PC Dave Phillips – The Thin Blue Line Stood Proudly in Tribute

3 Nov

Monday 2nd November 2015, the start of another week but today was to be different to other Mondays. I boarded a train to Liverpool with a heavy heart, straight after breakfast. Today I was going to join many from across the UK to pay tribute to a brother.

It’s been a long time since I was last in Liverpool. In fact, the last time I was there, folk were throwing petrol bombs at me in Toxteth! On that occasion I was just a young lad with almost 6 months police service. Police officers from all over the UK had come together to deal with unspeakable violence and to protect the many innocent residents from the rioters. I remember it like yesterday. I remember a lull in proceedings where, in a side street, my serial were waiting for further instructions when several families came out of their houses in the terraced street with tea and orange squash ; “thank you so much” they said. They were grateful to us, we were grateful to them. That riotous night was eventually quelled by hundreds of bobbies from across the UK coming together and charging the rioters. It had been a long night.

A whole career has passed me by since then. I was proud to be part of a huge #PoliceFamily in dealing with that riot in Merseyside in 1981. I knew that today I would still be proud to be part of that #PoliceFamily, although I was no longer that young uniformed bobby but an “old codger”, part of the “NARPO gang”. It’s been 4 ½ years since I retired from the police service, yet that unspoken, invisible bond still exists with those still serving. We’ve walked in each other’s shoes, we’ve faced adversity together. When the chips are down, we know how to support each other. We give that support unquestioningly. They are still my brothers and sisters, yet I have never met most of them. We are the #PoliceFamily.

There were to be some similarities this Monday, to my last visit to Merseyside: Bobbies would come together from across the UK; they would show solidarity together; they would support each other; members of the public would offer their tokens of appreciation.

The atmosphere this Monday was far removed from that of my last riotous visit. This was to be a quiet, dignified event. We were here to say goodbye to our brother, PC David Phillips. PC 6554 Merseyside Police. A brother taken from us far too soon whilst serving the public. He died whilst doing something he probably thought as “routine”; doing something he had done many times before; doing something that he expected would run its course, after which his shift would end and he would go home to his family.

Yet it didn’t work out like that this time. The ending was anything but routine. He never went home to his wife Jen, nor to his two young daughters Abigail and Sophie. They and his wider family were in desperate grief. We feel their grief, for Dave is our #PoliceFamily brother too. His family needed our support on this day and so we gathered to give it as best we could.

I don’t know Liverpool. I left the train station, opened the ‘Maps App’ on my smartphone (thank goodness for that invention!) and followed its directions to Canada Boulevard. I didn’t need to follow it for long. After a few minutes, a steady flow of bobbies in “best uniform” –tunics, custodian helmets and white gloves – converged from all directions in twos, threes and small groups, walking purposely towards a common direction. Follow those bobbies!

Along this converging route were strategically placed Merseyside bobbies wearing red sashes, “meeting and greeting” the rest of us and guiding the way.

Of course, many of these converging bobbies were from Merseyside Police. They were easily recognisable: firstly they wore the “miners hat” style of helmet, like that once worn by me and a minority of other Police Forces; secondly, all their officers holding the rank of Sergeant or above were holding their famously unique “nightsticks” – a yard-long truncheon-like stick – once a practical frontline tool – now retained for ceremonial purposes; lastly, their Inspectors and Chief Inspectors wore flat caps with silver peak braid – normally reserved for superintending ranks in the rest of the UK – but still worn by tradition in Merseyside (replacing the normal black braid) in recognition of those officers who refused to take part in the 1919 Liverpool Police Strike.

But this was no Merseyside closed-shop. This was a paradise for any collector of police helmet or cap badges. Police officers from across the UK with their myriad of helmet styles and badges, all assembling in one place. From simple insignia to the marvellously ornate helmet plate, as modelled by @HantsFedChair John Apter – visibly distinct at considerable distance.

It was only 10 o’clock yet there was already a huge line of bobbies, formed up in Canada Boulevard with those arriving being marshalled into place by yet more sash-wearing Merseyside Sergeants. I joined the rest of the non-uniformed “old-codgers” at the rear of the uniformed columns. I couldn’t tell how many bobbies were forming up because I couldn’t see that far! A long column of bobbies as far as the eye could see! There was almost no noise from this gathering of the #PoliceFamily. A few quiet words now and again but mostly, those gathered were standing quietly with just their own thoughts. The flags, flown at half-mast on the Cunard Building, fluttered in the cool wind. The fog horn sounded intermittently, cutting somewhat eerily, through the heavy mist that still covered the river.

Every so often, we “old-codgers” would shuffle back to make way for more arriving “uniforms”. A red-sashed woman sergeant marched smartly to and fro across the pierhead arranging this, her “segs” (metal segments nailed to the soles of “best boots or shoes”) making a stark sound on the paving in contrast to the almost silent gathering. “I love the sound of that” said a woman behind me, “reminds me of the parade ground at training school”. I turned around, “you’re showing your age now!” I teased her (segs and police training schools both long since largely meeting their demise). A quite titter of laughter amongst those who were with her, “you’re not wrong there!” they smirked. It didn’t matter that she or her friends were strangers to me. We were all brothers and sisters together.

Amongst the sombre gathering there were bound to be moments of such lighter tone, it’s how bobbies cope in tough times – cop humour.

It was a little over 3 years ago since a similar gathering at Deansgate, Manchester – for Fiona and Nicola. My mind wandered between then and today. I knew that some of the same Twitter acquaintances were present today. Sure enough, there were tweets from @ConstableChaos and @SgtTCS. They were tweeting the scene, from the pictures, obviously way ahead of me, both being still serving and in uniform. “Plenty of us old buggers at the back too….” I tweeted in reply. “Do a dance” replied @TheTCS – referring back to Deansgate 3 years ago (his helpful suggestion to identify myself when it was apparent from our pictures on that day that we were within 100 yds of each other, lining the road.) – “I am… but so far back you’ll never spot me!” I replied.

There was no more time for light banter, a muffled parade marshal’s bellow, the sudden distant strains of the Pipe and Drum Band of the Police Service for Northern Ireland and we were off. We set off for the 1.3 mile walk to the Anglican Cathedral.

As we passed along the pierhead, there were members of the public standing in silent tribute. In small groups, in twos and standing alone. All ages, from all walks of life: pensioners; people with toddlers; couples; a guy of only about 17yrs casually dressed standing alone; smartly-dressed people; scruffily-dressed people; a man with a white bichon-frise dog; a woman in a mobility scooter; a young couple no more than 20yrs old – she in jeans with her hoodie pulled tight on her head against the cold wind – he in a sweatshirt and shorts (Brrrrrr !). They had all obviously made an effort to be there. They stood in respectful silence and were still doing so by the time we passed, which must have been quite a time from when the front of the parade passed them. We appreciated their efforts.

As we walked into the City Centre, we occasionally heard snippets of the Pipe & Drum Band as the parade weaved along the route. The procession was led by officers on horseback from Merseyside Mounted Branch, one of the few mounted branches not disbanded due to budget cuts. I didn’t see the horses but from time to time had to dodge their ‘deposits’ so I knew that they were there!

The public presence increased in the centre; shop and office workers stood in the doorways; small crowds at junctions; the staff of a Chinese food wholesaler assembled outside; a group of builders stood above us on scaffolding, whilst another group of them assembled on the pavement – all downing tools in silent respect.

In the face of seemingly never-ending political and press/media criticism of the police, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that everyone is anti-police: quick to criticise yet slow to praise; blaming today’s officers for past police problems – even though many were not even born, yet alone serving at the time! It’s easy to think that the public at large dislike the police – at best!

But that’s not true. Here is the evidence. The public in all their diversity, making an effort to show that they cared; that they appreciated the risks police officers face daily; taking time out of their day in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in grief. In turn we appreciated their gestures.

It took just over 1 hour to make that 1.3 mile journey, mostly uphill. The parade was so large that it took another 30 minutes to get everyone into the Cathedral, delaying the start of the service.

The Cathedral was packed. We plain clothed “old Codgers” sat on a lower level at the back. We couldn’t see any part of the proceedings but that didn’t matter. We were there for Jen, Abigail and Sophie. The priestly procession preceded Dave’s coffin – draped in a Merseyside Police flag with his cap on top. Dave was carried on his colleagues’ shoulders – his close colleagues, with a drill marshal and two others, helping the bearers to negotiate the several sets of cathedral steps. Jen and the girls led the family behind Dave. Abigail and Sophie in pretty dresses with sparkly shoes – Daddy’s Princesses no doubt.

As the service started, Jen, Abigail and Sophie were invited to light a candle for Dave. “I think mummy will help you” whispered the priest to one of the girls. After a short time the priest whispered “well done”. You could almost hear a tear in the eyes of the congregation. Even the “Old Codgers” were moved.

Hannah, Dave’s sister gave a tribute. She was wonderful. “Dave always looked for the good in any situation…” Dave was the family’s “beacon for good…” and he was “…too self-deprecating to claim the title of Hero – so I will claim it for him.” She told us that Dave was taken too early but that he was always organised and had ’The Lord is my Shepherd’ stored on his phone, so the family would know what to sing at his funeral; “… but he could never have imagined one like this.”

Dave’s good friend and fellow bobby PC Dave Lamont gave a tribute. He was nervous, perhaps uncomfortable in speaking to this audience at this time but his tribute was no less impactive for it. “We shared lots of interests…” “…we shared the same middle name, Andrew not Victor; let’s be clear about that!” There were funny little stories about “Disco Dave” about things on and off duty. More than once, we were told, “Dave would tell you…. – that wasn’t true! What happened was…” Dave was “…trusted to keep the streets of Liverpool safe; but was incapable of making his own sandwiches!” Dave ended by saying that blokes “really just want a shed” and told us that he would get one; and install a little mini-disco ball, for “Disco Dave. It was a wonderful tribute full of typical police humour, from someone who was clearly a wonderful friend. Well done Dave Lamont.

Dave’s other sister, Kate read out a poem that she had written; in a style as if Dave had written it for the congregation. Part of it read;

So remember me for my smile,

The one you put on my face.

Remember me for my strength,

For my courage I always gave.

That courage had rubbed off on Kate and gave her the strength, as her voice faltered in grief, to finish the reading. Well done Kate.

There were two songs from Les Miserables – a favourite of ‘the two Daves’; “only one of us cried at that…”, PC Dave Lamont had earlier quipped, “ “… and it wasn’t me.”

There was a tribute from Sir Jon Murphy, the Chief Constable of Merseyside. “… it’s not just about what we do, but how we do it…” he told us, “…Dave was like the public want our bobbies to be…”

The service drew to a close. On the last page of the service booklet, was a picture of ‘Disco Dave’ with the following message that I can only reproduce in full:

Both families of our beloved son David, would like to place on record our most sincere and grateful appreciation for the tidal wave of love, sympathy and support we have received from all quarters of the Police, sports clubs and organisations, and by no means least, the general public. Your love and support has helped us through this time of abject misery and pain. We would not have been able to cope had it not been for you all.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I hope that the presence of the #PoliceFamily and the reactions of the Merseyside public helped Jen and all the family through this difficult day.

Jen, you are ours and we are yours. Your family will always be part of the #PoliceFamily. You clearly have a strong family who will draw on each other for support in the coming times ahead.

Others will be there for you also, not least Care of Police Survivors (COPS), a wonderful charity that looks after the families of our fallen bobbies. Some families look for that support immediately, others months or years later. They will be there if and whenever you are ready.

Many of us at this gathering could imagine what Dave felt on his night shift, we have walked in his shoes. We can barely imagine what the family feels, for we have not walked in their shoes. COPS can fill this void in understanding. Their annual service is full of heart-warming stories of the support offered at COPS events: partners’ events; parents’ events; childrens’ events and siblings’ events. They live up to the COPS motto; Rebuilding Shattered Lives.

As the family left the Cathedral, behind Dave’s coffin, once again bravely borne by his colleagues, there was quiet applause from the congregation that grew louder as they passed. This wasn’t something rehearsed or requested. It was a spontaneous gesture by the congregation. The applause was of course for Dave, but also for his wonderful family friends, who had been so dignified, so strong, so wonderful. It was a fitting end to the public service to our brother.

Well done also to Merseyside Police. Your organisation, dignity and attention to detail did Dave proud.

It took as long to get out of the Cathedral as it had to get in. Uniform was dispersing in all directions, this time in free form, in contrast to the orchestrated arrival.

Later, police officers in Merseyside, and across the UK would don their uniforms and prepare to go out onto the night shift. They would expect to do routine stuff – and they would expect later still – to go home to their families…

#PFTP (Police for the Public / Public for the Police

#OfficerDown

#LestWeForget

Final Note: Should any reader whish to make a donation to Care of Police Survivors (COPS) – in tribute to Dave, – ‘Disco Dave’ – PC 6554 Merseyside Police;

You can do so by following this link; http://www.ukcops.org/donate.php

Or by post:

Care Of Police Survivors (COPS), PO Box 5685, Rugeley, WS15 9DN

Where Did It All Go Wrong Ed?

8 May

You could be forgiven for thinking yesterday that after 5 years of a ConDem Government, the public were ready for a change.

You could be forgiven for thinking that “ordinary people” would have seen the devastation of every Public Sector Service over the last 5 years;

NHS funding crisis and another top-down reorganisation, yet promises to vastly expand availability of services.

Thousands of police officer posts lost, a disproportionate structure of “savings” (cuts) in the early years of the parliament. Police numbers across the country now at the levels of the late 1970s – whilst demand increases – yet even more cuts to come.

Firefighters facing station closures and reduced tender numbers.

A Coastguard decimated with poorly evidenced plans and strategies.

A Probation Service largely hived off for private profit, leaving only the “difficult cases” with the public sector.

Local Authority budgets slashed, leading to funding crises in just about every service provision.

The ridiculous education debacle of schools being autonomous rather than having some consistent direction and standards; so called “Free Schools” where teachers and even Headteachers can be unqualified.

The huge reduction in our Armed Services, whilst continuing deployment to “police” unstable parts of the World – not forgetting the lack of any aircraft carrier capability.

The above is just a small flavour.

Then there are the very worst effects of the last ConDem Government;

The Bedroom Tax.

Disability “reforms”.

Outsourcing the “easy bits” across the public sector for private profit.

The proliferation in the number and use of food banks in “this rich country”.

Swathes of essential services outsourced to companies who rely on zero-hours contracts.

An abundance of low paid jobs where ever you look.

The growing pressure on family finances.

The debacle of pseudo “competition” in the energy sector – effectively shafting the ordinary person.

The rail scandal of increased fares yet poorer services – deficiencies of track and rolling stock – whilst cash hived off in profits for the few.

The attack on public sector pensions and the increase in State Pension Age.

I could go on.

Lastly, don’t forget the economic crisis – caused by bankers and corporate/private greed – but “paid for” by ordinary working folk in the guise of “efficiencies” and the ideologically driven “austerity” which went deeper and faster than was required.

Surely this election was Ed’s to lose? A Labour feast?

How could it possibly go wrong?

True, Ed Miliband had a difficult start as Labour Leader. Somewhat awkward in public and lampooned by the press.

However, I think it’s fair to say that during the campaign, Ed came across much better than many expected. A “nice bloke” with some admirable principles who didn’t deserve his press ridicule.

The opinion polls consistently put Labour “neck and neck” with the Tories. That didn’t hold out eventually, although the forecast of a LibDem kicking as a consequence of shoring up Cameron and his nastier policies, did come home to roost.

In my view, Ed made some significant errors during the campaign, that may well have dented Labour’s chances amongst the “undecided” and in the marginal constituencies.

It’s The Economy Stupid

Notwithstanding that the economic crisis occurred across the Western World, many folk were perhaps concerned about Labour’s economic record in their previous terms of office.

The ConDems made much of it for 5 years and whatever the rights or wrongs, some of it was bound to stick in the public mind.

Whoever wrote that note in The Treasury 5 years ago – “There is no money” – for “a joke” must now be regretting it – Cameron played a masterstroke in producing it to the TV cameras during the campaign. If, and it’s a big “if”, it was funny 5 years ago, it certainly wasn’t funny by this polling day.

That leads me on to the “other Ed” – was Ed Balls a good choice as Shadow Chancellor? He perhaps unwisely described that note as “just a joke” rather than be more circumspect about the country’s finances. Could the public take him seriously, in being serious about our country’s finances in the future? Was he the right character for the job? Was he perceived as just as arrogant as Cameron?

To combat all of the above, Labour needed their costed manifesto to stand considerable independent scrutiny. It fell short of the mark and instead of dealing with that, they stuck to “not agreeing” with the independent scrutiny!

Lastly, perhaps crucially, was Miliband unwise to reject any suggestion that the previous Labour Government “overspent”?

According to a BBC correspondent last night, you wouldn’t have to go far to find an economist who thought Labour’s approach to the deficit this time was “sensible”. Yet it didn’t resonate with the public sufficiently by polling day.

Maybe it’s presentation rather than content that was to blame.

The SNP

This was a difficult one for Miliband – a committed Unionist. However, Cameron played a blinder here – instilling his insidious fear that Scottish Nationalists would “rule” Westminster with Labour in government.

This repeated mantra required some careful consideration but I can’t help thinking that ruling out any and all collaboration with the SNP, not only damaged Labour in Scotland but also in England.

Was it wise for Ed to rule out everything? Was it wise for him to concentrate on Labour and SNP differences regarding The Union, rather than look to discuss what common values they shared, not least in a rejection of further Tory savage austerity measures?

Many people north and south of the border may have thought “what’s the point in voting Labour if they won’t join others to defeat Cameron?”

It sounded disingenuous and may well have damaged trust.

UKIP and The EU

Cameron made massive play on “if you want an in/out EU referendum, we are the only party to guarantee one”.

Ed repeatedly stated his preference and belief in remaining within The EU.

It really matters not if Labour generally nor Ed in particular were pro or anti EU. My parents had a vote on the European Economic Union back in the 1975 referendum. That was a very different entity than today’s EU. If you are under 58 years old, you have never been consulted.

Rather than seek to impose his own opinion on the electorate, would Ed have been better advised to not back away from holding a referendum but to campaign for his beliefs at that point?

It’s as if the last EU elections never happened. As if there was no surge in UKIP support during them!

Labour seemed to view UKIP as simply a vehicle to split the Tory vote.

I suggest that there are many potential Labour voters who have concerns about the EU. I suggest that there are many who voted UKIP in the EU elections who wouldn’t dream of voting for UKIP in a General Election. However Ed’s Europhile stance would make these folk uncomfortable. How many of these folk voted Tory in order to secure a referendum?

Furthermore, just look at the number of constituencies yesterday that returned UKIP as the second or third party.

You can’t deny that there is a groundswell of ordinary citizens who are concerned about The EU. Those concerns need dealing with rather than simply brushing aside.

So today is for many, a deeply disappointing day. A lost opportunity to remove The Nasty Party.

I am not a politician. I am not a member of any political party. I have voted 4 ways over the years and have even attended just to spoil my ballot in a local election.

These are just the musings of a desperately disappointed Ordinary Joe who has spent much of his life serving in the public sector. Someone who has multiple relatives with mental health or personal care needs. Someone who has seen poverty, abuse and disability for himself. Someone who was desperate for a change to what the Country has endured over the past 5 years.

That’s my very disappointed two-pennoth.

A sad day.

A lost opportunity indeed.

Labour – you have lost the General Election but DON’T spend the next months navel-gazing. Make sure you concentrate on Opposition to the Tory onslaught to come. Engage better with the Ordinary Joes and Joeses.

High Time ACPO & Others Showed Support For Rank & File Police Officers

22 Dec

I feel compelled to blog following the TV news reports of the taser- related death in Staffordshire today. http://goo.gl/tUomlb

There soon followed a spate of anti-police comments on the usual social media platforms.

Now I understand that there is a small section of society – a small minority – who will take any and every opportunity to slag off the police. They are of no consequence to me. What does disturb me are the ill-informed comments from people who are not anti-police per se, but who are developing an anti-police stance as a direct result of the relentless anti-police spin we see almost daily in our newspapers, radio news bulletins and tv news bulletins – both local and national.

This, of course, only mirrors the equally anti-police comments and stances of David Camoron (sic); T disMay; Thomas “the tank” Winsor, The IPCC and a plethora of politicians led by the likes of the odious David Davis & his mate, the now disgraced, Andrew “you don’t run this country ….” Mitchell.

The common denominator here of course is that they are all armchair policing experts, who have never looked at the whites of the eyes of a drunken marauding yob or group of yobs, on a Friday or Saturday night in Anytown UK.

I can forgive Mr or Mrs Joe(anne) Public, who in the absence of news or comment to the contrary, are beginning to BELIEVE all the anti-police spin.

What I have great difficulty with though, is the aquiescence that these inaccuracies, biases and ill-informed judgments are given by Chief/Deputy/Assistant Chief Constables up and down the UK – from Bernard Hogan-Who (The Met) to the plethora of high ranking officers most of us have never heard of. I will throw the – hopefully soon to be abolished – Police and Crime Commissioners into the ring with that lot, whilst I’m at it, with a small handful of exceptions.

These people SHOULD know better. They all have daily contact with policing, they should have a rudimentary understanding of the law regarding the use of force by our police officers; some of them even had fleeting experience at the sharp end!

Instead of their silence, their aquiescence or their carefully crafted “vanilla” comments/ quotes, these are the very people who should be reassuring Mr and Mrs Joe(anne) Public that far from them living in a brutal police state, they actually live in a unique country where 99.9% of their police officers do an often thankless task, honestly and with integrity, without fear or favour and largely unarmed – apart from a small Armed Response capability; a slightly larger Taser capability; and the staple tools of baton, handcuffs and cs spray.

They should be explaining that a Taser is an alternative – that we never had until recently – to shooting someone – the latter almost certainly resulting in death.

They should also be explaining that a Taser gives an option that in the vast majority of cases causes less injury than a baton-strike and is very much safer for the police officer, who otherwise would need to be in close proximity to their attacker in order to deploy a baton or cs spray. They should be reminding the public that an injured or deceased police officer can not protect the public from grevious harm. It is therefore important that they protect themselves, thereby protecting the public.

They should further be explaining that police officers have a right to defend themselves from attack and that this right is enshrined in law.

Chief Police Officers are usually VERY keen on “reassuring the public” in any other respect but strangely silent at times like this.

I don’t know the details of the Staffordshire incident, from what few details were reported, it seems police were responding to a report of a burglary in progress, the occupants were not present when police arrived and that the officer(s) felt sufficiently threatened to deploy a Taser.

We do not know if the deceased had an adverse reaction to being tasered or whether there was another cause for him becoming “unresponsive”. This will be for a coroner to determine.

Social media and lunchtime TV all reported that Staffordshire Police have deployed taser more than any other Force in the country. They reported that with a negative spin – as if that proves some underlying sinister motive or practice.

This is irrelevant. Firstly, recording taser “use” includes drawing it but not firing it (drawing it is often sufficient to obtain compliance that was absent until that point). Secondly, it could be that Staffordshire Police taser training is so effective that their officers better understand the Use of Force Continuim and so are more confident in drawing it. It could be that Staffordshire Police have greater access to taser than other Forces. I don’t know which, if any, apply. It could be some other explanation. What it does NOT NECESSARILY mean is that Taser use is “a problem” in Staffordshire.

What I do know is that without some context and explanation, these media inserts in reporting this incident are nothing but negative anti-police spin and lazy journalism.

There will of course be an IPCC investigation, that is mandatory in these circumstances. There will be a Coroner’s enquiry.

Notwithstanding these, I see nothing wrong with Staffordshire Police hierarchy or the PCC giving a better press release and media quote than the vanilla one we have been treated to.

I see nothing wrong with them explaining the points I have written above. Nor do I see an issue with stating that during the incident, the officer felt sufficiently threatened to deploy a Taser to protect him/her self or someone else.

I see nothing wrong in them countering the inevitable clamour – from “the usual suspects” to “ban Taser”.

The police officers on the frontline deserve nothing less than this overt public support from their bosses.

The public deserve nothing less than being given this context from their local police hierarchy.

Without it, with just these “vanilla” press releases and media quotes, gaps are left, sufficient for others to make mischief.

It’s been a terrible few days for the #PoliceFamily Worldwide (The #PoliceFamily knows little of international borders). We have had 3 police officers injured in Paris; 3 police officers killed in USA and of course 2 police officers injured and another killed in Merseyside.

My thoughts are of course with their families, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

Without the availability of Taser deployment, we might also be mourning one or more Staffordshire Police deaths today. The officers concerned will now have every aspect of an incident that probably lasted a few minutes, disected by armchair experts for months, possibly years. It will be a major stress for them.

I know for a fact that Staffordshire Police Federation officials will provide them with support because I know the officials personally.

It would be nice if these officers knew that they also had the support, publicly, of their Force hierarchy, together with the support of the public whom they were protecting.

I send these officers my very best wishes, perhaps you would like to join me?

#PFTP #JobLikeNoOther #LestWeForget

Police Dog Handler or ex- handler

20 Nov

our usual independent examiner is unable to make our next KC Good Citizen  test night – wondering if any current or ex- police handlers able to step in.
Just a matter of testing to the written standards.
Tues 9th Dec 6 pm – 8 pm nr Wilmslow
Any chance you could you ask around?
Ta
Nige

Sorry, YOU Made a Mistake – Politicians’ Hypocrisy in Action

30 Oct

“Sorry” appears to be a word that Politicians commend as a “right and proper” course of action, where wrong has been done, or a mistake has been made.

At least, you could be forgiven for assuming so, if you watched any TV before or after last weeks House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) regarding the #PlebGate affair, or indeed, if you watched that committee on Parliament.tv , as I did.

It is fascinating that politicians of all sides were quick to condemn the three Police Federation officials BEFORE that committee meeting, basing their views SOLEY on a press release by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).  These same politicians, of all political persuasions were also vociferous in DEMANDING that the 3 officers apologise to Mr Mitchell, although these politicians had not, at that time seen the official police complaint investigation report.

Such comments were made by the Home Secretary, Theresa disMay on the morning prior to the afternoon HASC meeting, as were comments from the Prime Minister, “Call me Dave” Camoron (sic) during PMQs. It became clear that at  these times, only the IPCC press release could have been known to them. 

Indeed, the police Investigation Report was released to the members of the HASC the evening before the HASC meeting and during the session, various members of the Committee were ADAMANT that the officers should apologise.

They apparently DISREGARDED the police Investigation Report, which stated that there was NO EVIDENCE that the officers “deliberately or intentionally misled the press”.  The Investigation Report concluded that there WAS EVIDENCE that the words spoken by the officers WERE “inaccurate and ambiguous” and that those words could lead to the public being misled.  The report concluded that there was NO EVIDENCE of any conspiracy to mislead or lie but that the officers were “poorly prepared, misguided and showed a lack of judgement” 

The HASC members also chose to IGNORE a TWENTY-FIVE PAGE decision note made by the West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable, indicating in detail how, as the Appropriate Authority, he had come to the decision that disciplinary proceedings could NOT be justified.

None of this mattered to the politicians, nor indeed the Press. 

“Sorry”, it appears, is an appropriate word to use, even when facts/assumptions are in some dispute or doubt.

Imagine then my surprise ( I use the word VERY loosely) when I read two press reports today.

The first concerns Ed Balls and his actions regarding the desperately sad circumstances of the baby P story.  Ed, in his role as Children’s Minister had indeed made a Balls of it.  In sacking the then, Head of Children’s Services, at Haringey Council, Ms Shoesmith had been “unfairly scapegoated” and Balls actions were “intrinsically unfair and unlawful” – according to THE COURT OF APPEAL.  No, not some tupenny ha’penny body, THE COURT OF APPEAL, who had all the evidence upon which to make such a judgement.

The story is here http://urly.it/29cg

You will NOT find the word “sorry” anywhere from Mr Balls, indeed he asserts AGAIN that his decision WAS RIGHT.  I have just seen him on the late news stating he “WOULD DO EXACTLY THE SAME AGAIN” in the same circumstances.

So much for the Court of Appeal then!

I also came across another report, concerning the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.  Read it here http://urly.it/29ch

Mr Hunt had tried to close the A&E department at Lewisham Hospital, more Government “efficiencies” (ahem!).  In the Summer, Mr Hunt’s actions were ruled UNLAWFUL by a HIGH COURT JUDGE, who ruled Hunt had acted “outside his powers” and “breached the National Health Services Act 2006”.

Did Hunt say “sorry”? – Not Likely! Instead he stated that he was “looking to change the law” so that he could do what had been found as unlawful, lawfully.  Furthermore, in these times of austerity, he took the HIgh Court decision, at public expense of course, to appeal to the COURT OF APPEAL.

The Court of Appeal today, UPHELD THE ORIGINAL High Court decision that Hunt acted UNLAWFULLY.

Hunt then made a hurried appearance for the Press,  outside the court, where he made an unreserved apology – OK I MADE THAT LAST BIT UP!

So there we have two cases where a fairly serious and respected judicial body, THE COURT OF APPEAL – not known for “rushing to judgement” without carefully considering the evidence – have ruled the actions of 2 Government Ministers, of different political parties, as simply UNLAWFUL. Not “misguided”, “ill-prepared” or “lacking judgement” but UNLAWFUL.

Do we hear these MPs apologising, saying “sorry” ? Do we hear Camoron (sic) or Ed Miliband condemning their respective juniors for their UNLAWFUL acts and issuing their own apologies to the British public?

No, nothing but ……. SILENCE.

It seems that “sorry” is not a word that trips so easily from the lips of politicians, although they commend others to use it fairly liberally.

Perhaps “sorry” is a word best left to be uttered by the “lower classes”, if you like, a word “just for Plebs” to use.

 

Death Without Dignity – A Personal View on a Tory Legacy

17 Sep

I had a phone call last week informing me that my uncle had died. He was 89 yrs old.

You are probably already thinking “… 89 good innings, can’t complain at that…”.

Well actually that would be a load of old tosh –I will explain why.

For the last 14 months my uncle has been away from his home. He had a fairly rapid onset of dementia which quickly became acute to a degree that a Section 2, then a Section 3 detention was necessary under the Mental Health Act. He was, for much of the last 14 months cared for at our local Mental Health Trust geriatric ward. I use the term “cared for” advisedly and carefully. Whilst his condition quickly deteriorated and made him difficult to manage, it was clear to his wife, my aunty, a mere 88 years old, that staff there were doing as much as possible and in a compassionate way. There was also my uncle’s heart complaint and prostate cancer to contend with but staff took this in their stride.

We knew there were no magic wands. My uncle would have bursts of anger and frustration, asking where his parents were and why he wasn’t at home, often insisting he was as fit and well as the staff. He would not have been an easy case to manage, but manage they did, with care and compassion.

There came a time when it was clear that no further treatment was likely to improve his condition. As such, with protocol and finances as they are, there was no place for him to continue to stay in the Mental Health Trust ward. They needed the bed. My uncle needed to be found a ‘care home’,

I fully understand this. Having been professionally involved with this hospital for a few years and also having other personal experience of my relatives needing acute Section 2 care, I understand only too well how under-resourced and poorly commissioned, Mental Health Services are, in my area and indeed nationwide.

I make no criticism of the staff at the sharp end, making this decision. As to those with the responsibility and power to commission things differently, that is a different matter.

My uncle had difficulty differentiating between the phrase ‘care home’ and “his home”, despite the best efforts of everyone. The whole process of finding somewhere and paying the rather grand fees was a matter that worried my aunty, quite understandably.

My uncle’s first care home lasted 48 hours. Scared, frustrated, angry and confused, he threw something in his room and it smashed a small window. The ‘care home’ no longer ‘cared’, they refused him and he went back to the Mental Health Trust Hospital. This was nothing more than a short-term measure whilst another placement was found.

More worry and aggravation later, a placement was selected, again at a grand fee. He didn’t really settle there but his physical ailments were by now taking their toll and he was withdrawing from consciously active life.

We discovered that these private “care homes” only accepted new patients on a 6 week trial. After that time, they were free to move the patient on if that patient was ”not suitable” for that ‘care home’.

My aunty found the care home experience, somewhat different than the Mental Health Trust Hospital. There were few staff on duty, little time allocated to patients regardless of their needs but then of course this was not a public service where those employed from cleaner upwards often had a vocational bent towards caring for the vulnerable in our society. No, it was a straight hard-faced business. My aunty would visit and find my uncle’s meal still there, virtually untouched. The staff would say “he doesn’t want it” whereas I suspect the translation was “we haven’t got time/patience to help him and or coax him to eat. – time is money”.

So it was no surprise that he was deemed as “not suitable” for the ‘care home’. They didn’t want patients who needed 24 hour care, who had considerable needs, who were confused or disorientated. No, they only wanted the easy cases, the low-maintenance patients – maximum fees for minimum effort. Profit is the focus. This profit is not of course for the benefit of staff at the sharp end, low pay and poor conditions of employment was all they deserve. No, there were managers, executives and of course shareholders who needed to cream off this profit. It is obvious that pay and conditions affect the quality of staff available for recruitment. In contrast to the hospital, the staff here were just “doing a job” –and it showed.

My uncle’s rapidly deteriorating health was of no concern to the ‘care home’, he was “not suitable” and once again the search for another placement commenced. Never mind that he was clearly deteriorating physically and was unlikely to be with us much longer. We had to start searching once again for a “suitable care home”

In the meantime, my aunty was asked to attend the ‘care home’ on Friday, a day she didn’t usually visit. Clearly very poorly, he was not eating or drinking and barely moved. His time was near. Doctors attended over the next couple of days, changing medication and injections, to no effect.

Just before midnight last night, the ‘care home’ telephoned my aunty. She was bluntly informed that her husband had died an hour earlier. The staff member advised my aunty not to come out there and then, “it is a cold wet night and you haven’t been that well. Come in the morning”. “Oh, what undertaker do you want? Do you want burial or cremation?”. My aunt answered both questions.

Another phone call a short time later informed my aunty that they couldn’t get hold of the nominated undertaker, “ we can get another one just down the road from here”, an offer firmly declined by my aunty. She wanted her nominated undertaker.

Later that morning, my aunty attended the ‘care home’ but my uncle had already been removed. The ‘care home’ needed the bed. My uncle, no longer being a paying resident, of no concern. The doctor hadn’t left the death certificate there, my aunty would have to collect it from the doctor’s surgery. This wasn’t my uncle’s/aunty’s local GP but one of the three ‘care home’ GP who had practices near the home but nowhere near my auntys home.

My uncle was 89 years old. He had served his country in The Royal Navy. He had been an engineer all his civilian life. A skilled man, making high-precision work in often less than ideal conditions. He was made redundant late in his working life. On the corporate scrap heap, he didn’t wallow and sit about. He didn’t claim benefits. No, he rented a small unit and used his redundancy money to set up a one man engineering firm. He earned his living in this capacity until retirement.

Mr Camoron (not a mis-spelling) would have called my uncle a “striver”. A man who worked and paid taxes all his life. Where did this “striving” get him? NOWHERE.

In the last year of his life, in a vulnerable condition, he was treated like a commodity, an object from which to gain profit for the privileged few. Where was his dignity in his last few weeks? Shunted around because he needed 24 hour care. Arrangements to shunt him again, as he lay dying.

Is this what this country wants for its senior citizens?

Is this the right way to treat the vulnerable in our society?

I can hear Camoron now, “… fair for the taxpayer”, “… partnership with the private sector”, “…more efficient services, cheaper, more value for money”.

I do not believe all this nonsense. I am not alone in this.

It is well known that the Tory Dogma is well spread across the public sector, NHS, policing, probation, education, HM Coastguard, HM Prison Service, Search & Rescue Service, Air Traffic Control, to name a few. Private companies taking the easy tasks and leaving the difficult cases alone.

Call it what you like; collaboration, partnership or whatever other feeble name is conjured up to disguise the word “privatisation”. I know where this is all going. More services sold off to the private sector who produce a poorer service for huge profit. More spin from this nasty government who think the electorate too stupid to understand the reality.

Well this is the reality. I am not fooled.

More private greed, more low paid jobs, worsening working conditions for those at the sharp end, decreasing job security for ordinary folk and all the time leaving the citizens of this country with poorer services as a result. The undeserving few living off the toil of the many.

Well I say –Public Services should NEVER be “for profit”, end of.

The Tory mantra continues unabated, “Never mind the quality, look how cheap it is and how much profit we are creaming off”

“Austerity!” I hear Camoron cry, “we cant afford more”, “ need to be fair to the taxpayer”.

Well my uncle was a taxpayer. I am a taxpayer. I suspect I am not alone in being open to paying more tax to protect the vulnerable and give citizens dignity in the final stages of their lives.

We probably don’t even need to do that.

Stop playing “policeman of the World” at huge expense.

Stop the HS2 project – independently criticised for having unrealistic assumptions built into its cost-benefit analysis.

We could be really radical – stop the £5m subsidy of MPs bars and restaurants in Parliament.

If this government is so keen on market forces, let them prevail for their gin and tonics and long lunches.

My uncle and many others like him, deserved better in the final chapter of his life.

Instead he was treated inhumanely as a reward for his decent hard-working life.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

Welcome to Britain 2013. Welcome to the Tory legacy: “Death without Dignity”. The reality of the ‘rush to the bottom’ policies of a nasty government.

11 Terrorists Jailed – Why Isn’t There Rejoicing In The Streets?

26 Apr

I sat down for lunch today (Friday 26/4/13) and switched on BBC News Channel, just for a casual update whilst eating. One of the stories covered, although NOT the main story, was that 11 Terrorists had been sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court for plotting to bomb Birmingham and other areas on a scale that would have been more deadly than the 7/7 bombings in 2005, which killed 52 innocent citizens and the 4 suicide bombers.

This case was no “idle threat” or “act of bravado”. Four of the group had received “terror training” backed by Al-Qaida in Pakistan. Their intention was to set off 8 – 10 suicide bombs and timed explosive devices in crowded places.

My mind recalled the horror of the Boston Marathon Bombing less than 2 weeks earlier; 3 innocent citizens killed and 282 injured, some seriously, together with the live broadcasts of the ensuing hunt, the shoot out that killed a police officer and seriously wounded another (also resulting in the death of one of the bombers) and the eventual capture of the remaining bomber.

I then saw the BBC reporter describe the sentences handed down to the eleven;

1 – Life imprisonment with minimum 18 yrs
1 – 18 yrs
1 – 15 yrs
1 – 12 yrs + 5 yrs on licence
1 – 6 yrs
2 – 4 yrs
4 – 40 months

So not a tupennny – ha’penny matter then. One of the convicted was described by the Judge as a “skilful bomb-maker”. It was the biggest counter-terrorism operation in the UK for 7 years.

My mind recalled the jubilant scenes in Boston when the remaining terrorist was captured. Citizens took to the streets to cheer the police officers and Mayors, Governors and Mr President went on television to heap praise on the police and security services.

Back in my kitchen, the reporter then interviewed ACC Marcus Beale, West Midlands Police (@marcusbeale – who has the counter-terrorism portfolio)

I was astounded by the reporter. After allowing ACC Beale to outline the seriousness of the offences, the reporter questioned why the police had arrested these men when no specific target had been identified.

ACC Beale gave an excellent response regarding the danger already present to the residents in the same block of flats as the bomb factory flat and the risk to police and security officers.

The reporter then questioned the confidence the Muslim Community had in The Police, referring to some past event about preventing the radicalisation of Muslims. I know nothing of this event but ACC Beale explained that that operation had been discontinued some years ago, the police recognised they had got that one wrong, had apologised at the time and that that apology still stood. The interview ended.

The BBC report is here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22290927

The website report states at the end that the Judge described the standard of police work in this matter as “exemplary”. Other reports indicate that The Judge said he wanted to ensure that the officers received a judicial commendation – something not given lightly!

No mention of that by the BBC reporter on TV. No praise given at all.

I then scoured a few other sources, no praise for police & security services in The Guardian Online, SkyNews Online or The Daily Hate Online. The story didn’t even make the ITN App but it did provide much detail on Liverpool FC’s disappointment that Mr Biter-Suarez has been banned for 10 matches, plus the all important break-up of some pop group called CIF, or was it JLS?

My mind reflected again on the USA response to thwarting terrorists. I bet their newspaper were full of “We Gotcha” and the like; reports overflowing with praise for the police and security services.

Here in the UK, a couple of outlets had a small mention of the judicial praise for our police and security services at the end of their reports but that was almost lost in the rest of their reporting.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY ?? !!

Why don’t the media and press praise and celebrate such excellent work that was undoubtedly dangerous for those involved?

Why don’t they celebrate the saving of countless lives of innocent citizens by the detection and most importantly, the conviction of these terrorists?

Where is Camoron (sic) on our TV giving such praise? What about T disMay? (Ok that would stretch even MY imagination – our Home Secretary praising police!)

Have our public swallowed all the Government anti-police spin of the last couple of years? Have they swallowed the view of Thomas The Tank Winsor in his reform (ahem) reports on the police – they are all fat, lazy, overpaid and can easily be replaced by G4S and the like?

I hope not – but I fear that the public are drifting subconsciously into the demise of British Policing – still regarded, for all its faults, as the best in the World – by the rest of the World!

That is the toxic effect of all the Government, media and newspaper anti-police rhetoric that has been a common theme over the last 2 years, masking the real devastating effects of a 20% reduction in budget and a loss of 16,000 police officers due to austerity.

In a couple of years time, I wonder if West Midlands Police (or any other police force) could even muster sufficient officers to detect and secure convictions for similar acts as those sentenced today.

I am heartened to hear that several Birmingham-based Muslim groups have condemned these terrorists and made it plain that these acts were not done in their name. Well done to them! I wish more would be as vociferous so that any number of small minded ignoramuses get it firmly into their thick skull that terrorist acts have no connection with the majority of Muslims in this country.

So on behalf of all sensibly-minded citizens the length and breadth of the UK; Thank you ACC Beale, thanks to your team, to the security services and the Crown Prosecution Service involved in this magnificent work protecting our citizens.

Countless Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, other relatives and friends are not grieving the loss of their loved ones in an horrific bombing, because of your actions.

WE can sleep easier tonight.

#StaySafe

Police Ballot – The Alternative View

4 Mar

So the PFEW ballot result is out: 42% turnout of which 81% voted “YES” (34% of total membership) and 19% voted “NO” (8% of total membership). Yet the majority of the membership (58%) decided NOT to vote.

What has been the media reaction?

“Police Fail to Vote for right to strike” – “Boost for Home Secretary … ” was The Guardian headline.

This headline is interestingly, but unsurprisingly “negative” in its wording. “Police Fail” will be in the subconscious of its readers.

The Daily Hate describes the ballot result and the fact that the attempt to change the law will be “abandoned” as “… a huge boost to the Government”.

The matter doesn’t even make the BBC or Skynews apps, as I write this at 8pm.

Here’s a couple of alternative headlines:

“Police Federation members vow to continue to protect the public in spite of savage Govt attacks on their pay, conditions of service and pensions”

“Govt claims that Police Federation is a militant ‘union’ destroyed by police vote to always protect the public”

“Govt shamed by police vote – in spite of disproportionate and savage cuts, police refuse to be goaded”

We all know these headlines would never make the national press. There isn’t a single mainstream media outlet that doesn’t persist in anti-police bias in its reporting. The Govt has done a very careful job of briefing against the police and vilifiying its members.

This media reporting, perhaps, illustrates WHY a majority of Federated Ranks declined to participate in the ballot.

It was discussed in an excellent blog by @NathanCostable at the beginning of the ballot process.

Many officers, I suspect, felt two things;

Firstly, even if a 99% turnout produced a 99% “YES” vote, NO government would give police officers the right to strike.

Secondly, a ‘YES” vote would be used against the police to portray them as militant, self-serving group and public support would diminish further. Whilst a “NO” vote would be used against them to suggest police supported Govt “reforms” and in fact PFEW were wrong to suggest police officers were angry about them.

I predict that the ballot results will be used against the police by this nasty Government and the mass media, for a long time to come.

I suspect many of the 58% simply didn’t want to give the Government any more ammunition and/or didn’t see the point of the ballot.

The PFEW Strike Ballot was described by @Tony_McNulty in a tweet as “a tactical dead end” – I am inclined to agree with him.

Meanwhile and ironically, on the same day, the PCS Union announced “strike action” on a 28% turnout with a 61% “Yes” vote.

There is much anger and disagreement amongst the Federated Ranks concerning the @PFEW_HQ threshold of 50% + 1 being required to vote “YES” in order to provide a mandate to seek a change in the law to allow Police to take “Industrial Action”.

On the face of it, most organisations would see a 42% turnout as a strong mandate. Much comment on my timeline has been made about Police and Crime Commissioners being elected on a 15% turnout.

This argument is a red- herring. Many commentators, including police ones, derided that turnout and pointed out that the PCC election showed that 85% of public clearly didn’t want a PCC.

The police can’t have it both ways. It seems to me that anyone who strongly believed in seeking “Industrial Rights” would be likely to vote. Therefore, those that didn’t vote, it seems to me, are likely to have disagreed with that position. Add that 58% to the 8% who voted “NO” and 66% didn’t wish to pursue “Industrial Rights”.

I support the JCC stance on the threshold. It can ONLY be seen as a sensible and considered approach to such an important issue. Even the Police Minister, Damien Green admitted that on TV. When did you last hear him say something positive about the police?

Now I know my stance will anger many who voted “YES”.

If I had still been a serving officer, I would NOT HAVE PARTICIPATED in the ballot for the reasons I outlined earlier.

That does NOT mean that I don’t care about policing, even now I am retired. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who didn’t vote are entitled to more respect than being dismissed as “apathetic”.

Those who voted YES” must NOT make that mistake about the 58% of their colleagues.

To do do would play into this Government’s hands. They would dearly love proloned PFEW in-fighting following the ballot. To do do would take our eyes off the ball.

For those of you too young to remember, this is what a Tory Govt achieved against the miners in 1984.

Miners were in dispute amongst themselves during and long after the strike. Strikers vs non-strikers vs those who returned to work at some point. All self-destructing whilst the Government dismantled the mining industry.

Whilst I am on that point, let me address the call from some for The Met to break from PFEW and ” go it alone”:

During my last couple of years service, it was clear at Fed meetings that The Met reps were becoming more militant than the rest. They were muting this “go it alone” stance even back then.

Now I don’t necessarily criticise them for that. I have huge respect for The Met. They work in very difficult conditions. After what I consider to be a successful 30 yr police career, I wonder if I could have “hacked it” in The Met.

They work in a more politicised scrutiny than the rest of us and face unique challenges and demands. Add that to massive cost of living issues and everlikely they are more militant.

However, I say to them, splitting police representation is EXACTLY what this nasty Government want. Look no further than the NUM and what happened with the breakaway miners union. Neither ended up having influence. Look at teachers with their 3 unions for rank and file teachers; unless they all take the same action, the effect is simply diluted.

It must also be remembered that 51% of The Met didn’t vote and 3% (of overall numbers) voted “NO” – so 54% of Met didn’t want industrial rights. Is that a mandate to breakaway?

The ballot was a result of a Met motion to Conference that was accepted as policy by the JCC. If my recollection is correct, the motion was to hold the ballot and have the results available by the next Conference in May. That, I suspect is why JCC couldn’t delay the ballot until the determination of the compulsory severance issue. Don’t think it a coincidence that T disMay delayed that until AFTER this next PFEW Conference.

So a bit of an own goal by the motion drafters that tied PFEW HQ hands.

Its all an unwanted mess.

If there HAD to be a ballot, then a multi-question one would have been worthwhile. Not just on industrial rights but on the whole Government policing agenda.

That way more may have participated and there could have been other headlines to give to the media about the Government’s dismantling of the Police Service.

If some bobbies think that the silver bullet to challenging this Government’s treatment of the police is to become more “militant” – look no further than the NUM. A once huge Union with Arthur Scargill perhaps one of the most militant union leaders.

I was a young bobby during The Miners Strike. My Division had 2 major pits and the next Division has 2 pits. After a long period of “industrial action” and a 12 month strike – where are the pits now? On my patch, 3 are housing/industrial estates and 1 is a museum.

What is required is not militancy but a clever, reasoned campaign to counter the spin and rhetoric of the Government and ACPO. An effective PR campaign to inform the public of the dangers and bring them with us. The only thing this Government IS bothered about is public reaction at the next ballot box in 2015. Lets start now!

So by all means, if you voted “YES” – BE ANGRY.

Not with your fellow officers who acted according to their own thoughts. The “NO s” and the “didn’t vote s” are just as angry as you are!

No, reserve your anger for the Supts Association and for ACPO who have abandoned you for their own agendas. During Sheehy the service stuck together and was more successful at fighting the Tory Government. This time round either silence or collusion with Government agenda was their strategy.

Most of all, reserve your anger for this nasty Government. Unite against them.

#NoIn-fighting
#KeepYourEyeOnCorrectBall

Most importantly #StaySafe

“To Engage (Peasants) or Not To Engage – That Is The Question”.

14 Feb

This is a companion blog – following on from my blog “Adverse Police Tweets – is it ACPOs Fault?” http://wp.me/p2jtgf-1C

As I stated, there ARE some ACPO & Superintending Ranks who DO engage effectively with their Federated Ranks, but sadly this seems a minority occurrence and a decreasing trend in The Police Service.

I will illustrate some personal cases of each:

As an Inspector, I was once transferred to a HQ department. I was OIC of that Force-business for half the County, my office and those of my half of the business being geographically located away from HQ. I had been in post for a couple of months when one day my phone rang;

“Morning Nige Supt here, will you be in your office in half an hour?”
“Morning Sir, Yes”
“Okay, I’ll see you there in half an hour”
Phone goes dead.

SHIT!” I thought to myself, “what IS the matter?”.

I racked my brains for any adverse events or results recently but couldn’t think of anything. A short notice ambush by a Superintendent – doesn’t look great!

This particular Supt had been in post for a long time. I did not know him well but he was now my Head of Dept. His reputation was for being fairly blunt, regarded by many as “a bit of a dinosaur”.

30 nerve-racking minutes later he breezed into my office;

“Hi Nige, you well?”
“Yes thanks Sir, coffee?”
“White one sugar thanks”

The niceties done & essentials delivered, I waited with bated breath;

“Everything OK Nige with the dept?”
“Yes I think so Sir” (thinking “Bombshell any moment”)

“Good. Just thought it useful to pop in, see if I can help with anything, see if there is anything you needed to discuss, business or personal”

We had a general chat on how I had settled in, the challenges of the post, the challenges of the department. He had come with NO AGENDA. A genuine 1-to-1 chance to engage!

After a short while the Supt. said “Good Oh, I’ll leave you too it, I know you’re busy. I’ll just pop in the offices on my way out. Cheerio”.

I later checked and he HAD gone into EVERY office – large or small, about 15 of them and spoke to everyone who was around. What’s more, there was no flak from it.

This was an irregular but frequent occurrence.

Sometime later, I returned from a period of Annual Leave to find the Supt. had paid another impromptu visit across my team while I was away. As a result of something one of the team told him, he authorised a change of procedure, on the spot. I learnt that he had only been told half a story and that his “revision” was in fact problematic. I was a bit angry with him to be honest but that didn’t last once I phoned him:

“Hi Nige, Good Leave?”
“Yes thank Sir, about when you came round while I was off ….”
“Ahh, I wasn’t told the full story then, just trying to offer support while you were away. If it’s a problem Nige, change it back – you know best!”

And so this continued, in addition to the management meetings & all the formal encounters. Did I feel valued? You bet I did!

Later, we had a new ACC who called a “no notice” meeting of all Divisional & Department Heads. The Supt phoned me:

“ACC has called all Dept Heads to a meeting this afternoon. You’d better come too Nige – bound to be things about our Dept that I don’t understand the intricacies of.”

I was the only Inspector in the HQ Conference room later that day. After the ACC had produced his agenda & presentation, it came to forming a Gold Room to oversee the operation. My Supt didn’t represent the Department, he sent me;

“No point me going Nige, you will be best to advise the ACC on the detail”.

When This Supt retired, I had another 7 years’ service to go. No Superintendent I worked for (and there were several) made me feel as valued as he did.

There ARE good ACPO ranks in this respect too.

I once was a “Presenting Officer” at a Civilian Discipline Tribunal involving one of my staff. The Tribunal was chaired by an ACC I had not previously had any dealings with (he was fairly new to our Force). At the conclusion and after a “Guilty” verdict, the person was given a Final Written Warning and surprisingly, returned to the same post.

As I drove back to the office, my mobile rang “private number” (Yes – hands free);

“Hello Nige, ACC here”

I was astounded, it must have been an effort for him to even get my mobile number!

“I just wanted to thank you for today. You did an excellent job, clearly put in a lot of preparation. Most just read the whole file to us and bore us to death. You picked out the essential elements very well.”
“Thanks Sir, very nice of you to say”
“I just wanted to explain why I decided to send him back to you because I suspect that may have surprised you ……”

I couldn’t fault his explanation. I felt truly valued that he took the trouble to phone me on both counts.

I later came to work under his portfolio and one day my phone rang.

“Hi Nige, ACC here. I’ve just sent you an e-mail about a matter one of our partners has written to me about. Can I come across this afternoon and discuss it? I know you’re busy but I need to respond to him quickly”

The ACC came to MY office, asked for MY advice and perspective.

“Thanks Nige. Could you put that in in an e-mail to me so I don’t lose anything in translation and discussion with him?”
“Of course Sir”.

Did I feel valued? You bet I did!

This stuff is worth more than certificates or even monetary reward. It warms the soul and motivates you because you are valued and listened to.

I know of one Chief Constable, who in addition to regular ground level visits by the Executive Team – has a “live” on-line forum every so often, where staff can login to the forum as themselves OR as ANON and post ‘live’ to the Exec Team. The Exec is all in one room and whoever is most appropriate, gives a ‘live’ on-line response. No filters, no advance questions – all ‘LIVE’ real-time engagement.

The stories above are ones of REAL engagement.

Not the plastic pseudo-engagement that is too often undertaken these days.

Not the sterile “corporate appearances” where attendance is filtered by management so that only “yes-men” or “the dis-interested” attend, to ensure that there is no boat-rocking.

Not the corporate on-line forums where no matter how valid or well written the point, the usual party-line is sent in reply weeks later.

No, these aren’t the sterile nonsense that too often masquerades as “management engagement”

You see, SOME bosses understand the value of engaging with the peasants – both for the value to the individuals but also as the best way to get accurate information and feedback.

The Police Service just needs more of it!

#BeSafe

Adverse Police Tweets – is it ACPOs Fault?

14 Feb

Another day, another Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) “Guideline Document” – this time on the use of Social Media (SM) by police officers, police staff, volunteers, contracted staff and agency workers.

Apparently, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has conducted a review of 1,588 officers active on social media sites, mainly Twitter. They found 357 instances of ‘potentially inappropriate behaviour’.

The posts included offensive language (132 instances); comments on police procedures (119); negativity towards work (70) and ‘extreme opinions on [the] Government’ (36).

To be fair, I have to question the investigative capability and competence of HMIC, if they could only find 70 tweets that were “negative towards work” and 36 tweets with “extreme opinions” of this Government. In the light of the last 3 years, I’m amazed it’s not massively more!

So if we take “comments on police procedures” with “negativity towards work” and “extreme opinions on Government” – we get a total of 225 tweets that HMIC “didn’t like” – (I think I can safely assume that the tweets on police procedures/opinions of Government – weren’t PRAISE). I can’t really form a view on “offensive language” without them being more specific. I find the language of ACPO frequently “offensive”, particularly when I hear them trying to fool the public.

If all of the 357 tweets were made by different officers, that’s 22% of officers tweeting “inappropriately”. Of course it’s more likely that each tweet did not have a unique source. Unfortunately, I cannot find reference to how many actual tweets these 1,588 officers made. Suffice to say, I think, that it was a tiny, tiny minority of total “tweeting” that was not to HMIC’s likening.

So ACPO have produced a 10 page document detailing how police should behave in respect of the internet and social media. How proportionate!

I have read it completely 3 times. Much of it restates the Police Conduct Regs, The Data Protection Act/Information Commissioner’s Office info. It reminds police officers that they are subject to Police Conduct Regulations even when off duty

To be fair, it does give some sensible advice on the dangers of the internet in general but unless there are police officers who have lived exclusively in a cave over recent years, there is nothing within it that should be “news” to police officers.

It emphasises that police officer must not “bring discredit on the police service” but does nothing to enlighten officers on what may or may not breach this wide and woolly phrase, particularly in respect of “tweeting”.

Who decides if a tweet is “likely to bring discredit on the police service”? Why ACPO of course, in a Discipline Tribunal. So if they “don’t like it” I suggest they will find it “likely to bring discredit on the police service – on or off duty conduct which affects public confidence”. As the saying goes “They don’t like it up ‘em Captain Mainwareing”

I particularly like the emphasis, in bold type;

“Police officers and staff are advised not to make adverse comment regarding their police force, colleagues or senior managers, or the police service in general on the Internet or social media and are advised to make use of Internal facilities to vent any such comments”

The document advises that;
“It is recommended that police forces provide officers and staff with a method of communicating adverse comment, dissatisfaction or frustration in relation to organisational matters for the attention of senior management. Such facilities may include internal forums or chat rooms hosted on force intranets”

So everything is fine and dandy then! – or, is it ACPO’s FAULT that officers make these so called “adverse tweets”?

What happens if Forces DON’T provide such facilities?

What happens if Forces provide token facilities but always disregard criticism and other constructive comment from Federated ranks (PC, Sgt, Insp, C/Insp)?

What happens if officers feel that no one in authority in their Force is LISTENING?

Over the last 3 years or so, police officers have endured an onslaught in their pay, conditions of service, pensions and general respect for the role they play in society. More than I can remember in my entire 30 year’s service.

You might think that in such circumstances, the Executive officers of the Police Service – ACPO – would be standing up for their officers, showing support and rebuffing the many inaccurate reports and spin in the media, from media outlets themselves and from the Government. Not a bit of it! SILENCE! – except for a few remarks from ACPO members who had already announced their retirement. That only changed when plans were unveiled to replace THEIR jobs by direct entry Foreign Nationals.

I commented about this in my blog “Sore Throats Find a Voice Over Police Direct Entry Plans” http://wp.me/p2jtgf-1k

I have listened, watched and read, with considerable dismay, the many ACPO appearances, re-spinning the Government lie that 20% cuts in police budgets can be achieved by “efficiencies” and that “the public won’t get a poorer service”. My #BullshitAlert has been in danger of requiring replacement due to over-use.

The Superintending ranks are also culpable in these respects, for the same reasons.

Not only do I know that this spin is rubbish from my own knowledge and experience but this is confirmed by every “real” bobby I bump into or converse with on social media. They all have a tale to tell that says the opposite.

Frankly, Rank and File police officers feel abandoned by ACPO and by their Superintendents. It was recemtly left to Independent Warwickshire Police & Crime Commissioner Ron Ball to defend police officers & suggest that The Prime Minister “Hugs a Constable” http://urly.it/1l64 My timeline was awash with officers shouting that this was what ACPO should have been saying.

That, together with the restrictions on their lives, imposed by Police Regulations, explains the high number of anonymous police tweeters and the high number of “adverse tweets” I see.

There ARE some members of ACPO (and Supts Assoc.) who DO engage productively with their staff on the bottom rungs, this is the expanded upon in my companion blog “To Engage (Peasants) or Not To Engage – That Is The Question” http://wp.me/p2jtgf-1L

But sadly, overall, this is a minority occurrence and a reducing trend as ambitions take over to reach the next rung of the greasy ladder.

Finally, back to “bringing discredit on the Police Service”.

If a police officer TRUTHFULLY tweets about;

How few officers are available to cover their area

How urgent assistance is at least 20 minutes away

How the “thin blue line” is rapidly declining to become the “thin blue speck”

How their managers and executive officers do not seem to care about them

How they are sent to potentially dangerous incidents as a single-crewed patrol

That their equipment and vehicles are poor

Is this REALLY worthy of disciplinary action against them? Is this what the legislators REALLY meant in drafting the Police Conduct Regs?

If public confidence is reduced as a result of them learning the TRUTH about policing in their area, rather than the management spin in the papers or on TV – is this REALLY “discreditable conduct”

Expect an increase in anonymous and spoof Twitter accounts. Expect an increase in tweets that don’t align with the current party line.

If ACPO (or Supts Assoc) don’t like this, then I suggest they look INWARDS for the “cause and effect”.

Stand up for the service; don’t spin the public; challenge Govt mis-information, challenge media inaccuracy; support and genuinely listen to your Federated ranks.

If this is done, there will be NO NEED for “adverse tweets”.

It’s in THEIR OWN hands – so don’t shoot the messengers!

#BeSafe