What On Earth Has Happened To Professional Standards?

It’s a question I’ve posed before, but I’ve just read a book, The Crocodile Court, which is basically about a West Midlands Police Sergeant who falls foul of the discipline system and what happens after that.  I’ll not spoil it too much in case you want to read it.

Let’s be honest, Professional Standards, or whatever you want to call them, have never been popular in any of their incarnations, but they are a necessary evil.

My point is this, (and once again my experience is restricted to the Met so if any of you ‘Crunchers’ want to tell me how it is in your Force I’d be pleased to hear it), in the good old days, at least up to the beginning of the 2000s, in my opinion and experience, Professional Standards were at least reasonably fair and I’ve known several Complaints Officers who would look hard for an informal resolution rather than go the whole hog.

In Complaints and Discipline, as in Policing in general, it is important to be able prove or disprove any allegation.  No Man’s Land is a result that doesn’t really satisfy anybody.

There are those out there who won’t like this but it is a fact that spurious and vexatious allegations ARE made for a variety of reasons.

If, for example, an allegation of assault or incivility is made against an officer or group of officers and that/those officer(s) vehemently deny the allegation, it is possible that it’s a false allegation.  If it is possible to prove or demonstrate that the allegation is, or is likely to be, false, then why should we not do it?

In the early 90s I was asked by our Complaints Unit to do a Timeline for an allegation of assault made by a group of people against a DC and a DI.  So I read all of the ‘witness’ statements and produced a Timeline that completely covered a very large table, and when I presented my Timeline to the Complaints Unit they had no alternative but to concede that whether these officers had or hadn’t assaulted anybody, the evidence of the ‘witnesses’ could not be relied upon because they clearly weren’t all where they claimed to be in their statements, and could not possibly have seen what they claimed to have seen.  Result – Complaint Discontinued due to lack of evidence.

Fast Forward to 2015 and what do we have now?

Professional Standards Departments who seem to be hell-bent on prosecuting or disciplining officers at the drop of a hat.  It seems to me (my opinion only) that they’re not too interested in finding any evidence which would assist the accused or undermine their own case, or maybe even, just establishing the TRUTH.

When it comes to Crime (and allegations of assault etc against Police Officers are exactly that) the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 tells us exactly what our roles and responsibilities re Disclosure are,

The Code of Practice requires the police to record and retain material obtained in a criminal investigation which may be relevant to the investigation. In particular:

all police officers have a responsibility to record and retain relevant material obtained or generated by them during the course of the investigation. Material may be photographed, video-recorded, captured digitally or otherwise retained in the form of a copy rather than the original, if the original is perishable, or the retention of a copy rather than the original is reasonable in all the circumstances

  • the officer in charge of the investigation has special responsibility to ensure that the duties under the Code of Practice are carried out by all those involved in the investigation, and for ensuring that all reasonable lines of enquiry are pursued, irrespective of whether the resultant evidence is more likely to assist the prosecution or the accused
  • the Code of Practice creates the roles of disclosure officer and deputy disclosure officer, with specific responsibilities for examining material, revealing it to the prosecutor, disclosing it to the accused where appropriate, and certifying to the prosecutor that action has been taken in accordance with the Code of Practice.
  • the disclosure officer is required to create schedules of relevant unused material retained during an investigation and submit them to the prosecutor together with certain categories of material
  • non-sensitive material should be described on form MG6C and sensitive material should be described on form MG6D.

Most of the ‘Time Bombs’ sit within the Unused Material, i.e. material that the Police possess that they do not seek to use during their proceedings.  The most obvious, and recent example might be tha case of the TSG 6 where hours of CCTV were not disclosed to the Defence, CCTV evidence which ultimately helped clear those officers of any wrongdoing.

Their Judgeships feel so strongly about it they have issued a Judicial protocol explicitly for Unused Material.

“Disclosure remains one of the most important – as well as one of the most misunderstood and abused – of the procedures relating to criminal trials. Lord Justice Gross’ review has re-emphasised the need for all those involved to understand the statutory requirements and to undertake their roles with rigour, in a timely manner.”

Even the Attorney General’s Guidelines bangs on about it “The amendments in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 abolished the concept of “primary” and “secondary” disclosure, and introduced an amalgamated test for disclosure of material that “might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or assisting the case for accused“.”.

You can’t just ignore evidence you don’t like.

So what the hell is going on?  I have heard way too many instances in the past year or so where Professional Standards Officers stand accused of playing fast and loose with the requirements of Disclosure and Unused Material.  Why?

I have, occasionally, been described as an Organisational Terrorist (thank you for that SIB), god knows why, maybe it’s to do with the number of times I challenge the establishment and try to tease the truth out.  Now, I’m more in danger of being described as a Conspiracy Theorist.

It can be no coincidence surely that in the last decade or so, the number of occasions where we have heard about alleged abuse of process by Professional Standards offices has increased alarmingly?

Is this mass incompetence?

Is this a positive act to try and reduce the number of serving police officers cheaply?

Is this a vendetta against certain officers.

Is it lack of appropriate training (although I’d be horrified if it was)?

Have ACPO (or whatever they’re called today) had a National Meeting and decided upon a protocol to keep the plebs in their place?

Whatever the answer is, I find it absolutely frightening that this is not just one Force doing things somewhat differently to the others.  This is a Method.

I’m not going to rake them all up again, but in the last year or so we have heard several instances whereby Professional Standards appear to be operating to a different set of rules to everybody else, and if you read The Crocodile Court you’ll be familiar with one more, and the terrible consequences of incompetence.

I’m absolutely certain that if asked we could all name one, if not two or more, cases of DPS/PSD abusing the system and bullying the officer into submission, whatever the reason for that behaviour might be.

So what exactly HAS happened to Professional Standards?

Why has it happened?

Is it just in London or does it happen elsewhere (I know the answer to that one).

Any examples gratefully received.

You Have Only One Target – To Reduce Crime

Well I suppose I need to start with an apology, this story is not about Targets or Crime, just the opposite really, and if any of you are feeling a tad squeamish you might want to turn over to something else.

Some of you may have heard this story, most of you won’t. At least one of you was serving with me at the time in question and presumably heard about it. It wasn’t a well-kept secret.

Back in the 80s I was what used to pass as a Community Bobby, or Home Beat as the Met liked to call them then. One Saturday morning I was called up and asked to return to the nick. The Duty Inspector wanted to talk to me urgently, and No he couldn’t tell me what it was about over the radio.

So I hopped on a bus and got myself back as quickly as I could. It was not good news.  It turns out that a colleague of mine from an adjoining Division had gone missing. His wife had come home on Friday night to find a note, together with the remains of a bottle of pills and some empty booze bottles.  She’d called an ambulance, he’d been taken to hospital, still alive and had now done a runner from the ward he was on.

The Inspector’s next words will remain with me till the day I die “You’re the only one on duty who knows him, you can deal with the Missing Person Enquiry”.

So began the single darkest investigation of my illustrious career.

First stop the hospital where things were due to get a whole load worse.  He’d. Been put on a ward on the 8th floor overnight while the medical & psychiatric staff assessed him and he’d done no more than try to jump out of the window. Two attempts in 24 hours.

By now he’d walked out of the hospital building wearing nothing more than his hospital gown.

Not very long after this a crackly voice on my radio told me that the driver of a passing train had seen the body of a woman by the side of the tracks. About 10 minutes walk away.

It didn’t take long to establish that it wasn’t a woman but my mate, or what was left of him. I called up the Duty Inspector and informed him and he graciously sent a Sergeant to come and supervise me at the scene. He was far too busy to leave the nick.

The Sergeant who pitched up was a good one, but I found I was spending more time stopping him from stepping on the live rail than briefing him about the unfolding tragedy. So I’m afraid I shouted at him, he took in good spirit and we both got on with doing what needed to be done.

It goes without saying he was dead. Mercifully he would have died instantly. I now know what drove him to this terrible deed, and all I will say on the matter is that it was something that he SHOULD have been able to take in his stride and deal with it. It was neither related to the Job nor his marriage. That is all.

Once we’d finished at the scene, for continuity purposes, I had to accompany his remains to the hospital, then the mortuary and ultimately the Post Mortem and Inquest.  Offering him what little dignity I could.  The Coroner was brilliant and returned an Open Verdict on the grounds that nobody could say he wasn’t pushed, so at least his poor widow was left with the Life Insurance.

So after a day rushing around first trying to establish what had happened, then trying to find my mate and then dealing with the bloody aftermath, what words of comfort did my Duty Inspector have for me when I returned to base?

“Nice job, see you in the morning”

I’m not after your sympathy, these events are safely stowed away in a box and now only come out when I let them.  The nightmares have stopped. It certainly wasn’t a typical day in the Met, but neither was it unique.  I believe that the Met is slightly more enlightened these days, and hopefully, being the only Cop on duty who knows somebody might be the perfect reason NOT to deal with it.

But I won’t have any haggardy witch telling me that Police work is all about CRIME.

Take the Police Officers out of the above scenario for a minute.  Who would have dealt with it?

NOBODY

There isn’t another single agency that would have dealt with the events I have relayed above, and not a single crime was committed or alleged.

That is only one tale from a 30 year career, multiply that by 130,000.  Allow for more than one such instance in a career, most officers will have many such tales of trauma to tell.  Still no crime involved.

So Cruella, you can do one, do yourself a favour.  If you want to get it right and improve your (much) tarnished reputation just trying listening to them that do the Job, they just might know better than you what’s involved, and maybe even, how many are needed to do it.

Or you might just try carrying on with the wrecking ball.

Either way, I won’t be voting for your party, so you can stick that right up your Purdah.

wreathRIP Colleague

Many know who you were

 

So Were Regan And Hunt Really So Bad?

In the last few weeks I’ve thought a lot about the poor old Met.  What has happened to it over the years? Where is it going? Why is it going there?

When I joined mid 72 I heard a lot, and I mean a lot, of tales about the bosses of the previous few years “going out to collect the rent”. Thankfully I never encountered it myself, and I’m still not sure, all these years later, what I would have done if I had.  I absolutely know what I SHOULD have done, but life is not that simple for a young lad who wants to get in and see his 30.  The closest I ever got to a boss being on the take was a Chief Superintendent who “took delivery” of a 56 pound bag of Curry Powder, I kid you not.

I have written before about how certain operations and enquiries most definitely DID get binned after a diktat from a faceless senior officer.  I thought then, and I still think now, that was WRONG,  Nowadays I would use the word UNFORGIVEABLE.  There is no place in the Police Service for officers of ANY RANK who actively assist in covering up the crimes of others, especially when those others are politicians.

On the other side of the coin were the likes of Jack Tegan and Gene Hunt. Two characters quite accurately portrayed in my opinion. I worked for DIs and DCIs who just like the.  I am absolutely certain that any of my ex Met readers could name at least two or three from that era.

They were certainly a challenge to work for, sometimes fun, sometimes bloody awful, but their whole raison d’être was to bang up villains.  I can remember vividly, as a young buck on the Crime Squad being told on a Monday morning “off you go to Court lad, get some warrants and we’ll keep a few on their toes this week”. PACE saw the end of Search Warrants for “Diverse Stolen Goods”.

Maybe I should make it clear that I’m not talking about ‘fitting up’ anybody, rather than make the evidence fit the charge, these were bosses who would make the charge fit the evidence.  If you were a bit short on evidence for what you’d nicked somebody for these were bosses who would look at the evidence you DID have and maybe advise a slightly different charge to the one you might have been thinking of.

No Fitting Up, no Gilding the Lily, no Verbals just good, practical coppering to avoid having to kick chummy out the front door or, worse, offer him a lift home, because your evidence was a bit short. Charge him something else instead that you DID have evidence for.  I get the impression that PACE and the CPS aren’t overly keen on those tactics any more. The only people now that are subject to Fitting Up and Gilding The Lily seem to be cops, and I certainly don’t approve of that practice thank you.

So when I think about child abuse enquiries being kicked into the long grass, and Regan & Hunt and their unorthodox methods (they didn’t so much break the rules as play by different rules), given the choice I would take Regan and Hunt every day.

Villains got charged and sentenced in those days, they also had RESPECT.

I have no desire to be associated with any guv’nor that says “stop that enquiry now, the Yard says so”. Any senior Officer or, worse, politician, that interferes and halts or disrupts any investigation has sold their soul to the Devil, and I don’t want to work for them.

I joined the job to nick criminals, and by and large, that’s what I did. Never had the inclination to be a Rat.

We – The People Wot Know

We are the people, the people who know. And because we know we are dangerous. We are a threat. There are tens of thousands of us and we all know, every single one of us.

We know EXACTLY what this government is doing to this, once proud, country. Whether we support the Police, The NHS, the Armed a Forces, the Coastguard Service, Courts, Prisons, Probation, we all KNOW.

120 odd thousand of us can be controlled by the State. Forget bloody Purdah, I’m sick of the word, and it’s dodgy utilisation. I’m talking about the 120 odd thousand Police Officers who are discouraged from speaking out by the out-dated Police Regs.  Some have, many ‘signed’ the open letter recently, but many, many more didn’t.  ACPO types were riding Social Media actively discouraging serving officers from signing it.  But those officers KNOW.

The rest of us, the ‘silent’ majority of retired officers and supportive Members of the Public, get ‘controlled’ in a much quieter, insidious way.

We get ignored.

I am not alone in trying to bring the consequences of #MaysMayhem to the attention of the media. A few of my retired colleagues have tried and I know of at least one MoP who spent what seemed like an entire morning forwarding links and messages to just about the entire UK Media a Industry.

Nothing.

We get ignored.

Freedom of Information requests to the Home Office get Refused more times than not. Police Forces fail to respond within the allotted timescale, and then claim an Exemption more often than not.

We get ignored.

And by being ignored lies the biggest act of Control possible. We don’t exist. We have no voice. We can achieve nothing. Why? Because the State have obviously decided that we will not be bamboozled by them so they simply refuse to Engage.

We will not even scratch the armour of Dodgy Dave, Teflon Theresa or Tiny Tim unless the Media start to take notice, and I’m not too optimistic about that, but if you can get one local paper, local radio station, local TV news interested in the TRUE SCALE OF THE CUTS and what it means IN REAL TERMS we might just stand a chance.

Good luck.
Ave imperator, morituri te salutant

Have Your Say, Tell Me What You Think

Good morning one and all.

I’ve been giving some thought to the awful Draconian cuts that this government has inflicted upon many if not all of our Public Sector Services.

I have written a short, online survey, which should take no longer than 2 minutes to complete.

You can remain anonymous or you can put your name to it, I don’t mind either.

It doesn’t ask your occupation, previous occupation or current employment status and makes no mention of any political parties whatsoever.

Time will tell whether sufficient people respond to make the results meaningful, but if you could spare 2 minutes of your time, at the very least we’ll have some answers to questions that I haven’t actually seen any government ask the population before.

I will leave it open until the day before Election Day and then analyse and publish the results.

Some folk have already taken the survey, some left names, some didn’t. I thank you all.

 It doesn’t matter to me, it’s the answers that count.

You can access the survey HERE

Thank you for your time

Yes We CAN Have Stronger Border Controls

I have heard and read about the perceived weakness of our country’s borders. Some of it from people who have guarded our borders, some from politicos and some from well-meaning commentators.

Well I think I can add a little bit of reality to the debate based on my own, personal experiences.

In 2005 my wife and I decided to up sticks and go and live in France.  As you all know France is part of the EU as is the UK. I have seen many arguments along the line of “we can’t do that, we’re all members of the EU”. The reality was that because we wanted to do things properly and become lawful residents of France we had to jump through a few hoops.

Firstly, and most important to the current discussions, we had to prove to the French Administration that we were not going to be a ‘burden on the State’. In other words we had to prove that we had sufficient income to support ourselves and would not be claiming benefits.

Around 2007 Sarkozy made it even more difficult to settle in France by placing draconian conditions on who could access their Health System and how.  Many ex pat Brits undergoing treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer were forced to sell up and return to the UK.  I don’t recall our government making a fuss about this and Sarko got his way.

We had to renounce our membership of the NHS in order to live in France and if we were taken ill on one of our return visits to the UK we were treated like any other foreign visitor and required to pay, or produce Insurance.

Despite the myth of unfettered travel across EU Borders, the reality was somewhat different. At various times we were stopped by French officials and questioned, had passports checked, and occasionally our vehicle was physically searched, despite being on EU plates. Even driving a French-registered vehicle provided no immunity once they realised we were not French.

On at least three occasions we had our vehicle (twice UK registered and once French registered) physically checked for traces of explosives! and this by Armed Officers, not exactly a polite chat, or ignoring Border crossings. The French are not renowned for their sense of humour, and ‘take no shit’.

So much for weak Border Controls.

I firmly believe that if our government was serious about maintaining the security of our Borders it can be achieved without violating any EU laws.

Shouldn’t The College of Policing Be Better Behaved?

I thought that Policing was much about Right and Wrong, making sure people do things right and prosecuting (other methods of Disposal are also available) the ones who didn’t.  Am I very wide of the mark there?  Simplistic I know, but I find it’s best to keep things simple where the College is involved.

Then, if this is right, shouldn’t the College of Policing be teaching the Police the best ways to uphold the Law and make sure everybody knows their Rights from their Wrongs?  Surely they should be a Law-Abiding Limited Company, shouldn’t they?

So, on the 15th March when I sent them a Freedom of Information request in relation to their National Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel, they had BY LAW until 15th April to reply.  I had a response from Steven, Ethics, Integrity and Public Interest Co-ordinator acknowledging my request, and the attached letter (which actually had Steven’s full name on it, unlike his casual response) said “Your request will be considered in accordance with the legislation and you will receive a
response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the provisions of the Act.  In the unlikely event that the College of Policing is unable to meet the 20 working day deadline, you will be informed as soon as possible and given a revised time-scale for response.

Well, as they haven’t contacted me in any way since their original acknowledgement, even though I’m expecting a Refusal Notice, I can only assume that they are flouting the law by not replying within 20 working days, or offering me an explanation as to why they can’t comply.

Have they EVER replied to anybody about anything?  I don’t see any evidence of a willingness to engage on Twitter, so why do they have an account?  Just to self-publicise without the willingness to interact?

Having perused previous FOI requests made of them they do like to try and find an Exemption to claim, anything tricky and they play the Exemption Card. So we shall see.

I would have thought that an ethical organisation would comply with the spirit of the Act and supply the information when they could, but I have to say that some of the Exemptions they have applied seem spurious at best.

Of the 26 FOI Requests made via the website I use 4 have been REFUSED, 4 are OVERDUE, and a further 4 they claim not to hold the information that was requested.  So requesters’ success rates are not very high with the College, although nowhere near as bad as the Home Office, the College could learn something there.

Law-Abiding?  Not where the Freedom of Information Act is concerned, no.