Wow, so where do I start?
I haven’t actually logged in to this blogging website for quite some time, two years in fact but I logged in to it this evening and read a couple of my previous posts (the most recent one being from Nov 2012), straight away I realised that I’ve missed writing these blogs, I really enjoy it and for a multitude of reasons I’ve been incredibly lazy and not continued with it, I’m actually annoyed at myself about it too if I’m honest. A lot has happened for me personally since my last post but the biggest thing is that my wife and I started a family, with my wife giving birth to our first child and as some of you may know, this can be incredibly time consuming (although 100% worth it) but also more recently, a few weeks ago I left my old police force and I am now a fully fledged ‘county mounty’ (as they call them in the Met), so it’s still very early days yet.
Anyway, back to the reason for this blog, when scrolling through Twitter a few days ago, I was asked to retweet something by that guy we all love, Mike Pannet. It was an article about Tom Winsor and how he says that demand for policing has gone down. As you can imagine my blood pressure started to rise quite considerably. After about 20 minutes when I’d calmed down a little bit, I thought, maybe this would be a good time to get back in to blogging and here I am before you.
For a lot of you reading this blog it’ll be your first time as since my last post I’ve gained a lot of new followers so here’s a bit of a heads up, I don’t profess to be an English graduate or a wordsmith like some of my blogging colleagues, I’m just an everyday, average guy who lives in the real world, who’s a copper that likes to deploy common sense every now & again and someone who likes to write about it, so I hope you won’t be disappointed if this doesn’t read like a J K Rowling book!
Back to the news article, you can read it here. ‘Sir’ Tom Winsor says:
“There will inevitably be a time where they can’t take any more but let us remember that measured crime has fallen dramatically – but so have the demands made on the police.”
Words fail me, he must be the only person in the country (well, maybe one of two people) who think the demands on us have fallen. I would like to see the research he carried out to come to that conclusion. Figures may say that measured crime has fallen, that may be true, it may also be wrong, as statistics can be manipulated to say whatever you want them to. I don’t know what the truth is there but one thing I can comment on is the demand faced by police officers. In my view and that of a lot of people I speak to, is demand has and is still increasing.
There seems to be conflict in what the public and what the government would like their police to deal with. On one hand we have the Home Secretary who famously said that our mission was to ‘cut crime, no more, no less’. On the other hand our communication rooms are at bursting point taking calls for people suffering mental health problems, people arguing over remote controls, road traffic collisions, missing persons and concerns for welfare to name just a few issues, who obviously want us to do a little more than dealing with crime. None of these involve crime however it’s the bulk of what we deal with and demand for these types of calls as far as I can see in day-to-day policing has increased. Maybe some people reading this who are police officers could correct if I’m wrong here, I’d love to hear the views of other officers around the country. I believe you’ll get a far better picture of what’s happening ‘on the ground’ from people who work ‘on the ground’ rather than from someone who’s read a report and wouldn’t know what the ground was if he landed on it after a fall from a tall building!
Just to expand a bit on what I’ve just said, I feel like dealing with crime takes up less of my working day than dealing with all the other non-crime issues, for example, sorting out peoples domestic arguments because they can’t sort them out for themselves or attending a concern for welfare on behalf of Social Services because they can’t do it themselves for whatever reason. One of the biggest drain on our resources is mental health, at a very rough guess, I’d estimate that around a half of the calls I go to involve mental health of a varying degree, which in my opinion usually shouldn’t be dealt with by police, it is a medical concern and should be dealt with by properly trained mental health staff (unless that person is violent etc… then it is our job). Personally I have no issue dealing with mental health, after all, I joined this job to help people and I feel I can actually make a difference to their lives, I’m just saying it’s not really a matter for the police.
Very simply, I think demand has increased, I could be wrong and it may have stayed exactly the same, either way, I’m more busy now than I was a number of years ago. One of the causes for this may be because there is a lot less of us dealing with same amount of stuff as before. I’ll give you an example, the new response team that I work on currently has 4 officers, it should have 8 but there aren’t enough officers to go round anymore.
I hear lots about police having to work more effectively or as Sir TW puts it, ‘work smarter’. That may be true but I think there is one incredibly easy way for the police to reduce the ever increasing demand on us;
LEARN TO SAY NO.
You heard it here first folks, if we learn to say no we’ll significantly reduce the pressure on call handlers, on radio despatchers and on police officers/PCSO’s, freeing us up to deal with police issues. I couldn’t tell you how many jobs we go to where it doesn’t require a police response. Last week we received a call from an NHS walk-in centre saying that there was a male stood outside their front doors showing signs of MH and saying that he wanted to kill himself. Firstly I questioned why police, and not an ambulance were going, I didn’t get a straight answer, secondly I questioned why the medically trained staff on the other side of those doors weren’t outside speaking to him, again I didn’t get an answer and had to go to the call. The result was that there was no trace of the male as by the time I made my way there from the other side of the patch he’d walked off, which the NHS staff who were watching him from their window were obviously happy to let him do.
The amount of calls we get from Social Services asking to check on the welfare of some children they have concerns about is also on the rise too, I might be mistaken but isn’t that their job? Why are we doing that? Maybe we should start to say no to these requests and put the responsibility back to them rather than us saying ‘oh yeah of course we’ll do that for you’. We seem to be being treated as the slaves of society as everyone knows we can’t say no and we’re the only service whose 24/7 coverage means we can always get something done. I don’t mean to single out Social Services by the way, who often do a great job and I would guess are suffering from the same constraints as us. We attend so many calls on behalf of others which aren’t really anything to do with police but we do it because people abuse our inability to say no, and they know that if anything goes wrong we’re scared of our own shadow and we don’t want to be seen as having said no, (cynical I know).
Another thing I’d to cover from the Sir TW article is this quote:
“Nobody would argue that shoplifting is as serious as a violent assault and therefore the police need to look for the crimes that matter most to people, that do greatest harms to communities – serious and organised crime, drugs, violent offences, the grooming and sexual exploitation of children,”
I think this speaks for itself, so he wants us to spend less time dealing with the ‘less important’ crimes such as shoplifting. How does that work then? We tell the shops when they call us they we don’t deal with it anymore? That’ll go down well. So next time I get called to a shoplifter I’ll be able to say ‘Sorry comms, I’m not going to that, Sir TW wants me to look for a crime that does greater harm to the community than shoplifting’ I think I know what response I’ll get to that!
Something that has really taken me by surprise recently is how more and more senior officers are standing up and talking about the demands on policing and how budget cuts are affecting our ability to protect our communities. I read a great article where the CC of Lincs Neil Rhodes (@CC_Lincs) said they would effectively ‘go out of business’ (you can read it here ). Sir Hogan-Howe from the Met recently wrote about it, and I read some great tweets a few days ago by ACC Ian Wiggett (@ACCIanWiggett) from GMP who was speaking about the demands on policing. I also read a month or two ago about ACC Paul Netherton(@ACC_Operations) from D&C who tweeted about a 16 year old girl suffering from mental health issues being held in custody and how there was no beds in the UK (great use of the hashtag by the way Sir) and wouldn’t you believe it, not long later a bed was found for her! Until recently I’ve seen very few senior officers speaking publicly like it, and trust me when I say, us troops ‘on the ground’ don’t always feel supported by the upper echelons but when this happens we get that glimmer of hope that makes makes us realise, oh maybe they haven’t buried their hand in the sand! I have a lot of time for senior officers who speak out publicly!
I feel I’ve ranted and blabbed on enough for my first post back, but I leave you with one final question to think about;
Does the New Years honour list have any credibility any more?
Stay Safe folks.