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Lies, Damned lies and Police pay rises

I like to think I am a reasonable person and judge people based on what they say, what they do and on my own knowledge and experience of them. I listened to the current home secretary at the Police Federation conference in May and he received a warm welcome as the audience eagerly waited to hear some words of support from a Conservative party Home Secretary. He was asked directly about police pay & conditions during the Q & A session and he gave what can only be described as an assurance that he believed police pay needed improving and budgets for policing needed to increase to meet current demand. He assured the slightly suspicious audience that he would do all in his power to ensure an increase in funding and would look favourably at the pay award proposed by the independent Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) who propose the amount of the annual Police pay rise.

 

The Policing minister, Nick Hurd, said similar words just the day before Sajid Javid spoke and he told conference they would see and hear a different approach from this home secretary than they had from both of his predecessors. This home secretary told the conference that he understood policing and he made good use of the fact his brother was a serving officer and he would do his best to get a fair deal for policing. He talked the talk, he sounded like he was one of the policing family and he would get a fair deal in respect of pay because he knew about the job.

 

These words were welcomed by most of the audience and there was quiet confidence that finally we had a government minister who would argue and fight for policing and honour the recommendations of PRRB, a group set up by the current government to independently assess pay awards for policing every year. There were some sceptics in the audience and on social media that he was yet another Tory, he was just a government puppet and would do Mrs Mays bidding and that the real problem and stumbling block for police pay lay at the very head of government and the Conservative party – Theresa May.

 

I tweeted supportive comments for Mr Javid and Mr Hurd and asked that the policing family give them time and judge them on their actions and not on what Theresa May and Amber Rudd had failed to do or the actions of their political party over the last few years.

 

Sadly, the sceptics have been proved right and once again the Police service has been lied to, misled and disrespected by the same government albeit from a different messenger, and this time someone professing to know and understand policing, claiming almost to be one of our own. This time the betrayal feels personal, the lies and spin put out by the Conservatives are getting worse. The PRRB recommended 3% but the government have `awarded` 2% yet in real terms it equates to 0.85% and around £2.50 per week. The 0.85% figure is reached by the fact that of last year’s 2%, only 1% was consolidated. That 1% has now been removed by the Government for this year’s pay award, so the actual uplift is worth approximately 0.85% to Constables. In real terms Police officer pay has decreased by approximately 18% since 2009/2010.

 

I really hoped that Mr Javid would show some backbone and his actions would match the words he spoke to the federation conference, but they have not. This latest `pay award` is funded entirely from existing police budgets, not from any additional government money, it is derisory and disgraceful. Serious crime is up, violent crime is up, and every front-line officer will tell you they need more officers to meet increasing demand, yet police numbers are down. It sounds like there is almost a deliberate programme to weaken the Police service and that would mean many policing roles would have to be privatised. Who would benefit from a programme like that?

 

I agree that the NHS, teachers and armed forces all deserve an increase in pay but so does policing. The governments priorities are all self-serving and designed to reduce policing to the stage where some aspects are privatised to the benefit of wealthy private companies. It is not a coincidence that the pay award was announced just before parliament goes into its summer recess for many weeks, no time to debate or challenge ministers on their outright betrayal of Policing and blatant disregard for increasing violent crime which puts the public at risk.

 

There is a crisis in policing, but it is one designed, organised and perpetuated by the current government and current Prime minister as it seems to be driven by the personal wishes of one person. I had much higher hopes and expectations for Mr Javid based on his words which sounded and appeared genuine with a heart touching reference to his own family links to policing. My faith and trust was misplaced as his actions have shown him to be exactly the same as all the other sycophants that Mrs May seems determined to surround herself with.

 

I genuinely now fear for Policing unless there is a change in leadership of the current government or a change in government and the latter option fills me with as much trepidation as continuing with the current leader of the country. I just wish Police chiefs would unite and find their collective voice and not just a month before they retire or a month after. Speak out now and tell the public and MP`s the honest and true situation of policing as a direct result of the budget restraints imposed by this government. Tell them what Policing can no longer truthfully achieve, the investigations that cannot be concluded, the calls that cannot be answered and the crimes that will not be reported.

 

The Police family need to unite and speak out against this concerted attack on their officers and the service they want to provide. The public want an effective and efficient police service, they deserve one, but it is being frustrated by the very people elected to ensure that is what they receive.

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Dear (next) Home Secretary………

I used to work with a Sergeant who had a teenage daughter who appeared to have an issue with deciding who she really wanted to date……he decided that he would no longer ask the name of the next young man to call for his daughter but would simply refer to them as `next`…. the post of Home secretary is starting to resemble this analogy.

The inevitable finally came to pass when Amber Rudd succumbed to the pressure on her around immigration targets and the Windrush scandal by resigning late on Sunday night. The next holder of arguably the most toxic government ministerial post is Sajid Javid who appears to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time looking at his progress through parliament & government. I hope he is equally as adept in managing his in tray as he seems to be with his timing and hopefully this home secretary will know what the Home Office are doing and saying under his leadership.

What does this mean for Policing and other public-sector workers though?

There always seemed to be a clear initiative by the former home secretary, no, not the most recent one but the architect and driving force behind the decimation of Policing, Theresa May, to drive through reform and tacit acceptance to her own ideals of Policing. We have seen drastic reductions in Police resources both in operational officers and equally as important, support staff which has arguably led to serious crimes increasing to dangerous levels. Amber Rudd did little to address these issues whilst she held the post but in truth she inherited the problems and budget reductions from her predecessor and appeared unwilling to challenge those policies that were doing so much damage to the Policing model. What of the new Home Secretary then? Is he going to be yet another non-confrontational devotee of the prime minister? It would appear from what I have seen and heard so far that may not be the case and there is a possibility of bringing policing back from the precipice. There could be a small chink of light in the tunnel of Policing and a ray of hope that we may have someone willing to stand up to Mrs May.

I doubt that my thoughts and views would ever reach the in tray of a home secretary and if they did, they would likely be forgotten quicker than a policy paper on immigration targets.

There are a few things I would ask and request of any serving Home secretary:

Protect the protectors – ensure serving officers receive suitable and adequate protection from the justice system when assaulted. Society loses respect for law and order when the very figures that represent that authority can be assaulted and abused with little effective deterrent. Courts should be given clear instructions that assaults on law enforcement officers should attract deterrent sentences which must include terms of imprisonment in many such cases.

Review the pay and pension regulations – Police pay has reduced gradually during the tenure of Mrs May and is no longer representative of the role they play in society or the special situations they find themselves in. Basic pay needs to increase to attract the best people into Policing and just as importantly, to retain them in a policing career. Policing has become a short-term job as opposed to a vocation and the professionalism of the Policing model has suffered as a direct result of Mrs Mays policies. Police pay should reflect the fact that Police officers are legally prohibited from taking industrial action to fight for fair pay and conditions. They can only negotiate & trust that government engage in any negotiations in a fair, honest and honourable way which has not always been the case.

Support your Police service – There has clearly been a well organised and practised negative approach towards Policing by certain sections of the media and most definitely certain sections of recent governments. Those actions impact on a daily basis on the confidence of Police officers and more importantly the confidence and trust in Policing by large sections of the public who believe much of what they read and are told. This undermining of law and order must stop, and it is a prime objective of any government to protect and safeguard their citizens which includes promoting trust and confidence in their police service.

Engage in effective dialogue – Mrs May did not listen to Police professionals and even accused them of crying wolf in 2015 when they warned her against further reductions and the likely impact on levels of crime. Strong and stable leaders do not do so by dictating but by effective communication which includes actively listening to those experienced and practised in Policing. The home secretary should be open to suggestions and proposals from those around them, but greater importance should be attached to those with personal knowledge of policing. I would urge him to visit operational officers and not just limit himself to stage managed photo opportunities with various senior officers and specially selected audiences. He will find the majority of police officers hugely dedicated, committed and thoroughly professional and quite capable of engaging in honest and open debate with him. They may even explain and demonstrate the benefits of effective use of stop and search if he is in any doubt.

Finally, I truly hope Mr Javid will find time to visit the Police Federation conference in a few weeks and listen to what he is told and start to build a strong and balanced relationship with those trusted to keep society safe. Policing should not be judged by spread sheets, balance sheets and selective crime statistics and it is not an income generation industry. It is much more important than that – it is about making society and the public safe and he was elected to serve the public not just the current party leader and prime minister.

 

The search to stop knife crime

This was a relatively shorter blog than normal which was posted on newsfeed after a request for my views on stop & search and knife crime. I could write another 800 words and probably more on the causes, impacts and problems that reducing police resources and use of stop and search has had on the rise in violent crime. In a sentence, it needs more Police officers on the streets doing more pro-active policing and engaging with communities to obtain information about those carrying knives and guns so they can be stopped and detained. There are many campaigns about preventing terrorism and reporting suspicious activities, but we lack similar initiatives around preventing knife crime and violent crime. This can only be stopped by a combined approach involving parents, guardians, communities, government and policing. It`s time for the silent majority in society to stand up and be counted or we will be left counting the increasing number of young lives lost, whilst we remain silent and let the violent criminals take over our streets and cities.

In simplistic terms, it is highly likely that more stops and searches by Police would impact on the number of knife crimes currently taking place. The basic deterrent of being caught with a knife by Police, being arrested and prosecuted and possibly receiving a conviction will no doubt deter some from carrying a knife in the first place, but the brutal fact is that stop & search has reduced and knife crime has increased.

The statistics, facts and figures have often been repeated by politicians, academics, social experts and policing analysts with varying interpretations of the assimilated data. We are told more young people are searched, more young people from poorer backgrounds are searched, more people from BAME backgrounds are searched and the general assessment seems to be the Police are therefore racist & ageist based on the statistics. In a similar way that stop & search is not the single answer to knife crime then the assessment that Police only stop & search because they are ageist or racist is also completely incorrect. The majority of knife crimes are being committed by young males and many are from a BAME background and deprived areas. It is ludicrous to expect that in an effort to balance the figures of people stopped by Police there should be more women aged over 50 or males over 50 stopped and searched for knife crimes. The same statistics indicate the age and ethnicity of those being stopped and searched match those being arrested for knife crime offences or identified as being suspected of them. The key for Policing is to obtain information and intelligence so they can target those carrying knives and committing these offences but where and from whom does that information come from?

It must come from parents, guardians and those involved with young people as well as from Police officers. The many initiatives and partnership projects that were carried out by Police and local social services in previous years have been largely eradicated as budgets across public sectors are reduced. There appears to be no desire or intention from government to increase funding to provide additional police resources or to fund a council backed youth scheme. Parents and role models are often missing from the lives of these young people and they then aspire to be like the older teenagers in their local area who have drifted into the gang culture or a life of crime.

I would suggest it is not solely due to stop & search being reduced that has caused knife crime to rise so rapidly and maybe these are the other causes that society and government are unwilling to address?

Prevention is always far better than a cure and stop & search followed by arrest is part of preventative tactics and solely the prerogative of policing. When you look at the number of police officers that have been cut over the last 8 years across the UK, then it is no surprise a pro active tactic like stop & search has been reduced. There is now far less time and opportunity for front line officers to conduct stop & search due to increasing demand and less officers to deal. Stop & search has always been largely carried out by uniformed police, so specialist units are unlikely to use it on a day to day basis. In simple number terms, less officers will prevent less crime and carry out less prevention tactics which has contributed to this worrying rise in knife crime.

Knife crime isn’t just a policing problem to solve and both government and society in general need to look at the reasons against carrying a knife for protection or to gain respect. In short stop & search is an effective policing tactic against crime being committed but you need sufficient officers to have confidence they can use that tactic and be supported when they do so.

Lies, Damned Lies and Protected Police Budgets

Been a while since my last blog but this nonsense from Theresa May and her government about `protected Police budgets` prompted me to write again.

She is lying, her ministers who repeat it are lying and so is any national newspaper that repeats it. Now I could just leave it there, but the truth of the matter is that once again the PM and her ministers are being very very economical with the actual truth and facts.

Police budgets have been systematically cut every year since the Conservatives regained power and at Prime Ministers questions last Wednesday, she was challenged again and repeated her default lie. For once Jeremy Corbyn was well briefed and restricted himself to just asking specific questions, I am guessing Louise Haigh and/or Holly Lynch might have assisted him as the numbers were accurate. Tends to suggest the shadow home secretary was not involved when you consider her previous statements about police budgets and numbers!

The truth of the matter is that if you have a particularly biased view then you could state Police budgets have been `protected` but that does not explain the true picture or the facts of the matter. What Mrs May actually means is that having cut Police budgets to an extent where preventing crime and protecting the public has been put at real risk, then she is not going to cut them anymore – hence the budgets are being protected unlike the public or Police officers.

Policing stopped being pro active a few years ago, almost the same time Mrs May became Home secretary, and gradually over the last few years they have moved more towards being a reactive service. Crimes may be reported and many are not investigated, lack of resources and time are often quoted and whichever cause is given they are all due to the same reasons – lack of funding and available resources. Police officers these days rarely patrol looking to prevent and detect crime, they are constantly racing from one emergency call to the next and frequently picking up the slack from other public-sector services. Police vehicles are turned into pseudo ambulances as there is a shortage of those emergency vehicles, police resources are tied up searching for patients reported missing as people often give up waiting in A & E and just leave. The hospital report them missing so the police have to start enquiries to trace and locate the absent patient because of a `duty of care`. That’s without considering the huge impact the increase in mental health related calls has had on Policing. Many officers can now go a whole shift or even a few days at work without ever dealing with an actual crime related call. Yet Mrs May originally based her funding and budget argument on policing on the fact that crime was down therefore as Police officers are `just crimefighters` then we need fewer officers. How naïve, misguided and downright dangerous that approach is proving to be and without true foundation.

In recent weeks there has been a public outcry about paroling a prolific rapist and this raised the issue of the probation service being privatised. It would appear the government have spent £340 million pounds in funding the private firms who have been permitted to take over the probation work for what are deemed `low risk` offenders. Virtually on the same day that was reported, it was announced that the government had refused to fully fund the police fight against terrorism by only providing 50% of the requested funds. The National Police chiefs had asked for £104 million – a third of the money spent by the government bailing out the private sector probation firms.

I would love to be able to offer a solution to the Police budget issue, but it is looking increasingly like that would require a new leader of the Conservative party with a more realistic and sensible view of Policing. In my view she has lasted this long because such an individual is not readily identifiable even to those from within the party, I am sure some Conservatives realise the problem exists, yet they have no answer to the conundrum. General election then? That presents the same problem or lack of a solution, I do not think Mr Corbyn is the right person to lead the country and his current shadow home secretary lacks the understanding or ability to change things for the better.

For the public and Police service that means increased crime, more violent offences and greater risk whilst the current government bail out their associates in private companies who have been given public sector contracts. We need strong and stable leadership from National Police Chiefs and Police and Crime Commissioners, by publicly announcing the truth and facts about the impact the cuts in their budgets is really having. No more lies or half-truths by individuals looking to further their own careers or receive some form of official honour or recognition and serve the public as opposed to their own particular political master or party.

The same lie about protecting budgets needs to be challenged and addressed by those in authority in Policing every time it is repeated by the PM or her ministers. They are protecting nothing and putting the public and the Police service at risk but maybe that’s their end game, so they can justify privatisation of many Police related services. You can possibly add the NHS and Fire service to this objective as Public sector services continue to be reduced in favour of bailing out privatisation initiatives and International development……………Coffee anyone?

 

No Policing Crisis……….

It is now a catastrophe.

The growing number of senior police officers finally finding the courage, strength and honesty in speaking out demonstrates the catastrophe now facing Policing in the UK. Police chiefs are not historically a group of people who panic or use emotive language to exaggerate problems and raise serious concerns. Their role in society is fundamentally to protect the public by effective use of the resources they have, prevent crime and detect offenders. These have been the so called `primary objects` of policing since 1829 and they are still the foundations for policing in the UK. The mere fact that so many senior police leaders are now speaking out, and not just as a parting shot when they are about to retire, is indicative of the move from a crisis into a complete catastrophe and one which will be almost impossible to reverse, without significant funding.

The current government appears to have forgotten their `primary objects` in ensuring the health, safety and protection of their citizens with their austerity measures. The cuts appear to have been primarily focussed on public sector roles and specifically the emergency services who have suffered the most stringent cutbacks and impact on their resources. The repeated mantra from the former architect of the cuts, Theresa May and her willing and copycat successor, Amber Rudd is that there is no more money, stop asking for more, do more with what you have, and it is not about numbers.

The true facts in policing is that more police officers than ever before are leaving the service, more are suffering from mental health issues and more are being assaulted. This is all primarily caused by a huge reduction in police budgets, lower numbers of officers patrolling the streets and an increase in demand as Policing meets some of the demands usually placed on other emergency services.

It really is all about numbers – budget numbers or more bluntly – money, to allow police chiefs to have sufficient resources to provide a safer working environment for the officers and sufficient resources to deal with the numbers of calls to police that now far outweighs the number of officers available.

The government refusal to acknowledge their mistakes and rectify their unsafe and dangerous budgetary policy has singularly and solely contributed to the catastrophe facing the UK Police service.

It really is time for this current government to properly finance and provide sufficient budgets for chief officers to provide the policing the public deserve and demand. The government are playing fast and loose with the protection and safety of the very people they are elected to protect but they are continually failing to provide these very basic needs.

The budget is an ideal time for the government to demonstrate its fundamental role and commitment in providing sufficient funding to all public-sector workers so that the public receive the protection and safety they deserve. Policing is just one aspect but equally, the health service and fire service need and deserve similar investment. Instead of increasing billions of pounds to satisfy the demands of those in the EU to agree our exit, this funding should be directed to services which will most benefit the citizens of the UK.

For the Police service, they are on the precipice of a catastrophe which, without sustained and increased budgets, may take years to recover from if they are ever able to do so.

The Policing Crisis express has left the station

It may be too late to pull the UK Police service back from the precipice that it has been careering towards like a runaway train over the last few years. The irony is that many experienced and irreplaceable officers are leaving the police service for a variety of new careers including some on the rail network. What has caused so many dedicated and committed Police officers to abandon their chosen vocation and choose a new job?

If you read and accept the rhetoric largely promoted by some in the media, but inevitably with a government hand on the keyboard, then you already know many of the answers. Police officers have been scaremongering and crying wolf for years, they are ungrateful and demanding, resistant to change or innovative ideas and are largely ungovernable, uncontrollable and unaccountable. That is far from my experience of the outstanding members of the thinning blue line who have continuously given above and beyond with little or no recognition or acknowledgement from those they protect.

The recent widely reported drop in morale isn’t just about pay, conditions or pensions although they all have a part to play. It is the continual belittling of the role and work carried out by Police officers that seems to fit the current negative long game being played out by those in government to justify their imposed resource and budget cuts. We keep hearing that it isn’t about `numbers` from a merry go round of conservative politicians, keen to support their current leaders drive to bring the Police service to heel like some badly-behaved spaniel. Try telling that a handful of officers tasked with policing a busy market town on nights over a weekend and do not be fooled into thinking the situation is any better in the larger municipal forces. Take London, in the so called busier boroughs, who can brief and deploy over 20 officers at the start of a shift, they are quickly running out of available units within an hour or two of commencing duty. Crime scenes need securing, prisoners at hospital need guarding and mental health related calls are increasing as officers frequently fill the gaps that the NHS are unable to meet. If it isn’t about numbers then how do they explain increasing demand and a lack of available officers to meet those calls for assistance. The other great lie is around `we have protected police budgets once again` which fails to acknowledge that if you continually cut something back over successive years then you are only protecting your own savage cuts and not the real budget that is needed to meet current demand. More from less seems to be the mantra from our current government yet supposedly, we are told it isn’t about numbers for policing yet we have seen the threats to society and the public are increasing from various sources.

This continual demand for more, together with a genuine reduction in actual pay and pensions all combines to make seasoned and experienced officers question their commitment to a job that is no longer viewed as a true vocation. In truth, that is probably one of the intentions of government to make policing a short- term career which you try at the start of your working life or maybe towards the end or after gaining significant experience elsewhere. These ideas have been hidden under graduate entry schemes and direct entry schemes which are both contributing to causing some disaffection amongst experienced officers, as they see the opportunity for promotion reduced by these `instant` senior officers or promotion promises made to highly educated applicants. I have some support for a recruitment scheme for graduate entrants as I believe Policing needs to attract the best candidates for the job. The difficulty these individuals will face is after accruing a significant debt gaining a degree in a largely irrelevant subject for policing, they then start with a salary under £30,000 in London and early £20,000 outside the capital. That student loan will take some time paying off if you choose policing as a long-term career but maybe you can do it for just a few years before moving onto something that pays a lot more…….like driving a train!

I am not sure if those in government are blind to the crisis in policing, deliberately choose not to act on it or are just oblivious to the irreparable damage their policies have done to UK policing. It is a sad state for our democratic society when those who run towards danger posed by a terrorist attack, run into burning buildings to save lives and those who provide medical aid are the ones who are now paid significantly less than many other professions. The crisis in policing is replicated across many other public services including the fire service, health service and prison service. Successive years of budget cuts under the austerity measures umbrella have reduced all these services to breaking point. It is only the dedication, commitment and sheer determination to make their jobs work and provide the services to the public that have sustained them.

The crisis train has left the station but it has yet to arrive at its destination and that can be decided by those in power if they have the foresight to change their approach to all these services. It really is about numbers and for policing the numbers in their budgets need to be increased to provide the increased protection and sustain the style of policing the public require and demand. Policing numbers need to be increased to provide sufficient officers available to respond to those emergency calls, work on community teams and to investigate the concerns and reports of suspicious behaviour by those believed to be planning acts of terror.

Our public services are collectively in crisis and in danger of collapse unless someone is brave enough to acknowledge the austerity measures have now gone too far. We need significant investment in fire services, health services, prison services and policing before one or all of them suffer a catastrophic failure and the people most at risk will be the public, not the politicians who perpetuated these unworkable cuts.

I have no confidence that Mrs May will ever acknowledge the damage her policies have done to policing. It seems that `sorry` really is the hardest word for her and it may take a change at the very top to halt this crisis express or divert it towards a better place. Until then those working in our public services but specifically in policing, will still try to make the job work despite the lack of numbers, lack of appropriate pay and conditions and lack of tangible government support. Actions speak louder than words………….time is now for action in policing.

The Police Who Cried Wolf

Amended title of the popular tale told to every child by parents and teachers alike and intended to warn them about the dangers of telling lies. It is one of Aesops fables and defined as giving a `false alarm` and even included in the Oxford English dictionary meaning to make false claims.

This was the allegation directed at the Police service and specifically the Police Federation by the then Home Secretary Theresa May at the annual Federation conference in May 2015. She pointed out that reported crime was falling and in a simple analogy explained that as there was less crime then obviously we needed less Police. She went on to inform the Police service that more cuts would follow in the next five years and that their `scaremongering` had to stop. Mrs May evidenced these supposed false claims by highlighting quotes attributed to the federation that the government cuts led to officers being demoralised and angry and that the public were being put in danger. All of this was allegedly scaremongering and the Police Federation were `crying wolf` and this had to stop, they were wrong, she was right and so was the government.

Two years later and we have just seen the latest crime figures showing serious crime is on the increase, violent crime increasing and traditional crime such as robbery and vehicle crime is also rising. There was a half-hearted attempt to explain this increase due to the fact the Police service are now more efficient at recording crime and the suggestion was the increase is partly due to better reporting and recording. This defies the true picture and as any serving officer will happily inform you, crime is on the increase, demand on policing is increasing and the number of Police officers is decreasing. Despite Mrs May now being the Prime Minister, there appears to be no change to the approach in funding and resourcing for the Police Service by her successor.

Policing now faces a crisis that has been a few years in coming due to the imposed budget cuts and resource cuts imposed predominantly by Theresa May as home secretary and continued under her leadership of the government. The dissenting voices were many but unhelpfully they were predominantly amongst the serving rank and file and former or retired officers including myself. I spoke many times on Sky News about the impact of the cuts and the risk to the public if police numbers continued to be reduced. Less crime means that less officers are needed was the government mantra and the imposed cuts were designed to reduce Police numbers. The real missing voice was from senior Police chiefs and chief constables who were noticeable in their silent acquiescence of the imposed cuts on their budgets and inevitably Police numbers. Their political masters had spoken and many ambitious and career driven Police chiefs nodded their heads, wagged their tails and kept their counsel whilst abdicating their sworn duty to public and colleagues alike.

The whole situation began to resemble a personal crusade by Theresa May against the Police Service and the Federation as she challenged various police tactics and insisted on reforms specifically around Stop and Search and Police bail. Various sections of the main stream media joined this negative rhetoric against Policing which was clearly being directed from a higher authority to justify these stringent cuts and attacks on Policing. Many continued to `cry wolf` and `scaremonger` as we warned that the fact crime was falling was proof that Policing had the required numbers and budgets to meet the increasing demand but on we went towards crisis.

Crisis – Crime starts to rise and violent and serious offences begin to steadily increase. Less officers available to deploy on the street so less visible deterrent, less chance of being caught and less chance of the offender being detected.

Crisis – Demand on Policing increases at the time officer numbers are decreasing which means more required from less and increased stress and strain on the thinning blue line. Mental health and well-being of officers starts to become an issue as they suffer under the strain of policing and many go sick increasing the demand on those left at work.

Crisis – Increasing numbers of officers decide to leave the service as pay and conditions become an issue with the Public sector restricted to 1% pay increases and private sector noticeably overtakes Police pay and conditions. Many leaving cite personal demoralisation and the lowest morale ever in policing as one reason for their decision to leave a job they joined as a vocation.

Inevitably and undeniably, the Police Service and the Police Federations warnings and concerns have been vindicated in recent weeks. Many officers are reporting sick with mental health and stress related illnesses, whilst scores of officers are leading a dash for the door and leaving a job that used to be a vocation but is now becoming a stepping stone to better pastures. The private sector has better pay and conditions with less stress and scrutiny and arguably better support from management. There has been a reasonable and justifiable claim by the Police pay negotiators for a 2.8% rise this year but any official decision has now been delayed until September. I am sure the recent report citing crime is on the rise, demand is increasing and police numbers at the lowest level since 1985, had nothing to do with that decision.

Speak to any serving officers and front-line response teams and they will tell you they are continually working with less numbers than they should have. The term minimum strength is still used but frequently across the UK, that figure is far too often not achieved by teams required to respond to the most urgent calls from the public. The risk to the public is clear and present, and the British Police service, renowned the world over, is now far less than effective in their primary objects of preventing crime and detecting offenders if crime is committed. The policies of the Home office under the command of Theresa May have created this `perfect storm` for crime and criminals and as you would expect from opportunists, they are taking complete advantage of visibly less Police on the streets.

This was not just crying wolf or scaremongering, just honest and experienced opinion from a group of people who joined a vocation not just for the pay and conditions but because they want to serve and protect the public. At some point, someone needs to accept responsibility for this ill-conceived and personal crusade against policing and reverse the decisions made. Invest in Policing with money and increased resources before the situation really goes beyond retrieval, although in some places it is perilously close to that now.

This crisis is your creation Mrs May and the solution lies within your grasp if you would only sit down, really listen and then act on the advice from actual police officers experienced in Policing.

 

Arming the Police

 

Once again routine arming of the Police is being discussed after the recent terror attack  at London Bridge. Unarmed police officers were confronted by attackers, who had large knives and were wearing `suicide belts`. The officers had only a baton to defend themselves with as they faced life-threatening violence. Inevitably, serious injuries were sustained and despite the brave and courageous efforts, the attackers could move on and continue their murderous assault. There was even an off-duty officer who ran towards the potentially deathly assault with none of his protective equipment available to him and yet he still challenged the attackers. He too suffered serious injuries as he placed himself between the attackers and bravely fought them to defend the public he has sworn to protect.

In the aftermath, we are now debating once again the issue of routine arming of every UK Police officer which would be a fundamental and pivotal change in our policing approach and style. I am not going to regurgitate statistics and figures about how many are currently trained, how that number has declined in recent years or the reasons for them. This is not the format for a political debate although there are clear underlying reasons and at some point, those questions need to be answered and accounted for.

Together with many other former Police officers I have commented previously and given my opinion on TV news channels and radio talk shows. It occurred to me as I started writing this that my view, and those of any retired officers, are largely academic as we will never answer an emergency call again.

I joined in 1979 and the only parallel I believe I can draw with such a fundamental change in policing was the introduction of personal radios. They were effectively brought into more widespread use in the 1960`s and I can remember working with experienced officers who resented this innovation.  It was often referred to as the `bat phone` by this older generation who hankered for the old days when they were largely left alone to walk their beat and phone into the station via police phone boxes at periodic intervals. They felt that fast cars and these radio calls would change their link to the community and remove them from the essential daily interaction with the public.

Policing survived this so-called change in approach although there was inevitably some of the iconic `Dixon` type policing contact with communities lost for ever. One argument against routine arming is that it will negatively impact on community engagement and involvement but at what price do you place public and officer safety? There may come a time when officers carry a gun as readily as I used to pick up my personal radio and they will feel it is equally part of their essential equipment.

The key contributors or decision makers to any such change should be those it directly affects and that means the police officers currently serving and more importantly the public. This is where we need the `silent majority` of the public to speak up and tell us what sort of Police service they want to protect and serve them. There will always be those who are against such a move and quote notable incidents where in their view, Police use of firearms has been wrong. To date, no jury or court trial has agreed with this view and this is after they have examined all available evidence. The detractors use these tragic but exceptionally rare incidents to justify the view that the police should have no guns at all. I have yet to see or hear an alternative tactical option that police officers could use to deal with the type of terror attack seen at Westminster or London Bridge or even Manchester, if that attacker had been noticed as he approached the venue.

I asked for views from former police colleagues and those currently serving as to whether they wanted to be armed. I asked them if they had always held that view, had they now changed their view due to recent events and if there was an incident that they would have wanted or needed a gun. I received several interesting responses and numerous incidents where a gun would most certainly have been used had the officer been armed.

  • The TSG officer who chased a suspect and as the suspect turned to confront him he found himself facing a 9mm handgun. Luckily, he managed to vault a nearby fence and only because an old abandoned fridge was left there and as he reached the top four shots rang out. He hit the ground and four more shots flew towards him before the suspect continued to run off and then hijacked a passing moped. Luckily a passing unmarked car managed to `deflect` the suspect off the moped and he was quickly restrained before he could use the gun again. The same officers’ carrier crew was also subject to a drive by shooting a few months later when a machine pistol was fired at the police vehicle and it was struck by about twelve bullets and one officer was injured. Two incidents when an armed officer would have been more able to deal with the threat yet his view remains – no routine arming yet but significant uplift in numbers of armed officers needed. NO to routine arming.
  • My colleague who chased a vehicle across South London and then had an AK 47 fired at his police vehicle and watched as the bullets tracked up the bonnet of his vehicle and across the windscreen as he drove at 60mph. He wished he had been armed on that day and his view has been reinforced after recent events. YES to routine arming.
  • I can remember being about to do a stop and search near Clapham Junction and as we exited our carrier I saw the suspect reach behind to his waistband. Luckily my partner Wes and myself had just reached him and grabbed an arm each. Wes put his free hand towards the area we saw the man reaching for and then shouted `gun` and we both quickly pushed the suspect to the ground. Wes secured the gun and our colleagues rushed to help restrain the suspect. The gun was loaded and ready to be used and I have no doubt that a step or two slower by either of us and he would have pulled it out and pointed it at us. I am still not in favour of routine arming of the police although that incident happened in 1994 and times are very different now. I fully support a significant increase in armed units and would go as far as to say across the UK at least one vehicle armed per shift per station.  NO to routine arming.

The real challenge here is the officers’ ability and willingness to carry a gun and the amount of training required which will involve a significant investment in staff and funding. There is also the underlying issue of what happens if an officer fires his weapon and the subsequent trial by opinion and also lengthy enquiry conducted by the IPCC. Every officer knows they must justify every use of force and fully understand they will be investigated in the same way that they investigate allegations of offences. It is the manner, conduct and length of these police involved shootings that deters many from wanting to carry a gun in the first place.

I believe there is an inevitability about arming the police in the coming years as they face an increasing threat and unprecedented levels of attacks on our society. I do not believe we are ready or need to move to routine arming of the Police at this point in time, but we most definitely need a significant increase across the UK of armed response vehicles and armed officers routinely patrolling with firearms.  I would at this moment, support a full roll out of taser to all front line operational police officers and that would give them another tactical option as opposed to just using a baton or incapacitant spray.

A very recent Police Federation survey found that the majority of officers who responded would not want to be routinely armed. I wonder if that view is now different as a result of the significant change in the threat operational officers now face. The ultimate decision should be by the Police service and its leaders as it is their officers who will be asked to confront any attacks. There is a pertinent approach which I loved whilst policing and supervising staff, never ask someone to do something you would not be prepared to do yourself. The question for everyone is, would you face a terrorist attacker intent on killing you and/or dying in the process with just an extendable metal baton?

So, what do the majority of the British Public want? If you want more Police and more armed Police available to protect you then speak up and tell your elected representatives. They are the ones who allegedly represent your views as security and policing has become the one major issue in the general election. Let`s hope your local MP or government minister doesn’t accuse you of scaremongering or crying wolf and actually listens to the valid and important concerns you have. The Police service tried to inform them so maybe now is the time for the people to speak up and be heard, it`s called democracy.

Policing – A blunt solution to knife crime

There has been much written about the increasing problem of knife crime from a variety of sources in recent weeks. There have been figures and statistics supporting and disproving the impact of various methods from more stop and search by Police to just increasing police numbers and also the need for more `role models`.

The one area where there has been very little constructive input is from politicians who seem far too preoccupied with seeking to secure their own future. The worrying fact is that many young people will have no future at all unless something is done to reverse this trend and stop young people carrying and using knives.

I am not going to repeat the statistics or highlight a specific incident as both have been done to excess in recent weeks. A quick glance at the news or speak to any police officer or paramedic and you will be informed unequivocally that knife crime is increasing and it is a serious problem. The politicians repeat the mantra that crime is down and overall crime is down but remember, that is reported crime and serious crime including knife crime has increased significantly.  I served as a police officer for over 30 years and was threatened with a knife on several occasions and dealt with a few stabbings. I speak to former colleagues and knife crimes are now weekly incidents and in some parts of London it is becoming a daily occurrence. Remember again, those are only the ones reported to the Police or ambulance service and undoubtedly there are knife fights or incidents where the emergency services are not informed. It is becoming as common a habit amongst some young people to carry a knife as it is their mobile phone or door key, and for some it is solely as a means of defence as everyone else is allegedly carrying a knife.

The main problem appears to be centred on London although it is likely to spread around the UK as other groups of youths mimic their capital city counterparts. These days they all engage and converse via social media and post videos of their disputes with rival groups and gangs where knives are often used to settle the argument. The newly installed Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has recently announced an increase in the use of stop and search. This has already attracted criticism from some quarters that the use of stop and search will further alienate communities and young people from the Police.

Some have described stop and search as a tactic that can be used by Police to help them deal with this knife crime problem. I understand the terminology used but it is much more than just a tactic, it is a legal power and when properly and correctly applied it helps prevent and detect crime. Prevents and detects and those two words are key to indicating the limit of effective police involvement in knife crime. I often tell prospective police recruits that policing can be a blunt tool or implement in dealing with crime and offenders. The Police can identify or detect that a crime has taken place and then arrest or report the offender and effectively that is the end of their role in decision making. The Crown Prosecution Service make the decision to charge or proceed with the case NOT the Police and the Criminal Justice System then decides on any punishment if the offender is convicted. The effect of any sentence is not really monitored or assessed and if you speak to any of the young men convicted or arrested whilst carrying a knife they do not see conviction or any of the likely sentences as a deterrent. They would sooner carry a knife and be able to defend themselves than be the victim of a stabbing and if they are arrested and convicted then at least they are still alive. That is the stark reality of the problem we now face and it is a problem that isn’t just for the Police to solve.

The same critics of stop and search are the same ones demanding action from Police to eradicate this knife crime epidemic. They rarely offer any alternative viable options and from a policing perspective the issue is quite straight forward, carry a knife on the streets and you commit a crime. The way to find out if someone is carrying a knife is to search them as no one ever walks up to a police officer and announces that fact. Why do Police stop and search so many young people and why is there a higher proportion of black males? The answer is supplied by those same critics if you listen and read what they are asking for. Stop and search should be more targeted, directed and based on intelligence and not just randomly applied to anyone walking in a certain area. In my experience, those three things were applied and are still being done when using stop and search. When you are dealing weekly or daily with knife crime committed by young males and in some areas, frequently by young black males on young black males, then your focus for any searches will be in those social groups. That is intelligence based on your own knowledge and experience in the area you are working and you target those you know or suspect of being involved in crime. You cannot `balance the books` or make the figures look better by searching elderly white females or carrying out a knife crime initiative outside the Bank of England with a stop and search operation. The primary option for the Police to use in preventing and detecting knife crime is by carrying out more stop and search. It needs to be correctly and properly applied and if you have nothing to hide then why argue or complain? Should you not feel safer and reassured that the Police are taking positive action to make the streets safer?

The other methods or tactics in dealing with knife crime are not solely left for the Police. What have communities done to prevent this problem escalating? Are the parents of these young people sufficiently involved in their lives to know that their son or daughter is carrying a knife? Are they offering an alternative for these young people or are they just glad to have them out of the house for a while?

These methods are not within the remit of the Police service. Diversion of these young people away from crime and to find them something else to focus their energy on is for others to initiate. The problem is that initiatives cost money and they provide little or no tangible profit. The Metropolitan Police used to allow officers to set up and run sporting activity clubs within duty time and there were similar schemes across the UK. The budget cuts put paid to any `non-police` type activity and reduction in officer numbers meant you needed `PC Bloggs` driving a response car as opposed to holding football training or boxing training in a local youth club. It might just be another coincidence that closing many of these activity clubs involving and engaging with young people, together with the coincidence of reducing officer numbers and then reducing stop and search that has created this `perfect storm` and allowed knife crime to flourish…….or maybe not if you believe the political rhetoric.

I applaud the stance taken by Commissioner Cressida Dick by encouraging her officers to use the legal powers afforded to them. This is not just a Police problem to solve and after these young men have been arrested and convicted and sentenced then what happens? Policing has a limited impact on this type of crime and if a young person wants to carry a knife then they will unless their own families, community, friends and neighbours encourage them not to. In my view, the main issue here is deep rooted in society, in peoples’ values and by taking responsibility for your actions and behaviour. If you do not want your son or daughter convicted of a knife killing and imprisoned for years then stop them carrying a knife. If you do not want your son or daughter to be responsible for ending the life of another young person then stop them carrying a knife. If you do not want them to become the victim of a knife attack then encourage others to stop carrying knives and report anyone that is. The Police will work hard to prevent these tragic incidents taking place but they cannot do it alone and on occasions, need the public to act as the Police. Be a part of the eyes and ears the Police have lost in recent years and help prevent young people carrying knives in the first place.

This problem needs more than just an increase in stop and search or a specialised police squad to have any long lasting and constructive effect. The Police have given an indication of their intent to deal with the problem but communities and society need to do their part as well. Arrested, charged and convicted is only part of the solution or else the whole process is just repeated over and over again. That’s the limit of Policing and the blunt fact that all they can do is arrest those carrying knives. What happens next in court and at home is out of the hands of the Police service.

I took it home

An interesting phrase and it seems to have resulted after some ill-advised comments from the head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), Sir Thomas Winsor. He gave a live interview to Sky News on Thursday 20th April and was discussing the difficulty some Police forces are facing in recruiting and retaining detectives.

It is a remote possibility that the widely-viewed clip may have been out of context in respect of the whole interview, however the actual words he used left no doubt. Mr Winsor first stated that one of the problems is that detectives are not paid any more despite the fact they have specialist skills. I will come back to that issue later but he then went on to make an unbelievable statement. Detectives have a more stressful job than response or neighbourhood officers because in the main response officers do not take their work home with them.

This prompted a response the like of which I have rarely seen on social media, from public and police officers, both response and detectives, who were all astonished at the naivety and disrespect Mr Winsor was showing to Policing. To make such a remark demonstrates his unsuitability for his current role far better than I could ever achieve in any blog. To think that any emergency service worker, and especially Police officers, do not carry with them the memory of every tragic and awful incident they deal with is hugely derisive. If you have access to twitter just search the hashtag #itookithome and I defy you not to be moved by some of the accounts. I can picture and remember numerous fatal accidents I dealt with including my first in 1980 in Mitcham Road, Tooting at 0200 when a mustard coloured Austin collided with one of the old concrete lampposts. The driver was not wearing a seatbelt and the drivers’ door was the point of impact meaning the driver collided head first with the lamppost. Then there was the child that ran out from their school gates between parked cars in Mitcham and was struck by an old Ford Granada. I didn’t receive a call to that one but drove around the corner to be met by the car sideways on and the child lifeless in the road.

Obviously, I never took either of those incidents home or the four suicides by hanging I dealt with, the stabbing victim I cradled as he died in Tooting Bec or the lady who took her own life by pouring paraffin over herself in her front room in Balham New Road. Obviously If I shut my eyes, I cannot see the childs face or the lady in her pink nylon house coat that had melted onto her, because I didn’t take the incident home with me. So many more I could recount but then so could every Police officer, response officer, neighbourhood officer or detective.

Every Police officer can recount similar traumatic incidents and events that are buried deep in their minds but can be triggered by driving down a road or someone mentioning an incident. You take all of them home with you and carry them with you for ever, and for someone in a position as Winsor is to make such a disparaging comment, is highly disrespectful and shows his contempt for policing.

I have always acknowledged and commented publicly, that investigative work is a specialism but then again so are many other areas of policing and none currently attract an additional payment. The issues around lack of detectives and recruitment largely centres around reducing numbers meaning those in the role have increased workloads. There are currently policies in many forces where response officers are now responsible for investigating the crimes they report so not only do they respond but they also investigate. Do they fall into this `taking the investigations home ` category that Winsor finds so convenient to use as an explanation for lack of detectives?

It was always the case that moving into the CID (detective branch) was seen as a bonus, it is not a promotion despite what some seem to think. It inevitably takes you off shift work and more importantly no night duty. You tend to react to crimes and investigations after the uniformed response teams have attended and dealt with the initial call. It is frequently slow time policing as opposed to the fast moving and decision making role carried out by response teams. I have worked alongside some outstanding detectives and excellent Police officers and respected their role and work, but I never wanted to do it. By the same token, they acknowledged my role in policing but never wanted to return to response policing due to the demands of the work. Waiting for that emergency call and not knowing what you may face or the risk to yourself or your colleagues.

It seems strange timing that Winsor should make his comments so soon after the Westminster attack and the day after three Met officers were injured running into a house after a 999 call and the house then exploding in a fire. I am sure everyone in both incidents is still taking it home with them and running over every millisecond in their heads.

The clip from Sky News ends with him mentioning that detectives carry a risk if they make a mistake and miss something. This suggests detectives have more stress because of this risk factor of making a mistake however I would suggest that front line operational officers face a greater risk. Think of the pursuit driver and the risk assessment they are conducting every second of a vehicle pursuit. If they get it wrong they will be under the microscope of an investigation by the IPCC and possible criminal charges, imprisonment and loss of a job and career. The same can be said with firearms officers and the inevitable investigation if they make the decision to discharge their weapon. Mistakes in either role would cause just as much stress and arguably more than it would in any detective based role.

I interpreted the interview as another divide and conquer tactic that has been so typical of everything Winsor has been involved in since he was appointed to review Police pay and conditions. I have no idea if he has ever actually experienced a working week with either response officers, neighbourhood officers or detectives but I suspect not. He strikes me as the type of person who would run away from exactly the types of incident that many of my former colleagues continue to run towards. He would not take them home with him because he would never have to experience them, hence his inexcusable choice of words during his interview.

There are issues with recruiting and retaining detectives but some of the main ones have resulted because of the very cuts in pay and allowances and reduction in officer numbers that he instigated. Every Police officer faces stress during their career and every one of them takes part of the job home with them every day. That’s why it’s a vocation and not just a job………