than many of your own family. I do find it strange when former officers categorically state that they would not go near policing again, albeit some may have good reason to hold that view. I think that often, their anger or bitterness is primarily against the organisation itself and rarely against their colleagues who they still hold in high esteem.

The Police service is a very hard task master and employer, it demands almost total loyalty and service and often to the detriment to your personal life and well- being. If you delve deeper into those who categorically state they would not go back, then it is often because a department or senior manager did not treat them well. They would run towards danger for their colleagues but not for those above them or for the job itself.

Despite all that, I have taken four calls today from former colleagues who have all retired more than five years ago, who would join me again in policing the streets. One call started, `we are getting the band back together, you in? ` Another asked me what I fancied for my refs (refreshments) for late turn Saturday! I am still employed in a teaching role within policing which is likely to be essential in maintaining establishment numbers but anyone who returns has my full support and admiration.

When you leave Policing its often said you miss the circus but not the clowns – and its telling that the advert from the Met is directed at Constables & Sergeants, those who in the main, police the streets.

Maybe once we are out of this then Policing as a profession will take a long hard look at who exactly should be valued and recognised within its own organisation. Society also needs to re assess the workers and jobs that really are essential to its own well-being. Our NHS workers are heroes as are many delivery drivers and those in the food supply chain.

It is often said that Policing is a vocation, despite recent initiatives to suggest it should be just a career move or should initiate a `healthy churn` in staff turn- over.

The Policing family now need support and help and maybe not all, but many will answer the call to once again help and protect the public.

They are heroes and I am proud to be part of that family.

Policing a virus attack whilst policing targets

I have avoided writing many blogs in the last few months as policing was allegedly subject to significant change and increased support and funding. Recently, we have had the first indication of the commitment and associated demands of the Boris Johnson government, as they outline their promise of increased funding and the magical or maybe mythical increase of 20,000 new Police officers.

Stop press – 20,000 new police officers will not reduce crime and to propose that setting Police forces targets as a quid pro quo for providing 20,000 officers is completely misguided and wrong in my mind. Those 20,000 will need to be recruited, trained and then supervised whilst they gain much needed experience in preventing and then detecting crime. This isn’t a quick fix solution, although more officers are much needed after ten years of cutting Police numbers by the Tory government. It also needs recognising that it wasn’t just Police officer numbers that were reduced – they also removed over 20,000 police staff posts. Those members of staff carried out essential roles which released police officers from administrative functions so they could be out of police stations, preventing and detecting crime. It isn’t that difficult to understand that if you reduce a workforce by over 40,000 people then you will not see as much `productivity`.

Now we have the pending threat of a widespread virus for the Police to contend with, which may well pose a significant challenge to law and order. Covid-19 is likely to impact on many aspects of society and there are advanced contingency plans in place to maintain law & order. I worked within the planning and resourcing department of the Met Police in London, and I am aware of the well-established links with the national co ordination centre to enable police resources to be sent on mutual aid across the UK. There are several options available which may include extended tours of duty, cancelling rest days and redeploying officers from non- operational roles to assist in maintaining law & order. There are also options available to request assistance from the military in providing security at government and iconic locations which would allow for other forces, such as ministry of defence police & civil nuclear constabulary, to be released from their normal roles to provide increased policing resources.

Targets – This really is re-inventing the wheel, and, in my experience, they never worked and were just a method of government or the Home office being able to criticise policing for not meeting targets. Invariably, the targets are set by people with no understanding or concept of policing demands and rarely meet actual local or national issues. The real injustice around the whole implementing targets aspect, is that because they have returned 20,000 police officer posts, that policing must reduce crime. An awkward fact is that crime reduction doesn’t just rest with the Police. That may sound perverse but, policing can have a restricted impact in reducing crime and specifically volume crime, because most crime is committed by the same individuals over & over again. If there is sufficient evidence the CPS may decide to charge them, they will then appear at court and you are then reliant on witnesses and victims turning up to give evidence. If that happens then maybe the jury or the magistrate will accept that evidence and convict the suspect who is then sentenced. Very few will receive a custodial sentence and many that do will be back out within a relatively short period of time and start re offending. The whole process starts again as there is no real deterrent to prevent some from committing crime. Years of cuts to the prison service and probation service mean little or no rehabilitation is carried out and monitoring of released offenders has also been reduced.

Reduction of crime requires a more widespread approach from various agencies and services, the police need more resources to prevent and then detect crime and offenders but that is just the start. If you continually fail to imprison prolific offenders or attempt any form of rehabilitation, then the cycle of crime will continue, and it will not be reduced simply by returning 20,000 police posts or by setting poorly conceived targets. I welcome the return of 20,000 Police officer posts but it should be unconditional and not target led as those officer posts were removed without conditions and without reducing targets and with no recognition whatsoever from the government that if you have less resources then you get less in returns.

The next few months will be exceptionally challenging for policing in the UK and to suggest imposing targets whilst recruiting and training 20,000 new officers and simultaneously managing a potential widespread virus outbreak is foolhardy and ill conceived. I wish my former colleagues well but I have no doubt that come what may they will still get themselves into work and maintain law & order whilst working exceptionally long hours and with very few days off…….that 5 % pay rise proposed by the federation doesn’t come close to paying Police officers what they are worth, especially at time like this.