It’s Been A Funny Old Week

Not that I’m laughing, it’s just that I can’t quite compare it to any other week, some good, some bad.

It started off on Monday with the promise that someone from the Dyfed Powys PCC’s office would phone me to discuss my disappointment at being ineligible to apply for a voluntary role with their force.  Well I waited and I waited, no phone call, so I gave up. Late on Tuesday afternoon my mobile sprang into life and lo and behold it was said PCC’s office.  I had previously voiced my disappointment at not being eligible to apply for a voluntary job as an Animal Lay Visitor (Police Dogs and Horses) on the grounds that I was a retired Police Officer.  After about 5 minutes of talking to this lady it became apparent that she was talking about a position on the Residents Panel. As I’m not a resident of Dyfed Powys it was sort of irrelevant to me, so I pointed out that she’s got the wrong job.  I pointed out to her that the job application pack stated that serving (understandable) and former Police Officers were not eligible to apply, and would not be appointed.  She explained to me that this was in order to assure the public of total Independence on the part of the Lay Visitor.  I then pointed out to her that the two Application packs for Residents Panel, and Lay Custody Visitor only excluded serving Police Officers (again understandable) and NOT former Police Officers. Surely Independence was as important re Custody Lay Visitors if not more so.  She assured me that this appeared to be a mistake and the Job Application Packs would have to be ‘tweaked’ to include former Police Officers as ineligible as well.  Needless to say by the time I got off the phone I was mighty peeved. I was actually quite offended that without seeing my CV, without the benefit of an interview, I had been stereotyped as someone who would not be seen as Independent, and presumably as being incapable of being Independent. Utilising the ancient art of rubbing salt into the wound they later recirculated the same job vacancies emphasising that they would like applications from Solicitors.  I gave up at that point and made a brew.

Then we had Mrs Theresa May’s decision/agreement not to introduce Compulsory Severance “for now“.  “I have decided to accept the Tribunal’s recommendation not to implement measures to introduce compulsory severance at this time.

“However, this remains a reform that I believe government and the police should continue to consider. I have written to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) to explain my decision in further detail.”

Then she went on to kick the officers on Restricted Duties; the Tribunal accepted a varied definition on Winsor’s Recommendation 39 from the Official Side of the PNB. This means that officers who are unable to undertake “the full range of duties of a police officer” will be regarded as being on restricted duty.

As a result, officers on restricted duties who are not fully deployable after one year should face a pay cut of around £2,922.

But the good news is that it has been alleged that she has told Tom Winsor NOT to wear his ridiculous fancy dress outfit at the National Police Memorial Day events ever again. It remains to be seen if he he dusts it off and brings it out again for any other occasion.

Fast Forward to Friday night and a discussion about Advanced Drivers and Fast Cars.  I cannot believe what I was being told about what some Forces are doing in cutting back the number of Advanced Drivers (and cars) from their strengths.  One officer even told me that some Forces even have “No Pursuit Capability”.  What kind of nonsense is this?  I thought the Front Line was being Protected?  Is being an active Advanced Driver not Front Line Policing?  Skills will be lost, officers will be demotivated and the public will suffer. As somebody said to me last night, “it’s not about the toys, it’s about retaining skills” and hence the service to the public.  I intend to do some digging around numbers of Advanced Drivers and see what pops up.

Finally (mind you the week isn’t over yet) as I was trying to block out the noise of the wind and the rain and get some sleep, news came in that Mental Health Cop’s twitter account and Blog had been suspended, seemingly as part of an investigation by West Midlands Police about their use.  I haven’t seen every single Tweet or Blog he wrote so I can’t really comment with any authority, but the feedback coming in last night and this morning was that this was one of THE most informative and well-used Twitter accounts and blogs of them all. Serving Police Officers and Members of the Public alike hold them in high esteem, and he seems to be the “Go To Guy” for any Police related Mental Health issues.

Well, let’s see what next week holds shall we?

ADDENDUM

And I haven’t forgotten the topsy turvy world of PC James Patrick.  He was told this week that he no longer faces a charge of Gross Misconduct, ‘merely’ a charge of ‘simple’ Misconduct now.   In one way that’s good news, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword, and if you go right back to the very beginnings there remain some unanswered legal questions that make me doubt whether the Met DPS has lost its collective marbles. James knows my views and I won’t repeat them here, but it’s added to a really ‘odd’ week for us all.

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The Loneliness of the Rural Police Officer

I saw a tweet recently from Mr Christopher Salmon, the PCC for Dyfed Powys Police.

It said “A single officer answers a call in remote mid-Wales, an hour from help. Officers in towns are minutes from backup. That’s the #DPRural test.

An odd Tweet I thought so I responded with two of my own;

Is that because of cutbacks or because your officers are more macho?

and

“What exactly is the #DPRural test please?”

This elicited the following answer;

it’s because #DyfedPowys is a big place.”

A very strange answer I thought, it didn’t really answer my question although maybe Mr Salmon thought he was answering me, but it got me thinking.

Dyfed Powys IS a big place. It covers 4,237 Square Miles.  To Police it they employed 1,195 Police Officers in 2010, by March 2013 this had reduced to 1,112 with a target workforce for 2015 of 1,124. So according to the official Home Office Stats they have already shed more posts than they needed to.  You are welcome to challenge me on this any time Mr Salmon as these are Home Office and HMIC stats, not mine.  Or maybe they’ve been fudged?

4,000+ square miles that contain 514,938 people.  Now I make that ONE Police Officer per 463 people, or 2.2 Police Officers per 1,000 population, which is very much at odds with the HMIC figure of 3.73 per 1,000 head of population.  However if you add on ALL of the Police Staff and the PCSOs and Specials, then you get MUCH closer to the HMIC figure of 3.73, but that’s not really the right picture is it?  Whilst the civilian support staff do an absolutely fantastic job whilst faced with their own peculiar challenges, I remain to be convinced that it’s fair (or indeed good practice) to include their numbers in the Police to Population ratio.

It gets worse.  The figures above are for ALL ranks within Dyfed Powys Police.  In March 2013 the Home Office stats showed that there were 823 Constables and 201 Sergeants. So, IN REALITY, there are only 1,024 Full Time sworn Police Officers (not counting snr officers) to deal with 514,938 people , or one officer per 502 people, or 2 officer per thousand, not nearly 4 as they would have you believe. Add to this that NONE of the officially published statistics show the divide between Uniform and Detectives, there’s nowhere near as many Police Officers out there as they figures would have you believe, and that’s without taking Annual Leave and Sickness into the equation.

Does this indicate that the public are getting a good service?  In fairness it is quite close to the National Average for England and Wales, but in a large rural community is it appropriate?

What about Officer Safety Mr Salmon?  Officers are no use to anyone if they are alone, single-man crewed and presented with a situation which requires that they receive assistance.  Saturday nights for example.  Pub fights, and drunken domestic disturbances. Is Dyfed Powys so well blessed that your officers don’t encounter these problems?  Instead of Tweeting about the #DPRural Test maybe you should DO SOMETHING about it.

I know that you’re a Conservative PCC and that you will toe the Party Line and do whatever Mrs May tells you to. But you have a responsibility for the safety of your Community AND of your officers. Apart from the fact (as far as I’m concerned it’s fact) that two officers working together produce more work than two officers working singly, they each have an element of protection from each other.  As you rightly point out in your strangely worded Tweet Dyfed Powys is a big place and instead of seemingly boasting that your officers can be an hour from help if they need it, maybe you should take into account their safety. I wouldn’t like to see you squandering your diminishing resources defending a legal action because you hadn’t provided a sufficient level of protection for your remote, rural officers. Maybe you have, maybe you’d like to tell me about it, or maybe I should just ask for your Risk Assessment under the Freedom of Information Act..

Are the Police Being Politicised? – The Results Are In

A little while ago I wrote a blog about the Dyfed Powys PCC and some of the claims that he had made on at least two websites that he was associated with.  Maybe I should point out that neither of these websites was the official PCC website, one was his own blog and the other Conservativehome, maybe that’s significant, I don’t know.

I took exception to some of the things he stated and sent off a few Freedom of Information requests to see if his claims really held water. I won’t bore you with most of them, but you can read them here if you want to.

One of the four proved to be a little more of a stickier than the rest, and that was ‘Training’.

To avoid being accused of fudging the issue and other things I’ll confine myself to direct quotes to get my point across, I hope you will understand and forgive me.

In his own blog Mr Salmon said  “I have removed all targets from my police force. We have spent millions training the police to cut crime. They know how to do it. Why then tie them to their desks filling in paperwork?”

In the Conservativehome website this is slightly reworded as “I have removed all targets from my police force. The police know their job is to cut crime. We have spent millions training them to do it. Why then tie them to their desks filling in paperwork?”

We have spent millions training them how to cut crime. Not much room for confusion there surely? Mr Salmon and Dyfed Powys Police have spent millions of pounds training their officers how to cut crime? Is that a reasonable interpretation?

So I put it to the test, I fired off an #FOI request to the office of the Dyfed Powys PCC and asked two simple questions;

a) in 2012/13 How much money was spent in total training Police Officers to cut or reduce crime;

b) What innovative training, or training unique to your Force, have you personally introduced since you became the PCC?

In relation to b) I got the following response ” I can confirm that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner does hold this information.

Although the Commissioner has overall responsibility for Dyfed-Powys Police, he has not personally introduced any training. Dyfed-Powys Police Force owns the training plan for the organisation.”   So, no innovative or unique crime reduction training introduced by the PCC? Fair?

a) got far more complicated.

“a)   I can confirm that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys does not hold information in relation to how much money was spent in training Police Officers in 2012/13. This information will be with Dyfed-Powys Police Force.”  So, the PCC’s office doesn’t actually KNOW how how much money was spent training officers in Crime Reduction. Does that seem like a reasonable interpretation?

The helpful staff at the PCC’s office then offered to transfer the request over to Dyfed Powys Police for them to answer it. Very nice of them I thought.

Yesterday they replied;

“‘All corporate training provided by Dyfed-Powys Police to Police Officers within the force is focused on force priorities to reduce crime and protect our communities’. However there is no specific breakdown of cost in relation to training police officers to cut or reduce crime.”

So, I think I have to conclude that Mr Salmon’s claims to have spent millions training the police how to reduce crime was a little naughty. Neither his own office nor Dyfed Powys Police actually knows how much money is spent on Crime Reduction Training.

Mr Salmon has been criticised and accused elsewhere of politicising the police. On the basis of my #FOI results I would have to agree. In Dyfed Powys at least their PCC seems quite happy to make political claims that maybe don’t quite stack up under scrutiny.

I see that the Dyfed Powys PCC is currently advertising a couple of Volunteer opportunities. I did consider applying for one of them, the dog section vacancy appealed to me, but I’m pretty sure I’d get paper-sifted now, and I don’t see me as a Custody Visitor really. But if Mr Salmon wants to contact me and offer me a volunteering opportunity with the Dog Section I’m sure I’d make a good Animal Welfare Lay Visitor.