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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Stop And Search To Be Replaced By Slap n Tickle?

I might not be the world’s greatest expert on the finer points of PACE but I do like to think that I know a little bit about practical coppering, and I don’t mean bending the rules.

After the recent Mark Duggan Inquest it may come as no surprise to hear that our beloved Home Secretary, or Cruella as I prefer to call her, is once again considering ‘tinkering’ (can I say that?) with Stop and Search Powers.

As you sit with your coffee and donut reading this, every single Police Officer that is on duty in England and Wales, and probably Scotland and Northern Ireland also, is fully accountable for everything they do.  Believe it or not Mr Winsor they are highly trained, and, yes, literate, professionals. Professionals that have had a huge amount of money invested in them, training them to be fit for purpose.

Every time there is a furore concerning Stop and Search the government of the day tries to appease the disaffected population by promising to do something about those naughty Police Officers and their over-zealous use of Stop and Search.

Well, I don’t expect turkeys to vote for Christmas, but neither do I expect my politicians to tell me that I can’t eat turkey at Christmas, or any other time of year, if I want to.

The guidelines about when a Police Officer can Stop and Search someone are contained within Code Of Practice A of PACE, which you can read here if you’re suitably bored.

The Met has gone even further and produced its own lovely colour coded document entitled

Territorial Policing – Patrol OCU
Principles for Stops & Searches
Standard Operating Procedures
Don’t worry though, it’s only 44 pages and you can find it here
So, by the time you’ve finished learning those two documents you are fully prepared to go out in the big, wide world and conduct your own Stops and Searches, knowing exactly what you legally require to conduct them lawfully.

What the hell is wrong with that? The officers are accountable for it. I am in NO WAY suggesting that officers do or should Stop/Search with impunity, but why oh why would you want to set the them ONE Target – Reduce Crime, and then start tying their hands behind their backs when violent crime and crimes against property are on the rise again (#Crimestats permitting).

If any given section of the community complains about the voracious use of Stop and Search it is absolutely pointless, nay counter-productive, for our politicians to try and appease that section of the community by curbing Police use of Stop and Search.  What they should be doing is assuring ALL SECTIONS OF THE COMMUNITY EQUALLY that Police Stop and Search powers will be used appropriately, proportionately and lawfully, as and when, and where, they are needed.  The officers conducting these Stop/Searches are individually accountable, and in the event that a s60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 order is issued then an officer of higher rank has to be in a position to justify this decision, in addition to the officer conducting the Stop/Search.

The illustrious IPCC have outlined their position on Stop/Search here.  It should be noted that they are not saying “Don’t do it”.

I have discussed Stop/Search with several people over the last 48 hours and we almost unanimously agree that if the actions are lawful and reasonable most people will be happy with Police actions if the reasons are adequately explained to them.  One of my Twitter friends described his experiences of Stop and Search as “either ending with a handshake or an arrest” which I think tells a success story. If no arrest was made the person stopped went off relatively happy with Police action once it was explained or they got nicked.  What is wrong with that?

Before I leave this thorny subject, there is one more element to it that should be discussed.  Is it appropriate to use Stop/Search as a Performance Indicator?

When I first joined the Met in the early 70s there was a book, Book 90 (Pre PACE) that contained hand written details of all Stops. Those that had resulted in an arrest were entered in red.  This became one of the best-read books in the nick.  Firstly because your mates wanted to know who was where in the very unofficial League Table and the Management wanted to know who was doing what when it came to AQR (Appraisal) time.  The end result of this was, end of month, the Phone Book came out, or a trip through the local cemetery, collecting names for ‘Stops’ to keep the Chief Superintendent happy.

Was this right? Probably not, but it hurt no-one.

I have been hearing tales this week of Stop/Searches being used as a modern day Performance Indicator and compared against those for neighbouring Boroughs/OCUs.  Can this be right? Most definitely not, and I’m sure the ECHR (and HASC/PASC) would have something to say if they heard about that practice.  Code A states the grounds for Stop/Search and last time I read it I found no reference to Performance Indicator.  Any Stop/Search carried out to keep the Chief Superintendent happy at your appraisal is almost certainly unlawful, unprofessional and far more likely to antagonise the local populace than a targeted Stop/Search in an area of high crime followed by a suitable explanation and apology for the inconvenience.  Yes, that’s right, I said Apology.  Modern day Police Officers should not be reluctant to apologise for inconveniencing a member of the public.  If their actions are reasonable, properly explained and an apology offered, I’m reasonably certain that most law-abiding citizens will walk off more than happy, reassured that you’re actually doing something about crime in their area.

When I went through Henditz to do my Initial Training it included repeated use of the mantra “Never apologise, you’re not sorry”.  Well we don’t live in such macho times any more, we’re much more pink and fluffy.  Apology is good, as long as it’s genuine and appropriate.

If the non law-abiding citizens are less than happy with your actions will I get excited about that?  No. Treat them with the respect they deserve, offer them the same explanation and apology and if they’re still not happy I really don’t see why our politicians should be pandering to them and offering to ‘curb’ the use of Stop and Search like what Cruella has suggested.

Finally, I give you this, Stop & Search to be replaced by Slap n’ Tickle, I’m pretty sure it’s a spoof, but in this day and age who knows?

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