I’ve been reading a lot in the media recently about the police use of stop and search, I’m not sure what sort impression people are getting but as always, I thought I’d address a few points as I see them. You may or may not agree with them, and if you have a counter point, please share it with me, you never know you might enlighten me and change my mind. Just to be clear I’m not talking about Section 60 CJPOA searches on this blog.
I think the first thing to say is that contrary to popular belief the police do not just randomly pick a member of the public to search them, I wasn’t a police officer in the 70’s or 80’s so I can’t comment on what things were like, I can only go on what I’ve been told and since those times things are done very very differently!
Before I get into the nitty-gritty bits, as I did with my taser blog I’ll start by explaining a stop and search so that those of you who have never been searched understand the process.
In order for an officer to search someone, we must have grounds, or a justification for the search, this doesn’t mean simply that a person looks ‘suspicious’ or an officer just gets a gut feeling. Some of you would be forgiven for thinking that if an officer recognises someone to be a well known local drug dealer or a prolific local burglar then we can search them, but that’s not the case, that may add to the grounds but that in itself is not enough. A few examples of the kinds of things that officers might be that a person matched the description given by a member of the public, someone who is clearly trying avoid police, a strong smell of cannabis on a person, an individual been seen trying to conceal something about their person, they are in a well known high crime area, trying to avoid answering certain questions, seen walking in and out of gardens in an area that they can’t explain why they’re there etc…. This list isn’t exhaustive and there usually has to be more than one reason. There could be many reasons giving an officer a reason to search, but the main point here is, just like with use of force, an officer has to justify their reasons and that officer is fully accountable for why they are searching someone.
Before a search takes place an officer has to explain a number of things, this is commonly referred to as GOWISELY (does not have to be said in this order).
G – Grounds for the search
O – The object that the officer is looking for
W – Show their warrant card (only if not in uniform)
I – The officer has to identify themselves, telling the individual their name
S – Station to which the officer is attached
E – Entitlement to a copy of the stop and search form
L – The legal power in which to search (i.e. Section 23 Misuse of drugs act, Section 1 PACE)
Y – Tell them ‘You are now detained for a search’
Once all this has been a done the search can take place, and even though officers can only search a persons outer layers, it is possible for a strip search if you have reason to believe a person may be concealing something beneath this (not done in public obviously). A stop and search form is then completed with all the details of the search, including the officers name and the reason for the search. It is then handed to the person, along with separate bit of paper detailing how a person may complain to the police if they want to.
The phrase ‘you’re more likely to be searched if you’re black’ needs to be given some perspective. If the police are in an area where predominantly black youths, or Asian youths or anyone from an ethnic minority hang around on the streets or on an estate, then of course if the police are there for a particular reason, they are more likely to be searched. Certainly where I work you are far less likely to see groups of white teenagers congregating in some of the estate stairwells than other ethnic groups, this is simply because of the diverse culture we live in and less white people live in that particular area. This goes back to something I saw on twitter the other day where apparently you’re more likely to be tasered if you’re from an ethnic minority…we can’t then start tasering (or searching in this case) other people just to balance up the figures!
It’s really important to remember that statistics can be manipulated to say whatever someone wants, if you take this country as a whole then this phrase probably isn’t true for someone who lives in Cornwall or some of the counties, but in south east London and some parts of east London where the population is a lot more diverse then it may be true. For that phrase to mean anything you need to look at the make-up of the population in a particular area and not only colour but it also needs to broken down into age groups. Without that it’s just another meaningless statistic that can be banded about and cause unnecessary tension against the police.
If police are stop and searching the wrong people or searching people unnecessarily then why aren’t more complaints substantiated? Surely if that many searches were resented and complaints were made where the officers were found to be wrong then wouldn’t we have heard about it? That to me suggests that people may argue on the street about why they are being stop and searched, but it’s not because the police aren’t justified, but because people just simply don’t like being stop and searched! I saw a comment on twitter (sorry I can’t find the link) that a kid said he didn’t like being stop and searched because the police keep confiscating his knives, I think that says it all really.
I’ve seen a few comments about how the riots were a response to the police use of stop and search, I honestly believe that it’s all too easy to say part of the cause was down to stop and search, surely this was just mindless vandalism and rioting, are they honestly saying that as they were smashing in to JD to pick up some new trainers the looters were thinking ‘this’ll teach the police for searching me’? I don’t think so, but this a whole separate discussion.
I completely agree that individual officers don’t always explain themselves properly and this often winds up members of the public, I’ve witnessed that myself and had to step in and calm the situation down. I freely admit that a few police officers don’t know how to talk to people and their communication skills are shocking but somehow they managed to get into the job, I think it’s these officers that need to be careful with stop and search. Often taking the time to explain the reasons does help people who don’t agree with it to understand, as @MattDelito’s blog explains. I’ve frequently found this to be the case, that when someone objects initially once it’s been explained from our point of view then they understand. Luckily, I seem to have been pretty good so far at talking to people and by the end of most searches people tend to accept my reasons and agree they probably would have done the same thing in my shoes but there are also people who just won’t listen no matter what you are trying to say and won’t agree with you simply because you are the police and they hate the police.
Something else I’ve been wondering, has anyone asked all these people why they don’t like stop and search? I don’t understand the reason for just saying ‘I don’t like being searched’. I agree, it is a very personal thing, and can be an invasion of privacy, but I don’t know about you, if it meant that the police were out there catching robbers, burglars and drug dealers (who are the real scum of our society and who really bring down our communities) I don’t mind being searched, after all, if I matched the description of a local robber I’d hope to be searched so the police might catch that person who’s robbed ten people in the past week. If the problem is with how they are being searched then I fully agree with them and this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately and rectified.
Certainly part of the discussion that we need to be having is not WHO is being stop and searched but WHY, if the same person is stop and searched three times in the same week, we should be asking ourselves, bearing in mind the search criteria, what is this person doing to be searched so much? In addition to this as @Peter_Kirkham just tweeted, ‘its not always (often) the WHAT but the HOW it is done!’
It’s very obvious that stop and search is needed and is a vital tool for police to combat crime. It’s something that we must not abuse, it’s too easy to forget that although it may be the tenth person that you’re searching that shift it could be their first encounter with the police and that will be their lasting impression of the police. Without proactive policing and intelligence led policing we will only become reactive, which would be a terrible thing for the police. Stop and search is something we must not lose the ability to do!
Quick question, if stop and search was to be abolished, how would you deal with the following scenario?
Police receive a call from a member of the local community stating that they’ve seen a fight take place and there is a male (they give a full description) carrying a knife in his trousers. You then go to the area and see the described male.
Without stop and search police wouldn’t be able to do anything about that individual carrying a knife.
To sum up, I believe the most important issues we need to be looking at with regards to stop and search is not who is being searched, but why and how people are being searched. There could be underlying causes in some of our communities which need addressing, just one example could be down to unemployment, meaning some youths could be hanging around in gangs and on the street a lot more, which may or may not lead to more criminal behaviour (or anti-social behaviour at least). There are many socio-economic factors that could eventually lead down this path, and I think our society and communities need to be looked at a lot more to help address some of these issues before going straight to attacking stop and search.
Finally, although I’ve tried to give a balanced view (I hope I have), we as police officers need to remember Stop and Search needs to be done right EVERYTIME, even if we have grounds and the search is legitimate, manners cost nothing! There’s nothing wrong with being professional and courteous that way people will have no cause for incivility complaints and they are a lot more likely to cooperate with us and respect the job that we’re doing. Anyone not being polite and respectful is just giving the rest of us a bad name and making the job that much harder to do.
This isn’t really a blog post, this is actually a response to Sophie Khans article on The Solicitors Journal, so before you read this please read her article here first otherwise it won’t make any sense: http://bit.ly/uS9IvA
I do apologise for posting it on here instead of a comment on the article, but I tried 3 times to add comment and it wouldn’t let me, so this was the next best thing.
Once you’ve read Sophie’s article and then my reposnse I’d be really appreciative if you could comment, especially if you’re not in the police as I’d like to know what peoples feelings are on the matter.
I thought that I would write a lengthy comment on this article as there are a few things need addressing and a few things that need to be put into perspective a little bit. I’ll attempt to work my way thought paragraph at a time, a sort of critique if you will.
Firstly ‘backdoor militarisation of our unarmed police force’, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Lets put this into perspective, what we are talking about is equipping a modern day, 21st century police service with a modern day, 21st century piece of personal protective equipment. I’m not going to go round in circles as I’ve said much of this before, you can all read my blog on what Taser is really about. Taser is not a weapon that kills when it is used correctly, it is one of the most effective ways to protect police officers and members of the public in dangerous situations.
‘Those arrested will be routinely subjected to 50,000 volts of electric shock.’ What kind of wild acqusation is this? Sophie, are you suggesting that when arresting, officers are just going to taser people unnecessarily? I go back to my previous comment that it is only used in dangerous situations where it is needed to protect lives.
Of course there is going to be a rise in the number of taser deployments, if it is becoming more widely available then it will be used more. If I’m correct then these statistics also include where a Taser was used in ‘red-dotting’ situations and the barbs were not actually deployed, hence no-one actualy being shot.These statistics also do not take into account how many less people were hit with a baton (essentially a metal bar), and how many less people were CS’d because Taser was a much safer option in the circumstances. They also do not account for how many extra officers have been issued with a Taser, so even though you say there has been a 130% increase in the use of Taser, how do you know that there hasn’t been a 500% increase in the number of officers carrying a Taser? So there would be a disproportionate number of uses compared to the amount of officers.
You quite rightly quote ACPO’s guidelines for when a Taser should deployed, ‘when officers would be facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject’, now form what I’ve seen of your opinion you seem to think that this scenario is very rare indeed. I can actually tell you that I find myself in that position at least a few times a week, multiply that by the thousands of police officers and it is very common place. I can say with confidence that the only reason we do not use a taser in many of these situations at the moment is because we don’t have one, we just have to make do with the inadequte baton, or dangerous CS spray (see my blog again for why it is dangerous).
You go on to talk about torture and how ‘he intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering on another in the performance or purported performance of his official duties’, now I agree that could apply to a taser, but what do you think happens when I hit someone with my baton, I am intentionally trying to inflict pain to them, and when you CS someone it is intentionally causing them suffering, so this argument is completely pointless because our current uses of forces fall into this category and a taser is no different.
There should never EVER be a definitive list of circumstances in which taser can be deployed. It should be exactly the same as all other uses of forces and it is down to an individual officer to justify his/her actions. It is not for someone else to say what situations it can be used in, as there is no definitive list of situations that an officer could find themselves in, anything can happen at a call! I see you start talking about Human Rights, I’m surprised though because you forget to mention some other articles that might apply, a persons right to life, would you not agree that officers who have fight with a knife wielding man deserve some level of protection? I would be quite confident in saying that if an officer was stabbed and died, the family would have a very good case under This article that should they have been equipped with a taser they would not have died.
Moving on to ‘fatal consequences’ in both the examples you gave over people sadly being killed after being exposed to taser, they were exposed to extended shocks i.e more than 30 seconds, and the main fact is that this was in the USA. In our country, the training and style of policing is dramatically different, so it is very naïve of you to compare our use of taser with that of our american counterparts. As far as I’m aware, in the 8 years that taser has been used in this country there is not one single report of someone dying as a direct result of a taser, there maybe secondary injuries, i.e. falling over and banging their head, but no-one has died as a result of the electric current, do you agree?.
I would argue that it is not worrying that the home office have labelled it a ‘tool that protects the public’, you’re very quick to run to the statistics about how it’s use has increased, but you don’t talk about how many lives that the increase may have saved. Yes there maybe a 130% increase in it’s use, but it may have saved 130% more lives, and it’s still important to note that of that 130% increase, we have not been made aware of anyone dying! Can you share the evidence that shows that ‘in the past year tasers have been used on the eldery and on children’? You cannot judge tasers use in these situations because you do not know the indivdual circumstances in which it is used. You also fail to mention that just like any use of force that the police use, it has to be justified under law, either common law, section 3 criminal law act, or section 117 PACE, just because an officer is given a taser it does not mean that they are allowed to randomly taser people. I would also suggest that in the current climate where people like yourself exist, i.e. people who specialise in sueing the police, officers are a lot more careful and hesitant with using force for the fear of being sued and potentially losing their job and in the worst cases going to prison.
I’ve also heard you mention training, lets not forget that officers still have to meet the required standard as set out by ACPO, and if an officer fails to meet the required standard then they are not given a taser. Also, it does not matter whether you are on TSG or on a response team or a safer neighbourhood officer, if you attend the ACPO training and you successfully complete the course, you then become highly trained and proficient in it’s use!
I really hope that you do not find yourself in a situation where you are being held at knife point or someone is threatening to use a syringe of their own infected blood against you, and when the officers arrive to protect you and attempt to save your life they can’t act quickly enough because they have 20 minutes for a ‘specially trained unit’ to arrive with a taser.
I’d just like to finish with a question, I wonder how you would deal with this situation without a taser… Police receive a call from an ambulance crew that they are at the scene of a suicidal male who has already slashed his own wrists, is very drunk and he is now refusing to go to hospital, all the while still saying that he wants to kill himself. Police arrive at the address and the male is sitting on his sofa saying he wants to end his life, his address is a third floor flat and his sofa is right next to the door that leads out onto the balcony, and cannot be locked because you don’t know where the key is. Physically he is about 6 feet 4inches, and very well built, he’s about twice the size of the two officers there (meaning a physical fight is out of the question), you spend about 45 minutes talking to him trying to convince him that he doesn’t want to hurt himself and going to hospital is the best possible option. He starts to become more agitated and aggressive and communication is just breaking down, now remember you have to consider that he is inside his own flat, we’ve never been there before so we don’t know where he keeps his knives and where he keeps his razor blades, but he does! All of a sudden he loses it, he starts looking at the 3rd floor balcony and then at the kitchen (which is full of knives). What would your thought process be?
I’ll help you out a little, as I said we can’t physically fight him because he would certainly over power us, CS isn’t an option because we know from previous experience that it incapacatates us both instantly and we don’t know if it would even affect him (plus the ambulance crew are in the small room). That leaves the only option to be our batons, but he’s still drunk (numbing his senses), and very big so a baton might not have any effect at all. So what do you do now? I know that if I had a taser it would be a tactical option to consider, to prevent him from taking his own life and assaulting us in the process, but now I have to call another unit who is taser trained and this could take 20 minutes, by this time he probably would have jumped off the balcony having managed to overpower us officers.
This is a real life situation (although we actually eventually managed to calm him down and he voluntarily walked to the ambulance, but it could have just easily gone the other way.) I agree this might not be the perfect example and there are issues surrounding using a taser on mental health patients, but if it prevents him from jumping from the 3rd floor and trying to kill himself it’s certainly worth considering!
I’d appreciate it of you could reply to this comment with your thoughts.
Paperwork is a real issue for many of us, on the police shows like ‘Road Wars’ you don’t see all the paperwork that the officers have to complete, they only ever show the car pursuit followed by the foot chase, and then the suspect being nicked, chances are they will then have about 2-3 hours worth of work after that, which I bet a lot of it is needless. The government have been saying for a while that they are cutting police paperwork, I’ve not seen a single shred of evidence to back that up, infact I’d say we have to do more now than ever before for the simple fact of CYA. CYA means ‘Cover your Arse’, due to the blame culture we live in, everything we do now we have to cover our arse to make sure that in the future it can’t come back to bite us, which is fair enough, I understand we all have to be accountable but I’d like the home sec to show me where they have cut down our paperwork.
I’ll give you one example where the cuts have led to hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours where police officers could be on the streets but they’re not….
Where I work it is force policy that officers have to handwrite our statements, (not statements from the public, just our own ones). A few people have spent months typing statements instead of handwriting them, and they have never had any come back in court as to why they didn’t handwrite them, but nevertheless, we were told this week that if we don’t handwrite them it will be a disciplinary matter. I’ve never understood the reason for this.
Due to the fact that the typing unit are short staffed and overworked, we then have to type and print our statement straight away to put in the case file, I can only imagine that this is because people can’t read our handwriting. I’m not a fast writer and I write a lot in my notes, so an arrest book can easily take me over an hour to handwrite, I then have to type it straight up which could take a further 30 minutes, meanwhile if I had typed my statement in the first place it would have taken me less than 30 minutes because I can type a hec of a lot faster than I can write. In this digital age I’m sure there is software than can digitally time stamp the statement on the computer so it can’t be altered after, so why can’t we use that? This would save well over an hours worth of work, and scale that up to how many officers do it, and how many more hours officers would be able to be out on the streets, surely it’s common sense to implement a process to allow it? I’ve been to court a fair few times, and I’ve never been shown my original hand written notes, they’ve always given me the typed version of my statement, so where is the original? This whole issue really annoys every officer, and is a huge waste of police time, simple things like this will help morale and boost our confidence in ‘the job’, which will make us a lot more productive and as the government want, you will end up getting more for less!
I’ve also been reading that soon all our hand over files will be electronic and we will not have any paperwork files for the CPS (this might mean paperwork will stop getting lost), so what’s going to happen to all our handwritten notes then? Maybe someone reading this can enlighten me as to if there is a genuine reason why we have to handwrite statements that I am unaware about?
Sorry I forgot to add, it’s important that an arresting makes ‘notes at scene’ which the officer should make at the time of arrest which he can refer to when making the full statement later on when back at the station. In my force we use a small book called an EAB (evidence and actions book) which is what we hand write our statement in, and it has many sections to it including one for ‘notes at scene’, in addition to the above, I don’t know why we can’t just use our pocket note books to record the notes at scene, as this is always carried with us and taken to court with us, it would also prevent the CPS from losing the EAB’s which has happened on occasion. This is would also save untold amounts of paper, an EAB is about 40 pages long, 8 of which are for the actual witness statement, so in most cases when filling one out, there is about 25-30 pages that aren’t used, so it’s just wasting paper and ink!
I can remember on my very first day at training school I stood, along with about 300 others in front of a local Magistrate and took an oath, a few words that changed my life forever. When someone takes the oath of attestation to become a police officer I think people forget exactly what it entails. Being a police officer is not just a day job, it’s something that I have to think about 24/7; when I’m out with my fiancé, when I’m on nights out with mates and even when I’m just shopping in Tesco, it’s not something that I can just say ‘I’m off duty now so I’m not interested’. As police officers we are duty bound to always step in where necessary and this has led to me having to sacrifice a lot for the job. I’ve missed out on a weddings, stag do’s, family birthdays, the list is endless and I’m sure officers, along with other emergency services and armed services personnel all over the world go through the same thing.
When taking the oath I swore to do my best to prevent all offences against people and property, this is something that I take pretty seriously. By taking this oath it doesn’t just mean for members of the public, it includes everyone, including my fellow officers, so when someone gets injured unnecessarily and we find out that it could have been prevented it angers me. What also angers me is when people stand up in the media and talk down our job when they do not know the facts about what we actually do and what we have to contend with in our days at work. As you may have guessed by now what I’m going to discuss in this blog is the use of Taser by the police.
I’ve not really kept it much of a secret but I’m in the Metropolitan Police, apparently one of the best and most enviable police forces (sorry, we’re not a force we’re now a service) in the world. Contrary to popular belief, in the Met our accessibility to Taser is very limited. According to the media we have approximately 3000 ‘highly trained’ officers who have the ability to deploy Taser, these officers are members of CO19 (Armed response officers) or our Territorial Support Group, they are Pan-London resources so could be patrolling a different area maybe three or four boroughs away. These officers do not routinely attend 999 calls like response teams. There are exceptions to this of course, i.e. for firearms calls or public order incidents when they will be deployed from the start, but generally we have to request them if they are not patrolling our borough. Something to remember with response teams is we are the officers that are always walking in to the unknown, every time we walk inside an address or we speak to someone in the street, it is a complete unknown risk and anything could happen at any second. We very very rarely attend incidents that are pre-planned and therefore we never know what we’re going into.
Even though certain parts of the media claim that Taser is readily available to us on response teams I would like to tell you the process of how we actually go about getting the resource and how the current system could result in a delay that WILL cost someone their life eventually. I will then back this up by calls that I have dealt with.
When the police receive a 999 call it gets routed through ‘Metcall’, which is our force communications room, this can take a number of minutes to obtain the necessary details and despatch the call over the radio, when a unit is assigned it could take anywhere up to 20 minutes to arrive at the scene. I work on a small borough so we can get most places in the borough in less that 10 minutes, however I’ve been told by colleagues on large outer boroughs that it can take them over 20 minutes on a blue light run to get from one side of the borough to the other. Once a unit arrives at the scene something could then happen spontaneously where they may then decide that a Taser is needed. This could take anywhere up to another 15-20 minutes for a Taser capable unit to arrive (although I will share a recent incident I dealt with where it took 45 minutes for them to arrive), so by now we could be anywhere over 30 minutes into the call before one has arrived. Due to the nature of what we deal with and the spontaneity of what we deal with, time is a luxury that we cannot afford. Things can happen in an instant and we need to be resilient enough to deal with them as they happen. I am not blaming these units for taking so long to arrive, this is not their fault, they do a great job, my problem is with the current policy.
I’d like to share a few incidents that I have dealt with lately where it has been pure luck that no one was killed and Taser would have been the best tactical option.
A few months ago when we received a call to a knifepoint at 7am on a weekday morning, I was in our unmarked car in plain clothes and was sent to keep observations on the suspect. CCTV was also following him and had already been seen with a large kitchen knife in his hand. He was walking up and down the road and past ordinary members of the public. Luckily he didn’t approach anyone else but we had to wait for the arrival of taser officers. As they came flying around the corner about 10 minutes later sure enough he started to make off on his bike so they gave chase and he was Tasered and arrested. That was 10 minutes when he could have approached an innocent member of the public and presented the knife, just think that could have been you on your way to work at 7am! If response teams were equipped with Taser he could have been detained straight away preventing that delay of 10 minutes, I would say this is very lucky that it didn’t end a different way someone being seriously injured.
Last week I was working off-borough on a carrier with 7 other officers conducting patrols when a call came out to a man in a shop armed with a broken bottle trying to attack the staff. When we arrived there he was inside with a broken bottle neck in his hand and slashing at his own arms. He was suffering from some mental health problems, but he clearly posed a serious danger to himself and to members of the public. The staff were hiding in a room at the back and the male was at the front of the shop. He would not talk to us and was trying to get out into the street; obviously we couldn’t let this happen, as it was a busy main road with lots of people around. All of a sudden he ran out the back, unbeknown to us the staff had managed to escape through a back door at that point but we thought he was running to attack them. We chased after him; we all had short shields (although the sergeant and I were the only actual level 2 public order officers on the carrier and we weren’t kitted up). He ran into a small toilet where we managed to contain him. By this point we had requested officers from the TSG to attend with a Taser. I won’t get into the finer details of it, but we kept him contained in this room whilst we waited for TSG to arrive, this took 45 minutes!! The man was detained safely and arrested after an hour of us being there, and yes he was Tasered. I think we were extremely lucky that no members of the public, police officers or the male himself were seriously injured. If we had been equipped with Taser it would have been dealt with in less than 5 minutes and there wouldn’t have been 55 minutes where someone could have potentially been killed.
It was only last night that my colleague and I were on patrol around the borough when a call came in from a member of the public stating that they could see a male holding a 10 inch kitchen knife and standing in the street. We were sent to an RVP (rendezvous point), whilst a plain-clothes unit drove past, we waited at the RVP for about 10 minutes when it came out over the radio that the male had put the knife down and walked towards the officers so he was detained by them. I went and saw this knife and it was massive, without doubt it would have caused life changing injuries if not killed someone. This gentleman was also suffering from Mental health issues, mental health is a serious problem where I work and it is a lot more prevalent in society than I think most people realise. Again, it was just pure luck that this male didn’t turn violent and stab someone or hurt himself.
These are only a few incidents I’ve dealt with recently, but I could go on for a few hours with incidents like these that we deal with everyday and I know that officers all over the country could tell you stories of incidents they have dealt with like this.
On Monday 21st November, ITV news had a piece about the Commissioners announcement about Taser being more widely available, you can view it here: http://www.itv.com/london/howe-supports-tasers46686/
A gentleman called Oliver Sprague of Amnesty International had his chance to speak up, he says that Taser should ‘only be in the hands of the most highly trained officers’ this is something I have a major problem with and will discuss shortly.
I think I should talk a little bit about Sophie Khan, who according to her twitter bio is ‘a solicitor-advocate specialising in Actions Against the Police’, She was interviewed on the above piece. Firstly, why is she bringing young children and old people into the discussion, what does that have to do with police officers being issued with Taser? Secondly, how are police officers being at risk a ‘limited scenario’, I can assure her it isn’t limited, it is very commonplace. It also doesn’t matter why the Taser was introduced into the country years ago, it is capable of protecting lives and that’s all that matters. She then said, when referring to the dreadful scenes at the weekend where three officers were stabbed and another injured in Kingsbury, ‘it was a very very freak incident’. This statement is factually incorrect and I’d love to know where she gets her facts from that it was a freak incident. Just because incidents aren’t reported in the press it doesn’t mean that they don’t happen, for example two officers were stabbed in East London a year ago, one of them being stabbed three times. This didn’t even make the news so for her to say that is completely insulting and massively naïve of her. Lets not forget the officers that were stabbed on a bus in Ealing earlier this year, How many officers need to be stabbed and attacked before it becomes too much because I’m aware of 7 officers so far. What if it had been 7 members of the public, would things be different? The incidents happen all over London every single shift but largely go unreported.
If someone is carrying a 10inch knife, why should I have to get within arms reach of him and potentially get myself stabbed when we have this amazing piece of equipment that means we can keep physical distance between us and an armed suspect. She also admitted that it was acceptable for officers to use if our lives are in danger, well again, that is a lot more frequent than she realises. She goes on to state that we have ‘plenty of other powers to use’, well I put it to her, how are powers and legislation going to disarm a knife wielding maniac? She states that we also have numbers so we can call in backup, well as this YouTube video shows http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnhdFVcMLcg … numbers don’t mean anything when someone is running around the streets with a machete!
Finally, she ended by saying ‘And there are traditional policing that should be being pushed forward rather than this new Taser…’ WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
I have seen on Twitter that people have been calling for her to become a special constable so she can see what we actually deal with. Sophie, if you are reading this, I beg you to sign up, or at least spend two weeks in a response car so you can see first hand what we actually deal with before you undermine and crticise the brave and dangerous work that we do.
I fully understand that there are two sides to every story and I’m a massive advocate of having an open debate about it after all, everyone should have their chance to speak, maybe I am only seeing the argument from my side, but the same could be said about the likes of Amnesty International and Sophie Khan, you should also try and see our point of view.
Since this debate has started a few days ago I keep reading that Taser should only be given to ‘highly trained officers’, now what exactly does this mean? If I go and complete the required training to carry one, just the same as a firearms officer, do I not become that highly trained officer? Or are they saying that firearms officers are better than PC’s on response teams and we are not skilled enough to be trained? Even though we can be trusted with batons and CS spray, which can potentially cause a lot more harm than a Taser.
Communication is always my first tactical option in any situation, however quite frequently this communication breaks down and we then have to rely on other tactical options, this includes batons or CS spray. CS spray is never my first choice as it seriously affects me. It is completely indiscriminate and affects anyone in close proximity, including officers. I was involved in detaining someone a few nights ago who we ended up on the floor, 4 of us still couldn’t control him so someone used their CS, 2 of us officers were instantly incapacitated having to crawl away because we couldn’t see and were in excruciating pain. CS is not guaranteed to work on everyone and can sometimes take up to 20 seconds to take effect so what happens to that knife wielding suspect who isn’t affected by CS, but the all the officers are, he then has plenty of targets who can’t defend themselves. The effects of Taser also only seconds, where as I can vouch for the fact the CS is pretty painful for over 20 minutes!
A new big thing in the Met at the minute is single patrolling, and this is something that from the sounds of it is here to stay, meaning officers are even more of a target with even less backup. I do have some issues policing a busy inner London borough on my own, however if it is to stay I think we should be better equipped in order to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, I may have my hang-ups with the job and I’ve made plenty of sacrifices for it but I do chose to do it and I have never regretted taking my oath. I standby the fact that it is still the best job in the world and one of the most rewarding, I look forward in going to work and am very proud of the work that we do and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Just try not to forget that whilst you are going to work, heading out for dinner, or just sitting in for the night, there are police officers all over the country who aren’t being issued the best equipment to do the job, fighting with armed suspects and putting their lives on the line so that you may live in a safe society.
As I stated in my last blog, the police are not there to be liked, and in my honest opinion I think we are spending way too much time worrying about public confidence and what people think about the police and not enough time worrying about the safety of the public. If it upsets 99% of the population by me carrying a Taser, but I can save one persons life I don’t care what the 99% think, I just care about that one person and their family.
This is the first time I have ever written a blog, I’ve been considering starting one for some time, but always thought that I wouldn’t know what topics to write about and have hesitated because I think to myself ‘Who cares about what I’ve got to say? I’m not a celebrity’ but I thought it was about time I started writing writing about some of my experiences and thoughts about ‘the job’.
I think it’s important to say that I don’t have a degree in English so don’t be surprised when reading my blog if you find some grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, I’ll just do my best to get my point across.
Since I joined the police I’ve seen a completely different side to the media and how we are often portrayed to the public, and it often hurts to read something in the press that you know is inaccurate, unnecessarily slates the police or when the media leave parts of the story out but as my street duties Sergeant always used to say to me ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’. I have often seen on TV and in the media people being interviewed (usually someone who swings to the left) and all too often there is no-one there to publicly defend us. We’re never allowed to speak up and I can promise you that it’s not nice spending a shift being abused by certain cross-sections of society to then come home and be criticised in the news as well! It’s all too often that the negative press we receive undermines the good work that we do every single day of our service; something, which I think, is starting to be addressed by the use of social media, for example, police forces using twitter and facebook to publish their own good news stories and engaging with the public.
By writing this blog I hope that people read it and see that there is another side to policing, that being the officers themselves. By this I mean that we are not just a uniform, we are also human beings. I know that we have to be professional and we are there to uphold the law, but lets not forget that we also have opinions and beliefs. A perfect example of this can be seen with recent demonstrations and protests in London and around the country. With the student protests that started last November, a lot of police officers were students before joining the police, me being one of them. I went to university and graduated not too long ago and I left with over £20,000 debt, so I can say that I understand what the students were feeling. When people are protesting and hurling abuse at us on our cordons it almost feels like they are blaming us, as if we are in some way responsible for the cuts. I’m sure there are plenty of officers out there who whole-heartedly agree with the principle of the protest. Whilst they may not agree with the violence that came with it, the sentiment of the demonstration is something that is felt by many. Just because we are standing there with a uniform on, it doesn’t mean that we agree with the decisions being made and we also don’t feel the pain of the cuts.
I am in no way naïve enough to think that people hate me personally (although I’m sure there are those that do) and that everyone should love the police. We are an emergency service and by default the public usually only come in to contact with us in stressful situations so it is completely understandable that people see the uniform and take a dislike to it, but it would be nice to think that just sometimes people consider that we are also humans and when we are not at work we’re just like any other member of the public with opinions and beliefs.
As I have said in the ‘About me’ page, I hope that my blog gives an insight into the other side of the coin that never really gets openly spoken about, the views from the officers themselves. Thanks for taking the time to read and please feel free to comment and debate the issue below….